How NOT to fire someone

The article

This article is representative of a genre. I will not call it fake news but rather “half news”. And I want to say why. And why it’s dangerous. But note that it’s under the “All the moms” section of USA Today, so every momma bear will have her hackles up to begin with.

The players:

Crystal Fisher – mother
Dawn – her boss
PS Food Mart (aka Folk Oil) – a company with 35 gas stations/convenience stores in the midwest USA.

In summary and at first blush this sounds like the actions of a rogue manager – Dawn – at one of the franchise “outposts” of the company. She didn’t know what she was doing, and it does sound like there was prior history with Crystal, the mother. So she may not even have believed Crystal?

So in part, fault likes with corporate PS Food Mart for not spelling out policy. This manager was clueless and was acting in a fear-driven way. An environment that discourages communication with headquarters only allows for good news (or at worst, business news, good or bad) to flow up. So Dawn may well have thought it was her job to just deal with this, cutting Crystal off to keep her franchise going. Texting is the worst way to communicate during times of crisis; Dawn should have known that her words would both hurt and stick. It is a leap to say that this was the first time the two communicated like this. But it became the final time.

At some places I’ve worked there are unwritten policies about this kind of thing. And at others, full-fledged long-term programs for life’s lingering emergencies. I can recount only a couple people EVER who took advantage and overstayed their leave.

Also, in my experience, despite official corporate communication, the firing of Dawn could be less about actual compassion or care for employees as a CYA move to eliminate lawsuits or simple PR to keep PS Food Mart/Folk Oil from looking bad. Individuals don’t matter in those cases; it’s all about the perspective of the public. Or PS Food Mart might indeed care and now establish policy. We won’t know because of the quick burn of the news.

Now, also, Dawn may indeed just been an uncaring despot, which the article would inspire. But that’s NOT a given. If true, a boss that pulls the plug on mourning, care for one’s loved ones or disability-driven absence does not deserve to lead people; that person simply has too much to learn. If that person’s manager allows that behavior, s/he will sacrifice a whole lot of good people who will either leave or just become less productive because who wants to work for someone who hasn’t got your back?

But USA Today/New York Post and any other media company reporting on this didn’t care about balancing things; they only wanted viral circulation, which makes them more money. At people’s expense. Dawn may well be a good manager who did her uninformed best, but good luck finding work now.

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Authoritarianism and the tribes

First, my take on things – Donald Trump’s communications are juvenile and narcissistic. He is not alone in his use of fear to gain and keep in power. He has used xenophobia to get elected, those on the left have used plutophobia. The hatred directed towards him does not come from a vacuum, but it has almost completely ruined what might otherwise be a reasoned, effective platform in opposition. I do not hate the man myself; his job as President is neither without merit nor failure.

This video was made to resist him and those like him. As such, it cannot be accurate or fair; it doesn’t WANT to be. Here are its points with some balance:

1. Controlling the free press – neither the left nor right press is free at this time. The left is blindly driven by hatred for one man and is practicing creative writing which it will continue to unless and until it finds some accusation, some conspiracy that has actual evidence that sticks and it achieves its goal of getting the man out of power. It is not interested in the truth, not now. On the right is an equally misdirected group bent on attack ITS political foes at the expense of the truth. Editorials have been masquerading as front page news for a long time now but people don’t seem to know or care about the difference.

2. Blaming minorities – the right blames the poor minorities, the left blames the rich minorities. Each has a playbook, both are inaccurate and intentionally misleading so as to keep the crowd in contempt disguised as unity. It works because of the pain of the masses, not because of the power-madness of a despot. The spectacular yet spotty crimes committed by individuals within the group being hated are generalized towards the whole group. Arabs are all terrorists, rich people are all exploitative misers. No one is going to be concerned about starving, disenfranchised rich people, but the tribal dynamics are the same.

Using force against protesters on the part of the feds and under the direction of the tyrant just hasn’t happened. It is so fanciful to play the Hitler/Nazi card but no, this isn’t that. It just isn’t.

3. Reading political defunding as way to gain control is fanciful. For the right’s dismissal of judges and watchdog groups – the former of which happens no matter who is in power – the left declares war on military spending. One could read diabolical motives into both. If one had time to waste. I do not think there is any current lack of investigation of internal activity. Just lack of results.

4. Loyalty over competence? All leaders need both so the dichotomy is contrived. But then the whole scare nature of the video has to do that, make parallels with real tyrants to get motivate its tribe.

5. Elections that have no chance of bringing change? Sounds like a frontal attack on the system to me.

6. Nonviolent resistance – all you want. Good idea. For those protesting pipelines, actions against immigrants or abortions or same-sex marriage. If there is violence, it comes from as many sides as the protests.

7. The ACLU is a good idea; but it has become selective in what civil liberties it fights for.

At and within the border

So this topic again.

To start I will cite my conclusion – What will come out of the present situation are workable immigration laws. The ones we have now don’t work and haven’t worked for at LEAST 50 years.

It’s curious that so many people are suddenly interested in the problem; only after pictures of crying, abandoned kids showed up – which establishes a new way to hate Donald Trump.  Before then it was easy to ignore the desperate suffering.  But there is little new.

Image result for immigrants crossing the border

Image result for immigration

There is a missing celebration of the fact that America is the destination for so many.  Far from the motivation of criminals wishing to exploit a soft country, which may be true in a small minority of cases, the promise of safety, opportunity and a better life in general is a draw that causes people to risk.  And risk they do.

I’ve known and still know several “illegal” immigrants (I quote illegal because that is a statement of law and laws change – as I predict they will now). And it’s a big mix of people – some desperate to have a home without violence, completely law abiding and hard working. Some came just to make more money than they could at home and send home the $$, rip off the system then move back after 20 years or so. I found out some who were committing felonies like forgery. Most I’ve known would love to be US citizens if that were possible. But it is also safe to say that there is compromise concerning laws, not just those of immigration they broke and are breaking to be here.

I went to the grocery store 2 hours ago. I saw about 10 people from my community that I can well guess from their appearance are not citizens (not just skin color, there are distinctive Ecuadorian and Brazilian features one can easily see). We have a huge (something like 2500 people) community of illegal aliens in my town. They buy groceries with money made in jobs where they don’t pay taxes, say.  Do I know that?  No, it’s an educated but often true guess.  

Image result for ecuadorian immigrants at the grocery counter

So .. what is the “American” thing to do? Should I call ICE? Should I take pictures with my camera? Is it my job to make their lives scary and miserable in new ways?

Know this – we don’t have the money, the resources the time or frankly the stomach to deport 11 million people. Ain’t happening. But laws that do something with those folks are needed; that’s the first problem to be solved. I’d think that we give people a long, hard road to citizenship, but a requirement to register. No register, no stay in US.

The ridiculous, inconsistent and broken laws also created the humanitarian crisis with kids being taken away from their parents. Since the Bible has entered into the discussion let me say definitively that no one really can square that with scripture no matter how it’s twisted. So, sorry, it’s wrong. Truly, it is simply enforcing some bad laws that’s caused the crisis, but even President Trump has decided it’s not a good idea.

The borders and the flow people to them are a second problem to be solved by laws. Stemming the flow requires dealing with the horrible state of broken countries, thugocracies that slaughter and exploiters that promise an easy solution through stealing away into the US.  America is not likely to solve any of those problems.  So asylum, where it is applicable, is a worthy and honored reason to allow entrance. I’m proud that our country has that in its laws. 

Image result for immigrants in trucks

When asylum can’t be granted, deportation or increased numbers of legal immigrants are really the only other options. The crushing numbers of these cases requires a huge number of judges to oversee that process. But it’s not an easy or cheap problem to solve. I would say that families need to stay together though; saying mothers have broken the law and therefore their children suffer is really quite lame. The Bible is full of instruction to take care of the orphans; this policy CREATES orphans. It doesn’t square, like I said. It also says how to treat aliens, all well and kindly.

The really bad guys, MS13 and the like, mostly in the drug trade with its murderous operations, fly under the radar. They won’t be easily detained or even found. They – “the criminal element” – are the reason for the wall idea. Which is why it won’t be effective.

The problem is complex and its solution(s) will be complex too. People don’t like complex things which is why liberals want to just people in and conservatives just want them to go away. It doesn’t matter; we MUST solve this and fix our immigration laws.

Levator

Things that have floors:

  1. Buildings and homes
  2. The ocean
  3. One’s pelvis

The latter floor is one of muscle.  To be specific it is the levator (pronounced like the French might entitle Darth Vader, when his first name (well that was a title itself) was well known – “Le Vader”).  Anyway, this important and large sinew keeps the contents of your abdomen – I mean organs, intestines, colon, bladder, uterus (well, not me) etc – the contents that are YOU – from falling on the ground.  So give thanks for your levator; it’s a very good thing to have; handy and all that.

[I was going to put an anatomical picture here, but you can do your own research.  It’s fun and rewarding.]

The phrase “pain in the butt” is such a common saying that we assign it very easily to everything but its literal meaning.  And I want to go on record to say it’s real meaning is a real thing.  I’ve had that kind of pain for over 10 years now.  In 2010 I had a hemorrhoidectomy, the most painful surgery I have ever experienced.  I did record, but a year or so after I had more pain.  Same area, though this wasn’t quite as bad.  That is, it didn’t quite feel like sitting on a knife.  A fork is more like it.

So I had a second operation, a sphincterotomy to relieve a fissure, or tear, in the wall down there.  And it worked!  The fissure readily went away.

Then, about 5 years ago, a new pain started to happen.  It was fork-like in intensity, about level 4 on the pain scale.  And I would have it for 1-5 hours straight, always sitting down (which I must to drive of course).   I lived with it, having been cut up enough, until this past few weeks when I just had enough.  Mostly the timing was forced because when it hurts, I go to the men’s room for the obvious reasons.  Except the obvious reasons weren’t happening.

So I was fully prepared to go back for hemorrhoid banding or surgery, whatever it took.  I went to see Surgeon 1, who informed me that banding was not a likely possibility.  Which left me with the prospect of the most painful surgery I’ve ever had.  But he also referred me to Surgeon 2, a colorectal guy in Worcester, MA.

Well, after some very painful probing (during which I winced and said “You found it!” because that’s what you do, involuntarily and with a hope that he will stop it), he announced my problem was NOT hemorrhoidal but muscular.  I have spasms of the aforementioned levator muscle.  And they are painful.  And recurring and long-lasting when they happen.

So, treatment for such is via electrical shock.  You get plugged in and the resultant surge of electricity makes the muscle spasm, but since it lasts, it wears it out and it says “Ok, I’ve had enough, I’ll relax now.”  Ok, it doesn’t really SAY that, but it might as well.  And after 3 sessions of zappage, your problem dissipates.

I’m game, though getting plugged and plugged in sounds daunting.  I’ll give a full report, don’t worry.

Saving Monsters

I have known Larry Nassar. No, not the real guy, but guys with his same story, his same condition and problem. Some have been rapists, others child abusers. Some have done prison time, though nothing like he will now serve. The point at which I’ve known them was prior to the kind of fall Dr. Nassar has experienced.

larrynassar

Now, Dr. Nassar is a monster. I utterly agree with his conviction and the sentence given. But I work at saving monsters. It’s not popular in this day of #metoo and I completely understand the victim side of the equation. Part of the salvation of those monsters – actually the first step – is admitting the damage you’ve done. I’m not sure Nassar is there; indications are that no, he isn’t. It’s my prayer that he will come to admit then let redemption come to what’s left of his incarcerated life. The goal is that he can serve as a warning to others – both perpetrators and victims – and proof that you can recover from such horrible things.

I’ve have been part of Pure Desire for 8 years now. I came there because I need – and found – help. So I am committed to providing that help to others as well. I want to share some of what I’ve learned about sexual addiction (SA) so people can gain understanding as well. Some are so hurt as victims or so much in denial as perpetrators that there is little to be gained by reading this, but I think most can find something. I do not want to foster gender wars or exonerate those in the wrong. I do want to find a way out of the mess, because lives, though damaged, are worth restoration and saving.

So here are some points about the sexual addiction (SA):

  • It is a chemical addiction – the endorphins released during sexual arousal are increased in amount via visual and then physical stimulation and the addict keeps coming back for more.
  • The development of universally available high band internet has been the means of widespread access to material used to flame the addiction.
  • While SA affects up to 70% of all men, it also affects up to 25% of women. Acting out is different due to cultural gender expectations, but the same brain chemical dependency is in play.
  • SA thrives in an atmosphere of shame, isolation and denial. Those provide the Petri dish where it grows. Dr. Nassar sounds like he is still in denial, but the isolation in which he committed his abuses was the worst kind – physical contact with completely vulnerable victims in the most private of settings. That’s a perfect storm. Plus, his stature as physician left him regarded and feeling as above the law.
  • If it is to be confronted and addressed, the addict must be honest about his/her problem. We’re familiar with the AA preamble “Hi, my name is X and I’m an alcoholic” .. the same thing applies.
  • Also, a safe community of likewise-addicted individuals is necessary to overcome the denial and isolation. Confrontation is not a one-time deal but a constant standard of the community. If this thing is to be beaten – and it can be – absolute confidentiality must provide absolute honesty.
  • There is a causal relationship between the addiction and personal pain, usually going back to one’s family of origin. There is no blame placed on those who hurt the addict, only an identification of the source of that pain.
  • Also, there is often a secondary problem with anger present. It has accurately been said that SD is eroticized rage – that one’s fantasies are very often ones that celebrates, makes a hero of and glorifies the individual because in life that has far too seldom been the case.

Monsters are worth saving – even Dr. Nassar and those indicted in the #metoo movement. Their lives do not represent all men, but they do represent enough to say we have a serious problem with entitlement, denial and isolation. And those stem from other problems, though few seem to care. I do care, because someone cared about me. Their lives are worth saving.

So Dr. Nassar’s case should serve as a warning. Most sex addicts won’t be physically locked up for the rest of their lives, but they are already locked up in prisons of isolation, depravity and shame. Many don’t know there’s a way out. So marriages fold, secret lives are revealed in their horrible detail and people gawk and cluck tongues.

I don’t like it when that happens. I want to save the monsters.

Entertaining something more …

Spirituality. Active belief in God. Faith containing both experience and resultant action. These immediately bring up suspicions, fears and even instant dismissal. I understand that and I know why. People have communicated and advanced visions, pictures, ideas, sayings, instructions and life-leading direction, advice for others, words from the dead and all manner of extra-corporeal (that is, outside of “normal” experience and life) phenomena. How can all that be parsed and made sense of?  And if it cannot, is there anything spiritual that can be reliably projected?  Also, the political leanings, decisions and life-styles of those who claim themselves “spiritual” may well dissuade anyone from even considering experimentation let alone discipline in these matters.

So a Bible verse like this:

1 Corinthians 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to that person, and cannot be understood, because they are spiritually discerned.

might well be taken as exclusionary. But I want to make sure you know you are not excluded as I tell some of my story and bring up common objections to faith and its practices:

Spiritual anencephalus

I recently heard Bill Maher interviewing Ross Douthat who was reporting on poll data concerning the church and Christian spirituality. Multiple times, Bill used the phrase “otherwise intelligent people” with no hidden meaning that he considers spiritual matters unintelligent and thus, wasteful of time and effort. I have read others who have said that belief in God was like believing in a childhood imaginary friend. Ignoring the derogatory nature of these slams and the pride they exude (to be sure, believers can be just as proud or worse), they articulate a problem we all have in understanding spiritual life: Do we need to become anencephalic (having no brain – a condition of newborns, almost always fatal) when we do spirituality?

No. The brain engages. And communicates, listening and speaking and experiencing all that is happening. One thing that does happen is that attitude about cognition changes. A know-it-all becomes a know-some-of-it or a know-nothing-in-order-to-hear. And a different part of the brain becomes engaged in an exchange of words and thoughts. It’s not like “My Favorite Martian” with the antenna coming up from the cranium:

Image result for my favorite martian antenna going up gif

… because it can happen at any time, but it involves thought and intelligence that often exceeds that of mere logic and witty intellect.

Belief – instant or progressive

Bible verses and faith statements and sayings can come across as an assault on one’s spiritual state or lack thereof. I really want to be sensitive about that because I come down heavily on the side of progressive faith. That is I strongly believe that people grow in belief. For sure there is a seed of faith I believe all humans possess and that seed must be watered via some action taken. But my story is one of a long chain of events, experiments and perceptions that together form a combined basis for faith.

Space doesn’t allow for an accounting of all of these, but I will relate one I had this past weekend – yesterday as I write this.

People may think that people of faith never doubt – the opposite is true – we constantly doubt. We have the writings of Mother Teresa and have her doubts with us. So I have been in a state of doubting God’s care for me as an individual. The doubt goes beyond an engineer’s calculation of my being one of 2 billion people “vying” for God’s attention. It’s an assault on the character of God – that God does not care about me as an individual. Well, I awoke on the lake where I was staying and was the only human witness to this dazzling display on the otherwise fog-blanketed water and shore:

GodWink - 10-15-17

Now as soon as images like that get linked to a spiritual tenet, people start mocking. There are those, after all, who see angels and entire apocalyptic scenes in cloud formations and get all excited. I have similar reactions to their revelations though I try to be very kind.  So why is this case different?  Well, the context (some fairly intense prayer and seeking), timing (it lasted 5 minutes) and even the attendance (that is, me alone) of the event all combined to make the point that it was something special for me.

And that may serve to display the idea of progression, for there is a long list of “coincidences” in my life that establish both the existence and personal nature of God. As I said, I cannot list them here, but suffice it to say that after a while, were I to make the argument of happenstance and accuse those in faith of being childish, the coincidence stance itself becomes the childish one.

Righteousness, sin and judgment

I know, here is where a lot of people will just get off the train. That’s because there is such a thing as spiritual malpractice. Most religions teach that there exists a higher plane of morality and ethics than is practiced on planet earth. And many actually condemn people for not attaining that level, all the while their most ardent proponents and practitioners have lives that are anything but exemplary of the tenets they espouse. Not to pick on Catholicism – I have dear and vital Catholic friends – but Woody Allen described his experiment with the Catholic church as “die now, pay later”. I hope at least some can smile and nod.

But it is a fact of my life and all human lives that we fall short of purity, ethically clean and morally good thought, speech and behavior. And we know it. At least some of it. The other half is that we know when we have been hurt by others. So even if we wouldn’t call it “sin” we would certainly agree offense has been done both to and by us causing damage that may last a long time.

And if there is a spiritual law that transcends all religion and belief systems, it is that of retribution.  What goes around comes around.  You reap what you sow, etc.  It works on the positive side as well, for there is “pay it forward” as well.

It is is the offer of faith to rectify this aspect of life – the guilt and debt. We need a remedy for our own culpability, and for the damage of what has been done to us as well. Jesus attacked this problem head-on, not mincing word about our state and not just stopping at talking about it. He died to fix it.

Image result for jesus on the cross

Now, there are many, many who insert their own judgment for that of God. They assume the guilt of others but their own innocence. These people don’t want people to be free and forgiven; it would upset their personal reign. There are also those who wallow in shame, never rising above the acknowledgment of their dark deeds and supposing those actions define them. Both extremes, as well as a host of other misreads and misapplications can pollute and hide the biggest reason to be a Christ-follower.

Because there is freedom. And forgiveness. And reconciliation, peace, love, joy and all the rest.

This is not the accomplishment of an imaginary friend. Real blood was shed. Real miracles happened, including the miracle of my life.

Invitation

I would therefore like to invite anyone reading this to entertain something more in life rather than only wake-eat-work-party-sleep. Because there is more and there are riches found in a life of faith. Even a faltering, wobbling sometimes-trudge that experiments and experiences God.

The unliberated Christmas tree

I attended Brandeis University in the early 70s. For my freshman year, there was some controversy about the mass acceptance of “townies” – those from the same town of Waltham, MA – into the school. I knew of no one who applied who did NOT get accepted. It was hypothesized that the school wanted to make some amends for recent political stirrings on campus. Anti-war sentiments were very high at the school, and among the offshoots of those leanings came a group of students who robbed a Boston bank and killed a police officer. They intended to use the stolen $26,000 they gained to overthrow the US government.

I am very grateful for the blessing of attending the school; it was a great experience. It was agreed that I should live on campus, at least originally, and so I moved into a dorm room in September 1971. My roommate was Oliver, a gay Puerto Rican man from Brooklyn. Getting to know him and both communities he represented was a very rich part of my time at Brandeis.

Among the Latinos I befriended were many who had not just liberal, but radical politics. Hailing from some of the most repressive nations in the Western Hemisphere, many of them had family or friends wiped out by those regimes. They were also largely anti-American, at least anti-American government (in that they were in the right school). They were uniformly poor people by US standards. Yet intelligent and good students. Many had lived in NYC, though some came from Latino communities in the south. They were almost all on hefty scholarships, which I thought and still think was great.

I remember one instance when the older brother of one of my friends came to visit the school. A strong anti-government, anti-establishment discussion was brewing and I recall his objection, saying “No! I love my boss. I have a good job and it pays for my family to eat and someday my children will go to a school like this and I will pay for it!” He was regaled by most as a traitor to his people and culture, though his point was made nonetheless.

Most of all, I remember the love.  They would address each other and speak of another in the third person as ‘dito Lydia, ‘dito Edwin.  It was short for “bendito” – blessed.  The closest thing to it in English would be “dear” or “dearest” which was and is so foreign to common speech as to invite skepticism or even ridicule.  But it was completely authentic – they meant it.  From the heart.  And then they started to call me ‘dito John.  It was so beautiful it made me cry.   I had taken Spanish in high school, so I knew a little of it.  But I never heard “simpatico” used in a sentence.  Though it sounds like “sympathetic” it is much more than that.  It’s love that condescends without shaming or belittling.  Today I would say it’s Jesus coming to earth and dying for us.

Part of their culture, part of their group mindset, held that stealing was okay. They reasoned that since everything good in life was out of reach financially, they were themselves the victims of theft, so “liberating” (code for stealing) goods was perfectly ethical. And they would have actual examples of being targeted by agents of “the system” that were perfect descriptions of corrupt government and policing. So, they would sometimes show me clothing they had left on while in the changing rooms at clothing stores, sneaking it out under their outer clothing. And they had other methods.

Since I was a townie with occasional means of transportation, I would act as chauffeur to my friends, though they would humor my gringo presence well enough. We loved each other; let’s be plain about that. I don’t remember whose idea it was – certainly not mine – that my family car would serve as a getaway vehicle for the liberating of a Christmas tree, but it somehow blossomed into a plan without my having much say in it.  The dorm had a need, and no one had the money so ..

I believe it was a Sunday night that we were to do the deed, and we pulled up to the unguarded lot where the trees were. Suddenly I was unanimously nominated to do the actual stealing. It was a moment of truth for me – a true double bind. I wanted these people to be my friends but come on, I’m no thief. Part of the latter conviction came from the grace of getting caught 100% of the times I had tried to steal as I grew up. And I didn’t share the same mentality about theft.

Image result for christmas tree lot

The Christmas tree remained unliberated.  And I guess I let them down.

My parents later revoked my rights to using the family station wagon to drive anyone around, another grace.

Given today’s biggest qualification – back then it didn’t matter to anyone – I have no idea as to their legal immigrant status at the time. Many were Puerto Rican and were certainly allowed to live in the US.

But I will say this. I loved and still love these people. Stealing is wrong, not because you might get caught. And if your politics justifies it, you need to adjust your politics.

Proverbs 6:30-31 Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.   Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

That is, though there exist reasons that people might resort to theft, it is wrong.  Period.

As a result of knowing my friends in school, I do understand that mentality. They weren’t making up their stories of poverty. Nor were they trying to establish their culture or Spanish language over English. They were just struggling for an identity as a people – without shame and without stigma.

Much later I would learn about a theological branch called Liberation Theology.  Even in that, I would learn, there is imbalance and a hardened, corporate victim mentality.  The balance is that God does move on the hearts of people to help the poor.

Though I have lost touch with them all (that actually happened by senior year), in my little way, I was glad to give my friends my love. And I was glad I chickened out with that Christmas tree, because that was a small gift to them as well.