Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guns & insanity, bombs & terrorism, scissors & rhetoric


UPDATE: Gosnell was found guilty and will serve life in prison. Read more here: Gosnell Won't Appeal Conviction, Is Spared Death

It’s becoming glaringly obvious that a person can get away with serial murder for years in plain sight if they use the right cover and the right weapon.

Guns & insanity

On December 14, 2012 in Newtown, 20 children, 6 school staff members, and 1 mother died. The shooter, a troubled young man, was immediately cornered and took his own life.

Rightfully, we mourn and remember those lost.

There have been moments of silence for the dead.

A memorial service was held and the President spoke. Many dignitaries visited the area.

Since the shooting, outrage has ensued surrounding gun laws with the insistence that “something” must be done.

There have been numerous in-depth media reports about the shooter and his family and, as soon as the next official report is released, there will be many more.

Bombs & terrorism

On April 15, 2013 in Boston, 1 child, 1 police officer, and 2 other adults died. One bomber is dead and one is in custody within a week of the incident.

Rightfully, we mourn and remember those lost.

There have been moments of silence for the dead.

A memorial service was held and the President spoke. VP Biden is attending the funeral of the police officer.

Since the bombing, outrage has ensued surrounding how we track potential terrorists with the insistence that “something” must be done.

And the reporting since the bombing has been non-stop, front page, and in-depth.

Reporters are even contacting relatives in Canada and Russia. Every tiny thread of information is being followed-up and reported in excruciating detail.

Scissors & rhetoric

Over a period of several years, hundreds or potentially thousands of newborn babies and at least two young women were murdered in Philadelphia.

One man, insisting he is innocent, is on trial. His primary murder weapon was a pair of scissors. He had many accomplices.

There has been no moment of silence for the dead. No one is mourning the lost. No memorial service has been held. All the President will say is “no comment.” None of the dead got funerals.

Any outrage is pooh-poohed as misplaced or misinformed.

As far as anything in-depth being reported, most is merely a rehashing of snippets of the grand jury report or trial testimony.

No one is digging into the killer’s history, interviewing family, or following up on any leads beyond what is assumed to be obvious.

Murder in plain sight

In Philadelphia, inside the building at 3801 Lancaster, “Dr.” Kermit Gosnell and his staff killed in plain sight for years.

Now, his victims are being sacrificed on the altar of political theatrics.

The media and abortionistas on both the pro-choice and pro-life sides are so determined to use the Gosnell case to make political hay, they are all deflecting attention away from the central truth:
Gosnell is nothing more than a greedy, sociopathic, misogynistic serial killer. He was able to abuse women, deal drugs, and murder his victims in plain sight by operating under the guise of offering abortions and other “medical” services.
That this is true is made plain in the very first sentence of the gruesome grand jury report that led to Gosnell’s arrest and indictment:
“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women.”
Not abortion, not legal, not medicine, not politics

There are three points that the abortionistas and the media need to get clear on:
  1. First, while Gosnell’s chamber of horrors was labeled a “medical clinic” where “abortions” were offered, the procedures actually carried out don’t fit any reasonable definition of abortion.
     
  2. Second, nearly everything Gosnell did was illegal.
     
  3. Third, even though Gosnell is a “doctor” it’s clear that he completely disregarded safe and normal medical practices and engaged in gross negligence.
All of this is made startling clear in the powerfully lucid grand jury report.

For decades, in plain sight, Gosnell got away with murder, abuse, and more while operating under the guise of offering legal, safe, medically acceptable abortions.

As a result of his ruse, he was ignored by the authorities and anyone else that could have put an end to the atrocities he and his staff were committing.

Now, by insisting that his case be held up as some bellwether for their causes, both the pro-choice and pro-life sides are in a way helping his defense by muddying the case with politics.

And everyone, including the prosecutor, is missing the point.

Already the judge has reduced the charges against Gosnell sending a subtle message to the jury that the remaining charges may not be as clear-cut as outlined in the grand jury report.

There’s a chance the jury will acquit.

After all, abortion is a legal medical practice in this country.

But, what Gosnell and his accomplices did was NOT abortion, NOT legal, NOT medicine, and should NOT be a political hot potato.


The thin blood-red line

The legal difference between ending a late-term pregnancy and sustaining a live-born preemie baby is slim.

One doctor, quoted in a New York Times editorial, wrote an essay describing the ironic tension of performing an abortion and then “immediately running to deliver” a preemie:
“I thought to myself how bizarre it was that I could have legally dismembered this fetus-now-newborn if it were inside its mother’s uterus, but that the same kind of violence against it now would be illegal, and unspeakable.”
Whether you support or decry abortion, there is a thin blood-red line that separates the legal from the illegal.

Gosnell, his accomplices, and the “patients” in his “clinic” obliterated that line, killing with impunity.

Again, what he did wasn’t abortion, it was murder.

Otherwise, it was just malpractice.

Overcoming ignorance with ubiquitous information


So, what’s the point I’m driving to?

It’s simply this.

The pro-life and pro-choice abortionistas need to stop spinning and spewing their political rhetoric that’s making this story so radioactive no one wants to touch it.

The media must ignore the rhetoric and politics and start reporting on all the details of this story, following all the dangling loose threads treating it no differently than Newtown or Boston.

Gosnell was married at least three times, so go talk to the ex-wives and find out what they know. He has six children, so ask them how they feel about being raised on blood money. He came from the neighborhood where he had his “clinic,” so examine how he grew up to be a killer, preying on the people he claimed to care about. He made millions, so follow the money. He was investigated and raided for dealing in prescription drugs, so examine what’s happening on that side of the story.

Probably the single most significant factor that allowed Gosnell to get away with murder for so long was across-the-board ignorance:

  • The “staff” was ignorant about the medically ethical and legal operation of an abortion clinic and their responsibility to report shortfalls.
  • The “patients” were ignorant about their rights, options, and what were reasonable expectations of care.
     
  • The public was ignorant about the failure of the responsible tax-funded authorities to do their jobs in monitoring Gosnell and similar facilities.
Gosnell counted on ignorance to cover his crimes.

The only way to ensure such ignorance doesn’t allow another Gosnell to operate anywhere else in the country is for the media to report the story as broadly and deeply as they have the Sandy Hook shootings and the Boston bombings.

Those Gosnell murdered deserve nothing less.

=======
Do you believe there should be more media coverage of this case? Why or why not? Are you aware of anything similar happening in your area?

Links to various articles about Gosnell:

  • (Latest) Gosnell defense rests in Philadelphia abortion provider case (USA Today) : Gosnell's defense rested Wednesday without calling a witness. The jury is expected to hear closing arguments on Monday.
  • Philadelphia Abortion Doctor Is Cleared on Some Counts (NYT) : “There is not one piece of real scientific evidence that any one was born alive,” Mr. McMahon told the judge, who heard the acquittal motions without a jury present.
  • Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell Condemned by Pro-Abortion Rights Groups (ABC News) : "We have consistently said that this is a horrifying and outrageous case, that Gosnell ran a criminal enterprise, not a health care facility, and that he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law," Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told ABC News recently.
  • Kermit Gosnell Abortion Trial: Judge Throws Out Three Murder Counts Against Doctor (Huffiington) : An abortion provider charged with killing babies after they were born alive won a reprieve of sorts when a judge threw out three murder counts, but the death penalty still looms if he is convicted in four other newborn deaths.
  • Kermit Gosnell, Pa. abortion doctor, still faces death penalty after 3 of 8 murder charges dismissed (Newsday) : The judge also upheld murder charges in a patient's overdose death. Gosnell is charged with third-degree murder in the 2009 death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar, a recent refugee to the U.S. who died after an abortion at hiss Women's Medical Society. [Dr. Gosnell’s lawyer, Jack J.] McMahon argued that third-degree requires malice, or "conscious disregard" for her life. "She wasn't treated any differently than any of the other thousands of other people who went through there," McMahon argued Tuesday, in a preview of his likely closing arguments.
  • Gosnell Trial Is a Wake-Up Call on Abortion (USNews) : I wish I could have been a nurse at abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell's clinic. Then I could have saved the life of the baby who was dropped in the toilet and "was trying to get out" or the full-term baby who screamed after he/she was born and then beheaded by Gosnell.
  • Gosnell case: HuffPost host says left ‘made a decision’ to not cover trial (Washington Post) : In a HuffPost Live segment today on the issue, host Marc Lamont Hill made clear where his theoretical thinking lay: “For what it’s worth, I do think that those of us on the left have made a decision not to cover this trial because we worry that it’ll compromise abortion rights. Whether you agree with abortion or not, I do think there’s a direct connection between the media’s failure to cover this and our own political commitments on the left. I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s dangerous, but I think that’s the way it is.”
  • Learning the Right Lessons From the Philadelphia Abortion Clinic Disaster (Beacon Broadside): This was truly a chamber of horrors: a filthy facility, with blood stained blankets and furniture, unsterilized instruments, and cat feces left unattended. Most seriously, there was a jaw dropping disregard of both the law and prevailing standards of medical care. Untrained personnel undertook complex medical procedures , such as the administration of anesthesia, and the doctor in question repeatedly performed illegal (post viability) abortions, by a unique and ghastly method of delivering live babies and then severing their spinal cord. Two women have died at this facility and numerous others have been injured.
  • Gosnell murder trial: Grisly testimony of abortions gone wrong (NBC News) : Gosnell, 72, was the owner and only licensed doctor at the Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia’s hardscrabble Mantua neighborhood. The clinic is not far from the middle-class area where he was raised by a gas station operator and a government clerk.
  • Judge drops 3 murder charges against doctor Kermit Gosnell (NBC local news) : In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News after the clinic was raided, Gosnell described himself as someone who wanted to serve the poor and minorities in the neighborhood where he grew up and raised his six children, who include a doctor and a college professor.
  • Baby 'C' charges against Gosnell reinstated (WND) : The judge in the abortion murder trial here for practitioner Kermit Gosnell today said he made a mistake in dismissing a charge – and he reinstated the murder charge for Baby “C,” the baby that was too big to fit into the “shoebox.”
  • How the DEA Finally Caught Kermit Gosnell (The Atlantic) : Regardless of how staunchly opposed to the war on drugs one may be, considering the grand jury report's exhaustive details about how multiple levels of state agencies failed to shut down Gosnell's practice, it seems that were it not for the DEA the alleged horror show might still be ongoing.
Editorial cartoons:
Background articles:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fence Wire (by James Dickey)* (#PoetryMonday)

Too tight, it is running over
Too much of this ground to be still
Or to do anything but tremble
And disappear left and right
As far as the eye can see

Over hills, through woods,
Down roads, to arrive at last
Again where it connects,
Coming back from the other side
Of animals, defining their earthly estate

As the grass becomes snow
While they are standing and dreaming
Of grass and snow.
The winter hawk that sits upon its post,
Feeling the airy current of the wires,

Turns into a robin, sees that this is wrong,
Then into a boy, and into a man who holds
His palm on the top tense strand
With the whole farm feeding slowly
And nervously into his hand.

If the wire were cut anywhere
All his blood would fall to the ground
And leave him standing and staring
With a face as white as a Hereford’s.
From years of surrounding grain,

Cows, horses, machinery trying to turn
To rust, the humming arrives each second,
A sound that arranges these acres
And holds them highstrung and enthralled.
Because of the light, chilled hand

On the top thread tuned to an E
Like the low string of a guitar,
The dead corn is more
Balanced in death than it was,
The animals more aware

Within the huge human embrace
Held up and borne out of sight
Upon short, unbreakable poles
Wherethrough the ruled land intones
Like a psalm: properly,

With its eyes closed,
Whether on the side of the animals
Or not, whether disappearing
Right, left, through trees or down roads,
Whether outside, around, or in.


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 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down.
* I thought for a change that I'd, on occasion, post a poem by someone else -- you know, like a real poet. James Dickey is one of my all time favorite poets and "Fence Wire" is a favorite poem. I believe it first appeared in the February 24, 1962 issue of The New Yorker. 

I've always thought it would make for the narration of a great video showing the action described in the poem. I think that one of the reasons I like it is that I can picture my grandfather Clark, or my dad, or one of several uncles, standing by a fence with a calloused hand perched on the top wire. I've also always thought that this poem pairs well with this passage of Scripture:

AND HE IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD,
the firstborn of all creation.
For by Him all things were created,
both in the heavens and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things,
and in Him all things hold together.
He is also head of the body,
the church;
and He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
having made peace
through the blood of His cross;
through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

                         - Colossians 1:15-20 (NASB)
Dickey died in 1997. His poems are earthy and imagery-rich treasures. He also authored the novel "Deliverance" and appears in the role of a sheriff in the movie.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Greed, power, sex, murder, drug dealing, adultery, fraud, abuse & more

UPDATE: Gosnell was found guilty and will serve life in prison. Read more here: Gosnell Won't Appeal Conviction, Is Spared Death

I’m not sure why, but the story of the atrocities committed by Dr. Kermit Gosnell over a period of decades has really gotten under my skin.

I think what really astounds me is that details of his deeds are only just now beginning to leak out to a broader audience.

The exposure of his hideous behavior began in 2010, three years ago. And his trial has been going on for nearly five weeks. Yet only in the past couple of weeks has there been any semi-substantial news coverage – from any source – shedding light where light needs to be shed with great intensity.

In fact, over the past week or so, the primary focus of any news “stories” have been focused on pointing blame for the lack of coverage. Some of this has been self-flagellation by the media admitting failure.

Much of the blame has been centered on the idea that no one wants to or knows how to touch this “football issue” that seems to be about, you know, the “a-word” – abortion.

But it’s not really about the a-word, it’s about a serial killer

There are so many aspects to this story I’m amazed that any true journalist/reporter is having a hard time finding an angle from which to begin approaching the story and dig into it.

Yet, because everyone seems to have been rendered deaf, dumb, and blind by the a-word, that’s exactly what’s happened.

But it really isn’t about abortion. It’s about much more. Yet it’s mostly about killing.

Probably the best “reporting” I’ve read is the report of the grand jury that investigated Gosnell and recommended charges.

The report is surprisingly well-written in incredibly compelling and lucid prose. It’s gripping to read, especially the 17-page overview.

Here’s a link to the entire report: http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/
PDFs/GrandJuryWomensMedical.pdf.


Here are the first two paragraphs:
“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.”

“Let us say right up front that we realize this case will be used by those on both sides of the abortion debate. We ourselves cover a spectrum of personal beliefs about the morality of abortion. For us as a criminal grand jury, however, the case is not about that controversy; it is about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of mothers and infants. We find common ground in exposing what happened here, and in recommending measures to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.”
You really should read the entire report or at least the full overview. It’s graphic and contains graphic images, so keep it away from your kids.

What you will discover when you read this document is that Gosnell, under the guise of offering abortions and other “medical” services, is really nothing more than a greedy, misogynistic, sociopathic serial killer.

The report state’s bluntly, “Killing really had to be part of Gosnell’s plan” (page 105).

Gosnell’s behavior and habits are as gruesome as those of a Jeffery Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy.

Not only did he kill viable babies by “snipping” their spines, he took pictures (page 73) and kept trophies (page 74).

A three-year media blackout

As far as the lack of media coverage, it isn’t about not covering the trial now as most claim, it’s about the near total void of reporting in the previous three years.

The initial story broke with a raid on Gosnell’s clinic, or “sham medical practice” (page 2), in 2010.

A year later in 2011 the grand jury report came out.

Now, three years after the raid and two years after the grand jur report, the case is going to trial.

Reporters are citing that a gag order is in place as one excuse for not reporting more. Have you ever known a gag order to stop a determined reporter?

Besides, there was no gag order for three years. The media, both conservative and liberal, have just been sitting on their hands.

Why? Because they see the a-word and it’s an open and closed, hands off story.

It’s too volatile. It’s too political.

The end.

But there’s so much more!

Providing abortions was simply the guise under which Gosnell committed murder and more.

All you need to do is read the grand jury report and there are dozens of threads that could lead to additional stories as engrossing as anything associated with the Jodi Arias case.

Here are a few questions that need answers:
  • How about following up with details about the drug trafficking that broke the story (page 2)? Were other doctors involved?
     
  • How could a state’s Department of Health choose to not enforce current laws (page 9)? What’s been done to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
     
  • How many of the grand jury’s recommendations (pages 247 – 261) have been implemented? If not, why not?
     
  • How is it that area hospitals were aware of problems in Gosnell’s “clinic” yet failed to take action (page 213 and references throughout the report)? What’s being done to ensure this neglect isn’t continuing?
     
  • One of Gosnell’s office workers (an accomplice to the murders) acknowledges she and Gosnell had a “fling” (page 37). They met when she was only 17 and she now has an 13-year-old child. Were they involved when she was a teen? Were there others? Could Gosnell, besides being an adulterer as be a child molester?
     
  • Investigators also found a gun and $240,000 cash in his 12-year-old daughter’s closet (page 22). Were child endangerment charges filed? Where’s the child now? Was the gun registered? Were there other guns? Are there other children?
     
  • There are records that Gosnell and his accomplices “treated” at least one “14-year-old girl carrying a 30-week-old baby” (pages 9-10). Were child abuse charges filed against everyone involved? Were there other underage girls “treated”? What happened to these girls who are victims?
     
  • Gosnell’s victims came from several states outside Pennsylvania (page 27) and he worked in at least one other state (page 41). Are those states bringing charges or conducting investigations?
These are only a few of the questions that come to mind from ready the grand jury report.

Sadly, because this case is being viewed from the perspective of the a-word, Gosnell has only been charged with a few counts of murder because, “Most of these acts cannot be prosecuted, because Gosnell destroyed the files” (page 5).

Serial killers don’t keep records and they can be prosecuted based on the number of bodies recovered.

Gosnell kept dozens of bodies in his “clinic,” including one frozen in a water jug (page 5).

Why is it important to demand more reporting and media coverage?

Gosnell ran his “clinic” for nearly four decades. In that time, thousands of “patients” passed through and were victimized in his chamber of horrors.

Why was he and his staff (accomplices) allowed to get away with murder for so long?

Because, as the grand jury report points out, the authorities turned a blind eye.

Once the raid occurred and some initial press reporting took place and that prompted the authorities to actually do their jobs:
  • “Only after the raid occurred, and the story hit the press, did the department choose to act. Suddenly there were no administrative, legal, or policy barriers; within weeks an order was issued to close the clinic” (Page 10).
     
  • “A department attorney said there was no ‘pattern of conduct.’ He never bothered to check a national litigation database, which would have shown that Gosnell had paid out damages to at least five different women whose internal organs he had punctured during abortions. Apparently, the missing piece in the ‘pattern’ was press coverage. Once that began, after the raid, the department attorney quickly managed to secure a license suspension against Gosnell” (page 11).
Plus, Gosnell was able to victimize so many because they were ill-informed about their rights as patients and as human beings. Because many of the women (and their partners) were immigrants or illegal aliens unaware of what they should expect, ignorance led to fear which made them easy prey for Gosnell.

Even his staff, who are accomplices, were ill-informed, although not totally ignorant, as to what was and was not legal and necessary.

So we need the press to do more now.

We need the media to go deeper and broader to ensure that other Gosnell’s are not out there doing the same or worse. And if they are, that they are exposed by relentless, in-depth, Watergate-style reporting.

We don’t need more editorializing. We don’t need more politics. We need solid reporting.

We need to ensure that justice will be done for the victims who suffered at the hands of Gosnell and his accomplices.

And we need to ensure there are no more Gosnells out there getting away with murder and more and doing it under the guise of “medical” treatment.

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Do you believe there should be more media coverage of this case? Why or why not? Are you aware of anything similar happening in your area?

Links to notable recent articles and TV reports:
Website Video & Other Resources
  • 3801 Lancaster is a project to bring more awareness to the Gosnell case as well as provide updates and additional insight. The focal is a 20 minute documentary about the clinic and its victims.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Miracles are everywhere (#PoetryMonday*)

A seed pod from the locust tree uncurls, black and shiny,
bulges and stretches out, hisses at me and slides into the trees,
taking the shape of a black rat snake.

A green rock, or is it a scuffed softball, grows stubby scaled
legs and pointy head, stalking off slowly into the waiting forest,
a box turtle alarmed.

A tumble of dried grass rolls in the wind becoming a rabbit, hopping.
A small stand of trees and brown shrubs seem a glimpse of deer.
A shaking of wind-blown leaves transform into fleeing birds.
Blue sparks flash among the blades of grass,
the electricity of fast-moving skinks.

As the day ends, the west distant edge of the fireless woods
blazes below the dark smoke of the evening sky
starred by fireflies dancing and winking.

A dog-like blur of fur stops, looks at me, a coyote
contemplating my intentions against his, then is gone,
leaving behind only the memory of his eyes and raised ears.


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 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down.
FYI: I first doodled a rough draft of this poem around 2007 when living in Fishers, Indiana near Fishers Heritage Park near Eller Road and 106th. I went walking in the park and the attached woods several times a week. I've "finished" the poem (at least for now) for this post. I think this is a tad better than the previous PoMo post <wink>.

This poem is included in this collection:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eschewing Office Politics to be OK at work

I really, really hate Office Politics, or OP.

As I ranted a couple of weeks ago in “The rabid elephant in the room that needs to die. Now!” there’s nothing good about OP.

OP can infect any situation where people come together to accomplish a mission, whether it’s to earn a living, get a degree, or serve a calling. It happens in classrooms, colleges, universities, corporations, small businesses, retail stores, churches, and non-profit organizations.

While some would say OP is “good,” I’ve never encountered it.

In every situation I’ve ever worked in, when someone was talking about OP they were pointing to a situation that was unjust, bad, painful, frustrating, unfair, and just plain, you know, poopy.

In fact, most people when they think of OP think, “Oh, poop!”

Or something to that effect. You know what I mean.

But there is a different kind of work experience that’s positive.

Making the office experience OK

How should we describe a positive workplace experience without trying to contort it under the label of OP?

Let’s call it Office Kinetics, or OK for short.

If what’s happening in a workplace is good, positive, healthy, productive, respectful, dynamic, and constructive, it’s the result of Office Kinetics (OK).

OK employs trust and collaboration for the benefit of oneself and one’s colleagues as you work in concert together to achieve the organization's mission.

If what’s happening in a workplace is negative, unhealthy, wasteful, disrespectful, stalling, non-productive, and damaging, it’s the result of Office Politics (OP).

OP wields power for self-aggrandizement without regard to the negative effect on colleagues or the organization.

Is it possible to achieve an OK environment?

Yep! Let me share one. It was one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had.

Proposal pressure cooker

The last year or so that I worked at AT&T, I was a proposal manager in what was called the Sales Solutions Center (SSC). It was part of the fairly new AT&T Solutions business unit. I was a founding member of the SSC and had recruited several people into the group. We had proposal managers, proposal editors, technical writers, graphic designers, and other staff in the group.

We were the go-to group when the business unit sales team needed to produce a top-notch proposal, from the very simple to the most complex. We produced documents ranging from ten pages to several hundred pages.

Each of the proposals we developed required that we coordinate the input of dozens of individuals across several business units from offices located around the world in every timezone.

It was not unusual for someone in our group to be pulling 18-hour days two to three days a week.

Many of these proposals had the additional challenge of needing to be translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, or some other language. The translation had to occur simultaneously with the finalization of the proposal and incorporate every last minute change that was needed.

The work was intense and the deadlines were hard and fast.

If a proposal landed on a customer’s desk one minute past the specified deadline it could be tossed aside. If this ever happened, we were determined that it wouldn’t be our fault; we met every one of our deadlines.

It wasn’t unusual for each proposal manager to be handling two or more proposals at the same time. But no matter how many proposals we had going, we always managed to get them done on time and with excellence.

How?

We helped each other. What a concept!

Living OK at work

Every member of the SSC had what you could call a strong personality. Some of us were introverts and some were extroverts. Our temperaments were varied and our experiences were diverse. We got along great!

Tempers flared periodically, especially when pulling an all-nighter, but we were each able to work though it and patch up any ruffled emotions.

When others on our proposal teams tried to pull political stunts for whatever reasons, we backed each other up. Our management always ran interference for us.

We rooted for and helped each other to succeed. When one team’s proposal brought accolades from top executives, all of us were thrilled. When someone got a raise or a promotion, all of us were happy for them.

The focus of any competition was outward, directed toward all the others submitting proposals from competing companies. Any internal competition was just for fun.

So what were the specific characteristics that made our work environment OK?

Elements of an OK workplace

Office Kinetics (OK) is marked by progress, cooperation, friendly collaboration, mutual respect, encouragement, sharing, openness, professionalism, transparency, honesty, and the like.

OK gets the job done and does no damage.

Creating an OK situation in your workplace is a choice, it’s not something that just happens.

Here are seven essential elements for creating an OK workplace based on how we accomplished it in the SSC:
  • Understanding. Everyone possesses a different personality style. No single style is better or worse than another. But differences can bring friction. The key is to understand your own style and the styles of those you work with, as well as how each style responds to others. Our SSC group periodically took the time to go through one and two day training sessions on Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and similar tools. We all took the assessments and shared the results with each other.
     
  • Acceptance. We not only understood each other’s style, but we valued the differences each brought to the table. Introverts accepted coaching from the extroverts when we had to give presentations, and the extroverts understood when to let the introverts have some down time to process. Mutual respect is critical.
     
  • Truthfulness. With deeper understanding and mutual acceptance, being honest with one another is easier. We were able to tell each other the truth. We didn’t play games. We truly cared about one anther's best interests. We were comfortable stating differing opinions honestly, even with our management. Being transparent with one another we were able to avoid damaging conflict. Problems were resolved head-on instead of being ignored and allowed to fester.
     
  • Work ethic. No one was a slacker. Everyone gave 100 percent. When one of us said we would be there to help another, we were there. It wasn’t unusual for one team to ship their proposal out the door and then turn right around and pitch in to help another team. If someone called in sick, we knew they were really sick. If someone said they had to go home and rest for a few hours, no one questioned them. We knew they weren’t faking.
     
  • Loyalty. From time to time, since we interacted with every other business unit in the company, some “politician” would try to play one person off another for various reasons. Often it was because they didn’t think we were giving their project enough attention. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work. Why? Because we knew better. And we just didn’t play the games.
     
  • Forgiveness. Whenever you throw a bunch of strong personalities together into a high-pressure work environment, there will be explosions from time to time. Misunderstandings and disagreements happen, especially when you’re tired and over-worked. But we survived because when all was said and done, we forgave one another. And we were sincere.
     
  • Trust. At the base of every interaction within our group was a strong sense of mutual trust. We trusted each other. We trusted our management. Our management trusted us. We truly had each other’s backs and so were free to actually enjoy our work and each other.
How do these elements stack up in an environment rife with Office Politics (OP)?
  • In a political environment, conformity suppresses individual personality styles, disrespect and intolerance of difference are the norm, and understanding is considered a waste of time.
     
  • In a political environment differences are seen as points of leverage used to create wedges between people and groups.
     
  • In a political environment the truth is often anyone’s guess and information is used as a weapon. Pettiness is rampant.
     
  • In a political environment the work ethic is always skewed with a few doing a lot and many doing little. Rewards are based on favoritism instead of effort or results.
     
  • In a political environment gossip, blame, rumors, and false accusations always run rampant and fuel discord, damaging even the innocent.
     
  • In a political environment, if there is forgiveness it’s always fake; nothing that can be used against you is ever forgiven or forgotten.
     
  • In a political environment, trust is non-existent, second-guessing is rampant, and motives are always suspect; one must always watch his/her back.

Death to OP! Let’s all be OK!

As I mentioned in my previous anti-OP post, poor Jack Bauer in the TV series 24 was constantly battling bad guys outside as well as inside his “office.” It was incredibly draining for him and it put the country at risk!

However, there were moments when everyone was on the same page, working together to defeat the enemy. In these moments, Jack and everyone else were far more effective and OK.

While the intrigue and machinations of politics may make for great TV, it sucks the life out of organizations.

Driving Office Politics (OP) out of your workplace while embracing Office Kinetics (OK) will improve morale, productivity, and the well-being of everyone.


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 What additional positives can you think of that contribute to OK? What about negatives that mark an environment rife with OP? Feel free to share your experiences with OP and OK in the comments section.

Oh, and there are other dangers lurking in the office. It's a wonder we ever get out alive!



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just as we are, or so we wish: Introverts in your church

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

So goes a verse of the well-known hymn, and, in a sense, this verse could be the anthem of Christian introverts everywhere.

In the book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, a software engineer learning that his introversion has a physiological basis making him just as he is, is quoted as exclaiming, “This is how I am! I don’t have to try to meet anyone’s expectations anymore! I don’t need to feel apologetic or defensive in any way!”

I’m an introvert and a Christian.

For Christian introverts, being accepted “just as we are” is exactly what we long for in our churches.

Sometimes it’s just noise

I’ve always enjoyed music, but sometimes, not so much.

In church recently, the drummer on the worship team started a song with an especially loud beat. The rest of the worship team joined in exuberantly as members of the congregation “got down” in their very loud praise.

I looked over at a mother holding a toddler; he was burying his head against her chest and had his hands over his ears. This is typical behavior for a child who is introverted.

The sharp whacks of the drum intro had startled me, too.

This was not a Pentecostal church. But I grew up in one where a raucous ruckus was the norm. And if you were at all spiritual, you were expected to join in with the clapping, bobbing, weaving, and shouts of joy, all ye people.

This is not a great milieu for an introvert.

Introverts, generally speaking, don’t do well in noisy, raucous, crowded, outgoing, bustling, fast-paced, highly-interactive environments. Such an environment can feel overwhelming, causing us to shut down.

And yet, this is often what one encounters in evangelical churches, even those that are not particularly Charismatic or Pentecostal in doctrine.

In these churches, to be accepted, we are often required to act just as we aren’t: Extroverted.

What’s wrong with me?

Introverts often feel like something is wrong with us as we try to muddle through the culture of extroversion with which we are surrounded.

Growing up, I was certain that everyone else in the world was in on a secret that had been kept from me. That secret would unlock the world that it seemed nearly everyone else, all extroverts, inhabited.

It was a world where chit-chat came easily, speaking in public was a breeze, performing was a blast, socializing was as easy as pie, parties were actually fun, and success was just a kiss away.

Instead, to borrow and paraphrase from the Rolling Stones, “it always felt like a storm was threat'ning my very life every day, and that if I didn’t get some shelter, I was gonna fade away.”

Another verse in “Just As I Am” goes:
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
This is especially poignant for introverts since we tend to long to be accepted just as we are and to have the “one dark blot” of whatever it is that makes us different erased.

Church should be an escape from the knocking around of the world, but it may not be much of one when you’re an introvert.

Bearing the image of God

An oft-cited chunk of Scripture is Psalms 139:13-16, a paean to our God-created humanity and uniqueness:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (NIV).
We often tie this to Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (NIV).

These verses underscore that each of us is uniquely created by God with a specific God-ordained personality and temperament.

In other words, being an introvert was God’s idea and is a good thing! Introversion is, in part, a reflection of God Himself.

So what is the make-up of an introvert?

In her excellent book, Susan Cain explains that introverts, among other things:
  • “dislike small talk”
  • “have difficulty when being observed.”
  • “[are] often sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, pain, and coffee.”
  • “[taken] to a party they aren’t very pleased about it.”
  • “tend to have unusually strong consciences.”
  • “[are] acutely aware of the consequences of a lapse in their own behavior.”
  • “[as children] liked to daydream and play inside, and whose feelings were easily hurt.”
Introverts also are often viewed as being in their heads too much, being too quiet in group settings, taking too long to make decisions, and coming across as aloof or smug or standoffish.

Any one of these traits can bring pressure on introverts in non-church settings. Carried into the context of a church environment, the negative impact can be magnified many times over.

Surviving church to grow in faith

It wasn’t unusual in my childhood church to be gently pressured to give testimonies. This is a part of the service when individuals stand up and publicly talk about how they’ve experienced God’s blessings over the prior week or so.

Other times there was the expectation to pray out loud, go down to the altar, raise your hands, and generally behave like an extrovert. If you had any special talent, you were expected to use it on the platform in front of everyone, whether singing or playing an instrument.

I did all of these things, each time with my heart pounding and my pits dripping. Introverts tend to sweat more than extroverts, often for no particular reason.

Being an introvert I think a lot about everything. It’s part of our nature as introverts! But I didn’t always understand this.

There are a lot of aspects of being an introvert and growing up Pentecostal that I’m still coming to grips with.

And, yes, I’m coming to my point.

Here it is:

It’s perfectly okay to be an introvert!

Understanding this is very freeing. However, it doesn’t end the pressure we face to be more out-going, up-beat, demonstrative, and “on.” Still, knowing it is helpful.

Now, in our own quietly tenacious way, we need to get the word out to others that being an introvert is perfectly normal, and for those who are, this is the way God wants us to be.

For the rest of you, here are some tips for interacting with introverts:
  • Empower. If you see children who shy away from being put on stage and are hesitant to mix it up in groups, don’t force them. Avoid making them feel “wrong” by merely being different if they choose not to participate. Allow them to be how they are.
     
  • Ask. If you want to draw introverts (teens or adults) into active roles in the church, ask them, quietly, and don’t wait for them to step up. Introverts often shy away from anything that smacks of self-promotion.
     
  • Wait. If you invite an introvert to take on a leadership role, let them take time to think – a lot of time to think – about how they want to participate. If they say no for now, then, ask them again several months later. Don’t pressure them and don’t hurry them, but don’t sideline or ignore them.
     
  • Act! If an introvert comes to you and asks to be involved in or start something specific, listen carefully and be quick to give them a green light. They've already been thinking, mulling, and praying about it for weeks or months and are ready to act. Putting them off and making them wait for an answer will be a huge demotivator. If you must say no, be sure to give them clear and detailed reasons for your no, even when they come back days later to ask more questions.
     
  • Listen. In meetings, when someone you know is an introvert finally speaks up, listen carefully and patiently. In fact, slow meetings down and insert mini-breaks to give the introverts time to process what’s happening. Their insights can be game-changers if heard.
     
  • Involve. While introverts generally avoid being on stage, this doesn’t mean we don’t ever want to be involved in more up front roles such as giving announcements, singing a special, taking up the offering, helping with communion, serving on the board, teaching a class, leading a small group, or even delivering a sermon. Usually, all you need to do is ask in advance so we can be prepared. While an introvert probably won’t volunteer for a lot of these kinds of tasks, they may feel snubbed and overlooked if never asked.
Please know that introverts in your church are longing to be accepted just as they are and to say with that engineer, “This is how I am! I don’t have to try to meet anyone’s expectations anymore! I don’t need to feel apologetic or defensive in any way!”

But really, isn’t this what we all want?

If you want to gain more insight into the God-created differences and strengths of introverts and extroverts, as well as how each style can complement the other, check out these two books:


You can also read more here:
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Are you an introvert? If so, can you offer additional tips and insights to help extroverts understand and interact with us better? Are you an extrovert? If so, how do tend to view and treat introverts? Are you patient with them or frustrated by them? Please sound off in the comments section!
And now, various musical takes on the "Just as I am" theme....








Monday, April 1, 2013

easter canon (or, updated, "What was I thinking?" *)

here comes Peter Cottontail
hoppin' down the bunny trail
find his eggs or go to hell
jim and johnny and lil' nell

his eggs we do hide
to remember how he died
on a cross he cried
they jabbed him in the side

his blood ran red
thorns on his head
by him were we led
and now he is dead

he was the great one
the father's only son
we thought we'd won
but then he said "it's done"

he's had his requiem
just memories now remain
of a once great king
who now lies slain



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 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down.
* Okay, this one probably needs a little explanation. I wrote this in 1970, printed them up on 3x5 cards on a miniature mimeo thingy (image above), and then (Gasp!) handed them out at church on Easter (Gah!).

My church was a small Pentecostal uber-conservative (in every sense) small town church. My poem, a teenage rant against the commercialization of Easter, really didn't go over well. Mom and Dad fielded a few uncomfortable phone calls that day. All I can remember is that I spent the day in my room alternating emotionally between, "Take that, Easter Bunny!" and "What was a thinking?!?!?"

And thus began my life as an ambivalent troublemaker.  

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