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    Sunday
    Sep042016

    My 2016 Election Bucket List

    There are some 68 days left before the November election and despite our ability to communicate 24/7/365 through traditional and social media, I still don't hear a lot of dialog on the issues that matter to me in this election.  Coverage of the candidate's personalities, personal choices in spouses, their personal health, their tax returns, and their choice of campaign managers is a complete distraction from what impacts me and most people daily.  The media circus on the scandals is such a distraction.  Let's think about this:  Does our health improve because of the candidates' health status.  Does our financial security change because of how much they each paid in taxes.  Do our lives get better because of the emails sent or not sent?  No.  I get the optics of all the hours spent discussing this.  It makes us feel good perhaps just obsessing on all those issues and all those favorability polls that speak to the candidate's popularity.  
    But if you had the ability to summarize the list of issues that impact you and your family the most---could you name those?  Would you be able to then ask the candidates to lay out a true plan of action?  Here's my top 3 in my bucket list for Election 2016: 
    1. How is our education system preparing today's children for the big issues they will face in the future like water and food safety, climate change, or sustainable energy development.  We seem not to have enough STEM majors and yet the demand for scientists to solve more problems grows more than ever.  How are we building the foundation for future scientists that we need now and in the future?  My take: let's end the utterly ridiculous practice of linking per student spending in school districts across the nation using a community's tax base. If that isn't the biggest contributor to inequity in the nation, I don't know what else is. 
    2. What are we going to do about an ever increasing aging population that needs more health care, more financial help, and more support services?  As one of those sandwiched between offspring and aging parents, it is overwhelming to address the needs of elders who want to live independently longer and at the same time support millennials who need more financial help to launch? My take: let's see communities create affordable housing that provides assisted living to growing millions of elders or multi-generational housing so that adult children or elders can live at home longer.  
    3. Is there any possibility of a national strategy on addressing the needs of the mentally ill? Let's recognize that the stress of war, traumatic injury or physical illness, or living in poverty makes some more vulnerable to psychosocial dysfunction.  We gave up on mental hospitals in the 1980's because there was a promise of community mental health centers.  And then we gave up on those because of the exorbitant price tag for the Cold War.  The net impact is that we have a patchwork system of care for the mentally ill.  This means we will continue to see horrific suicide rates among veterans, and others who succumb to mass shootings, terrorism, and violent xenophobia.  My take: we need to create a layman's guide to a mental health check list that helps identify those suffering from mental illness sooner and make care less fragmented.  
    There you have it. My top 3 items for someone--anyone--to discuss in some meaningful way.  Tell me your top 3.  Maybe we can get some of these to be actually discussed! 
    Monday
    Jun132016

    It's Time to Recognize Extreme Bias is a Mental Illness

    Last night's massacre is about to be examined for the next news cycle from all sides: gun lobbyists, the LGBT community, and those who want a ban on Muslims entering the US.  Its shameful however that the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association issued no position statements on this horrific act by a person who is almost certainly mentally ill.  While acknowledging support for the victims is standard course for any professional organization, the events of the last few years that highlight the degree to which bigotry can motivate an individual to horrific actions---killing African Americans in bible study in Charleston, killing fellow employees at a staff holiday party in San Bernardino, and killing gays in Orlando.
    The condolences and the statements of support are not enough.  A clear statement that points to the fundamental danger of extreme racism would clarify for policy makers that extreme racism is as dangerous to the health of an individual as is depression, psychosis, or addiction.
    The two largest organizations representing mental health professions may want to listen to one of their most noted member.  In 1999 Harvard professor and psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint wrote in the New York Times "Like all others who experience delusions, extreme racists do not think rationally. Instead, they create fantastical theories about who is responsible for their problems."  More recently he wrote about the Charleston shooting,   "Racist attitudes that interfere with an individual’s ability to work with people from a particular group should not in itself be considered mental illness. However, if that person believes he has to kill black people, such ideation must be examined as an expression of a mental disorder. Acting out extermination fantasies is readily classifiable as a delusional and a psychotic disorder. To continue perceiving extreme racism as normative and not pathologic is to lend it legitimacy."

    While its not enough to label a problem, it does create a different set of reactions.  Poussaint raises a vital part of the debate on extreme prejudice and bias.  Both Associations have a responsibility to engage the full extent of their resources in addressing one of the nation's greatest challenges with conviction.  Extreme bias is extreme delusion. 

     

    Sunday
    Nov292015

    Taking Down a Known Gunman vs Men of Color

    This weeks "shooting of the hour" (doesn't it seem like that now?) at the Planned Parenthood offices in Colorado will be portrayed as a reminder of conditions that elevate the chances anyone of us will be killed because of a cause we may or may not care to understand or at the hands of a lunatic with a gun. Given the assailant's remarks at the time of his arrest--its clear Robert  Lewis Dear believed the rhetoric about Planned Parenthood that gets spewed by politicians determined not to speak the facts.  The fact is just 3% of their services are abortion related. Ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood's services are basic health care services for families. 
    But this story a bigger opportunity and major network news outlets need to do more than cover the shootings. 
    I have yet to hear mainstream media ask this question:  How did this assailant get captured without a scratch?  How did this killer escape without being hit by a single bullet? What kind of coordinated law enforcement was used here versus in the streets of Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Minneapolis or Baltimore?  What do the best police officers do to handle such a terrifying situation and bring it to an end without adding to the carnage?
    The #BlackLivesMatter movement has made the case in the past that white assailants or suspects in similar situations are not killed. So let's find a few brave police officers who can cross the "blue wall of silence"---(which by the way can someone tell us how this is different than the assailed "no snitching" practice among gangs)-- to speak openly on what makes it possible to take a suspect down-alive? How should the cases of the past six months been handled? Is a traffic violations, shoplifting, jay-walking or being stoned or defiant a new justification for the use of force?  And, is that just for Blacks or Latinos? 
    ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN---we need to have a town hall and include police officers, police chiefs, district attorneys and community members to address the facts:
    Let's use an hour (or two) to hold the conversation on the new standards in policing--our communities are long over due for answers on what's placing our young men at risk. 

     

     

    Sunday
    Jun282015

    An Open Letter to Commercial Sponsors of Ann Coulter, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh 

    The privilege of living in the US is that each of us has the freedom to speak our minds.  Some use this freedom of speech to promote unity, equity, and other ideals that are the hallmark of the nation’s ideals.  The recent publication of Adios America by Ann Coulter and the opinions expressed on Mexico and Mexicans by Donald Trump illustrate how freedom of speech can be used to undermine our most cherished beliefs in a pluralistic society.  For the past 30 years, Rush Limbaugh has used his media businesses to further the cause of bigots, homophobes, and to reinforce stereotypes and bias.  One consequence of all three of these individuals’ activities is that they have amassed enormous money endorsing products, speaking at events, creating businesses and much more.

    The words of Coulter, Trump, and Limbaugh have other consequences.   

    Their words impact the quality of life for millions of hard working people of color, immigrants, LGBT families, and women.  Their ideas about the immigrants who continue to build this nation day by day make it harder for them to find work, for their children to walk with pride, and for some to be denied basic human rights.   Their ability to use the media to fuel bigotry can even inspire terrorists to take the lives of innocent people.

    The commercial sponsorships of Coulter, Trump and Limbaugh should be seen by any corporation as a liability for which every Board member and senior executive must address as a matter of governance and risk management.  It is only a matter of time that someone somehow will find a way to form a class action suit that links the activities of these individuals to very clear financial and emotional harm amassed among a class of people who continue to be maligned by Coulter, Trump and Lumbaugh.  We live in the era of big data and it would be interesting to link their actions to hate crimes across the country.  

    The nation’s most watched media outlet—Univision-- has demonstrated the leadership necessary for corporate social responsibility of the highest order:  furthering the ideal of pluralism.  Univision has pulled out of Trump’s commercial ventures.   This should serve as an example to all corporations to review sponsorships with any individual who promotes bias, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry. 

    None of these individuals would be in the position to promote their ideas were it not for the money to do so.  And yet, if your company continues to pay for commercials on their websites or sponsors their media appearance, you are furthering the opportunity of people who profit from hate and injustice.  This ability to fund spokespeople for divisiveness will not continue without some consequence.  

    The list of supporters for Coulter, Limbaugh, and Trump are all available in different postings across the internet. You know you are.  People will learn what you support.  The time is now to take note of how companies have had to step up on their moral compass and do the right thing.  The diversity of your customers, investors and other stakeholders requires that you act—if you cannot be motivated by a moral compass, you should be clear about your bottom line.  

    Saturday
    Dec062014

    Social Media Activism vs The Real World

    The irony of this post does not escape me.  This is a rant on all the writing that is taking place in all the usual places--Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit--in addition to all the traditional media outlets.  Approximately 22% of the US population accesses social media several times during the day. A tweet here, an update there--what does that amount to?  An hour a day or two? In addition to all that, let's not forget the time spent among all the researchers and scholars publishing articles and white papers at universities, think tanks, and institutes.   It's part of the job of academics to dedicate a great deal of time to "publish or perish".  What's that amount to? Another 3 - 5 hours a day? 

    Here's my question: Are we writing about anything new or are we participating in what Professor Cornell West recently called Media Instruments of Mass Distraction?
    I thought about his statement quite a bit when I recently discussed planning a professional event and heard colleagues talk about how tough it is to get people to attend events or volunteer.  It's a shame. All the time being spent on our lap tops tweeting and blogging or chronicling what 's wrong with the world instead of connecting with others to meet the needs of our community.  It doesn't take much to find out that many cities are in need of more big brothers or big sisters for at-risk youth, volunteers to check on elderly shut-ins, or tutors for kids struggling in school.
     
    For all this activism from the comfort of our laptops sitting on the sofa or at Starbucks, I'm not sure we'll see as much change as we want unless time gets put to do the hard work that requires showing up at your local nonprofit, school, church or synagogue.  Our cyber life is not a substitute for the real thing. Transformational change that is at the heart of all social movements goes beyond the blog post, the white paper, or the tweet.  Okay, I'm stepping away from the key board now. No really!