Sunday, June 18, 2017

How great is America?

Desperate people do desperate things. Good people can be led to believe things that are not true. Decent people can be convinced to support indecent things.
In recent years, these facts have weighed on me. How could, why did so many people join the KKK in large numbers? How could, why did the German people support the Nazi's? We often focus on the leaders and the specific actions of these organizations but they were supported by many, many ordinary people very much like you and I.
Could you, are you supporting the types of ideas that give rise to the types of things organizations like the KKK and the Nazi's did? Are you? Could you? Do you?
How prone are you to a need for power and control? How far will you go to pursue an ideal?
On the left side of equation, Marx, Lenin and Castro started with lofty ideals. But power, control and suppression took over with them as well. Greed and corruption took hold of them and magnified the flaws in their theories of system.
We need to develop systems of society that applaud and support exceptional achievement while tempering greed. Greed may lie at the lowest and highest levels.
We need to adopt an expectation of equal treatment while rewarding exceptional character, ethics and effort. Some will achieve much with little effort. Others will achieve much with major effort. We need to know the difference and reward it accordingly.
What has made America great for over 200 years, is that we found those exceptional people and exceptional efforts and lifted them. We have had a moral compass that, over time, squelched greed and corruption. (or at least attempted to slow it)
We learned from the depression that allowing 10, 20 or 30 percent of our population to flounder has a crippling effect on us all. Now, with a global economy, we need to learn that allowing 10, 20 or 30 percent of the world population to flounder has a crippling effect on us all. These are the fertile grounds for groups like ISIS. Or the KKK. Or Nazi's. Or Marxists.
What has been great about America is that we have navigated those waters and squelched greed, corruption, and power grabs when they most posed a danger to our existence as a democracy. Power, greed and corruption are threatening us now. They are burning us apart from within. Desperate people are doing desperate things. Good people are let to believe "alternative facts".
Have we, will we now cross that last bridge where decent people are convinced to support indecent things? Therein lies that question that will determine just how great America can be.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What troubles me....

Much of what is happening in the world troubles me from time to time. Try as I may to keep it at a distance and preserve perspective of the reality of danger, I also see nothing as disconnected or so very distant. The pain of one, no matter how far away, is pain to me.  It ripples, somehow, into my world no matter whether I acknowledge it or not. Your pain is mine and mine is yours. Nothing exists in isolation. Nothing.
In response to the most recent terror attack in London, according to the BBC, "Theresa May has said she will change human rights laws if they "get in the way" of tackling suspected terrorists."
This sounds like a familiar approach. In the wake of great "danger", human rights must take a back seat. In terms of human rights we're talking about due process, the right to privacy, innocent until proven guilty, and freedom of religion. If human rights are not at the very heart of what we fight for, then what are we fighting for?
There is a great shift toward "survival" mentality as though our very survival is based on fighting. Many times I am reminded of Jesus' command to "fear not". When fear is our driver, we will always make the wrong choices and follow the wrong path. Sadly, we now have leaders who cherish fear and fear mongering. They think the answer to overcoming our "enemy" is to make them fear us more. That will not work. We cannot win by being nastier and meaner than the next person. We don't win with cleverness or force. It's a marathon. If you believe in eternity, a slap today is not a problem solver. 
Our violent reaction - their violent reaction - creates ripples that cannot end UNTIL someone does something rationally different. We need to understand what is at the root of this terrible thing that is spreading. And we need not feed that root. If we cannot understand why someone is radicalized to the point of terrible violence and hatred, we will never solve it. If we respond in kind - with violence and hatred - we will continue to grow it.
Human rights should never be in question. We have to maintain the standard by which we measure humanity. We have to BE the standard by which we measure humanity. We don't lower our standards to match the depths to which our enemy will take us. We raise our standards and insist that they join us. Insist, not by force, but by example. If they cannot see, it is OUR failing, not theirs. If our ideology is truly right and just, there should be no question. If there is question, we need to look at ourselves.
If we lower our standards, what have we gained? In my mind, we may win a battle but the war is lost for all. We gained nothing. Humanity gained nothing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Henderson House

Some years ago (I'm bad with passage of time), my sister Laurie and I imagined that the brick house on Elk Street could be a guest house. It would be a place where we could welcome visitors and help them find all the wonderful things our region has to offer. And it has been a guest house to many already with friends and family staying there when need arose.
Laurie and I thought of many names for it. Informally, it's been called "the Brick House" but finally it's landed on it's most appropriate name, "The Henderson House". It's most appropriate not because that is my name, but that is the name that is historically accurate. It is named for Miles R. and Freda Henderson who built that house. In that, I am honoring a part of the family I never knew but also honoring my own family with the name.
We started a guest book with my own house experiences and what we know of M.R. and Freda. I'm sure we'll be adding details. Fortunately many who occupied the house before me preserved important features - the mantel, woodwork and overall layout of the house. It even still has the original, intact and sound, slate roof which I'm quite protective about having only allowed renowned slate roof experts to maintain it. I'm hopeful that with their help it will long outlast me.
The house will be a balance of preservation and creation of a place that provides comfort and welcome for all who stay there. I love this house. I love sharing it. And I love making it some place special. Can't wait for Laurie to see what we've done so far!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Show ratings are dropping but everyone's watching

Barely into the season, the show's ratings have tanked and may be taking the entire network's ratings down with it. The presumed "star" of the show has obviously not read the script and simply ad libs his lines leaving the rest of cast scrabbling to try to add narrative that creates a plausible plot. Ironically, the "star" blames the rest of the cast for the failures. For viewers it's like watching ping pong balls dropping in a huge room and wondering where they will eventually land.
Oddly, the network knew the pilot was a flop and should have foreseen that an actual show was going to be quite messy. But someone pulled strings to ensure this show went on the air - popularity or ratings be damned.
So, what to do now? Is the "star" actually the biggest problem? Has the network lost all credibility and ability to create something that's productive?
Buckle up. It's going to get bumpy. Or start practicing ping pong. We may all need to deflect some of the strays flying around.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Trickle UP, not trickle down...."

As I look around my community, there are many who may have voted differently in national elections but I fully support their local efforts. They are working on serious issues that trickle up - that lift our community UP. I see people who see a need and jump in to solve that problem. I see PEOPLE who want to build a better community for themselves and those around them.
There are the PEOPLE who cannot fathom a four pawed creature lost and who will dedicate countless hours searching for them. There are PEOPLE who stop in the middle of the street to rescue an injured or lost pet and spend countless hours finding the right home.
There are PEOPLE who spend endless time and money in our local Mustard seed program to help homeless people or to rehab homes for those in need. They are not liberal or conservative - they are PEOPLE - who care and serve without expectation except to make the world a better place.
They are preserving local legacy and local spaces. They are restoring local iconic structures. This is huge in terms that cannot be quickly summarized but can be seen long term as significant value added to our community.
Often we are caught up in the HUGE stuff - the global and national dramas. Our work, our promise, our impact, lies right here and right now. We can trickle up. We can set examples. We can show how things get done and how problems are solved. It's right here. It's right now. Just do it.
Many of us feel that what is happening in the big house is not consistent with our values and beliefs. Ok. Express those views. But if you really want to drive change - Trickle up. It doesn't trickle down. WE need to set the standards. WE need to set the example. Let's get something done.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Snowflakes" and "Libtards"

It's shocking to see "those snowflakes" - "libtards" - and other similar slurs from people who have at some time, told me they loved me - from people I love. They know me well enough to know that I have very different views from them, and yes, I know they label me liberal. Do they call me, think of me, when they use those labels?
It causes me to pause.
Do they believe, do I, view them through similar filters?
It causes me to pause.
It causes me to be more cautious in what I say and do. It's policy and practice that matters. If we allow ourselves to be calloused and hardened to perspectives other than ours, we can learn nothing. We learn nothing when we label and isolate "others".  We learn nothing when we stubbornly hold onto any ideology. We don't know, what we don't know and we won't if we cannot learn to communicate civilly, Or to simply learn to communicate policy and practice that makes sense to the other person.
It causes me to pause and be more cautious.
I most value my conservative friends who are able to provide information that demonstrates policy and practice that has a track record of success. These are the people who simply communicate what makes sense and what makes sense needs no label - conservative or liberal.
I find little to no value in the label throwers on either side. They are simply throwing spears that make no difference in the world except to raise mistrust and create greater division.
Call a falsehood, a falsehood. Site sources. Communicate policy and practice that makes sense. Quit with the spear throwing. We have work to do. Support people who understand that and hold higher standards. We need high standards right now. It starts with us.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Choosing a big pond or a little pond....

As I prepared to graduate from Slippery Rock University, many years ago, one of my professors said, "Now you just need to decide if you want to swim in a big pond or a little pond."
When we think of fish, many know that the smaller the pond, the smaller the fish. Fish will only grow large in large water. Somehow, genetically, they grow in relationship to their environment. Bigger ponds were in my mind. I had recently completed a tour in the Air Force where I had a taste of different cultures and bigger things. So, I swam on in search of bigger places and bigger things.
Within a decade, much to my surprise, I was right back in my little hometown of Franklin but working in a big pond company - Joy. For 21 years I swam in that big pond working on many international projects, traveling across the US and into a few other countries. As a little fish, I grew some. But I can say that people aren't fish.
The best thing that happened is that the "big pond" put me in my hometown which may seem like a little pond but I know the fish are bigger here. A small pond gives humans something more that doesn't correlate with the fish experience in small ponds.
In bigger communities - in cities - in large corporations - you can make a mark and you can make a name. You can build something. But you can never build the context and connection that you can in a smaller community. I've heard that there are only 6 degrees of separation from you and anyone else in the world. You know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who is a friend of the Queen of England. In a small community there is often only 1 or two degrees of separation. You know someone who is friends with the Mayor. You know someone who is a friend of the State Senator. Context and connection are close.
Many of the leaders in our community - the movers and shakers - never left. They are our Judges, our council people, our Mayors, our state representatives, our business leaders, our non-profit Directors, our Chamber leaders AND they are doing - HAVE BEEN doing - huge things in our community that impact many lives. They grew big in this pond and they inspire others - near and far. They inspire me.
It's not about being in a big pond or a little pond. It's about finding the place that allows you to thrive and a place where you can make a difference. In my experience, a small pond - a community of people like we have here in Venango county - provides greater opportunity for making a difference. It's because of context and connection. We support one another. We are close enough, with context enough, that we can do more, go further, and have a greater impact because of it. We care and are more aware of one another's strengths and yes, one another's weaknesses.
I'm not ashamed of having gone away and rambled in bigger ponds but I'm most thankful that circumstances required that I be here. I'm proud to be here and am committed to supporting the efforts of those continuing to make our pond a better place for all.