It has been a long week, with lots of thoughts, feelings, and ideas waiting to be written down. Many should be blog posts of their own, but I just don't have time, so I'm writing Sandy Hook Zettel. I take the word Zettel from Ludwig Wittengenstien.
Last night, I had another dream about being lost. This time, I was in visiting China, I think it was. I couldn't find my password, or any guidebooks. I set out from my hotel to explore and soon was lost. It was all the more difficult because I didn't speak Chinese. Eventually, I ended up on an elevated train platform with some Christian Bible Study group, with whom I could establish rudimentary communications.
I woke up, and the chant from Sunday's litany at Church went through my mind, "Oh Lord, hear my prayer…"
Last Thursday, I got home from work to find a "Dammit Doll" that had been sent to me. It came from a blogging friend that lives near Sandy Hook. She wanted me to review it on my blog. I had to rescue it from the dog who thought it was a chew toy for him. I brought it to work to show my co-workers and I've thought about Dammit Doll on the bar as a response to Elf on a Shelf.
In the evening, I sat up and watched the Geminids. I think I managed to get a picture of one. I need to get it off the camera and post it.
At work, I read the first reports of the shooting at Sandy Hook. As the horror started to become apparent, I wrote this:
"It's the most wonderful time of the year" blares from the loudspeaker outside my office. On my computer screen is a picture of some old guy with a vest, ten gallon hat and grey mustache with the caption, "You actually think that criminals will obey gun control laws? You're a special kind of stupid, aren't you?"
I had been thinking of posting a response, something to the effect, that even though burglars break into houses with locked doors, I still lock my doors in an effort to prevent crime.
I've been getting into lots of discussions about gun control and mental health online. Gun advocates have argued for arming more people, and suggested that we should follow Israel's gun control laws, but as I read things, Israel appears to have very strict gun control laws.
I've always been opposed to regulation of video games. On the other hand, most of the video games I've played have been pretty benign. I have played some first person shooter games, and didn't really like the way I felt afterwards. I have been focused on my media diet and these days watch almost no television. I even avoid good science fiction that has too much violence in it for me.
One meme that has been getting a lot of play online has been Mr. Rogers' "Look for the helpers". I think that is a great meme and one that I'm interested in expending. Be a helper. Spread the word about helpers.
On Saturday, I stopped at the Woodbridge Volunteer Fire Department for Santa's Visit. I spoke with Santa. He was very sad. He said his heart wasn't into it and he couldn't be jolly. He wanted to cancel, but his wife reminded him of the children that were counting on him. It felt like it came right out of a 1960's Hallmark Holiday Special. The Children were asking that Santa do something special for the children of Newtown. We talked about the first responders. Then ones in Sandy Hook need special prayers.
I work with some great helpers. Yet they are struggling too. Half the building I work in was out sick yesterday. Mostly respiratory illnesses. I don't think they were somatic, but I do believe that everyone is so run down that colds can easily spread. Take care of yourself.
Dicks' sporting goods is changing its policies on the guns it sells. A hedge fund is divesting its investment in the manufacturer of the gun used in the shooting. Both seem to be small positive steps. The question remains, is the NRA the association of regular moms and dads that happen to like guns, or are they the association of the gun sellers, people whipping up fear to sell their drug of choice.
And now, we are approaching the Mayan Apocalypse. It will start with a moment of silence for the victim of the shooting. The NRA will hold a press conference, and it is the longest night of the year. In Middletown, there will be a memorial service for homeless people that have died.
The next day, there will be a re-birthday party at the Buttonwood Tree. This fits nicely with the old story of what the caterpillar views as the end of the world, the butterfly sees as the beginning, and I believe it is closer to Mayan thought about human kind not coming to an end, but taking a quantum leap. Let us pray that it will be a leap to greater compassion.
As part of the CT Health Leaders Fellowship program, I've been challenged to come up with "S.M.A.R.T." goals about my personal leadership. I've been thinking a lot about this, and trying to think out what goals make the most sense for me.
I have a certain ambivalence to traditional views of leadership, as I mentioned in my previous post, where I posted the old question, "Are you a leader, are you a follower, are those the only two options?" To a certain extent, we are all leaders, if we are willing to take up our leadership, or to toss in another quote, "One man, with courage, is a majority".
When I think about traditional views of leadership, I think about inside/outside strategies. Are you a leader on the inside? Have you been authorized to lead within an existing empowered social structure? Are you a leader of an outside group, perhaps authorized by a different existing social structure, the loyal opposition, to challenge the existing empowered social structure? Again, are these the only two options? Are the only two options inside the box, or outside the box? Is being outside the box, still defining you in the context of the current box?
I've attended several Group Relations conferences. Their titles often begin with the word 'Authority'. This begs a question, where does authority come from? How does it get formed? It is worth noting that 'authority' and 'author' come from the same root, to increase or augment.
To the extent that a person is writing within an established system, their authorship, their authority, is recognized by people reading what has been written; by the writings being cited by other authors. These ideas form a framework for a social contract affecting the way people deal with one another.
In the age of the Internet, just about anyone can publish whatever they want. It's easy, just set up a blog. That's what I did. But setting up a blog doesn't mean that anyone will read what you've written, much less, agree, share, or act upon your words, or that enough people will act upon your words to grant you any real authority.
Through using social media, you can reach a larger audience and potentially find others for whom your writing will resonate. You can use social media, within your existing social context, to ask people to join you and share your thoughts, to create new coalitions, new contexts, and from there, establish authority that is less anchored to existing empowered social structures.
Yet what are the things in our lives that prevent us from becoming authors and developing new audiences, new coalitions, and new authority? How does it relate to the social structures we grew up in, in our families, in our schools, churches and communities?
These are important questions that need to be asked, to help add a little meat to the bones of new ideas about authority, authorship, social contracts and social media. For me, this meat on the bones needs to be S.M.A.R.T., Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
So, my current challenge is to come up with Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely goals around using social media to reevaluate our social contracts in the Internet Era. It seems very relevant and timely, the question becomes, what is specific measurable and attainable and what is blocking me from reaching these goals?
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
This passage from the Bible has played a key role in our American experience. This idea of a city upon a hill was used in Governor John Winthrop's famous sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity" which he delivered on board the Arabella in 1630 on his way to Massachusetts. It has been used as the basis for the idea of American Exceptionalism, a recurring theme in American politics.
Because of God's blessing, the theory goes, the United States is exceptional. It is exempt from historical forces that would destroy other nations. It is an appealing theory, we all wish to be exceptional, to be blessed in some special way. Yet the way the theory is presented in American politics today seems very far from the message of Governor Winthrop nearly four centuries ago.
The sermon was about Christian Charity. It starts off talking about how there are always rich people and poor people and that a reason for this is "that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection". Yes, the key idea here is that we SHOULD be dependent on one another, even though many of those arguing for American Exceptionalism are the same people that argue against social welfare programs that promote 'dependency'. These people seem to have missed the key point of the sermon. This is a sermon about charity, about giving to others.
Then, there is the final part of the sermon where Winthrop speaks about the city upon a hill.
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
In the passage from scripture, the city on the hill is linked with the light to the world. Yet have we replaced that light with the light of golden arches? Have we replaced the golden calf of yore with golden arches? Has our consumerism and neglect of the poor dealt falsely with our God causing God to withdraw God's help from us and making American Exceptionalism a by-word through the world?
Yes, we should embrace American Exceptionalism, the pure American Exceptionalism that is based on love of our fellow man, rich and poor, and not on love of profits.
During these final hours of the 2012 campaign, let me bring focus on what I believe is most important in this race. I started my campaign with a different sort of message. It wasn't about one hot button issue or another, but about the underlying issues. My goal has been to get people more connected with their communities and their government. This is something that is not done over five months, and then left. It is an ongoing project. So, I hope everyone will get out and vote on Tuesday, and then, find ways to become more involved in their local communities, whether it be attending regular town halls with your state legislators, joining local boards and commissions, getting active in the local parent teacher organizations, becoming more involved in your places of worship, joining various civic organizations, or starting something new.
As part of the 2013 CT Health Foundation's Health Leadership Fellows Program, we did an assessment about our leadership styles. Every person have different styles, and each style has its importance. My style is of an 'observer'. I gather as much information as I can to think out the best solutions to problems that we face. Over the past several months, I've received lots of feedback from many of you about the issues we face, how to address them, and how to run my campaign.
Some have said that I should bring up things from my opponent's past or talk more about organizations she is part of that don't have the best interest of Connecticut in mind. When pushed, I've talked a little bit about this, but that isn't the sort of campaign I wanted to run. It didn't serve the goal of getting people more involved in their communities, and would more likely turn people off from politics.
Others have urged me to challenge my opponent on every issue, to make clear every difference. Yet I've spoken about places where my opponent and I agree. None of us want to pay higher taxes. All of us want better schools for our children.
Yet there is an important underlying issue to how we address all of these concerns. My opponent often says that the more government does, the less it does well. I would suggest that this is the key issue. From my years in business, I've come to recognize that it is not the size of an organization that determines its success. It doesn't matter whether the organization is a non-profit, a business, a school, or the government. What matters is that the organization stays on mission.
There are times when government gets off mission, when it becomes burdensome or wasteful. This can happen with small government or large government. There are times when government fails to complete its mission.
Then, there are times when we come together as part of a government by, of and for the people. There are times when government does "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". We've seen a little of this over the past week as we've dealt with Hurricane Sandy, including calls for government interventions in businesses, like the utility companies.
No, the more government does, focusing on its mission as outlined in the Constitution, the more it does well. That is the fundamental difference. I want to be your State Representative in Hartford, making sure that the government does what it should be doing as well as possible, and not offering platitudes about smaller government.
Please, join with me in renewing our social contract, our commitment to our families, friends and neighbors in our great state of Connecticut and our great country.
There is a quote, I'm trying to find, something about all the undiscovered Einstein's, people with the intellectual capabilities of Einstein, living lives as sharecroppers; their mental prowess undiscovered. It came to me over the past couple days at the Health Care Social Media Summit.
I have met some incredible people at the summit, both this year and last. I think of e-Patient Dave and Liver Lindsey, people who have been able to use their skills to live empowered lives in the face of cancer. The e-Patient movement is bringing important changes to health care, as patients take a more engaged role in their own health. They speak well to the folks from the hospitals and health systems that send staff to conferences like this.
I come from a different sort of health care system. I work for a Federally Qualified Health Center. Most of our patients are uninsured or are on Medicaid. They live their lives below 200% of the Federal Poverty level. Their struggles are not overcoming some rare disease, but simply living day to day, being able to get healthy food, exercise, and the health care they need. They don't have computers at home or the skills and reading ability to be the sort of e-Patients we hear about at conferences like this.
Our health center talks a lot about health care being a right, not a privilege, but it seems like the e-Patient movement is for those with decent educations and good access to the Internet. What about our patient population? Will they be left behind? Will the e-Patient movement increase the health disparities in our country? What can we do to prevent a widening health care rift and bring the e-Patient movement to all Americans?
On Tuesday, I met a doctor giving voice to this concern at this conference. Dr. Ivor Horn spoke about how many underserved patients are on social media. They have different usage patterns. They're on Twitter using smartphones and we need to find ways to serve them. There are probably other usage patterns we need to understand as well.
I suspect that e-Patient Dave or Liver Lindsey would be just as compelling and compassionate to the underprivileged as they have shown themselves to be to attendees of this conference, so I have my fantasy panel: e-Patient Dave, Liver Lindsey, Dr. Ivor Horn, and Junaid's Mom talking about helping underserved e-patients. For those who aren't regular readers of my blog, Junaid died this summer of Neuroblastoma. His mother, brought up in poverty, a former drug addict who has been clean for several years now, and the victim of domestic violence, is a powerful woman, an e-Patient amongst the underserved.
How do we address the needs of underserved potential e-patients? It's a discussion that it is time to have.
Postscript: After writing this, I noticed that it is Alejandra Ospina's birthday. Alejandra is the Community Liaison at GimpGirl Community and a powerful spokesperson for people with disabilities. She would be another great member of my fantasy panel.