What We Think We Know About Head Lice and Racism

Remember elementary school and all the crazed mania about head lice? I was lucky enough to never have the little buggers. If I ever had a close friend who did, I never knew about it. Like most 80’s kids, everyone knew “only dirty kids got head lice!” You know what? At eight years old in 1987, I was wrong.

There you have it. I was wrong. I knew only the propaganda about head lice that I’d heard from my peers. I knew nothing of the content of this article published August 21 of last year citing a clinical report which found only about 32% of cases “diagnosed” by school nurses, health care workers, teachers, etc. turn out to be actual lice or nits (lice eggs). The remainder were identified as scabs, hairspray, dandruff, sand and other “artifacts.” In this day and age, we also know that personal hygiene has nothing to do with who might contract head lice. Anyway, this post isn’t really about head lice. What I’m trying to convey is that my eight-year-old self thought she knew quite a lot about head lice. She (I) was wrong!

This post is really about racism and what we think we know about that word and what it means. Time and again, I’m hearing my peers make statements like, “I’m not racist!” “(Such and such) is NOT a racist statement.” Clearly, even in 2016, we white folks think we know a lot about racism, but what if we (like that little eight-year-old me in the 80’s) might be wrong?

For one thing, I’ve noticed that just like the kid sent home for having “nits in their hair,” we recoil from any association with the word “racism.” Our gut reads on our faces as we say, “Ew! Gross! So dirty! Not me!” We recoil from the word racism, because we’ve come to associate it with the horrifying stories we read in our social studies books in public school, the disgust we felt for the prosecutor when we read To Kill a Mockingbird and the tears that roll down our faces when we watch videos on television of young black men (and women!) being terrorized by law enforcement and greater society.

We know we would NEVER do those things. We know we would never push someone out of line, because we felt our skin tone makes us superior to them. We know we would never mace someone for bending down to pick up the wallet we just dropped, because he happens to be black. We know we would never raise a gun barrel against our darker brother simply because he’s darker. This might all be true, but it does not mean we’re not racist.

I was wrong about head lice in elementary school in 1987. I was wrong about racism in college in 2001. I was racist. Want to hear something more powerful. I am racist. All I have to do to expose my racist tendencies is to hit up good ol’ Google for a visual association test. I’ll save you the Googling. Go here. I first took a test similar to this one in 2004. I came up racist then. I come up racist now. Disagree with the testing format all you want. If it determines that you may be profiling people, then you are racist. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to go out and shoot the next dark-skinned person you see. It doesn’t even mean that meeting someone with darker skin at a coffee shop or another casual social venue that you’ll treat them any differently. All it means is that your brain works the way it’s been programmed by any number of factors that could include upbringing, our national media, the entertainment industry, your social circles, etc. Sure, it can mean a lot more, up to and including the ugliness we’ve seen throughout human history, which is why we recoil so strongly from it.

You know, maybe if we had a different word for this type of brain programming, it would be a little easier to accept. For example, what if we called these implicit preferences “profiling tendencies” instead of racism? Would you feel quite as judged if the statement were, “Most of white America has profiling tendencies,” rather than “Most of white America is racist?” But I think it’s important that we continue to use the words racism and racist, because the end result is the same whether we’re the person assuming that a black victim was a “thug” or the person actually pulling the trigger against him. It’s the bad jokes, the assumptions, the little everyday devaluations that allow for hundreds of black men and women to have their lives taken from them, and our country to remain complicit with that reality. This is where our higher selves come in. This is where we can work hard to rewire our brain and be better than our “programming.”

This is where you can be “racist” and still work against racism as I am/do. My racist programming runs deep, but so do my convictions to change this country, one person at a time. My college days of denying and lamenting that I was racist, being hurt over it and making it about me are over. It’s NOT about me. It’s about my brothers and sisters who live with more melanin and less trust from society. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it might make me that there’s programming in my brain that slants my view of them. Too bad. We really don’t have time for my hurt feelings. We’ve been out of time for that since long before I was born. Because it’s not about me, I need to put my feelings on the subject aside, and ask myself instead what can I do to help?

This is where the news is so good, because when I was in college, the sentiment coming from black activists and writers toward white people wanting to help and asking what they could do was, “Sit down and shut up.” Today, the sentiment has changed. The leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement are giving out encouragement to any and all people who want to help. They’re saying spread the word. They’re even saying that white people are more likely to listen to other white people and that they need our help. It’s so refreshing after 15 years to hear and answer these calls.

And anyone can do it. If you’re like me, it’ll feel uncomfortable at first, because you’ll get push-back from some of your friends. Plenty of people will tell you that you’re wrong, that US society isn’t inherently racist, that institutional racism doesn’t exist, and that there’s no problem with police brutality against people of color in this country. You may lose some friends, and the push-back may never entirely go away, but just like my hurt feelings in college, you have to ask yourself, is your social discomfort now, in this moment, really more important than the rights and safety (the entire future), of millions of people who happen to have darker skin than you?


How I Know I’m Still Racist

In roughly mid-2015, I started receiving calls on my cell phone for someone by the name of Rita. These calls (sometimes recorded, sometimes from a real live person) came mostly from higher education institutions. I’ve had my cell phone at the same number since 2007 and never received a call for anyone named Rita before. Now, suddenly, eight years later, I found myself answering these odd calls, often several times per day.

After a few days and a few questions I found out that someone by the name of Rita had recently entered my phone number into a web form requesting more information about higher learning opportunities, one of those forms that feeds the leads list for multiple institutions, everything from accredited universities all the way down to the lowest of bogus online scams. My next realization, I could do nothing to rectify the situation (other than asking each individual institution to take me off their contact list), left me thoroughly annoyed.

The calls continued, dying down for a while around the holidays and the early part of 2016, but have cropped up again in the past several months. I have thought of changing my number, but so far the annoyance of that outweighs the annoyance of the calls themselves, which I’ve mostly figured out how to avoid answering.

I tell you my tale of woe, not for sympathy’s sake, but because, through and odd twist of the Universe’s sense of humor and my growing awareness, I’ve learned something very important from it, something that only dawned on me in the last few weeks (something beyond a cautionary warning to be exceptionally careful about entering correct phone numbers into online forms). What I’ve actually discovered, very surprisingly, has nothing to do with Rita herself (whoever she it) and everything to do with the prejudice still lurking in my own subconscious.

You see, over time, I came to have an image of dear Rita in my mind. What did I know factually about her? Rita wanted to know more about higher education opportunities (under-educated, perhaps?) and Rita had screwed up and “fat fingered” the phone number she’d entered into the form requesting that information (careless? sloppy? non-detail-oriented?) And guess what color I imagined Rita’s skin to be? You guessed it. In my imaginings of Rita, she was a black woman.

So what?, you may say. An image in my mind about a woman I don’t know hurts no one, you might think. But actually, it does. In fact, it points to a very troubling tendency within myself of which I’m, now, newly aware. Because on a conscious level, I can be as anti-racist as I want. I can post and repost all the Black Lives Matter material on my Facebook page and advocate for people of color and vote for candidates supporting systemic change in this country to better the lives of diverse communities all freakin’ day long. But apparently, ask my subconscious to serve up an image of a person I’ve deemed under-educated and prone to careless mistakes, and good ol’ subconscious paints a person of color to stand for those characteristics. Wow! Ouch! Scary!

But while I may feel it’s ouchy and scary for me, the people who really stand to suffer from my latent racist tendencies (as well as similar tendencies in other white people) are, of course, the very people targeted by them. How can it actually hurt them? Well, the door to the subconscious swings both ways you see. If I ask my subconscious to serve up an image of “under-educated, careless woman” and it’s most “optimized search result” is the face of a black woman, that means when I see a real, live black woman (especially one I don’t know personally), I’m also subconsciously ascribing those negative characteristics to her. Until now, I didn’t realize I was doing it, but my subconscious has proven this unequivocally true about me.

Have I ever talked over a black woman, because subconsciously I suspected I knew more than she? In the wake of this discovery, I have to guess that I have. What if I’d ever worked for TSA before realizing this? Would I have assumed the bags packed by black women more likely held prohibited items and required more thorough screening? With a subconscious labeling all black women this way, probably so. What if I’d been an insurance agent? Would I have been one of the many taking part in the recently uncovered practice of charging higher car insurance premiums to people of color (considering I was unconsciously labeling them all as careless)? Would I have passed this bias onto my two white sons who may someday hold jobs that affect the futures of black women in their generation? More than likely, yes, and that’s perhaps the scariest of these what-if scenarios.

This is one tiny piece of information about the racism that still lurks in the recesses of my mind. What other falsehoods continue to abide there? This is not a poor me piece, but a piece about empowerment. Beliefs tucked in the subconscious don’t change overnight, but with mindfulness and determination, we can rewrite them over time. I have work to do on myself. Every time I see an African American woman (again, especially one I don’t know), I need to consciously remind myself that I don’t know her aptitudes, that she may be extremely well educated, intelligent and detail-oriented, or some of these things, or not, but that the color of her skin has NOTHING to do with whether she possesses these characteristics.

If you believe, as I do, that these things don’t happen by accident, you’ll see the divine perfection in the circumstances that led me to stumble upon this information. Of all the possibilities, the person who incorrectly entered my number into that online form had the name Rita, a moniker that could have easily belonged to a woman of several different races. It just makes what I’ve learned from all this that much more undeniable.

I’m pretty sure some people in my social circles (especially quite a few acquaintances I don’t often speak with in person) have written me off as a “Black Lives Matter whacko.” Nothing will stop me from promoting awareness about our country’s shortcomings when it comes to caring for people of all races, even if I can do little to change their minds,. But my own mind, that I can continue to change, and I have every intention of doing so.

Why I post about Black Lives Matter – It’s not about me.

I have noticed a disturbing trend recently as I’ve been sharing Black Lives Matter posts on my social media. My friends are commenting in distracting ways that attempt to turn my posts around and make them about me. Black Lives Matter is NOT about me, and I don’t post about it to serve myself in any way.

I post about Black Lives Matter (BLM), because I’m convicted about doing all I can to end racism in this country. By conviction, I mean it’s what I feel called to do. I do it for no other reason than that.

However, there seem to be some pervasive beliefs from some of my friends that I post about BLM from a place of anger, hatred or ignorance. In my little microcosm, these people are doing to me (whether intentionally or not) exactly what’s being done to the movement as a whole on the national level, trying to characterize a campaign, that is actually about extending our arms to lift a group of people up onto a level playing field, instead as a movement fueled by anger, hatred, etc. Neither assertion is true, but if any of us trying to further this campaign allow ourselves to be confused or our voices drowned out or silenced by these attempts, then racism wins. And I’m not prepared to let that happen.

So, I’m going to dispel here, several of the specific accusations I’ve seen over the past weeks. Please remember as you read, BLM is not about me, but if you believe that I’m posting with less than genuine motives, then that becomes a distraction from the real issues at hand, and it’s important that we not continue to be distracted from the real life-and-death issues we’re actually facing, as a nation.

So, if you believe that I post about Black Lives Matter, because it’s “cool and hip….”

Wow, sorry to burst your bubble, but posting about Black Lives Matter has never felt “cool.” It’s always felt scary, and not only because it hurts to think that these things are happening and real black people are facing a risk three times as great as a white person every time they step out of their door each day, but also because I know not everyone in my social circles believes the statistics or feels as I do. I have loathed the idea of losing friends over my posts. However, I have determined that my being comfortable is not as important as the lives of my brothers and sisters of color.

If you believe that I post about Black Lives Matter, because I “hate police….”

Again, wow, and not in a good way. Anyone who knows anything about my family and me should really find this one laughable. I stand firmly behind my husband (who works for the City where we live) as he and his cohorts work on the non-profit they’ve established, which seeks to restore funding to the emergency and public safety services in our county here in Oregon.

In case there’s any confusion, “standing behind my husband” often means parenting my children solo. I never wanted to be the wife “counting the hours” that my husband spent away from our family in support of a fantastic cause, because I don’t believe in “score-keeping” like that, but I do wish I had the figure to post here – 52 weeks in a year, all but a handful of Tuesday nights since spring 2012 – you do the math.

The funding he’s pursuing would support our local Sheriff’s Department (among other local public safety infrastructure), all of which I fully support. I’ve met many of the City police officers at City employee events, and while I’m sure they’re human just like me, I support them too. I understand the need for police in this country. Why why why is the work of pointing out dangerous examples of law enforcement officers deemed tantamount to condemning all law enforcement? The thing is, my newsfeed is FULL every day now, of examples of good police officers. If everyone becomes afraid to post about the dangerous ones, then once again, racism wins.

If you believe that I post about Black Lives Matter, because I have some “liberal-media-imposed shame” about my heritage….

This one sort of makes me laugh, but it’s really no laughing matter, because once again, if you believe this about me, it lets you dismiss my message, or worse still, distract from it with comments that once again change the subject away from the real issue, which remains people of color who are losing their lives every day.

I meditate, and that’s an entirely different blog post, but something from which meditation frees those who practice it is shame. Nothing good ever came out of shame. Meditation allows the soul to completely let go of shame and accept and love ourselves unconditionally, flaws and all. It’s one of the many reasons that meditation brings complete and unparalleled peace into the lives of those who follow it. The point is, I don’t experience shame any more. And even if I did, there’s nothing about my heritage or my ancestors that my shame could do anything constructive about.

And there are many proud things in my heritage. I have Scotch-Irish lineage, Native American lineage, and I don’t even know what all else. I’m very proud of my ancestors who fought against oppression in ways far more real than the work I do of spreading the word. I’m also proud of its many varied traditions and cultures. I feel these things in my blood when I hear Celtic music, when I attend small town festivals, and when I sit around the dinner table of my Louisiana cousins. I LOVE my heritage! That this should even come up, should be ridiculous.

However, I do have to own part of the fault for this confusion. I made a poorly-worded comment in reply on one of my posts. I said “Black Lives Matter. I can’t say it enough to redeem my roots.” By “roots” in this case, I was actually referring to a single incident that happened at my high school when I was a student there in 1995. I used the word “roots” to describe the incident, because I was present at the school when it happened. I wasn’t involved with it. I didn’t even know about it until a few weeks ago. It was a poor and confusing use of the word “roots,” and I apologize for it. I let sloppy verbiage open a door to distraction and confusion. I suppose I’m glad it happened, so I could learn from it.

Moving on, if you believe I post about Black Lives Matter, because I watch videos of these horrifying incidents against people of color and become crazed or enraged….

You really know nothing of the peace meditation has brought into my life. Just like shame, rage has left my emotional repertoire. Again, really don’t want this to turn into a post about me, but if you believe I’m posting out of rage, that distracts from the reasons I’m really posting which are, simply and in total, to spread awareness about what’s happening to people of color in this country. Until we face it, and admit it’s a tragic part of our reality, nothing’s going to change.

One last thing, and this is a bit different, but, I have also faced the suggestion that my posts, and I’m paraphrasing here, but nevertheless, “perpetuate the image of an evil that doesn’t actually exist.” I’m not 100% sure how to respond to this, because it baffles me that anyone could look at the statistics, read the news stories, even just the facts in them, and not see a problem with the status quo. I suppose, for this reason, I can’t 100% respond to this suggestion. All I can say I guess, is, if you truly believe in your heart of hearts that this is no big deal in this country, then there’s probably nothing I could do or post to make you believe otherwise.

I would ask that anyone okay with the status quo try to stick to their own timelines with this feeling instead of distracting from my message with comments about it. Yes, it’s social media, and yes, you have every right to your opinion, and every freedom to comment with it, and sure, I cannot stop you if you want to come in and type paragraphs-long rebuttals to my posts.

However, it’s kind of unspoken Facebook etiquette. If you have more than a sentence or so to say about something, it’s more appropriate to share it to your own timeline and mount your soapbox there, rather than hijacking someone else’s post. As I begin to close here, let’s remember, I’m not asking for the conversation to cease. Rather, I don’t want the conversation to be turned around and made to look like something it’s not.

I think that’s about it for now. Don’t know how much a difference this post will make, but I had to at least try to dispel some of the confusion that keeps popping up. I hope it can cut down on some of the distractions and background noise, at least within my little microcosm. Every one of us is important to the direction of our future.


LexingtonIn the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, the city of Lexington thrives in its bounty of resources. How many towns, after all, have so many claims to fame? The “Horse Capital of the World” and the second largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Lexington boasts the University of Kentucky and its nationally acclaimed basketball program, world class horse racing, 1,000’s of acres of beautifully manicured horse farms, some of the best hospitals (for humans) in the state and one of the best hospitals for horses in the entire world. Founded in 1775, before Kentucky even became a state, the city prides itself on a rich history including everything from Indian attacks to NCAA Basketball National Championships and so very much in between.

cgI came of age in this city in the mid to late 90’s. As a teenager, I “bummed around” its many coffee shops including the still-brewing Common Grounds on High Street. I spent hours in Joseph Beth Booksellers in the Lexington Green Shopping Center, watching it grow from a single unit nook into the behemoth bookstore it’s become today. During my college years at Transylvania University on North Broadway, I frequented the Kentucky Theatre, High on Rose and Sudsies Laundromat / Bar & Grill. That’s right! Order some buffalo wings during the spin cycle!

Growing up in Lexington, for me, meant eating a full hot breakfast including a tall glass of orange juice for under $2.00 at Tolly Ho. It meant loitering for hours in South Hill Station, once a working rail yard, renovated in the 90’s to function as a retail and restaurant destination, and since, razed to make room for more condominiums. In the 90’s though, it housed The Coffee Stop where I pined over many a college student and drop-out, Yats (my favorite Cajun restaurant) and Laser Quest, the giant laser tag maze where my friends and I tried again and again to beat each other’s top scores, and I had one of my first really exciting kisses with one of the “Marshalls” who worked there.

It also meant learning that Versailles Road turned into Maxwell which turned into Tates Creek Road, and Waller Avenue turned into Mason Headley which turned into Cooper Drive, and perhaps most importantly, Upper turned into Limestone, which turned into Nicholasville Road which you ALWAYS wanted to avoid if you possibly could, though that was a tough since seemingly everything cool was located on that strip.

I could always tell when Sheikh Maktoum was in town inspecting his thoroughbred operations, because his oversize jet sporting the brown and tan stripes on the tail would be parked at the edge of the airport just off Versailles Road. I could always tell when the Lexington Opera opened a new show, because the parking lot next to my college apartment would be full and, sitting on my roof (accessible from my loft window) I could watch the dressed-to-the-nines people getting out of their cars and walking across the street. On sunny summer days, Woodland Park was the place to go and sit under a tree reading my favorite book and sweating in the humidity.

I can’t “sum up” Lexington, because the experiences there resist categorization. The “big little city” tastes like a spice mix beyond sweet or savory. Just listing everything memorable would take more words than I’ve already used. I can say, growing up in Kentucky, places like Hollywood, California and even New York City seemed as far away as Never Never Land. By the time I made it to Hollywood, I realized Lexington was “more Hollywood-like” to me than the actual city. In the real Hollywood, cynicism all but seeped out of the cracks, not at all like the dreamy and idealistic place it advertised itself to be, not at all like Lexington where even cynicism had a certain idealistic ring to it.

Probably most of this makes no sense unless you’ve lived in my “sweet baby city.” Lexington was and is my mother, lover and friend as I wrote in my poem titled after the city, and I miss her. I’ve spent significant time in Hampton Roads, Virginia and now live just over an hour from the Pacific Ocean in Grants Pass, Oregon, and I’ve visited New York City; Hollywood, CA; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; Sewanee, TN; Moab, Utah; Austin, TX; Bellingham, WA; Jackson Hole, WY and dozens of other cities where I found this or that to love about them, but never have I found the equal of Lexington for its resources, for its opportunities, for its various diversions for the sheer idealism it bestows upon those who walk its streets. So now, no matter what cities I may walk through around the world, I carry with me a piece of that Lexingtonian idealism bred into me and trained into my soul.

Your Savior Complex is Showing

no-candyIn her October 24th post “Why I’m boycotting Halloween” BabyCenter guest blogger Erica Etelson explains why she won’t be giving candy (or anything at all!) to trick-or-treaters coming to her door this year. When it comes to philosophical reasons to boycott this holiday, Etelson’s is likely not the first that comes to mind. For it is not the “worship of satan,” but rather sugar with which she’s taking issue. And while, especially in the U.S., decreasing sugar worship could certainly be deemed virtuous, at what point does spreading the word (especially in the approach Etelson takes to it) peel off the shiny festive wrapper of virtue and expose the overly sugary confection of personal pathology underneath?

Firstly, Etelson quotes the bitter tasting statistics that 26 million Americans have diabetes and shares her personal family history of her father, grandmother, uncle and two cousins’ children becoming diabetic. She goes on to exhort the evils of sugar listing, “obesity, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and, some believe, cancer,” all as the wages of eating too much of it. Quoting University of California San Francisco endocrinologist Robert Lustig, she asserts, “Sugar [in high doses] is a poison.”

“I’m boycotting Halloween,” she explains, “ because it’s a celebration of something that’s literally killing us.” I would beg to differ with her about what the holiday celebrates, but that’s an entirely different blog post. “Kids need our help avoiding or breaking free from sugar addiction.” Now there’s a point with which I agree, but as we will see, her treatment of this message says more about Etelson’s own possible pathology than it does about the virtue of the message itself.

Etelson proceeds to explain her previous approach to the holiday. “ For the last two years, my three-prong Halloween mitigation strategy has been as follows: (1) Let my son eat a few pieces of candy; (2) buy the rest off him for $20 (and toss it out); and (3) give trick-or-treaters those little boxes of raisins children are so fond of.” Now, I find two word choices particularly interesting, “mitigation” and “prong.” The list of realities needing mitigation in this world could certainly stretch a whole lot farther than the spandex in all the store-bought Halloween costumes this year; however, placing Halloween on par with the rest of the circumstances most often described as needing mitigation (global disasters and epidemics, for example) seems extreme to me. Even more telling, the word prong, the name for an implement, the very purpose of which is to impale, also evidences a plausible underlying emotional imbalance in Etelson’s approach to the holiday.

“This year,” she continues, “we’ll stick with the first two prongs,” and I could further my point with a study of her use of the word “stick,” but in the interest of time… “but, when it comes to my own home, I’m opting out, darkening my doorstep like those Scrooge-like neighbors I so resented when I was a kid…. I’m going to put a note on my front door that says: ‘Sorry, no treats this year. Sugar tastes great but we eat too much of it, and it’s turning us into zombies.’ I may not be the most popular mom on the block, but if I get even one parent to rethink sugar, I’m willing to be the witch who stole Halloween.” And there it is. Whether by intention or simply poor articulation, Etelson’s virtuous message takes a tumble from high intention and begins to look like the savior complex that it has smelled like all along.

Later in the article, Etelson admits that, “When I reveal my plan to friends, they give me that ‘I knew you were a little nuts but now I’m actually worried about you’ look. They say, ‘Come on, it’s just one day a year, don’t be such an extremist.’” I’d be willing to bet that if she expresses her views to these other parents with the same trappings that she inadvertently exposes in her post, they also feel a discomfort about her message on which they can’t quite put their finger, but of which they also can’t shake the feeling. The source of that discomfort, that “icky feeling,” is so hard to pinpoint, we often wrongly assume that it’s our own insecurity manifesting. We assume that since the core of the other person’s message is a virtuous one that any discomfort we feel must originate from our own feelings of inferiority regarding that virtue. However, what we’re really picking up on is a legitimate squeamishness of witnessing what has become a pathological savior complex for the other person.

Her point (prong?) is actually one with which I agree. The average U.S. citizen consumes far too much sugar, but as has been proven time and again through government programs and the diet industry in this country, good health can neither be legislated nor imposed on another person. And this is where Etelson’s strategy begins to more resemble trick than treat. If she truly believes that it is overconsumption at holidays that leads, or largely contributes, to society’s pervasive health crisis, then yes, she has every right to abstain from the holiday. If she, at her core, believes that she’s helping parents and kids come one less KitKat closer to making the right food choices, then, by all means, she should choose to either give a healthy snack as her Halloween treat as she did in years past, or even go as far as to “darken her doorstep,” and completely refuse to participate.

However, the minute she chooses to write and post the sign she describes here, her actions take a turn for the less admirable. Let’s review after all, what this sign really says. Etelson herself points out that it’s up to parents and guardians to regulate how much sugar their children consume. I second that assertion. In fact, I think we could go as far, philosophically, as to call that a fact and no one’s opinion. After all, the choice by a parent to let the child make the wrong decision is still a choice by the parent. Providing guidance to your child in all areas of decision making is arguably the definition of parenting, so let’s go ahead and say that her statement is a fact. Now, let’s read her sign again. “Sorry, no treats this year. Sugar tastes great but we eat too much of it, and it’s turning us into zombies.” Right away, she’s making two damaging assertions by the way she’s phrased this sign.

1. The mere presence of candy means that the child will overconsume. Etelson has no faith in moderation. Again, fine if that’s her opinion, but now she’s imposing it on the children coming to her door. She’s effectively saying, you are not now, and you never will be, capable of making the right choice in the presence of sugar. (While that may be somewhat reading into what she has stated, my next point cannot be refuted if we’re just going by the facts we’ve established.
2. Etelson’s sign now clearly states the message, Your parents (every single one of your parents) are letting you consume too much sugar by participating in this holiday. This is no longer an opinion about the sign. It is not reading into the sign. If we’ve established that it’s up to parents to regulate their children’s sugar intake, and Etelson’s sign states, “we eat too much of it,” then (I believe it’s called the Law of Detachment), Etelson is stating that all parents of children participating in Halloween and thus reading her sign are failing in their duties as parents.

By logical extension, it would seem, Etelson has cast herself as the savior in this circumstance, sparing these errant parents and their misguided children from the option to make a bad choice through any fault of hers. Even if this is not her intention (or perhaps I should say, especially if this is not her intention), she should have taken more care in the way she worded her sign as this logical conclusion is all too easy to reach with the way she’s chosen to share her message.

Notice, I stop just shy of pronouncing that Etelson definitely suffers from a savior complex. I avoid staking such a claim as I don’t know Etelson personally and I possess only the most rudimentary knowledge of psychology and sociology. And, unlike Etelson, I refuse to cast myself as the judge, savior or both for anyone else besides myself and my own children. However, if her core motivation for authoring this post is not a savior complex, then she might want to rethink boycotting Halloween as she did a very good job of dressing it up as one.

Facebook & HootSuite Basics

Here are some basics for professional Facebook pages as well as using the social media dashboard HootSuite. I developed this content while serving as the Social Media Director for an ad agency. As social media changes constantly, some of the information below may quickly become out of date.

Facebook & HootSuite Basics
• Posting:
Content should be posted at least once a day on week days. Scheduling posts to show up over the weekend is good practice too (see HootSuite section)

Types of Posts:
o Status: Default, typed message – simple, quick, but may not get the level of response that multi-media post will.
o Links: Use “status” tool and copy and paste your link (URL) into the update box. A preview should pop up and you may be able to select your thumbnail that will show up with the post as a preview of the content at the website you’re promoting in the post.
o Photo/Video: Requires Upload – always include as much who/what/when/where in the description of the photo or video as is socially relevant, tag partner entities in photos (see tagging)
o Event: Won’t show on your timeline, but a small mention will show up in your fans’ newsfeeds. You’ll choose date, time, place, description. ALWAYS add a photo to an event.
o Milestone: This is a special update that denotes a major event in the progression of your business, such as opening, changing or adding locations, major staffing changes, etc. Can be a current event or in the past (see Dating a Post for the Past or Future)
o Question: Allows for posting of open-ended or poll-style questions. You may choose whether you want to add your own answer options or let your fans enter their own. If you enter your own answers for fans to choose from, you can decide if you want fans to be able to add answers or just vote for the options you’ve provided. Fans can answer, vote, comment and share a question. These do not do well as posts (low reach/virality), but exceed as page post adds drawing performing well for both interaction and page likes.

• Dating a Post for the Past or Future
o You can choose to date your post for a previous or future date in which case it will show up on your timeline for the date/time specified. Posts dated for the future won’t show up or be broadcast until the specified date. Just click on the clock icon on the bottom left of the update box and choose the year and month/day (optional).
o If you choose to assign a prior date to a post or milestone, you can choose whether you would like to have the post broadcast to your fans’ newsfeeds or not. This is useful if you’re filling in several milestones one after the other or if you’re purposefully hiding a post for use as an ad later.

• Liking/Tagging Strategic Partners
As much as possible, you want to take advantage of the social aspect of Facebook. This means inviting interaction not just form fans, but strategic partners as well.
o Liking: To like a partner’s page, make sure you’re using Facebook as your page and find their business page. Click “like” to add them to your business page’s list of likes. This will also make them easier to tag in posts. Once your page has liked their page the like button will read “liked.”
o Tagging in posts: To tag any person or entity on Facebook in a post, use the “@” symbol and begin typing their name the way it is formulated on their Facebook page. Options should pop up as you begin to do this from which you can select the person / entity you wish to tag.
o Tagging in photos/videos: The easiest way to tag a person or entity in a photo or video is to finish the upload process and then select the photo or video you’d like to tag from its place in the Facebook album. This brings up a screen containing only the video and information about it. From here, you will see an option to tag the photo or video right underneath the name you’ve chosen for it. Click the link and begin typing the name of the person / entity you want to tag.

• Responding to Feedback
The public will interact with your page by leaving you recommendations, posting on your timeline, sending you messages and tagging you in their own posts. For the most part, you always want to respond in some fashion when someone else interacts with your page.
o Positive Feedback: Depending on the type of feedback, positive feedback should receive a “like” and/or a thank you comment when appropriate
o Negative Feedback: Unless the poster is using foul language or becoming overly abusive, a negative post or review should not be removed, but responded to in a constructive way that shows the rest of your fan base that you can handle negative feedback and you’re earnest about correcting the problem. If a claim made by a poster is inaccurate, it’s okay to state the correction in the most respectful manner possible, but do try to address additional points if any with your constructive response.
o Messages: Sending messages to business pages is a newer feature. You can find messages sent to your page under the Admin Panel / Messages section.


HootSuite is used primarily for scheduling posts in the future, but is also a useful tool for quick viewing of the content currently posted on your page including posts on your timeline and events scheduled by your page.

As you look at HootSuite, all the current information listed above is displayed in “streams” that take up the majority of your page. The most useful streams are “Wall Posts,” “Scheduled Stream Posts,” and “Events.”

To schedule a post…
• First make sure you are identified in HootSuite as your business page
• Click on the calendar icon in the update box at the top left of the page. This will expand the update box to include a calendar you can use for scheduling. Once you’ve created your post, you can toggle back and forth in this area between scheduling and a preview of any multimedia aspects of your post.
• Links work exactly the same way in HootSuite that they do on Facebook, though HootSuite offers the additional benefit of offering to shrink the link for you if you choose. Shortened links are called Owly’s due to the letters used to recreate the link.
• If you wish to add a photo or video, click on the paperclip icon just to the left of the calendar icon in the update box. You will need a Twitter account to be associated with your HootSuite account in order to be able to attach content to a post.
• If you use HootSuite to add a photo to a post, it will generate and Owly to go with that photo. If the Owly is the only link showing in the post, simply check the box that will keep it from being displayed. If it is not the only link, use your back button or highlight and delete it before scheduling the post.
• The location icon to the right of the calendar icon can be used to add a location to your post.
• The lock icon can be used to restrict access to your post (very rarely used for a business page).
• Once you are satisfied with the post and scheduling, click the “schedule” button at the bottom right of the update box. Your scheduled post will now show up in the stream titled “Scheduled Stream Posts.”

To edit a scheduled post…
Hover over the post you’d like to view or edit and an “edit” link will appear in the upper right of the post. Click this link to review or change anything about the post including the message, attached content and the scheduling. From this link, you can also cancel a scheduled post.

North Pacific Supply Company’s “Mary B.”

Standing less than five feet tall, she easily commanded the attention of everyone around her with her confident persona. She always honored her commitments, expecting nothing less from employees and professional partners. Owner of North Pacific Supply Company for nearly forty years, Mary Barbagelata “Mary B.” showed up for work every weekday, from the early 1950s to the early 1990’s, until the age of 87.

Born March 6, 1905 in Portland, Oregon, Mary B. was the bookkeeper for the company (located at that time in northwest Portland) when it became North Pacific Supply in 1953. In 1956, a time before women-owned businesses were prevalent, she became the majority owner and slowly bought out her partner to achieve sole ownership.

With Mary B. at the helm, North Pacific Supply became the private distributor for Whirlpool and RCA, which led to expansion into the rest of Oregon and southwest Washington. The company’s prosperous growth allowed for a new 100,000-square-foot office/warehouse complex in Clackamas. It was 1979 and Mary was 75 years old, but that didn’t keep her from actively overseeing the planning and construction. After she passed away, in May of 1995, the ownership of the company passed to Mary’s daughter and granddaughter.

In every endeavor, she personified passion tempered with practicality and competence completely devoid of conceit. At times when someone fell short of her expectations, they could expect to receive a “creative letter” hand-typed by Mary B. from her trusty upright typewriter, reminding them of their obligation. In these ways, she was much more than one of the first female business owners in the Pacific Northwest. She was one of the region’s finest business owners of her time.

Today, North Pacific Supply operates cellular, construction and property-management divisions in addition to its central remodeling business. The company specializes in appliances and cabinetry for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, closets and much more. The name has become synonymous with quality in Oregon and southwest Washington and prices remain very competitive as the company buys in bulk at wholesale. With two additional locations in Bend and Medford and a showroom with 25 complete kitchen examples at its Clackamas location, North Pacific Supply has the high-end brands and the expert knowledge to easily outshine its regional remodel competitors.

Parts of Speech

Recently, Pastor Tim Brown wrote an article “Five Phrases I Think Christians Shouldn’t Say” about how he despises the use of the word “Christian” as an adjective (e.g. “That’s not Christian!”). I whole-heartedly agree with that as well as with his overall thesis in the article which generally addresses how many modern Christians use their faith to exclude and dismiss broad groups of people and practices from relevancy in their lives. Extrapolating to something I believe about all world religions, when followers of any spiritual path extract specific beliefs and teachings and focus on those components in absence of the greater belief-system as a whole, they cease to be true followers of their faith, and in most cases, end up drawing errant and misguided conclusions. When, as Pastor Brown discusses, they use those “conclusions” to belittle and make “other” of their fellow man (especially considering the hubris and condescension inherent in such an action) the only result is further division of mankind, which if left unchecked, manifests, as we have seen in the middle east, into theocracy and, eventually, literal religious warfare.

Getting back to parts of speech, to Pastor Brown’s plea of ceasing to use Christian as an adjective, I would like to add, we need to be well aware of the use of the word “other” as a verb. When someone uses one of those errant conclusions discussed above to draw distinctions between his or her own spiritual beliefs and practices and the spiritual beliefs and practices of someone else, he or she “others” the person in question. True, there are clear differences among the world’s dominant spiritual belief systems. Recognizing those variances without judgment is simple educated awareness, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The “othering” occurs only when an errant conclusion has been used to label and separate one’s own beliefs and practices in distinction from those of people practicing different faiths. Borrowing again from Pastor Brown’s article, here’s an example of “othering” in action.

Pastor Brown writes, “I once told a person that I meditated. They responded, ‘Well, that’s not Christian you know…’ Sigh. See, the problem with that line of thinking is that it narrows what can be identified with living a life in Christ.” In this example, both the practice of meditation, and by extension, Pastor Brown himself, were “othered out of Christianity” by the person claiming meditation was “not Christian.” Realizing that meditation is more traditional among eastern religions is, again, simple educated awareness. “If the person in this example had instead responded, “I’ve only heard of meditation being used in Buddhism and other eastern religions. Can you tell me more about how you apply its practice to Christianity?” that would not have constituted othering, and could in fact, have lead to an intellectual and spiritual discussion bringing two people closer together. Unfortunately, that person, instead, chose to focus on the fact that meditation is not extensively used in Christian practice, and ignore the numerous references to meditation in the Bible, such as Psalms 1:2, Psalms 48:9, etc. to draw and errant conclusion which he or she then used to other Pastor Brown.

Some would argue that the person making the claim was not trying to exclude Pastor Brown himself, but only persuade him to reexamine his use of meditation which that person didn’t feel fit into a “Christian lifestyle.” Pastor Brown makes another important and valid point in response to that assertion when he discusses the ridiculous catch-phrase, “Love the sinner – hate the sin.” He writes:

I’ve only heard it used when people are talking about identity.
“I love gay people, I just hate that they act on their homosexual orientation…”
There we go. There’s an honest statement. And an unhelpful one. It’s unhelpful because, you can’t love me apart from my sexuality. I really don’t think you can. It’s part of what makes me who I am, even if it’s not the whole of my definition. So, if you were to say to me, “I love you, but I hate that you’re heterosexual…” I would probably stop listening right then and there because, well, I wouldn’t believe you. You can’t love me and yet hate an essential part of me. This phrase is disingenuous.

Othering is quite rampant in the U.S. We have but to look at the political wars raging over the issue of homosexual marriage. Some politicians citing their “Christian beliefs: (and I put the words in quotes, because there are plenty of true Christians who do not choose to extract specific Bible passages (1Corinthians 6:9-10, Leviticus 18:22, etc.) interpreted as forbidding homosexuality and ignore the rest of the Bible which clearly directs them to love their fellow man as themselves (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:36-40, etc.) and keep their faith out of the political arena (Matthew 22:21)) are working feverishly to make sure no two men or two women in their state or in this country really, will ever be able to take advantage of a secular, government sanctioned marriage partnership. These politicians extract those particular Bible passages mentioned above from the entirety of the Bible and try to use the inherently misguided conclusions they’ve drawn from focusing on a single piece of a whole belief system to other an entire group of people. This is no less than an attempt at theocracy!

But it’s important that this not become a conversation only about gay marriage or the current political struggle over what should never have become a political issue. Othering happens daily, hourly, minute by minute, and it’s passed down through generations. Just as Pastor Brown says, when you other someone, you narrow the definition of what it is to be good person and indeed a person at all. We all need a moral compass, but a Christian choosing to meditate or a person born Jewish choosing to get baptized should not cause the slightest tremor in that needle. The truth is you don’t know what kind of relationship that person has with the practices or teachings of their chosen belief system, so you should not comment on it. There’s no need to other the practice or the person. In every case, othering is hurtful and it’s harmful.

And it’s hateful. And it’s unbecoming to any belief system when its followers stray from its sum total in pursuit of focus on a single extracted idea. It is malpractice of the faith! We may fail in the attempt to revoke adjective status to the word “Christian.” And if you look through history, extreme othering is an inextricable part of it with examples such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust and the atrocities happening all over the world today, but must we continue to make it a part of our future? For my part, I’m praying for unity among mankind.

Whitman – All Washed Up

(originally posted 2/14/2001)

In his poem “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life,” Whitman endures several almost violent transitions in his thought, as the narrative progresses. He splits the poem into four sections, each of which signals one of these transitions. The first section seems to set the stage and describe the coming together of conditions that all lead up to Whitman’s revelation. The second section describes his realization of the meaning of the vision he’s experience. In section three, he describes the intense emotions and his subsequent loss of control due to those emotions, as he turns to nature for comfort. Finally in section four he accepts the new way of thinking he’s come to understand and finds a higher connectedness not only with nature but with God as well. Most of the lines in the poem are long and he seems unconstrained by any metrical detail. This gives the poem a breathless and in some places uneven sound and flow. Whitman of course meant to prompt this kind of reading since it works well with the spinning-out-of-control theme that he wants to convey. With a closer look at the rhetorical situation and four-part structure of the poem, as well as a verification of the dual symbolism of the ocean, Whitman’s meaning floats to the surface more readily to be examined.

In section one Whitman begins, “As I ebb’d with the ocean of life,” (line 1). He establishes here the metaphor that he will use throughout the poem, that of the ocean as symbolic of all human action and human experience. If Whitman is ebbing with the ocean of life then he is allowing himself to be pulled back, to contract in upon himself, just as the ocean seems to contract and expand on the shore with the tide. This first line communicates to Whitman’s reader that he’s in a specific state of mind. He’s ebbing, and what this means becomes more obvious later on. He continues, “As I wended the shores I know, / As I walk’d where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok,” (2-3). Now Whitman establishes place in a more concrete way. He describes himself as wending on the shore of Paumanok, the island of his birth. So literally he walks on a seashore as well, “Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,” (5). The word endless, in connection with a seashore implies for the reader a description of the tide and thus the ocean. So Whitman is comparing the ocean to a fierce old mother. Also since he places this personification right after a description of where he literally is, the reader can assume that he’s personifying the literal ocean and not the metaphoric ocean of life. Now Whitman sets the scene for the vision he’s about to experience. In lines 6-8 Whitman describes how his frame of mind is as perfect as the setting for the vision about to take place. He says, “I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward, / Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems, / Was seiz’d by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot.” So he is at the very edge of his egotism about what he has written, similar to the tide when it has reached as high as it can on the shore and is about to ebb. In the next few lines several likenesses strike him. First he decides in line nine that where he is on the seashore is, “the sediment that stands for all the water and all the land of the globe.” By likenesses here he refers to this state of representation. He brings up in the next several lines specific examples of the muck washed ashore and sees it all as symbolizing the contents of the ocean. This symbolism will lead him in the second section to find himself symbolic of all humankind.

In the second section, having established that the small patch of shoreline he stands on is representative of all land and water, and in the mood to be looking for objects and ideas of similarity, Whitman defines himself as representative of all humans and human experience. This becomes problematic for him in that realizing that he represents all humankind, he comes to the conclusion that all the poetry he’s written before is no longer pertinent, and that no poetry ever can be. He begins this section, “As I wend the shores I know not,” (18). Before he was wending the shores he new. Metaphorically speaking now, he’s on shaky mental and emotional ground. He’s unfamiliar with this feeling of being representative of everyone, even though looking over some of his other poems this is a position he adopts frequently. In this poem, however, he makes it out to be strange and disconcerting for him. He continues, “As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck’d, / As I inhale the impalpable breeze that set in upon me, / As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,” (19-21). In 19, he provides evidence of his feeling symbolic of humankind in general. If he’s listening to the dirge of voice, he must be hearing many voices, and in true Whitmanian fashion he feels that he represents them. His reference to the breeze as impalpable provides a clue to the reader about the ocean in the next line. When her refers to the ocean as mysterious, the reader knows he’s not referring to the earthly ocean that just a stanza before seemed mothering to him. Rather, he feels mystified by this ocean of life, that he hears through the dirge of men and women’s voice, the ocean of all humankind’s experience. His next few lines reveal that while he feels representative of, he also feels trivialized by, the sheer size of human experience. He says, “I too but signify at the utmost a little wash’d-up drift, / a few sands and dead leaves to gather, / Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift,” (22-24). Seeing his small part in the greater ocean of humankind, he indeed feels much less significant and this leads him to say that he feels, “Opress’d with myself that I have dared to open my mouth, / Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I have not once had the least idea who ore what I am. / But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d,” (26-28). Having found his simultaneously representative and trivialized place in the whole experience of humankind, Whitman feels ashamed of the poetry he’s written before, as though nothing he’s yet written has expressed the essence of what it is that now surrounds and permeates him. He describes that untouched self as, “Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,” (29) and he says, “I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single object, and that no man ever can,” (32). Now that Whitman’s completes his mental revolution, he begins in the third section his turbulent reaction to it.

In the third section Whitman completely abandons the idea of himself and a poet and furthers his ebbing process, turning to nature in his sudden humility for some feeling of connectedness. He begins, “You oceans both, I close with you,” (35). So finally he makes direct reference to the duality of his symbol of the ocean, on the one hand meaning the real ocean that seems motherly and helpful to him and on the other hand the ocean of life which symbolizes all human experience. He can only say this temporary farewell to two oceans, if he is indeed using two oceans in his thought process. He makes one last reference to his poetry by comparing himself to the ocean saying, “We murmur alike reproachfully rolling sand and drift, knowing not why,” (36). By this Whitman means that the literal ocean’s carving of the shoreline gets at the randomness with which he feels he has constructed all his poetry up to this point. Far from the electric prideful self at the beginning of the poem, now he gives himself little more credit as an artist than anyone would give the ocean for purpose in the way it shapes the coast. Now he turns to the island for comfort saying, “You fish-shaped island, I take what is underfoot,” (39). He next compares himself to the debris thrown up on the shore as he says, “I too have bubbled up, floated the measureless float, and been wash’d on your shores, / I too am but a trail of debris, / I too leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped island,” (42-44). Having been thrown into a mental tailspin by his revelations, he feels as out of control of his own fate as the scraps and muck thrown up on shore by the sea. He indicates how helpless this makes him feel and seeks comfort from the paternal island crying, “I throw myself upon your breast my father, / I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me, / I hold you so firm till you answer me something. / Kiss me my father, / Touch me with your lips as I touch those I love,” (45-49). In his anguish here, he cries out to the island for comfort from the sensation of having been shaken loose from all the confidence he had. His near hysteria ends only with his command to the island to breath to him in line 50 and further releases him in section four.

In the fourth and final section of the poem, Whitman seems to have come to terms with his simultaneous significance and insignificance in the ocean of human experience. He begins, “Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,)” (51). His acceptance of the ebb and his calm tone regarding the return of the fuller tide indicate that he’s resigned himself to his newly discovered position as representative but still small part of the ocean of life. Next he addresses the physical ocean once again personifying it as motherly saying, “Cease not your moaning you fierce old mother, / Endlessly cry for your castaways, but fear not, deny not me,” (52-53). He articulates his understanding of his position as well as the position of all humankind in the ocean of life in lines 56-58 where he says, “I gather myself and for this phantom looking down where we lead, and following me and mine. / Me and mine, loose windrows, little corpses, / Froth, snowy white, and bubbles.” By me and mine he means the human race, and again he compares himself and everyone to beach debris. He breaks from this though momentarily to say, “See, from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last, / See, the prismatic colors glistening and rolling,” (59-60). This image of his death indicates his total acceptance of his newfound role. His next several lines provide more examples of the sea slough tossed around by nature that he compares humankind to. Finally in line 68, Whitman shifts his focus. He says, “Just as much whence we come that blare of the cloud-trumpets, / We, capricious, brought hither we know not whence, spread out before you, / You up there walking or sitting, / Whoever you are, we too lie in drifts at your feet,” (68-71). Here Whitman comes full circle, alluding to the beginning of the poem when he was walking on the edge of the sand surveying the debris tossed up on the shore. Now he is that debris, and another entity, God, walks on the shore of the ocean of life, as only God can, and surveys him as debris on the shore. This sudden shift seems almost its own section, being as it breaks from the theme of nature as ultimate power and moves to the figure of God as ultimate power, but Whitman seems to included it in his final section so that he might really demand his reader’s attention and signify the importance of this shift which is really a turn back to the beginning image.

Whitman uses the earthly ocean to symbolize a motherly force matching the islands fatherly force, and his visionary ocean of life to symbolize the magnitude of human experience. Twice in his poem, Whitman refers to the material ocean as motherly, fierce, but motherly none the less. This provides a clue to the reader that he refers to more than one ocean. In line 21 after all he calls that ocean mysterious and his tone indicates apprehension as he describes it, “roll(ing) toward me closer and closer.” He would not fear the motherly ocean, fierce though it may be, because he has that ocean figured out. He knows her endless cry is simply the tide endlessly splashing on the shore. For him to be nervous about the roll and approach of the ocean indicates that he must be referring to a different ocean, an ocean with more serious implications for him. The reader finds out this is definitely the case in line 35 when he says, “You oceans both, I close with you.” To refer to two oceans Whitman must be visualizing two. If the reader had any doubt about what the ocean of life (the visionary ocean as opposed to the tangible ocean) is, that doubt cannot exist after he represents himself as sea debris on the shore, especially after he refers to God as the new walker.

Having properly observed the progression of Whitman’s narrative broken into four parts and taken a scrutinizing look at the duel symbolism of the ocean in the poem, Whitman does seem to be laid out for any curious inspection of his meaning to take place. The theme of simultaneous connection with and alienation from all of society resurfaces often in Whitman’s poetry. If the rhetorical situation of this poem reflects upon any real events or revelations in his life, it seems unlikely that the experience was as revealing for him as he asserts, since so much of his poetry speaks to the same intertwining feeling that he shares with all humankind.

Fatherhood: Having the Heart of a Hero

(originally posted 6/10/2010)

I was watching the movie Taken recently, a great father / daughter movie (or not) about a dad (Liam Neeson) who used to be a secret operative of some kind and who revisits his “glory days” saving his daughter when she is kidnapped by Albanian sex traders and sold to some sheik.

Oh sure, it’s fun to watch a righteous Liam Neeson cracking skulls and electrocuting the bad guys all out of fatherly love, but it occurred to me, how unnerving must it be to most fathers to watch that? After all, just how many dads have all the fighting, spying, interrogating, bridge-jumping, okay let’s just say it ASS-KICKING mojo displayed in this movie? You can love your daughter (or your son) more than any other dad on the planet, and that love might even give you super human skills, luck, etc, but, even so, it’d be hard to live up to the model presented by the movie Taken. Watching that movie has got to leave most dads feeling a bit inadequate. And I bet there are many dads who can remember feeling that, to some extent, when they reflect on the memorable scenes of that movie.

But a lot of those dads shouldn’t feel that way. A lot of those dads were sitting next to their daughter in that movie theater. A lot of those dads put in loving hours with their children every day. A lot of those dads, while they know they haven’t been perfect, could not be labeled abusive or neglectful by any means. In a less memorable scene of that movie, some of Neeson’s character’s friends bring up the fact that he’s given up his career in order to try to “make up for lost time” with his daughter. So there were months or years in this character’s history when he put his career ahead of the relationship with his child. This character is far from a perfect dad.

Fathers of the world, I say to you, you don’t have to be like the father portrayed in Taken to save your children, especially your daughters! You don’t have to have bad-ass hand-to-hand combat skills. You don’t have to be smart enough to outwit the French government or a good enough driver to evade Albanian pursuers through a maze-like construction site. You really don’t and for the great majority of you, none of that crap will ever matter! All you have to do to save your daughters is show up. Save your daughter’s heart and her soul and her spirit with loving words. Praise her. Encourage her. Compliment her efforts and guide her lovingly and you will have saved her a thousand a million times over and in ways infinitely more important.

For I’ve seen the daughters who have been truly failed by their fathers, and it’s shown me, in stark contrast, what a WONDERFUL father I had myself. I didn’t know when he made me laugh that he was armoring me against men who would make me cry. I didn’t know when he refused to raise his voice that he was guiding me away from men who would not only raise their voices, but their hands against me. I didn’t know when he treated my mother with the utmost respect that he was clothing me in pride and self-respect of my own. I didn’t realize that my father so strong in peace could be the greatest fiercest knight to my heart and soul. I didn’t know then, but boy, do I ever know it now.

Dads, if you want to save your daughters from Albanian sex trade workers, from abusive boyfriends and husbands, from their own self-loathing, you don’t need any particular job or unrelated skill-set. You just need to show up. You just need to build her up, and if these things don’t come naturally to you, you need to admit that and work on developing those skills, the skills of loving her, encouraging her, guiding her with compassion. That is ALL you need. And if you can’t develop those skills on your own, swallow your pride and find someone to help you. These are the skills that will save your daughter from herself, from others, from a dangerous world. Save her heart and you will have saved every bit of your little girl.