Tuesday, May 18, 2021

This Just In: Post-Pandemic Travel

 Archived from Chapelboro.com  https://chapelboro.com/town-square/this-just-in-post-pandemic-travel

The first flight I took after the 9/11 attacks was October of that year. There were armed National Guardsmen at RDU. It felt far away from normal and caused many of us to wonder if flying could be made to feel normal again.

It took a long time, but we were pretty well there (“normal”) 19 years later, then along came COVID-19. As we all know, flying anywhere for non-emergency purpose virtually disappeared.

Even as we’re inching back to our expected freedom of movement, our society has made a great big shift in how we work, how we play and what kinds of risk we’re willing to tolerate.

I’m so very grateful that I’ve been fully vaccinated for more than a month. This has allowed me to hop a flight to Florida to visit with my father and help my step-mother to manage his closing chapters of life. I’ve been able to do this without feeling like I was putting my own life (or my dad’s) in danger just by being in the same room with him or kissing him on the forehead when I arrive and depart.

What a thing to be concerned about.

Just like post-9/11, airport security is among the most conspicuous changes. I have to give the highest marks to the TSA folks at RDU. Check-in was, as usual, quick and very easy. At Orlando airport? Well — not as quick, not as easy.

Standing in a long line is an annoyance, but just as with nearby Disney, they keep the line moving. Then I step up to the hand-over-your-stuff part of the process. Yes, I have to remove my flip-flops, because rules.

I have to laugh, because this is exactly the kid of thing that would get my father wound up and probably arrested. He would certainly refuse, citing the fact that it’s a ridiculous requirement. TSA would insist, so would he and he’d be brought to a little room for a lecture about national security.

This is why he stopped flying long ago (to avoid such an issue) but I give him credit for knowing himself well enough that he would not be able to roll over for a silly exercise (flip-flop x-rays) in the name of security. I was with him once at in a Radio Shack when he was buying a package of AA batteries. He held out a $20 bill. The clerk asked him for his ZIP code and some version of this ensued:

Dad: You don’t need my ZIP code, I’m paying cash.
Clerk: We’d like to know your ZIP code so we know where are customers are from.
Dad: I’m not giving you my ZIP code. It’s none of your business.
Clerk: I have to put something in this field so I can open the register.
Dad: That sounds like a personal problem.
Clerk: Ma’am, (me) may I have your ZIP code?
Dad: (before I can answer) No, you may not have her ZIP code. She’s not the customer here, and I won’t be either if you don’t take this cash in the next 10 seconds.

The clerk then opens the register (after putting five numbers in), bags the batteries, gives him his receipt and cheerfully invites him to return.

That was in the mid-1990s, before Facebook and Amazon became such an integral part of our lives. Now, if I buy something that needs batteries, I expect my phone to tell me to add that to the order.

We need curmudgeons like my father to think about our privacy, our actual security and what we should and should not put at risk for the benefit of our safety. That said, don’t get me started about the checkout line discussions between him and the nice folks at Best Buy trying to sell him a warranty on his new toaster.


This Just In: It's Mother's Day

 Archived from Chapelboro.com   https://chapelboro.com/town-square/columns/this-just-in/this-just-in-mothers-day

Anna Maria Jarvis of West Virginia, born in 1864, was the ninth of eleven children. Seven of her siblings died in infancy or early childhood. Hold on to that thought… losing seven children in infancy or early childhood.

Jarvis lived a long life for her time, dying at the age of 84. Though few career options were available to her, she pursued higher education and had some success in banking and insurance jobs. This weekend, however, we remember Jarvis because of her social activism – she was the founder of America’s Mother’s Day.

She advocated for the creation of this day inspired by her own mother, whose name she shared. When the greeting card and florist industries took hold of the holiday in order to boost their business, Jarvis struck back.

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” she wrote.


Late in her life, she was involved in an unsuccessful petition effort to rescind the holiday. The effort halted when Jarvis was admitted to a Pennsylvania Sanitarium where she died in 1948. Individuals associated with the Florist and Greeting Card industries paid her medical expenses. I’m sure they sent flowers and a card to her family when she died.

This week, we were reminded that money can’t buy happiness. Bill and Melinda Gates, America’s ultimate power couple, are going their separate ways after 27 years of marriage. These people have given a great deal to world – much more than just money­ – and I wish them the happiness that seems to be eluding them right now.

Several years ago, Melinda Gates was being interviewed and said something that greatly impacted me. She’s been very involved in distribution of many life-saving vaccines worldwide and she was asked about the so-called “anti-vax” movement. Her important insight – this generation considers opposing measles, mumps and rubella vaccines because as a society we have collectively forgotten how it feels when children die.

She’s right. We know that children can die from accidents and rare diseases, but my children have not seen their classmates vanish from their elementary school classrooms. For my grandparents, born at the end of the 19th century, this was common.

Anna Maria Jarvis never married and didn’t have children of her own. Her legacy in the world is one that she wanted to erase due to its crass commercialism – Mother’s Day. Consider that she didn’t have to experience what one writer called “a knife through the heart” of various promotions. His mother died 30 years ago, he says, but on this day – the wound opens right up.

I have to agree. It’s been almost 10 years since my mother passed away, and although I enjoy the day with my children and grandchildren, it still has that tinge of bittersweet, often exacerbated by special last minute offers to send mom flowers. My mother’s ashes are scattered in a rose bed. I’m covered.

This Just In: Modern Policing

 Archived from Chapelboro.com https://chapelboro.com/town-square/this-just-in-modern-policing

Watching the verdict of the Derek Chauvin murder trial come in, most of us were gratified to see the former officer placed into handcuffs and marched out of the courtroom by the officers on duty. He’s a convicted murderer. He belongs in handcuffs.

The outpouring of grief and overflowing frustration in this country about policing and its intersection with racism is demanding attention, as well it should. This is an unanswered public health crisis that threatens the stability of our society.

The hot button of “Defund the Police” adds heat to the discussion, but not enough light. The slogan is helpful in one very important regard. When each community passes a budget each year to fund local law enforcement, it provides authorization for those agencies to act on its behalf.

The rate at which unarmed people of color are being killed by police nationally and without consequence makes clear that many law enforcement agencies are abusing their authority, overpolicing vulnerable populations and doing so with the imprimatur of policing and public safety.

That is the part that we need to stop. These are extrajudicial assaults and murders, not policing. George Floyd’s murder was much more than a single out of control officer killing an unarmed man.

It was a lynching.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will go a long way to interrupting this pattern of abuse. A summary of its features from Congress.gov:

  • This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection, and to eliminate discriminatory policing practices.
  • The bill facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations (e.g., excessive use of force) by state and local law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:
    • lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
    • limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer, and
    • authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination.
  • The bill also creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct.
  • It establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • The bill establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, including to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras.

We are in the budget cycle right now. We are fortunate to have a group of local law enforcement agencies who have a history of acting responsibly in large part. Every department can improve, however, and we should be looking at ways to avoid unnecessary custodial arrests for minor matters by having policies in place that prohibit such abuse. No one should be in handcuffs for an expired license plate or passing a bad $20 bill. Avoiding that as a premise for harassment and arrest can help avoid tragedies like the Floyd murder.

If I fail to pay income tax, the IRS doesn’t roll up on my house and take me away. They send me a letter, (and then another and another) notifying me of my violation and penalties. They can attach my wages. It’s an administrative task to secure my compliance. When I run a red light somewhere, a camera can capture that and mail me a ticket. We need to use technology in ways that keep people safer and reduce the opportunities for officers to escalate situations recklessly.

We need to make the same kinds of corrections that we made 20 years ago when high speed chases were too often killing and injuring bystanders … when the suspect fleeing was under scrutiny for a minor offense.

We employ law enforcement to promote and secure public safety. They work for us. They are accountable to us. It is only our demand for reform that delivers change.

This Just In: Nobody's Perfect

Archived from Chapelboro.com. https://chapelboro.com/town-square/this-just-in-nobodys-perfect 

On April 1, Roy Williams had us all going with his retirement announcement. Maybe this was an elaborate April Fools prank, we hoped, but it was quite the opposite. I watched Coach Williams’ press conference and listened intently. He gave himself a platinum-standard performance evaluation and determined that he was not the best person to do a job that he loved for the university that he loves even more.

That takes humility and immense integrity. The more Roy explained the pattern of mistakes that he’d made, the more I admired him. That is a one-in-a-million demonstration of character and leadership.

In sports, we often hear descriptions of “perfection.” When a team goes undefeated all season, they’re said to have a “perfect season.” All wins, no losses. A baseball pitcher that doesn’t allow any batters to reach first base is said to have thrown a “perfect game” (and a no-hitter).

Perfect – yet, if you asked UConn’s Geno Auriemma about a couple of consecutive seasons with no losses and consecutive National Championships, he would gladly tell you that “perfect” is not a term he’d use. Likewise, most major league baseball managers would be able to cite things they could improve on, despite a “perfect” game.

Why is that? It’s because we don’t learn from perfection. Our flaws and failures show us the way to improve. The preamble to our constitution describes our aspiration to forming a more perfect union. When we know better, we do better, but knowing we’re never really done has enormous value. It means we must keep trying, keep challenging ourselves and above all else, keep learning. The struggle continues.

When a coach or a team has fallen short, that’s when great coaches do their best work. They look at the game’s films, they review game stats and they take corrective steps. Smart business leaders do the same things.

If we expect perfection – a flawless record ­– we can find ourselves in a bad place. One example – the “pause” ordered for the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine.

The FDA ordered this interruption in use of the J&J vaccine not because it was unsafe or even to prevent anyone from developing blood clots, a rare but serious complication with which the vaccine is associated. They ordered the pause because they need for all medical personnel who may treat those rare clots need to be informed about this… blots clots are routinely treated with the anticoagulant drug heparain and the use of this drug can be dangerous in these cases. Once that contraindication is widely known, the use of the one-shot J&J vaccine will resume. (For more information on the CDC’s announcement, click here)

As we’ve all been finding our way through our pandemic lives this past year, I find myself exploring new things and placing new emphasis on not expecting (or seeking) perfection. Never more clear on this point is the fact that I’m learning to paint. Yes, paint.

To be clear, I’ve always painted – I’ve painted every room in my house. When we lived in Durham (in a smaller house) I did that, too, and painted the outside of the house. Just me and ladder, a bucket of paint and a big fat brush. None of these fancy sprayers. Old School.

During the pandemic, it’s been pictures – abstract, impressionist, geometric and collage. I love it. A lot of what I’ve created is just terrible – no kidding. Awful. But I have learned so much from this amazingly relaxing activity, so I have managed to create some pieces that, without irony, hang on the walls of my home. I never knew I had this urge within me, but there it is. And here’s the thing – perfection, even the concept of it, has no place in this creative process. It is the enemy of a creative process whether painting or writing.

Nobody’s perfect, thank goodness.