You have pivotal life experiences that shape the way you make decisions and how you lead. So do I. One of mine was US Army Ranger School. I graduated in 1976, at the end of the Vietnam War and the height of the Cold War. Although the connection between leading Ranger patrols through the swamp and being a state representative might not immediately be obvious, the lessons I learned will influence the way I serve in Salem.
The United States Army Ranger School is one of the most challenging military schools in the world. It is the Army’s premier combat leadership and small unit tactics course. Ranger School places all students at the uppermost limits of physical and mental stress. Ranger School is the ultimate experiment in what lack of nutrition, sleep deprivation and overtraining will do to a person. It totally sucks. That’s the common experience shared by all graduates, who call the ordeal, “Embracing the suck.” (I’ve heard serving in state legislature described the same way.)
About 60% of those who attempt the course will fail. My class was about that ratio too. It’s the toughest physical, mental, and emotional challenge the tightly screened and carefully selected candidates will likely ever encounter. That’s the reason Vietnam veteran and former Department of Military Instruction Director at the U.S. Military Academy Colonel Robert “Tex” Turner famously said, “I woke up in a cold sweat. I had a nightmare that I was still in Ranger School. Thank God that I was in Vietnam. Compared to Ranger School, combat was easy.”
Successfully graduating from Ranger School requires and embeds a certain mindset that I will bring to Salem.
1. Do Hard Things. Ranger missions sound like this: “Infiltrate your team behind enemy lines. Rope out of a helicopter carrying 50 pounds of gear into a pitch-black valley. Hike over a 3,000-foot mountain range, rappel down the far side, and swim a river. Break into an enemy camp and rescue a wounded prisoner. Escape the way you got in, carrying the prisoner on a stretcher. Expect angry, armed pursuit. Get back to the extraction point in 23 hours. If you’re late, keep hiking 50 miles to friendly lines. There is no backup. Good luck. Now, go.”
Oregon needs to do some hard things to recover from the damage of the last ten years under single party domination. I have the mindset to get them done.
2. Plan For Contingencies. Ranger units operate independently behind enemy lines. Missions succeed because of strategy, not blunt force. There is no safety net. Therefore, the need for excruciatingly rigorous contingency planning is drilled into every Ranger. There is even contingency planning for when an unexpected contingency happens. The famous military strategist, General von Clausewitz, once said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” A less prestigious strategist named Private Murphy coined this law: “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong…and at the worst possible time.”
Ranger patrol leaders attempt to think through every possible scenario where things can go wrong and design a plan to prevent or recover from the almost guaranteed encounter with Murphy’s Law. Failure to do so gets people hurt or killed.
Legislators should do the same. The reason so many of the decisions legislators make go so badly wrong is that they fail to properly think through the potential adverse implications and unintended consequences of a new law. Examples abound of where state government passes a law or makes a policy and then act surprised at the ensuing chaos.
You can expect me to carry this contingency planning mindset to Salem and to think carefully through the potential consequences of any legislation I'll propose or vote for.
3. Get It Done. There is no room in Ranger training for whining, excuses, blame shifting, shirking responsibility or quitting. There’s far too much of that nonsense in politics. The Ranger mindset is: “No matter how impossible the mission, we will get it done. Rangers Lead the Way.”
This mindset served me well in exceedingly difficult top secret Cold War assignments along the East German Border as a Combat Arms Officer. It will serve me well – and thus you well – in Salem as your State Representative. Our state government could stand a bit of a Ranger mindset.
I’ll bring it.
Cascade Views: Andi Buerger Interview - Please excuse digital transcription errors (-:
central oregon, voices, predators, community, victims, trafficking, andy, people, human trafficking, rescued, trafficked, child, kids, book, reporting, problem, avada, thought, true, years
Michael Sipe, Andi Buerger, Narrator
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle in candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses Southern Redmond, Sisters, Tumalo, and Northern Bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that now, here's your host, Michael SIPE. Thanks for joining us on cascade views.
Michael Sipe 01:16
My name is Michael SIPE, and I'll be your host. My guest today is my longtime friend, Andy Berger. Andi's a lawyer, community leader, author, speaker and a nationally known advocate for homeless teens, and the victims of human trafficking. She has two books to her credit so far, a fragile thread of hope, and voices against trafficking. Both books are available on Amazon and I highly recommend them. And you knows of what she writes, as she's survived 17 years of sex trafficking by immediate and extended family members. Before that term even existed. In a fragile thread of hope. Andy recounts her remarkable journey to healing and personal triumph, her fierce determination to rescue others like herself, and the desire to give all victims and sexual predators, a genuine voice. A fragile thread of hope explores the epidemic of teen homelessness and sex trafficking pervasive throughout America, even in smaller towns. When it comes to child abuse. In particular, Andy asserts, the vast majority of homeless youth are not runaways by choice, someone knows, someone always knows. It's whether they have the compassion and courage to step up for what's right, what's necessary to save the victim. And after today, you and I will also know a little more and we might be changed forever. I've asked Andy On the show today to share her perspectives on abuse, homelessness and human trafficking in Oregon, and in Central Oregon, in particular. So Andy, welcome to the show.
Andi Buerger 02:48
Well, thank you, Mike, I appreciate that. We go back a long time. And it's great that you're doing this kind of podcast. So thanks for having me.
Michael Sipe 02:55
You bet. I remember. How long was it? Was it a dozen years ago, when you were first envisioning viewless? Place? And we were talking about it at Barnes and Noble? And
Andi Buerger 03:06
yes, yes, it was actually we have. It's been probably closer to 15 years. beulas placed has been around for 13 and a half. And so yeah, it's been quite a while we've done a lot of great work, thanks to people like you and others in our community.
Michael Sipe 03:22
Yeah, remember when it was just a dream? Yep. So it's very, very cool to be here now. So to kick off our talk, would you give us just a bit of your personal background, and how you've transformed that into the invaluable work that you're doing today?
Andi Buerger 03:37
Sure, well, as you said, Before, there ever was a term, I was trafficked from six months to 17 years old by immediate and some extended family members. And the things were so devastating, so, so horrific, that by the age of five, I basically decided that my birth mother had told me she could take me out anytime she wanted in life. So I was going to beat her to the punch. And that was my first attempt at suicide at that tender age of five. So I sat on the curb waiting for a car to become by fast enough. And while I was waiting, I just looked into the sky that was so blue and so huge. And I thought, Gosh, I wonder who made this? Or is there somebody bigger than the people hurting me? And in that moment, I just heard this voice in my heart that said, this is not the plan I have for you, and suicides, not the answer. And I trusted that voice and in my life, that's God, you know, and other people's it might be something else that so after that, it was still a very long, painful childhood. And my birth mother made her last attempt to end my life when I was 17 years old. But you know, back in the 60s and 70s, there just wasn't anything, no place to go to. People barely talked about child abuse in those days. So especially for someone whose family members which Now as the millennial trafficking when they're involved because they're covered by a bloodline, so judges prosecutors, think people in those positions, they would just be like, Well, every child should be with their family or every child should be with the mother or the father. And, and it never got any better. So anyway, you fast forward then to go into college, and then deciding to go to law school, because I thought I could help other kids like me, and realizing that that justice is not exactly the justice that I was looking for. So just went back to business, had success had failures. And at the end of the day, here I am.
Michael Sipe 05:43
Yeah, well, I've heard you speak numerous times about some of the most prevalent myths about trafficking. Maybe you could share some of those now.
Andi Buerger 05:52
Yeah, absolutely. I think in general, whether it's Central Oregon, or Kansas, or anywhere in this country or outside the country, there's a myth that, well, human trafficking doesn't happen here in our community, not in our nice neighborhood. And that is absolutely not true. And we know this because Donald W. Washington, the director of US Marshal Service, said quite blatantly that every 40 seconds in America, a child 18 years and under is abducted, that means they are taken or they are lured into something that looks safe, maybe a job or model opportunity or something where they would normally not suspect there to be a problem. So every 40 seconds a child is taken. We know every state in the union has the problem. So that's one of the myths and then the other one, one of the others is that well, any prostitute 18 years and older, chooses to be a prostitute. That is not true, there may be a percentage that do. But overall, if someone's been sexually violated, attacked, victimized, trafficked, that sometimes is the only place that they know how to operate in or the trafficking ring itself is utilizing prostitution ring to cover their activities. And then another one, especially here in Central Oregon, when I got up here, 1995, they seem to be a prevalent thought, and in most communities, that only kids who run away are at risk for human trafficking predators. And that definitely is not true. The kids we have rescued at night have helped rescue over 300 kids in those 13 and a half years and housed 50 plus of them in safe house systems, you know, put eight through college, that that's not true, they are running from something worse than what they think will happen on the streets. That's the level of desperation these teams have, which is why I've got my first book going to, to highlight four stories from Central Oregon. One is traffic victim and the other three are different stories for different reasons why they ended up on the street. But we need to understand that just because a teenager is on the street doesn't mean that they chose it.
Michael Sipe 08:16
So you mentioned Central Oregon, obviously we're we're here in Central Oregon. And so how prevalent is the problem here and maybe just talk a little bit about perhaps if it is adding to the homeless issue that we currently face in in Bend and Redmond and throughout Central Oregon?
Andi Buerger 08:35
Sure. We don't have exact numbers, obviously, because it's all based on reporting. And many victims, like myself, I didn't become a statistic till I was in counseling in my early 30s. So many instances are not being reported. And with an influx of people all over the country. It's getting harder. So in Central Oregon, yes, it is a problem. However, law enforcement and district attorneys and all of those people involved have to admit that it is happening. We know a couple of years ago, Anita bells from in our backyard. Yes, she did a great interview and talked about specific examples that have happened here. Many of our kids were trafficked within the Deschutes. county borders, doesn't mean they weren't their predators weren't caught or prosecuted. But doesn't mean it didn't happen. So Central Oregon, I know we have four organizations that are prevalent in helping victims and when you hear the 60 or 65 Those are the the numbers that they have been able to help but that's not the only number that matters. What matters is why we're not getting the reporting why we're not making it safe enough for people for victims to come forward and do that proper reporting so we can get better numbers, but it is a problem. And again every 40 seconds applies to Central Oregon to a teenager that goes missing from school or wherever if they're not parented, or they don't have a stable home life or a stable support system, who's looking for them? And that's one of the major issues.
Michael Sipe 10:14
So what are some of the challenges? I mean, why, you know, like, why isn't this being more readily stopped? What what do you see as the as the block to this if it's happening this much? And there's the awareness that you describe?
Andi Buerger 10:31
Why is it still going on? Well, one of my basic beliefs, and it's been publicized that our own district attorney doesn't believe human trafficking happens in Central Oregon because he doesn't prosecute it. He has also publicly said that if you are 18 and older and a prostitute that you basically chose that life. And we know that's not true. So even if we have police that are doing the hard work of trying to make cases, but then we're not prosecuting the predators, or we're slapping them on the wrist, when the minimum sentence for a predator that has trafficked even one child is 10 years on the state level minimum, that should be the minimum, because that's what we have on our laws. Federally, it's 20 years up to 20 years, but we're not enforcing those mics. So if we're not enforcing the laws that deter or keep predators off the street, then we're not doing our job protecting our kids in the community. But we need leaders to do that. And if our leaders are not doing that, I tell people, if you vote for anybody, if you financially support somebody, ask them what their plan is to protect your child, your niece, your nephew, what have they done for you lately, basically, in terms of making your community, a community where there is awareness, there's education, where there are resources, if say, one of the kids on your block does go missing, or is trafficked, and you find out about it, because predators are brazen, we actually had someone drive up into our driveway in Central Oregon, two men in a red truck looking for their son. And they had no name. They had no photo, they couldn't describe them. They just wanted a boy that was seven years old. And they were going to different houses in the community. And my husband, of course, as you know, he, he got alert to it. And he called me out. And I started asking questions, and then they took off. And when I tried to report that to the dispatcher, it took me 10 minutes to convince her that these weren't just guys looking for somebody innocently, that with what I do. And what I've done in the community, I knew what I was talking about these were predators to Caucasian men, looking for a boy, No Mom, no girl, if it was one of our children, we'd be you know, hysterical or knocking on every door, but they were just going to where they thought they might be able to find a child that they could take?
Michael Sipe 12:57
well, you've been working on this for a long time, as we mentioned earlier, and I know that you've developed some ideas on on solutions for this. So like, if you could wave a magic wand and do what it is that you think ought to be done right now, what are some things that you do?
Andi Buerger 13:17
Well, I believe, like I said, first of all, if, if we're going to have laws, we need to enforce them. But secondly, we need to take care of the community elephant in the room, we need to either have town halls, or have the means have the budgets in our towns and our communities. And our counties have a portion dedicated to education, to creating greater awareness to having speakers like myself who have survived and yet been able to be successful to show other victims that they can do it too. But also to educate, you know, pastors, business owners, community service leadership organizations, we need to get more aware of what it really means when somebody is taken from our community, and also when someone is rescued. But again, the laws are one of the things. The second thing is there are free programs out there that we could implement in the schools. And yet, I have had the hardest time trying to get to anyone who will listen and about, hey, look, if you just say, yes, we'll do the work and make sure you get the free materials, I'll do the training, whatever it takes, so that from age five up, we can do peer to peer vetting of issues like homelessness, trafficking, abuse and hunger, because you're right, when someone has been trafficked, or a victim is on the street, they have no way to get housing to get resources to get COVID testing to get any of that so they are going to be homeless, and that adds to the problem. So we need to do that. And that's what I I encourage people please go to our website voices against trafficking calm because there is a list of helplines and hotline numbers that you should have in your phone at all times. At the very least you could call an entity that will help View or help the person you think is in trouble?
Michael Sipe 15:04
Well, thanks for that. You know, certainly in my campaign, this is something I want to have as a focus. I mean, it's a grim and an ugly topic. But we've got to go after it. But it's not all darkness, you've seen some remarkable, I mean, your success. And you've seen some remarkable successes, many, give us a couple of examples of courageous survivors who beat the odds and managed to go on to some incredible success.
Andi Buerger 15:34
Absolutely. One of the gals that we rescued here in Central Oregon, homeless, reached out to as hadn't eaten for days and was just trying to get out of a situation where an older woman had approached her and befriended her. She didn't have a father, he was the perpetrator. And the mother was an alcoholic, so long, the short of it was is that we got her she finished high school, she is now in college straight A's Dean LIS wants to go on to be some kind of social worker psychologist so she can help other kids who are like her, because she's so grateful for the intercession that she had with us. And she's doing great kick, drugs, everything. So she's very strong, we have another young girl. And she's also in college. Never thought she'd ever get there, she had tried a couple times she'd been homeless, so much, she had bad relationships, because, hey, if you give me a coat, or you give me dinner, I'll sleep with you or do whatever it takes, right. So she now is going to graduate from major university, and go to criminal profiling, so she can help get predators off the street. So both these girls, no one would have given a second thought to, but they took the opportunity, and they ran with it. So we're very proud of them, all the kids that have gone forward.
Michael Sipe 16:56
Andi, it's so encouraging to know that there actually is hope. And with the right kind of care, and support, like you've put together, it's really possible for someone to, to break out of this. It's really a difficult topic. There's a lot more for us to learn. But we need to wrap our discussion up for today. As we do, would you mind sharing some resources for people who want to learn more, and also how people can get involved and make a difference in this really difficult issue?
Andi Buerger 17:27
Absolutely. First thing, go to voices against trafficking, calm, look at those helplines and hotlines, put them in your phone, ask your kids who have to understand to do the same thing. Second thing is we have an add your voice campaign. We want to get 1 million voices by the end of summer 2023 on a roster so that we can continue to influence legislation and decision makers. So we want to have those those names on our roster, it's very easy, doesn't cost anything. And then of course, for those who want to do a little bit more, you can certainly join as a lifetime member for $50. And it helps us keep our international forums that we do every quarter that are free to the public going helps us get the book that we just published through voices against trafficking into the hands of Congress members and governors, things like that. So our 501 C three voices against trafficking, and we would love to have your support.
Michael Sipe 18:23
Fantastic. And now I'm logged in as one of those voices. Yeah, I don't know if you saw me drop in there, but put me on the list. That's for sure. My guest today has been Andi Buerger. You can learn more about Andi and her work as she mentioned at voices against trafficking.com. Be sure to order her books on Amazon, a fragile thread of hope and voices against trafficking. Let's get informed and help Andiin her mission to end child abuse and slavery. Thanks for tuning in.
Thanks for listening to cascade views with Michael SIPE. To find out more about Mike the upcoming election. The key issues he's focused on and his campaign to represent Central Oregon in Salem as a state representative. Visit www dot a voice for Central oregon.com that's www dot a voice for Central oregon.com You can get your own copy of Michael SIPE best selling book, the Avada email@example.com. And finally, please vote in the upcoming election. Your Voice Matters
Cascade Views Podcast - Alex Mutagubya - Please excuse digital transcription errors (-
uganda, people, business, community, alex, life, challenge, ministry, america, church, school, purpose, resource, perspective, born, influence, university, home, man, central oregon
Michael Sipe, Narrator, Alex Mutagubya
Alex Mutagubya 00:06
This man, one time he comes into the class and says, stops in the middle of a lecture and says, students, you think community development is a profession. Not it's not. It's a calling. Now, from my Christian perspective, calling was a huge thing. I had given my life to Jesus when I was 14 years. But I had these two parts. I had my Christian walk, and I had a career path I was running after. As this man spoke, these two things might spark this thing. It's not a profession, it's a calling my path, my Christian walk, and career paths just collided. That night I could not sleep. And it made sense that if the world is going to be transformed, if we are going to see some real lasting change, transformation has to first happen in the heart of someone before we can see it in our communities.
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle in candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses southern Redmond, Sisters, Tumalo and northern Bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that, now here is your host, Michael SIPE.
Michael Sipe 01:47
This is Michael SIPE, and I'll be your host. Today, my guest is my new friend Alex Mutagubya. Alex is a senior pastor at the City Church luzira in Kampala, Uganda, he and his wife and CO pastor faith and their incredible worship team to cinza are here in Central Oregon on a multistate tour that's getting extended due to the travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. Although this is difficult for Alex and his family and team, we're really beneficiaries that they stay here with us. Alex has an amazing life story and the work he's doing in ministry in business. It's truly inspiring. And I don't want to steal any of his thunder by trying to summarize it. So without further ado, let's just jump right in with Alex.
Alex Mutagubya 02:31
Thank you, Mike. It's really good to be here. Yes, I'm super thrilled. And looking forward to our conversation. Alex, the other day you shared with a small group of us a bit of your life story. And it's such a fascinating path that you've walked. I'd love it if you'd share some of it with me and with our listeners today. Yes. As I told you, my father abandoned our family right before I was born. And so that was tough. But then when I was two, my mother gave her life to Christ, and became saved born again. That would be a good thing. Bad except that her family ostracized her because of her faith. Now, in Uganda, a woman in the 80s, who has no husband and does not have the support of her family, her clan, life can be really tough, and ours was very tough. I remember growing up that we hardly had what to eat there several nights, my mother would come and give us, each of us a cup of water, we had four children, give each one of us a mug of water. And that was dinner, several times. And so because we grew up in that my mother was at the same time a school teacher. But in Uganda school teachers are paid according to the class you teach. And she was teaching grade one. So it was difficult, it was tough. But she kept insisting that if we are going to get out of our challenges that we're facing, we had one to work hard. Number two, we had to study. And number three, we had to we had to love Jesus. So we embrace those three things, and she kept sending us to school. The only challenge with school was that in Uganda, every child has to pay for their school from the very time they start until they come out. And we would go to school, you would just walk to school, like two or three miles to school. But then when as I'm sitting in the classroom, the head teacher would then come in and read the names of those who haven't paid and guess what my name is on their home. And so they would send you back home. Where are you going back home? There's no food Whenever you are at school, you have something to eat at home there isn't. And so what I would do, because I grew up around Lake Victoria, which is the largest lake in Uganda, and really in Africa, I grew up around Lake Victoria. So instead of going to school, I learned when mom would send you to school, I'll just go to the lake side, and do some fishing, or go through what the vendors have thrown away and find something to eat. It's that leg side, that my pastor one day found me. And I remember he came riding on a bicycle, and picked me up and said, Alex, let's go to church, it wasn't a Sunday, there was a group of people, and they were taking pictures. And that was my first time to see a camera. It was mesmerizing. And they said, well, there's some people that love you that are going to help you go to school. So from that, I got a sponsor, and entered the program by Compassion International, that sponsored me and helped me to go through school. Now, as I went through school and seeing things that my community was going through, and I was going through, I had I hated poverty, I had poverty. And so I was given to fight this. So when I got an opportunity to go to university in Uganda, I did a degree, a bachelor's degree in Community Development, because I wanted to fight poverty. But it is during my last year of university, as I sat in one of the Community Development lectures, in fact, I remember our lecture I was this man, he wasn't a believer at all. He wasn't a Christian. In fact, he was such a drunk that whenever he came to class, I would shift I always want to sit in the front of the classes, I always wanted to. But when this man would come in, out, shift and go to the back of field, I would get drunk by just the smell, I was on him. But this man, one time he comes into the class, and says, stops in the middle of a lecture and says, students, you think community development is a profession? No, it's not. It's a calling. Now, from my Christian perspective, calling was a huge thing. I had given my life to Jesus, when I was 14 years. But I had these two paths. I had my Christian walk, and I had a career path I was running after, as this man spoke these two things, my spoke this thing, it's not a profession, it's a calling my path, my Christian work, and career paths just collided. That night, I could not sleep. And it makes sense that if the world is going to be transformed, if we are going to see some real lasting change, transformation has to first happen in the heart of someone before we can see it in our communities. And so that, at that point, it was so clear to me that if I'm going to help our communities, and if we are going to see lasting transformation in our community, there are certain things we have to put in place. And one of the things we have to is we have to reach people at their hearts. And that sealed it for me, I was going to be a pastor, from that time I was going to plant a church, but not just a church that just does spiritual things, but a church that is also very relevant in reaching people's lives where they are. And so with that, I bet I began pursuing also more teaching more study on in faith and in ministry. And that's how I ended up in Portland or Multnomah University, and I did my masters of divinity then went back and started this incredible ministry, he founded a ministry called Transform African ministries, to do three big things. We say that our mission as transform African Ministries is to disciple and empower people for transformation. In Jesus's name, we want to see transformation at three levels, one at the spiritual level, because that forms the best for me that forms the mess. And then number two, at the economic level, we want to see transformation of our communities on the economic level. And we want to see the transformation on the social level. And so on the spiritual level, we planted a church, we decided, let's give our community model church which we call the City Church, and so and that has been going on Very well. Then on the economic level, we decided to address the challenge of unemployment in Uganda. And Uganda is much more youthful. So we decided let's start a program that trains intrapreneurs. And also disciples, people who are already in the intrapreneurship in business and and doing that. And then on the social level, we started a school and also a house for young girls. So that's what we do right now.
Michael Sipe 10:31
Well, let's back up just a second, because you've talked to me a little bit about some of the some of the demographic and some of the cultural challenges in Uganda that our listeners may not be familiar with. So yes, give us a little backstory around the crux of the challenge there.
Alex Mutagubya 10:47
Yes. So Uganda is the youngest population right now in the world. 15, a 50% 50%. of Ugandans are below the age of 15. That is out of a population of 42 million Ugandans. 15 years old. 50 50% was below the age of 15 77%. of Ugandans are below the age of 30. So at 36, I am one of the seniors here, oh, man. I know. In fact, I remember when I had just started out eight years ago, and we had just started out, I was one of the oldest, I was the only married man in my church. And now that has come, we now have more that have come. But Uganda is very young, and very youthful. However, the economic disparity is so huge, so huge. The unemployment rate in Uganda is placed at about 68% generally bad among the population between 15 and 30. And that's in Uganda, that's kind of like the working population. It's at 84% 84% unemployment, 84% unemployment. And so and we're in we're stressing out in America right now, with unemployment at 13% 14%. End percent and what it wherever it is, it's not 84%. It's not I mean, I look at the unemployment rates here. And if if we had that in Uganda, we would be jubilating. Every but I guess you guys have been used to having much three or 4%. Right? Yeah, much, much lower. So I don't want to take away from people who are suffering also because of unemployment here. But the reality back home is very, very disturbing. And why are there so many shortage of jobs? What So what causes that? So you have to understand that Uganda has gone through a number of challenges. We got our independency, from the colonialists in in 1962. Did well until 1966, when we went through a period of internal wars, civil wars from 66, all the way to 1986. Now, what was down do is they claim fathers, they claim men, they claim for the adults. And so there was a generation that just had very little parenting and they had very little fathers at home. Well, then, after the wars 1986 We got the current government good came in power. And it's been compared to any other government, it's been much more peaceful and much more democratic. Over that will be debated by the politicians. I want. I don't want to get into that. But then the main the 1980s, HIV AIDS came, and Uganda became the number one leading country in HIV incidents between the 1919 86 two all the way to 1993. And what HIV does, if there was to just the dad's HIV comes for both mom and dad. And so we had a lot of child homes, a lot of families that lost we have a whole community that was almost wiped out by HIV AIDS. And so by the time we come to the 90s, most of the adults have been have died. So Uganda has lived through both social unrest and war in viruses. Yeah, and yeah, I mean, horrible, horrible, horrible viruses and, and so because of that, we are just getting the engine to work. Now. You Gundams actually very smart people, they are very sharp, they are very hard working. And not just with their hands, but also with their mind. But the opportunities are not there. And then too, we inherited an education system that went obsolete in Europe in the early 1910s, that they can maintain their 1930s. And that's the kind of education system we still have right now, which is a very, I don't know how this will sound. But it's very rote. It's very, what the teacher tells you is what you give back and nothing more outside of the brackets doesn't count. And so, because of that, then you will have even those who have gone through school educated, but not land. Sure, so they will come out. And I have several instance where you, you hire an accountant, for example, who has who has A's in accounting, but cannot balance a balance sheet. So when because of all that, you have very limited availability. For everyone job that opens up in Uganda, there is over 900 applicants, 900 applicants per single job. Yeah, so that must be why you came up with the idea for Fit for Life, right? Because, or fit this Fit for Life program that, that you've told us about. So give us a little background on fit. Yes. So and to, you have to understand that where I come from, are the main by which I come from, is that I've grown up in abject poverty. Like I was saying, I first put on my first pair of shoes when I was eight, I first had a mattress when I was 12. A lot, a lot has been in my life that is informing where I am. But what I realized is I had some people who had certain characteristics, that God to help me get out. So when I looked at what is going on in our communities, I said, we need a program that just doesn't smear just a little Vaseline. On top of the challenge, let's address it head on. So we started what we call the Fit for Life program through transform African ministries. And what it does is it trains young intrapreneurs and pairs them all with experienced intrapreneurs. So we get someone who has already who is already in business in an area that they already flourishing, and we bring them into a relationship with a young man, mostly college graduates who have who have come out of university and see what idea do you have, can we walk with you and see it developed? Now, our desire is that this young university college graduate will start up a business that will employ two or more other people. And so, we are not just giving them some small little capital to start with, we are giving them skill we are working with them. And we are whenever possible, we are providing certain some seed capital for them to start up that kind of business through the Fit for Life program.
Michael Sipe 18:40
You have a couple of interesting perspectives on on how I and our listeners can help with with it for life, and you talk about it in terms of four categories that I thought are really significant for us to touch on right now. So tell us about those four categories and how now someone like our listeners somehow like got like me, because yes, for perhaps help.
Alex Mutagubya 19:04
I told you I was able to go through school because I was sponsored. But when I looked and examined the chain of flow of things and people that come come together, they had certain characteristics. One, there had to be a person with skill. There had to be a person with influence. There had to be a person with access, and a person with resource. These people had to come together. Or these four characteristics had to unite within a given individual who had influenced access, skill and influence so that they can look back down on me who was disadvantaged and pulled me out. Most development programs always focus on just the downtrodden. And in and we see it in Uganda. I see it in Uganda, because Uganda also has people who have the those those fourth means they have influence, they have access, they have a certain skill, and then some have resource, but because no one engages them, then the ones who are down below the marginalized and not taken care of appropriately. And so what I thought it was that if we can reach the person with skill, the person with influence the person with access and the person with the resource, and bring them into a discipleship and into an apartment and help them to see what is happening, because the people that sponsored me, they were people that had been touched by what I am going through and said, We can do something. And so the indeed, the pastor who picked me from the marketplace, this is a man who did not have resource, but had access and influence. And so all those things come together and we say, okay, how do we leverage? How does one how do we help someone leverage their influence their skill, their their resource, and their access to help the one who is marginalized? So what I hear from that is that the the ones who are are helping, whether it be through their skill, their influence, their access, or resources, it sounds like they're actually getting blessed as well. Definitely, definitely, because I believe God gives us power and influence, to act on behalf of those that do not, and delight and joy, and real peace of mind comes out of that, not just about amassing, but dispensing being the channels of blessing to others.
Michael Sipe 21:56
You know that that spurs me to ask a question. It's one of my favorite questions. But you have a really interesting perspective on for profit and nonprofit business, yes, and ministry. So I'd like to ask your views on the purpose of business because in 1970, Milton Friedman, who was an American economist, with American ideas about the economy and everything, he basically said, the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. That's the point of business. But recently, and this was before all that's gone on in the last few years, this was back like last August, the the Business Roundtable, which is about 200 of the most influential CEOs in America took a radical departure from that end, and they declared that the purpose of businesses is much broader than that. It includes customers vendors in the community, and it actually named shareholders. Yes, last. So I'm curious what your thoughts are on that as a segue out of our conversation in general, and then as you look at what's going on with Uganda, and the way you're using business there to to help so yes.
Alex Mutagubya 23:04
So I believe that everything that we have been given we have been given it, it has been given to us as a stooge. It has been given to us
by because we have been entrusted with such responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for the good of the of the environment and the context around us and the people around us. And so if a business flourishes, is flourishing, not just so to make one richer, and richer, and richer and richer, but for the general social good. And so a man or a woman that has been given such privilege has also been given such responsibility.
Alex Mutagubya 23:58
And so make profit, but not at the expense of the people around you. And so the person in business or the business itself, is to serve the good of the majority, the good of the many. Now, that's not the same as the socialism. But it is the source, the communities around us and the people around us are to be served by what we have, and the tools we have been given. Yeah, that's my perspective. That's profound. And you know, it's actually there's a piece of what you're talking about here that's kind of at the root not entirely, but kind of at the root of some of the social unrest and challenges that are going on in America right now. I mean, we're sitting here in the midst of have a huge amount of social and racial tension. Yeah. And, you know, my skin tones a little lighter than yours. But, but we're brothers and, and both sons of God. So give us your perspective as a Ugandan man. And is one familiar with America but one observing as a Ugandan. What do you see going on here with all this turmoil in America? Yes, I, one of the things that I noticed, when I interact with Americans is, I think, a lot of times you the American gets, I think, blinded to the fact the rest of the world exists. It does. And so, and everything gets so personalized, as though it's just American. But it's not. And, and a lot of the issues you're dealing with, we all are dealing with, elsewhere in the world. And because of that, so for example, here, there is a lot of challenge that comes with the history of slavery. In our context, there's a lot of challenge that comes with a history of colonialism. But not just that, we also have to deal with the history of tribes and segmentations. That had always happened. The challenge, though, is that if you get locked up in your history, you cannot make progress. There is a time where a time has to come where you realize, well, it is what it is. It was what it was. Now we need to forge away right here right now to move forward. So good. Yeah. When God made us and created us, he placed us in periods, and in times where we will be most effective for His purpose upon our lives. And he looked at Mike, and he looked at Alex, and he said, well, for what I have created, Mike to do, and what I have created Matt, Alex to do, Alex needs to be born in Uganda. Under the circumstances, Mike needs to be born in America, under the circumstances. And so where we are in what we are born with, and even the colors of our skins, who have to be looked at, in terms of this is a divine plan. Now, that does not make you better than I am, nor does make me better than you are. It just makes us siblings, children of the Most High God, it makes us one. And yet, our purposes are different. And so we better we better fulfill our purposes. As we sit together just as we sit row you're sitting right now. And so what has he given you? And what has he given me? And how can we match these together since we are now on the same road? To make sure that what he met us for is being fulfilled? Sure, because it comes right back to those four things. You talked about scale, influence, resources, access, all of those are our gifts. Make sure you worked hard and, and and occasionally work hard. And but but the gifts are, are from God that was so well said gosh, like we need to wrap up today. I could go on forever with you on this. But I wonder if you just be willing to share of foundational principle or maybe a life verse with us that that guides your work and kind of yours, your perspective on life. For me personally, and my perspective in life and how I approach everything is this was a scripture that came to me when I was seven years old. And my mother, like I told you had always insisted if we are going to make it out of our circumstances. We had to love Christ. And so she forced us. She forced us to read the Bible. And I didn't want to, but she forced us. And because of that. I got to read and read and read. But then one day I was reading and I ran into Jeremiah one verses five. Before you were formed in your mother's womb. I knew you before you were born. I chose you to be a prophet to the nation's now. I don't know what happened. But when I read that at seven, I was seven. I just jumped out and I rent my mama and I said Mama I think this speaks about me. And that has never left me. I, I really believe that I am not a mistake in existence. I have a divine purpose for my life. But that divine purpose is prophetic. Now, not prophetic in the weird sense of, oh, I'm going to tell you about your future or what, but to design a future, not just for myself, but for those who are around me to help shine a light on in many other people's lives. And so every time I do whatever I am doing, I'm asking myself, How is this shining? A light on someone else's life?
Michael Sipe 30:53
Alex, I really enjoyed our time together. As always, it's, it's just an absolute pleasure. How can people find out more about you and your team and the work that you're doing?
Alex Mutagubya 31:04
Yes, there are two websites that you can go on to find out about mob to find out more about what we are doing. One is WWW dot transform. A free can. You have to remember to put on the end and the African ministries, it's plural. So www dot transform African ministries.org. That's one. The second one is the the worship team website, which is TUSINZ e.com W W dot two sensei.com. So the windows websites, you can find out a bit quite a lot about what we are doing where we are, and, and a lot of what we've been talking about,
Michael Sipe 31:54
Oh, fantastic. Well, this conversation for me has been, has been really terrific. And I you know, one of the key takeaways that I've been pondering as you've been talking is, is through throughout the conversation, is this, this idea of, of God's gifts, the responsibilities that go along with those, the the interplay of privilege and skill and influence and resources and access with the obligation to serve and the stewardship obligation. And yes, and, you know, it reminds me of the verse that to those that much has been given much as expected, much as required. And so, really key takeaway for me from our conversation today. Thanks so much for being on the show.
Alex Mutagubya 32:44
Well, thank you, Mike, for inviting me to the show. You bet.
Michael Sipe 32:48
And my guest today has been Alex Mutabugya, the senior pastor at the City Church luzira at Kampala, Uganda, and the founder of Fit for Life. Thanks for tuning in today.
Cascade Views Jeff Eager podcast - Please excuse digital transcription errors (-:
oregon, people, state, drugs, homelessness, work, treatment, measure, bend, hard, issue, business, jeff, multnomah county, community, numbers, decriminalization, approach, problem, newsletter
Michael Sipe, Narrator, Jeff Eager
Jeff Eager 00:07
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael site, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle and candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses southern Redmon sisters tremolo in northern bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that, now, here's your host Michael site.
Michael Sipe 01:02
Thanks for joining us on cascade views. My name is Michael SIPE, and I'll be your host. My guest today is Jeff eager. Jeff is a business attorney and former mayor of bend. He's amassed a loyal following for his blog and newsletter, then business Roundup, which blends political commentary, with his experience as a lawyer to provide a conservative synthesis of the prominent issues of our time. It's also funny, and all a lot of fun to read. I've asked Jeff on the show today to share his perspectives on the Oregon State political climate and our transition out of the state's COVID response. Specifically, I've asked him to discuss the issue of homelessness in Central Oregon from the work he's done with the bend humanity Coalition, which is a group of caring Ben citizens working to make our city safe and humane for both the unhoused and the House members of the Ben community. So Jeff, welcome to the show.
Jeff Eager 01:56
Thanks, Michael. Great to be here. Hey, to start, how
Michael Sipe 01:59
about giving us a little more insight into your law practice your political background, maybe even a little bit about the newsletter?
Yeah, sure thing. So I put me I've been kind of working in and around politics, since I graduated from college a very long time ago, worked on Capitol Hill for four years after graduating from college, first for former Congressman Bob Smith. And then for Greg Walden, who recently retired from the second district of Oregon, did legislative and press work for Greg came back to Oregon, went to law school at the U of O, and then moved back to band and since that time, I've kind of jointly done legal work and political work, either as an elected official myself, you mentioned I was mayor. And then more recently in a consulting capacity where I help candidates and groups get their their messages out.
Michael Sipe 03:06
So tell me a little bit about the newsletter, though I mentioned it, but it really is a joy to read. And it cuts right to the heart of the matter.
Yeah, it's, I think you've called it the Bend business Roundup, which is what it started as five years ago or so it is. It's now broadened out and called the Oregon round up. And I started doing it and the name change kind of alludes to this, I guess, I started doing it kind of as a, frankly, a marketing tool for my law firm, which is a business law firm. And I started writing about kind of business stuff that affected small businesses, medium sized businesses and bend. Over time, I started to introduce more and more politics into it. Because that's what I spend a lot of my time thinking and reading about. And in started writing about things certainly outside of band statewide, and I made the change to calling it the Oregon roundup and now I don't even pretend to write about business stuff for the most part. And, and now it is really about Oregon politics and national politics, some culture. I tried to bring kind of a different perspective than what you would see in most media, especially in Oregon. And I come at issues from kind of a conservative and or libertarian point of view. And I try to put those views into a context that makes sense to normal people who don't obsess about, about politics, and I tried to have some fun along the way.
Michael Sipe 04:58
Well, for those listening who Want to check out the Oregon Roundup? You can find it at Oregon roundup.substack.com, Oregon roundup.substack.com, I think you'll have a lot of fun, as you read what Jeff has to say. We've been on quite a journey. Jeff, for everyone in Oregon. What are your thoughts about how we can best emerge from the state's responses to the pandemic?
That's there's a lot of a lot that goes into the answer to that question. I, first, I think, fundamentally, where Oregon needs to get in Oregon is not unique in this way. But it is maybe among the more extreme states in its response, we need to get beyond the point of thinking that we can in any way any real way control the COVID virus. You know, some of the restrictions that were put in place early on, I think were justified when we didn't really even know what we were looking at. But that time quickly passed. And in Oregon retains some of the most restrictive policies like requiring masking for student for kids in school, requiring masking it all in all indoor spaces. And, and some pretty draconian vaccination requirements, especially for health care workers. And in the data, and this is written quite a bit about this on the Roundup, the data really don't tend to support what what the state has done. So even setting aside this the impact that the state's policies have on depriving people of individual liberties. And I think we should always be reticent to do that. Even setting that aside, just see if the efficacy of the measures is is highly questionable. It's difficult to discern a difference in COVID outcomes between states like Oregon that have a mass mandate and states that don't have a mass mandate, for example. And in Oregon, to its discredit, unlike other states that have kind of abandoned some of those restrictions, Oregon has held on to them. And in spite of the fact that you it's very difficult to discern any benefit, any public health benefit that the state is getting out of it. I think the issue has been highly politicized in Oregon. I think our governor has done a an exceedingly poor job of explaining why she's doing what she's doing. And she's been allowed to rule unilaterally for over two years. Now, well, almost two years now, without any intervention, real intervention from the legislature. And it's it's just a sad state of affairs. And ultimately, though, I think, too, for that to change. The folks that call the shots in this state, many of whom live in Portland, are going to have to get their heads around the idea that no public policy is going to end this thing. And that we have to get on with our lives and treat it as, as an endemic disease, that can be dangerous for some people, but it's not dangerous for most, and take reasonable measures that are consistent with maintaining individual liberty to try to mitigate some of those effects, but but not to take these these draconian steps that Oregon has continued to leave in place.
Michael Sipe 08:56
Well, we're gonna end up hearing a lot about that, I'm sure because we're in a midterm election year and in politics, which has been a more common topic than I ever remember in my whole life. It's going to be an increasing focus in the months to come. Talk to us a little bit about the political climate and what you see are some of the key issues that are going to shape the campaigns and debates ahead of us outside of the the COVID discussion that's clearly going to be front and center. But what are some of the other key issues that are going to shape the campaigns?
I think homelessness will be a big issue in campaigns in throughout the state, really um, you know, homelessness has been a pretty major issue in Portland for a while although it continues to apparently get worse. But now we have a very visible homeless issue. Here in band. I was driving through Redmon yesterday on the way to and from steelhead falls and there are tents along the highway in Redmond, and they have issues like this and Medford, of course in Eugene Salem, etc. So you're having communities that really haven't been haven't had the least of visible homeless problem. Before they now do, and it is front and center for, for many voters in Oregon. I was talking to a pollster a month or two ago, who does polling nationally, but he had pulled in Oregon. And they had done one of these, you know, tell me the the biggest issue facing the state and a huge number of those people the biggest plurality that he has, he told me he had seen in any similar polling previously in any state, a huge percentage of the people responding to the poll said it's homelessness, that that is a big issue. And and justifiably so because we, you know, aside from seeing the tents in the sometimes the the garbage and whatnot, you have people dying in these camps. In bend here, we've had folks die, that we're living in these camps, you have drive by shootings, in Bend, and all manner of criminality in Portland and elsewhere. And so it's really a front and center issue for voters. And I think it is going to drive a lot of a lot of election outcomes come to midterm. I think in addition to homelessness, inflation is a big deal. It's a big deal nationally, it's a big deal in Oregon. People see what see what gas prices are people see what what food costs when you can find food in the grocery store. People see what it costs to go out to eat now compared to what it was in, all of those things are up dramatically. And in for a state like Oregon, where the margin between housing prices and what people make for a living is smaller than most in any other state because our housing prices are so high, and our wages are so low. People feel that pretty acutely. So I think that those issue, that kind of inflationary stuff, school closures, homelessness, crime, all those things are kind of bound in together with what I think is a is an electorate that is increasingly concerned about the direction of the state.
Michael Sipe 12:42
Well, you've been working on this quite a bit. And specifically with the bend humanity coalition, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Sure. The Bend humanity coalition is a nonprofit that started last year. And its focus is advocating for the city of BAM to take a different approach to homelessness to address some of those problems that that I just talked about. And really its underlying premise, Ben humanity coalition's underlying premise is that, and it's in the name is that the current approach is not anything like humane, that it is inhumane to create an environment where people are invited to destroy their lives and sometimes literally die on on your streets. All in the name of trying to be compassionate to them. It's the least compassionate set of policies that the city could have with regard to homelessness. And, and what needs to happen, we believe is that the city needs to stop tolerating and even encouraging, in some cases, camping in public spaces in these places where we know that that folks are not safe, where they are. They're victims of violent crime. They're many, many of them are on our drugs in these camps, and really, the city government has, has put us in, in a position as taxpayers in Bend to subsidize the destruction of these people's lives. And it's, it's a bad set of policies in it, it needs it needs to change.
Michael Sipe 14:30
Can you comment a little bit on measure 110? And, and what's what's transpired after that passed and and do you have any comments on whether that has an impact on what's going on or not?
Sure. Um, some ballot measure 110 was a ballot measure that Oregon voters supported by a 60 to 40 margin in November of 2020. In it decriminalized hard drugs. In the state of Oregon, Oregon's the first state to have done this. And basically what that means is, if you're caught with the police catch it with a non what they call a non commercial amount of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. In other words, the amount they assume is for personal use not for sale. And previous to ballot measure 110, there was a possibility you would face jail or prison time as a result of that, of your being arrested with that stuff. Now, with 110 in place, what the police can do is give you a ticket that says I can do a park air traffic ticket that's up to $100 in the ticket includes information about how to call a statewide toll free hotline to get to get kind of in touch with treatment, or really to get in that first call, an assessment of kind of whether you need treatment or not. The Oregon judicial department has released some data from the date that 110 went into the into effect, which was February 1 of 21, through the end of 2021. And in during that period of time, there were about 1800, a little more than 1800 people that were involved in the measure 110 citation process. And that's that's a remarkably small number, given the scope of the drug problem in Oregon, Multnomah County only issued something like 100 citations in those 11 months. And in what's happening is in many of the counties of Oregon, police just aren't even bothering because they know that first of all, the people aren't going to show up in court, they're not going to pay their their fine. And they're not going to avail themselves of the treatment options that the measure was supposed to make available to them. And that's in fact, what's happened even in the the small, relatively small number of people who've been ticketed, the 1800 Plus only 55 of those people have gone through the the telephone evaluation process and assessment process. And of those as of October 25 of last year. So a couple years, a couple months short of the end of the year, only eight had requested information about treatment. I don't know how many actually entered treatment as a result of the of having contacted the toll free line. But we know that eight as of October 25 had asked for, for that information. And so what's going on is that the measure 110 was sold as you know, we need to stop punishing people who are addicted to to drugs. And we need to instead of punishing them make more available to them treatment options to help them get off the addiction. And it's that's not not, I think for a lot of Oregonians that carries a decent that argument carried a decent amount of weight. You know, I think a lot of Oregonians and a lot of people generally don't think you should necessarily be punished, because you happen to be addicted to drugs. The problem is that the approach that's contained in measure 110 just isn't working.
Those numbers I just cited about only 55 people having gone through the evaluation process demonstrates kind of the weakness of that of that problem. So what's going what's happening is that people indeed are not being punished anymore in the form of potential jail time for possession. But they also aren't being connected with improved treatment that was supposed to replace incarceration and in the state already has spent, I think $31 million in in new money that measure 110 allocated from the cannabis tax fund on additional treatment. And in at least the numbers that arise from the citations certainly don't demonstrate that the that that money has has had much of an effect in terms of taking people that come into contact with the police and are in possession of hard drugs. It's just not working. It's not they're not getting hooked up with the treatment, the treatment that we need and the hard drug his situation is getting much worse. In Oregon at the same time, half halfway through 2021, which is the most recent data we have. There were nearly as many methamphetamine overdose deaths as there were for all of 2020. And in the first half of 2021, there were more fentanyl deaths than in all of 2020. Now, those those trends existed before the decriminalization went into place. But it's hard to imagine that the decriminalization has helped matters, especially as we're seeing in the case of fentanyl, and the new type of methamphetamine that's apparently out on the streets and predominant out. Those are more lethal than even the hard drugs that you heard about a few years ago. And more difficult for people to get off. If they even had the had the inclination to do it. There is a tie in between these hard drugs. This hard drug crisis in the homelessness crisis we talked about, in 2021, Multnomah County, which of course is home to Portland, ran some numbers in of the people who died while homeless in in Multnomah County, in 2021 90% of them had hard drugs in their system when they died, or their death was related to hard drugs in some way. So these, these twin crises of the hard drug epidemic and the end homelessness are hand in hand, and the state's not doing a very good job of addressing either one.
Michael Sipe 21:45
You're talking about running numbers as a business guy. Couple of numbers you just mentioned to me just they make me cringe. So so we had out of out of the efforts in the last year, apparently eight inquiries, and spent $31 million. So that's $3.9 million per inquiry.
If you think yes, that's, that's true. Now, the supporters of the measure in kind of supporters of that approach, the decriminalization approach would point out and correctly so that not all the $31 million dollars were spent on treatment that is necessarily targeted at people who are cited for drug possession. In theory, those dollars also go to go to fund other programs, many of which are described by the supporters as harm reduction measures, like giving out clean needles to drug addicts giving methadone to drug addicts, etc. So they the In fairness, the benefit of the spending, if there is any, wouldn't only be seen in in the number of sighted individuals who avail themselves of information about treatment. But to the degree measure 10 was sold largely 110 was sold largely as a, you know, replacing this punitive incarceration regime with one that provides optional voluntary treatment to two people, it's it's pretty clearly failing right now.
Michael Sipe 23:26
Well, we're going to wrap up here in a minute. But here's the big question. Everybody's asking, Where do we go from here with this? Like, what do we do? And? And what are some of the challenges and impediments to action? What are your thoughts after studying this now for a year or so or more?
Um, I think that, you know, at a fundamental level, we need to as a state and in to a degree nationally, although some states have this figured out a lot better than Oregon, when we need to under come to an understanding that these these hard drugs that exist now, they don't, they don't allow for people in most cases to make rational decisions for themselves. And that was the case with hard drugs forever, and arguably less hard drugs like alcohol. But this in my based on what I've learned, the new math in fentanyl in particular. They render the people that use them largely incapable of making even remotely good decisions for themselves. And so to the degree that you are offering people optional treatment, or you're you're offering people who are homeless and living in a tent on the street or on the sidewalk, the option to go into a sheltered environment. The majority of them the vast majority of them are not going to take advantage of Those services, because one of their primary goals because of their addiction is to stay on drugs. And in taking advantage of treatment, or going into a shelter environment, where drugs are not allowed, keeps them from being able to do those drugs. And so ultimately, to address these kind of twin crises that Oregon is facing, we need to wrap our heads around the fact that volunteerism probably isn't going to work. And I think our experience so far in this state has, has has demonstrated that in that context, then you have to remove, you have to remove the options that currently exist for people to continue to use drugs, and to continue to live on the streets. And that looks quite frankly, like a, you know, on the drug side of things, you know, I don't think anyone's jumping at the, at the, the opportunity to throw someone in prison for long term for long term for possession of drugs. But mandatory treatment is, is something that probably under in this environment would work a lot better than voluntary treatment. And similarly with regard to homelessness, if you continue to make it possible for people to live on the streets, and those who are on drugs, use drugs, and, and in be victims of crimes, sometimes commit crimes themselves and kind of, frankly, make the community less, less desirable and less safe. If you continue to make that available to them, they'll they'll do it. And so you have to remove those choices, because we know how harmful they are for the people that that end up making them, but also how harmful they are for the rest of us in in a community and in our state who who suffered the consequences of those decisions. And so I think it's it's really kind of a fundamental change of mentality that that needs to be needs to occur in Oregon. And unfortunately, I think we're a ways away from that.
Michael Sipe 27:25
I would agree. These are obviously huge, huge topics contentious. It's complicated. We could probably go on for a long time today exploring these but we need to wrap up our discussion for today. I hope we can do this again soon. Because I'd love to dive into this a little bit deeper. I'll get a list of questions here. Based on what you just said, I was jotting down some notes. And then I realized that that would take us all day. So I better I better wrap up. So let's do this again real soon. It's been a pleasure having you on the show. My main takeaway out of this as your comments on on measure 110 and and really what's transpiring with that. And so, thanks very much for your time and your message today,
Jeff. Sure, thanks. Thanks, Mike. Appreciate you having me on.
Michael Sipe 28:12
You bet my guest today has been Jeff eager. You can learn more about Jeff's informative, insightful and funny newsletter at Oregon roundup.substack.com, Oregon roundup.substack.com You can also learn more about the Ben humanity coalition at Ben humanity coalition.org that's been humanity coalition.org I'd urge you to check out the work that they're doing and also subscribe to the news newsletter. So thanks for tuning in. Have a great day.
Cascade Views Podcast Transcription - Please excuse digital transcription errors (-:
oregon, government, liberty, rights, people, vance, judge, constitution, judges, first amendment, state, james madison, central oregon, federal government, circuit court judge, mike, association, governor, laws, avada
Michael Sipe, Vance Day, Narrator
Welcome to Cascade Views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael Sipe, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle and candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses Southern Redmond, Sisters, Tumalo and Northern Bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that now, here's your host, Michael Sipe.
Michael Sipe 01:15
Thanks for joining us on cascade views. My name is Michael Sipe, and I'll be your host. My guest today is Judge Vance de Vance has enjoyed a distinguished career as an attorney, and as a circuit court judge in the third Judicial District, while serving as a circuit court judge then started a veteran's treatment court in Salem, Oregon. The goal of this innovative court was to target the root causes of veterans criminal behavior through a program tailored to address their needs. It's created by the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the judge, other veterans, treatment providers, mentors and support teams. While they was running the program, there was a zero rate of recidivism. Most recently, Vance serve for a couple years as the president of Promise Keepers leading the largest annual gatherings of Christian men. His new initiative, though is representing the James Madison center for free speech. James Madison center for free speech was founded in response to a concerted attack on political speech, which is at the core of the First Amendment and is essential to our democracy. Its purpose is to promote through educational activities, respect for the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and to defend the rights of freedom of speech, and freedom of association by providing legal representation to those persons and entities whose rights are threatened by government action. This is obviously a timely topic in our current social and political climate. So I'm excited to have a few minutes learning more about it. Vance, welcome to the show.
Vance Day 02:49
It's great to be with you today. Mike, thanks for having me.
Michael Sipe 02:52
Oh, you bet. Well, to start off, how about giving us a little more insight into your judicial background, and I'd particularly like to hear just a little bit about veterans court, as I think that some of the lessons you learn from that might be instructive. In terms of some of the public safety challenges that we face today?
Vance Day 03:10
Well, in Oregon, as in most states, in order to become a circuit court judge, you got to be an attorney. So I've been attorney for 30 years now. I love the law. I love how we get to, you know, participate as lawyers and judges in in managing how people have conflict. And a lot of people think, you know, complex a bad thing. Well, actually, it's not. Sometimes it's through conflict, that we come up with a better resolution between parties that just don't seem to get along. And so what a judge does in Oregon primarily, is manage conflict. And so that's what we call litigation. And that can be criminal cases. It can be civil cases, the difference between the two most people recognize civil cases are those things like, you know, like contract disputes or domestic issues such as child custody, divorce, constitutional law, car wrecks, those are those are all civil kind of cases. And then of course, you have criminal cases, which of course, there's a statute that says this is a crime and people get charged by the police and the district attorney, and then they have to go to trial. So a circuit court judge in Oregon, handles everything from divorce to death penalty, constitutional, a lot of contracts, everything in between. And so that's what I did in Marion County, which is the third Judicial District and really enjoyed the work. It's a it's a pleasure to work on behalf of the public to help that process. Be fair, just, you know, a judge is like, I guess a referee you know, in the NFL field, where if somebody is You know, commit to foul or or violates the rule, you tossed the the yellow flag out and stop them. And so a judge's job is to make sure that those trials are fair, and that the rights that we have are respected and that the rules are followed. So that's what I did for my term was about seven and a half years. Most people don't know, Mike, that in Oregon, we elect our circuit court judges, our court of appeals judges, even our Supreme Court judges, but most of them are appointed by the governor first. And that's because when a judge whatever level you're at, ends up, you know, retiring or stepping down from their position, and the governor gets an appointment. And then when the person runs for a six year term, whichever comes, you know, next, the next election, they got this little thing on the ballot that says incumbent. And most people don't, you know, they don't know who their judges are, they don't know about their backgrounds. And I would just encourage people who are listening that next time you vote, and you all should vote, that you really look into your judges, particularly if there is a contested race to people wanting the same seat, because those are very important positions. And you need wise and experienced people to fill those positions.
Michael Sipe 06:27
Well, that's great advice. And I'm one of those folks that didn't realize about the kind of that whole selection process and well, let me just ask you briefly on that topic, if, if I were to try to check out the background of a judge, in terms of, you know, how I would vote, like, Where would I even go?
Vance Day 06:51
That's a hard one. Because, you know, there's kind of this, it's actually a written rule in the ethics, canons for judges that, you know, if a judge is running for election, he or she can't tell you where they stand on a variety of issues. So, you know, they just look vanilla to everybody. What I've done in the past, and where I go, is i i look at various local stories. So you know, I look at the person's background, I'll go to judge pedia. It's like Wikipedia, which I think that's what the name is, I don't have the right in front of me. But you can go to site like that and look up the judges background, what did they do? I mean, typically, if you have a person who is a judge who their background is in, you know, homeless law, or animal rights, or they worked for Planned Parenthood, or whatever it may be, you can get a sense of where they stand on the spectrum of political ideas. Just so you know, your listeners know, they're about 300 judges, state judges in Oregon circuit court, you know, that's like 280, judges, approximately. And those are the trial judges, then there's two, two appeals levels. There's the Court of Appeals, that's 13 judges and seven judges on the Oregon Supreme Court. Now, from my perspective, this is just my perspective, Mike. But I would say 90% of those judges are to center left to far left just in their perspectives. Why? Because they've been appointed by left to center, or even radical governors for over 40 years. 36 years, actually, I think was the last Republican governor that Oregon had. And so when a governor is picking a judge, that Governor is going to pick the judge that matches pretty much their political spectrum. So it's really hard to figure out who to vote for. If it's just one judge that's on the ballot might you know a lot of people just skip it, because it's not going to make any difference. That's called an under vote. But if there are two judges, you should do your homework, talk to judges talk to lawyers. What's that church? Like? How do they impact our community? What are they involved in, in our community? Are they just standing off to the side and throwing rocks at at at our culture are and who we are that kind of judge don't vote for?
Michael Sipe 09:28
Well, such good advice that wasn't actually I wasn't thinking we were going to get into this today. But I'm learning a lot every time I talk to you. I learned so much. I you know, though, I although I would love to talk about this for a long time, because there's so much that I realized that I don't know about judges and about the selection of them. What I really would like to hear about is the James Madison center today and so maybe you could kick that little discussion off by telling us how you got connected
Vance Day 10:00
Well, it's interesting, Mike, people may not know my background, but for about four years, I fought with the state of Oregon, they accused me of certain ethics violations, because I recused myself from same sex marriage based upon my liberty of conscience, my free speech, my religious rights as a person of faith under the First Amendment. And that seemed to take off a lot of the governmental elites. Those who believe because they're experts, they hold a position of power that they get to tell the rest of us what to do and how to do it, when to do it. And that's a violation of our inalienable rights as citizens, governmental elites, don't get to do that, under our Constitution. And only in limited circumstances can they control our activities. But in Oregon, there's a there's a lurch, in my opinion toward tyranny. And that is the executive branch that is way out of lie when it comes to telling us how to live, work and play, how to think. So the James Madison center in the midst of that battle, ended up representing me and in my appeal to the United States Supreme Court, they did an excellent job. It's a group of lawyers who do free speech, work, liberty of conscience Work First Amendment work across the nation, they've been very successful at the United States Supreme Court. And so I saw the quality of their work. When I left the bench. I didn't run again, after getting suspended by the Oregon Supreme Court for my my views on things in my opinion. I worked for about three years with Promise Keepers is first their CEO and then their president. And when I came back to Central Oregon, when my wife and I had moved from Salem, about three years ago, I had an opportunity to work alongside them. The Board reviewed a proposal that I made, which was really about Oregon free speech, we called it the Oregon free speech project. And and what we're trying to do here in Oregon, is inform and inspire, and activate really citizens to respectfully and responsibly which is really important, respectfully, in response, we make an impact in their communities in state via their inalienable rights. That's a big, long sentence. And most people would
Michael Sipe 12:35
Vance Day 12:38
Well, you know, and use a big word $10 Word like inalienable rights. You know, what that heck is that thing? I'm not an alien. But it's a real simple concept. You know, if if, if you're a person of faith, you're a person who understands that there's a lot more to this world than we really can see with our eyes. Meaning, if you start with the presupposition that you are a creative being, there is a Creator. Versus that you, you know, there is no design, there is no creator, we're just here by accident, you're gonna have a very different view of liberty and rights. Because if we're just here by accident, then we make our own rules, and Gosh, darn it, the majority can change the rules and just screw with the minority anytime they want. That's called tyranny. But if you're a created be, then our constitution which presupposes a creator, gives you in a reasonable rights, those don't come from government, they don't come from the governmental elite. They are ours, because we're human. And those include liberty of conscience, freedom of speech, the right to own property, the right to assemble to get together, the right to form associations. There's a list of an animal rights, the right to life. You can't take my life without due process. Those rights don't come from government, they come from God. And therefore, the civil government may take my life, but they can't take my liberty unless I give it up. And so the Oregon free speech project initiative is really designed to educate people throughout the state about those inalienable rights and how to stand up to tyranny by saying, Hold on, hold on. You don't have liberty to do that government. This is my inalienable right in to articulate that in a reasonable and responsible manner. You know, as citizens of the state of Oregon, we don't have to be, you know, angry all the time and pushing back and yelling and screaming. We can win In this battle for liberty, against tyranny, by being light, by being respectful by being responsible, and how we respond. So that's my job is to travel around Oregon to do it for free. And funding has already been secured. And I show up at community groups, churches, you know, associations, whoever. And I talk about that engage people, and it's a lot of fun. Because people get educated, they get inspired, they figure out, gosh, I can make a difference. I don't have to, I don't have to get rolled by these people who just keep on telling me what to do. So speaking,
Michael Sipe 15:40
speaking of education, Vance, would you just give me a quick, just a quick recap on how the Bill of Rights came to be about because, you know, as we talked about the First Amendment to the Constitution, that's part of the Bill of Rights, isn't it? Then, you know, how to why did we end up with a Bill of Rights? And I, we don't need to go too deep in history. But I think it's useful to look at this in the context of our conversation today.
Vance Day 16:06
Well, that's almost humorous that you'd say we don't have to go too deep into history when you're talking to a former history professor, I, I love history. So I can
Michael Sipe 16:15
I know you too. Well, my friend.
Vance Day 16:19
So our constitution was an is a overview of an outline of how we're going to function as 50 states in relation to a federal government. So you got to understand the context. You know, we had the Revolutionary War, won that war. And during that war, we created this, this this document that basically said, the 13 colonies will be states and will relate to each other this way. And, and have a very, very minor federal government, a government that kind of helps all 13 colonies and any other states that come along. And that document didn't work very well, the chaos. So after about six, seven years, there were a group of people, primarily James Madison, which is, of course related to the James Madison center for free speech, got together and designed this constitution, they were going to they were going to kind of redraft the the Articles of Confederation, which was the original document, but that wasn't working out too well. So they made a compromise. And they did this constitution thing of equal branches, three branches of power, legislative, executive, and judicial. There'll be checks and balances. The goal was to have a limited federal government that just just did certain things. So the Constitution was passed out to the States. It was ratified, and we had a constitution. But there were those members of the first Congress who really wanted to make amendments to the new constitution a big priority, because they were concerned that the federal government was not limited enough, meaning that the federal government would roll over our rights can become like a monarchy, or it could get out of control. So they really wanted to make it super clear. These 10 amendments are really important. And they're all about our rights, because we're just not comfortable with giving too much power to this thing called the federal government. So that's how the first 10 amendments came about. And the First Amendment is all about that liberty, speech, assembly, religious freedom of the press. It just, it captures the essence of our inalienable rights.
Michael Sipe 18:54
That's really, really helpful and insane. So good job. Man, we obviously live in really contentious times. And there's claims about free speech rights. And everybody's got an opinion about this fine from all sides. What do you see the biggest challenges are in regard to the First Amendment in the current season? Well,
Vance Day 19:17
government, civil government, and then let me back up just a bit. Our founders in those political philosophers over the last 100 to 300 years, really understood that there are four levels of government five levels, if you want to include associations, and that's individual government. We have self government and a republic is based on the idea that each individual is supposed to govern themselves. They have a duty to do that. And then there's family government, which is parental rights. There's church and Business Association, government, if you can include those. They've got liberties, too. guide themselves and to govern themselves. And then you have civil government, which is people make the mistake of, of it's understandable. They refer to government, but they're really talking about is just civil government, you know, the state governments, local governments, county, government, federal government. But our republic is based on the notion of individual government, family government, and we delegate some of our liberties, those things that we should be taking care of, to a state government or to a federal government, so they can do those for us and with us, but we're in charge, we the people. So the danger today, in my opinion, like is that civil government, particularly state governor, we see this happen in Oregon all the time, they have gotten too big for their britches, frankly. And they've taken on so much authority, they they pull the authority away from families away from individuals away from business and associations. And they've said, no, no, we get to handle this, and you will do what we say. And the problem is people don't know enough about their liberties, their rights to say, Stop, no, that's not correct. And to push back, there are many people who are pushing back, but the more that begin to wake up, and recognize that our state and and counties and federal government particularly are way out of line, the more of us that push back, things will change, there will be ballots. The other problem I see, just from a constitutional vantage point is that there are three equal branches of government. And that's gotten way out of whack to like, you have the legislature that makes the laws, that's, you know, here in Oregon, the House and the Senate together, and then the governor has to sign them. That's a checks and balance system. And the and the judicial branch gets to overlook those laws and interpret them and decide if they're constitutional. Then you second branch is the executive branch. And the executive branch is supposed to execute those laws, enforce those laws, manage and, and make sure that they're put into effect. And then the judicial branch, which is the smallest branch, but it's still supposed to be as equal, as the other two is supposed to interpret the laws and make sure that they are constitutional, that the people's rights are not violated. So the problem is the executive branch has just taken on power and control into itself. And when you have a governor that decides, well, this COVID thing I get to decide, without a law, I'm going to interpret the law that says, I get to tell you how long you're going to wear a mask, whether you're going to get a vaccine, and whether you're getting punished and all those type of things or that that school districts get to tell parents what to do instead of the other way around. That's that that is a violation, in my opinion, of the balance of powers that our Constitution, state constitution and the federal constitution have outlined for these areas of government. So those are the two main problems that I see.
Michael Sipe 23:22
And I agree with you 100% on both of those, and frankly, it's it's a major reason that I'm running for state representative because those problems are so severe in Oregon right now. Well, as we start wrapping up, how can we support you and the James Madison center?
Vance Day 23:41
I appreciate you asking that. Mike, if any of you out there want to have one of those presentations, and it can be you know, half an hour to two hours. You just need to contact me at my personal email. It's five letters. It's really simple. V is in Victor D is in delta d is in delta P as in Papa, those are the five letters B D D firstname.lastname@example.org. And yes, I still have my training wheels on because I still have an AOL address but it's B D D PC Victor delta delta Papa email@example.com, just email me and say, Hey, I'd love to have you come to our community group or our church or association. I speak all over the place. And there is a documentary coming out Mike in the next couple of weeks than what happened to me. It's called the fight for liberty, the judge day stories part of the series about liberty, very highly produced a lot of interesting national folks that they interview. And so I show that documentary to groups that want to see that and then I talk about it and and inform people educate them on how they can enter How, how they can push back? What are their rights and how to do it reasonably responsibly.
Michael Sipe 25:07
Bands that's terrific and to our listeners. I've, I've listened to Vance a number of times as he's taught and, and taking copious notes, because anytime I get to be with you, Vance is an educational experience of the highest caliber. And so if you have a chance to invite him to speak, for a chance to catch one of his presentations, I highly recommend it. Well, my friend as much as I think our listeners, and I could use a few more hours with you right now learning about the Bill of Rights and, and the Constitution. We'd better wrap this up. It's been a real pleasure having you on the show. And my main takeaway is the reminder about the the levels of government and, you know, personal government and family, government and business, church government and the responsibilities to lead there and to not abdicate those. So that was a great reminder, and I'm really grateful. Sure. Appreciate your time and your message today, Vance.
Vance Day 26:04
Well, thanks for having me, Mike. It's always a pleasure to chat with you and your listeners.
Michael Sipe 26:09
My guest today has been judge Vance de you can learn more about the James Madison center for free speech at James Madison center.org. That's James Madison center.org. Thanks for tuning in. Have a great day.
A Simple Way to Gain Clarity and Act Boldly in Uncertain Times
As we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, everywhere you turn, someone is declaring something like: “We’re in uncharted water.” “This is unprecedented.” “The world as we knew it is gone forever.”
Although we may well be moving into the most serious and pervasive challenges of our lives, none of us are strangers to trouble and difficulties. We have all experienced and survived them. Pontificating for long about how unprecedented and confusing our new realities are, is counterproductive. At some point, a leader simply has to say, “Yeah, it’s tough. It is what it is. Now what are we going to DO about it?”
That’s when the following guide to clarity and decisive action becomes invaluable. It’s a simple four step way to navigate ANY challenge, whether it’s one you’ve never seen before, or one that seems to regularly recur.
The approach we’ll review is one that I’ve found tremendously useful over the last 45 years. I was first introduced to this way of thinking as a student salesman and sales manager with Southwestern Company back in the 1970’s. The same methodology showed up again in my Army Ranger training and while serving as a combat arms officer.
It's the mindset I plan to bring to Salem as State Representative for Oregon House District 53.
As an entrepreneur and executive coach to top producing CEOs, the method we’ll summarize here has proven invaluable for gaining clarity, getting “unstuck” and establishing ways to move with power.
Recently, I was privileged to interview Mr. Dustin Hillis, CEO of the Southwestern Family of Companies, on the podcast I produce called 10 Talent LeaderTalk, at ForbesBooksRadio.com/10x. As the CEO of 30 companies, Mr. Hillis know how to get results. He uses the acrostic “RAFT.”
So, with thanks to Southwestern Company, Mr. Hillis, my Ranger instructors and a few decades of entrepreneurial scar tissue, let’s take a look at how the RAFT methodology can help you gain the clarity, confidence and courage to move forward and transform the current challenges you face into positive outcomes.
"R" - Recognize There’s an Obstacle or a Problem. Although this opening step might seem like it could go without saying, often we are impeded by our own blind spots. As a leader, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of opportunities to see the blind spots of those you lead. But no one is exempt. You and I also have blind spots, and those cause us not to see our own stumbling blocks. Here’s an easy way to determine you have a problem: Ask youself, “Am I achieving my goals?” If the answer is no, then an impediment, a problem or a negative event has arisen.
In the normal course of events, leaders must constantly guard against blind spots. One great tool to help with this is an advisory board of peers who can provide an objective view of your situation and offer a sounding board and accountability
Here in the midst of the current worldwide challenges resulting from COVID-19, however, everyone has recognized that we face very big problems. Now that we’ve recognized that we have problems, though, it’s time to figure out what to do about it in our lives.
"A" - Acknowledge and Accept the Problem. It’s at this stage that denial often appears. Denial sounds like: “This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening to me! I don’t believe it. Say it isn’t so. I wish we could go back to the good old days.“ You get the idea.
However, denying the facts doesn’t make them go away. We can’t crawl under the covers and hope to wake up with the problem magically gone. Wishing things were different doesn’t change the spot we’re in. The quicker we can accept the reality of our situation, the quicker we can work to develop strategies for effective action. The longer we wait, the worse the problem will get. We might as well admit, acknowledge and accept it.
Once we accept the problem, we have a choice: live with it or fix it. You might ask, why would someone just “live with it?” But many people do live, often for years, in a state of resignation and despair, as victims of a negative event or a problem. That’s not for you. Instead, let’s address the problem. No more playing defense. Let’s go on the offensive. Here’s how.
"F" - Focus on What You Can Control. You may recall from Steven R. Covey’s writing that there are three circles in life: the Circle of Control, the Circle of Influence and the Circle of Concern. Focusing on the controllable means to put your attention on the things you can control and the things you can influence and stop fretting about things that, while they might concern you, are fundamentally out of your control. So, what can you control? The three main things are:
1. Control your mindset and your attitude. You have control over your thoughts and feelings. Much has been written about this throughout the ages. For a couple of clas- sics, check out Earl Nightingale’s book The Strangest Secret, or read the Apostle Paul in the Bible about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. However you get there, you must control your attitude.
2. Control your schedule. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You can control how you invest your time. What if your time was like a bank account? Everyone knows if you squander your money, you go broke. Most people don’t consider that if they squander their time, they’ll live a bankrupt life. Take control over your time.
3. Control your actions. You don’t get the results you want by simply hoping, wishing, praying or declaring. You have to take appropriate action. Ask yourself, “What actions must I take right now that will lead me to the results I desire?” Do those things. Ignore the rest.
"T" - Transform the Problem into Progress. It’s been said that in every adversity lies the seed of an equal or greater benefit. Your job as a leader is to dig into the adversity and find the seed. In every challenge we have the opportunity to tell a story about what it means. Too often the story people make up is one of doom and gloom.
Instead, ask yourself, “What else could this mean? How can this be turned into a positive outcome, perhaps one that’s even better than anything I could even imagine?” It’s an essential function of leadership: to articulate a compelling new story and gather people on your RAFT to go get it. I plan to do that in Salem. Let’s do it together.
It's Three Intangibles and One Tangible Factor
What is it about America? Why do we love it so? Why are patriots willing to die for it? Why have people for hundreds of years walked, crawled, swam, sailed and flown to get here, in search of a better life? Why does hardly anyone ever leave? Why do immigrants cry with joy when they receive their American citizenship? Why do most of us thrill to the sight of our flag, and to the sound of our National Anthem, or a song like “God Bless Americas,” or “America the Beautiful,” or Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA?” So, what is it? What makes America so special? What makes it so great?
It’s not great because of American presidents, American politicians, American pastors or American educators. As proud as I am to be called an American, the American people do not, inherently, make America great. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fellow Americans, but I’ve traveled the world, and people are pretty much people everywhere. American people are not inherently that much greater than Irish, Indians, or Indonesians. American people are not innately smarter, kinder, big hearted, more loving or more generous than Africans, Algerians or Afghans. I suspect you’ve seen that even accounting for cultural and political differences, folks are pretty much folks wherever you go.
America is not great because of our wealth or our natural resources. It’s not great because of our schools, It’s not great because of our military might. It’s not great because of our technological advancements.
What makes America great are three intangibles: Hierarchy, Ideals and Aspirations. Plus, one tangible: Action.
To understand what makes America great, we have to start at the beginning. We have to start with God. About now, some people will bail out because they say they don’t believe in God, or they don’t want to hear a bunch of God-talk. Here’s the thing, for some reason, God set the up the deal so you and I have the option to choose to believe in Him or not. You have permission to disbelieve, but you might want to consider that carefully. What if you’re wrong? It could be an eternally costly mistake. See, the Bible says that even the demons believe, they just rebel and choose not to follow God.
If you refuse to believe or even consider believing in God, then the rest of this article will seem foolish. But even that the Bible predicts: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’" 1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 19.
In the beginning there was God. God created everything. Thus, as creator, God is superior to everything in the universe. God created the earth and everything in it. God created men and women, making us in God’s own image. He did not make us God, just in His image. Thus, as creator, God is superior to the earth and everything in it, including people. “Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.” Romans 1:20 TPT
God is in charge and throughout the ages when people followed Him, things usually went pretty well. When they did not, things, as is said for a reason, “went to hell.” The Bible tells the story of God’s people and how they would follow and then fall away, time and time again. It is also the story of God’s faithfulness.
We are not in charge. We are not God. We can’t even make our own heart beat. We’re a couple of pulses and a couple puffs of air away from death at all times. We can’t create a tree, fabricate a rabbit or cause a tomato plant to grow. We are not in charge. We exist through God’s grace. When we try to take control of things, we inevitably mess it up and chaos ensues. Our nice little controlled world begins to unravel and fall apart.
God’s universe, on the other hand is not in chaos, it’s a universe in order. Everything hangs together according to a unique design. Honest scientists agree. As Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who made the crucial scientific contribution of founding quantum physics wrote: “Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view. There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed, it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.”
God’s universe is a universe of order, and He establishes an order, a hierarchy through people on earth. Americans, with our independent spirits, don’t necessarily like conceding God is in charge, or that there is a hierarchy between people on earth. The petulant childhood phrase, “You’re not the boss of me!” resounds all too often in the attitudes of supposedly “grown up” Americans. But the Bible teaches differently.
“Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So, live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” Romans 13: 1-7 MSG
One caveat to this, of course, is that the leaders are to keep everything in right order, honoring God and governing according to His will and His ways. Otherwise, chaos and evil are the result.
That said, one of the things that makes America great, and one of the reasons so many people want to live here, is the way we establish our hierarchy, through our form of government - a constitutional republic. We elect our leaders and our constitution guides and constrains them. More on that in a minute. America is not the land of dictators or royalty. In America, we don’t work for our leaders, they work for us. They are “hired” though our votes to fulfill our desires. Do they always do so? Sadly, no. Do they always put God first and govern according to His will and His ways? Sadly, no. However, we have a system and a hierarchy and an order to our government that is unique in all the world, and the envy of people around the globe.
Therefore, part of what makes America great is our Hierarchy. But it’s more than that. There’s also our Ideals.
America was founded as a Christian nation. Therefore, we must go back to the beginning. We must go back to the source document for the American ideals, which is the Bible. Early in the Old Testament, God gave His people the Ten Commandments in order to guide them into right behavior:
“Don’t put other gods before the one and only creator God. Don’t create idols to worship. Don’t take the name of God in vain. Remember and keep the Sabbath. Honor your father and mother. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t covet.”
Even though people broke the Ten Commandments consistently, they became the basis for Judeo-Christian law. Thousands of years passed. God was still in charge. Men floundered on. The Ten Commandments persisted, however, as foundational to the morals, laws and expected behavior for human society. They still stand today.
Then God’s Son came to earth and added His perspectives and His commands: “Follow me. Love God and love people.” “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I grew up in a native American culture and I love the indigenous people of America. However, America was colonized and settled primarily by Europeans, most of whom were Christians, or at least most early immigrants came out of a nominally Christian culture. About 2.6 million of them flooded to America from the 1400’s – 1800’s, in the greatest period of migration up to that time. They came for four reasons:
Although only a few hundred years ago, the world was much different then. It was a world of tyranny, royalty, government and religious oppression and slavery. On that note, we need to remember that during that same time period, about 8.8 million enslaved Africans were forcibly moved to America and treated brutally. Even many of our founding fathers were slave holders. Often, women and children were considered possessions. It was, sadly, the situation back then. In many ways, it was an ugly time.
But the ideals that arose out of that ugly time are immensely relevant to what makes America great. Our country rose out of oppression, as men and women sought economic, religious and political freedom with a passion born out of the pain of tyranny.
Thus, on July 4, 1776, the Congress of the thirteen American states unanimously declared independence from Great Britain:
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's Godentitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States.”
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare:”
“That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
So that’s how America began. It began on an ideal, the likes of which the world had never seen. Were the men making the declaration perfect? Of course not. While declaring “all men are created equal,” women and people of color were conspicuously absent. Were the founders perfect in their faith? Of course not. However, the ideal was divinely inspired. And it continued to be through the writing of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Although the US Constitution was heavily influenced by concepts expressed by “common law,” extending back to 1066 and the Magna Carta in the 1500s, no Constitution and no Bill of Rights like that of the United States has ever been constructed and sustained in all human history. It is, indeed, a great experiment, based on great ideals.
The US Constitution opens with these ideals:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Remember, the founders of our country came out of a history of tyranny, oppression and unjust treatment by government, so the Constitution they wrote established an innovative division of powers and checks and balances on elected and appointed officials. Then they added special protections to the Constitution. It was augmented and amended by the Bill of Rights:
“The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added:
First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Second Amendment: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Third Amendment: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner; nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Fifth Amendment: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
Sixth Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Seventh Amendment: In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.
Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Later in our history, the additional Amendments 11-27 were added for the further protection of American citizens, including:
“Thirteenth Amendment: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Fourteenth Amendment: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Fifteenth, Nineteenth and Twenty Sixth Amendments: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”
The ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as Amended, are what make America great. The Federal Constitution and Bill of Rights are included in the State Constitutions. Federal and State elected officials swear to protect and defend the Constitution. So do soldiers.
The ideals that make America great exist in a hierarchy: God, US Constitution, US Laws, State Constitution, State Laws, and local ordinances. In that order. The lesser ideals are not to usurp or diminish the higher. When we breach the hierarchy, the world begins to unravel.
For hundreds of years, the bright light of the American Ideal, the divinely inspired grand American experiment has drawn freedom seekers from around the globe. It’s why all of our ancestors and some of us came here. It’s a major part of what makes America great.
However, there’s another intangible thing that makes America great, and that’s our Aspirations.
Ideals would be of little value if we did not aspire to achieve them.
In regard to Biblical Ideals, Christians are far from perfect. However, as Christians we aspire to be more godly, to be more like Jesus and to become more and more holy. It’s like the Apostle Paul declared, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Philippians 3:12-14 MSG
The opening to the Declaration of Independence does not say, “Hello world, we know exactly how to govern a nation and are here to tell you all about it.”
No, it reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
The founders of our country were not perfect men. Far from it. However, they aspired to grand ideals. The first words of the Constitution are not, “Hey everybody, we have this all figured out – stand back and watch.”
Rather, the first words of the Constitution are: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”
As Americans, we aspire to the grand and noble ideals that established us. In other words, it’s a process. And it continues today.
The Constitution, with Amendments, is an aspirational document. The ideals were established. We are unlikely to ever completely achieve any of them, but the pursuit of them is the noble duty of American citizens. It’s one of the key things that make America great.
Provided, of course, we actually pursue our Ideals and Aspirations. Which brings us to my concluding point. If America is to truly be great, we must act tangibly to make it so.
Great ideals and Aspirations are essential. However, to truly make America great requires us, as citizens, to act.
We must learn. Therefore, we must read, study and reflect on the Bible.
We must pray. We must gather together. We must worship.
We must obey the commands of Jesus to love the Lord with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. To love each other as Christ loved us, so that all will know we are Christ followers. To go into all the world and spread the good news.
We must study our Constitution and laws. We must be educated voters.
We must think.
We must behave and in a manner consistent with our highest Ideals and Aspirations.
We must maintain order and the God ordained and natural hierarchy of society.
We must protect and defend our faith, our Constitution and our form of government.
We must protect and defend our capitalist economy. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best economic system mankind has ever invented. Socialism and Communism don’t even come close. We must actively resist these forms of government and economic approaches.
We must engage in the political arena as citizens. America is a Constitutional Republic. Our elected officials are supposed to do what we say. But if we don’t say anything, those supposedly elected to represent us will simply do whatever they individually want. Often, they’ll just respond to the loudest voices – those passionate, “squeaky wheels” and give in to a minority opinion,…which nearly always seeks to break down the hierarchy, and twist the foundational ideals of our country for their special interest purposes. They will get their way if we don’t stand up for what we claim to believe.
We must vote and encourage others to vote in accordance with the proper hierarchy and order of things, and in keeping with our fundamental American Ideals and Aspirations.
If we are to make and keep America great, it takes all the above, and it takes deliberate engagement. It takes action.
As Edmund Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
That’s the short version. A longer version reads: “Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable. Where men are not acquainted with each other’s principles, nor experienced in each other’s talents, nor at all practiced in their mutual habitudes and dispositions by joint efforts in business; no personal confidence, no friendship, no common interest, subsisting among them; it is evidently impossible that they can act a public part with uniformity, perseverance, or efficacy. In a connection, the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it, the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the public. No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavors, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” - Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents 82-83 (1770) in: Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 1, p. 146 (Liberty Fund ed. 1999)
In other words, to combat evil, good people must rally and come together. We must speak up and we must act to defend our fundamental American Ideals and Aspirations, otherwise, “they will fall, one by one,” an invisible abdication and “unpitied sacrifice.”
In conclusion, it’s not presidents, politicians, pastors or educators that make America great. It’s Americans like you and me, deliberately acting to preserve the proper hierarchy of social order, protecting the ideals and aspirations of our nation and actively pursuing them.
Let’s do that together.
Here’s the primary question we asked for the last two years: “How do we keep from catching COVID?”
The result of asking that question led to lockdowns, mandates, masking, forced injections, unjust terminations, unemployment, labor shortages, supply chain disruption, business failure and suffering, unprecedented government spending, huge increases in national debt, runaway inflation, educational failures, mental illness, addictions, divorce, abuse, fear and massive political and cultural division.
All these adverse outcomes resulted from fixating on that one bad question.
But we keep asking it, we keep getting the same adverse consequences…and yet millions are still catching COVID.
What’s a better question, you ask? Good question.
Perhaps we could ask: “How do we produce optimum health…physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, economically, relationally, politically and culturally?” It’s a much tougher question. One that requires thinking, not just having thoughts. There’s no room for political expediency in answering that question.
In 2022 we need to start asking better questions if we want to start getting better results. That’s one reason I’m running for State Representative in 2022.
The job of properly motivated politicians is to serve their constituents. All of them. As I campaign for Oregon State Representative from House District 53, I’ve been pondering the question of how to serve everyone. Since I’m campaigning for a state office, the job requires serving not only everyone in HD 53, but also everyone in Central Oregon and everyone in Oregon.
That would be a daunting task if everyone agreed on everything, but since it seems like we’re in a season where everyone pretty much disagrees with everyone else on just about everything, the job appears even more challenging. But then, I’ve never known anyone who agreed with me entirely (that would be scary). I’m certain you will not agree with me on everything, and that’s OK. Come to think of it, I’ve never known anyone who I agreed with entirely on everything, either. So perhaps, even though this season may be more emotionally charged than others, the issue of how to serve everyone when everyone disagrees with me, and also disagrees with everyone else, is actually a normal state of affairs.
This dilemma has certainly characterized my 30-year career in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). My job has been to represent clients and negotiate deals to successful closure when everyone involved and affected by the transaction has a different, sometimes wildly different agenda from everyone else. So here are ten lessons from a career in deal making that I’m confident will help in the world of politics.
Everyone can be well served, regardless of differences, if we remain rightly motivated to seek the highest and best outcomes for the people of our region and state. Nobody said it would be easy. But it is worth it.
Leadership Lessons We Must Learn From COVID Responses
Preface: I wrote this article originally in May 2020. Nearly two years now from the start of, what I call, the COVID era, my observations have proven accurate. I’ve added updated comments as of December 2021 in italics.
If you’re a leader, you face regular challenges. It goes with the territory. Problems arise. Timeframes are short. Resources seem limited. The stakes are high. The fallout from failure looms large. You feel the urgency to act. You fear what might happen if you don’t act. The people you lead are clamoring for a decision. Ignorant opinions abound. Seems everyone has a vested interest, ulterior motive and a slick argument. The crowd all seems to be stampeding in one direction.
Sound familiar? Chances are you’re in that situation right now as a consequence of the decisions made by many state governors and some city mayors to lock down America, close businesses and restrict Constitutional freedoms in an ill-considered response to the corona virus.
Elected officials were in a tough spot back in March of 2020. No argument, it was a challenging moment in time. However, the flawed decisions they made have crippled America. But this could have been predicted. They fell victim to TINA.
Beware - TINA Can Get You, Too. Who, or what, is TINA, you ask? Well, TINA is an acronym that stands for: “There Is No Alternative.”
TINA strikes in moments of challenge. You’re stuck in the middle of a problem and desperate to get out. Fear rears its ugly head. Your stomach is in knots. Your pulse is racing. Someone suggests a solution. It sounds good. You don’t have a better idea at the moment. The pressure is on. Leaders aren’t supposed to panic, but, truth be told, you panic. You speak those fateful words that will come back to haunt you and those you lead: “We’ve just gotta do this...There Is No Alternative.”
We watched this happen with our elected officials throughout the pandemic. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s presume there was no conspiracy, politics, personal aspiration, research-funding considerations or ill-intent. Let’s presume they are simply good people, trying to do good work. But, if that’s the case, I contend they panicked, and TINA got them. When faced with the threat of the corona virus, they rapidly made the fateful decision that there was simply no alternative but to lock down America and handcuff business. That decision will have (has had) devastating and crippling consequences. Consequences that should have and easily could have been anticipated and avoided. But TINA got us.
We’re all susceptible to falling victim to TINA. It could happen to you. There’s a good chance TINA is after you right now in the fallout we face from lockdown policies and mandates. Before we look at how to guard yourself against a TINA attack, let’s look at what happens after TINA strikes. These things are so predictable, we can call them laws.
The Law of False Dichotomy. A dichotomy is a polarizing contrast we construct between two ideas, approaches or values. The false dichotomy asserts there are only two mutually exclusive and opposing alternatives, and we can only choose one. This leads to the flawed conclusion that There Is No Alternative. Often the choices presented are emotionally charged, values-driven and passionately argued, such as those presented to us in the COVID crisis: Life vs. Death. Health vs. Money. Safety vs. The Economy. Selfishness or Caring. The scarcity mindset (or un-seen agendas) behind a false juxtaposition limits our ability to seek broader, more global solutions that could provide approaches to address all considerations, producing unity and collaboration, instead of division.
The Law of Commitment. Once a TINA driven decision is made, there’s an emotional commitment made. We become invested in the chosen course of action. The language of commitment is familiar: “There’s no turning back. We just gotta do what we gotta do. After all, a leader has to stick with her decisions. Quitters never win. Besides, what will people think?”
The Law of Commitment often keeps us from seeing our mistakes and recognizing the adverse consequences as a result. If we do see our decision is bad, we often won’t admit it. We pridefully die on a hill we should’ve abandoned long before. We’ve seen this happen over and over as politicians and the media double and triple down on terrible and untenable positions in order to save face, and because they are trapped in the “no alternative” conundrum.
The Law of Consistency. Closely related to the Law of Commitment is the Law of Consistency, which requires us to act in accordance with the case we’ve declared, because of the immense pressure we feel to act in integrity with our declarations, even when our decisions and declarations are wrong. Note that integrity in this case does not mean right, righteous, noble, moral or good. It means making our words and actions line up…regardless of whether the words or actions are correct or appropriate.
CYA - The Law of Justification. The more apparent it becomes our decision was wrong, or that the negative outcomes of the decision are too great, the more tendency there is for us to justify our character, position and decision. There’s a scramble to Cover Your Ass-umptions (CYA). Again, we’ve seen this play out repeatedly in the press, in government and with individuals (regardless of political position).
The Law of Unintended Consequences. TINA driven decisions usually have unintended consequences. Sometimes they are good, sometimes bad, but because we failed to engage in a rigorous decision making process, we end up surprised by the consequences. But most of them could have been anticipated, avoided or designed around. The results of lockdown in response to COVID-19 are: massive fear, staggering unemployment rates, economic depression, countless bankruptcies, mental illness, addiction, heartbreaking abuse, suicide, anxiety, divisiveness and a welfare mindset. All these terrible outcomes could have easily been predicted with just a little thought. Instead, the most flawed public policy decisions in American history were mandated. TINA got us.
There is Always an Alternative. As leaders, we can’t allow ourselves to get
TINA-fied. The ramifications of flawed decision making are simply too damaging for those we lead. So, how do we avoid this pitfall? Here are a few suggestions.
First of all, whenever you hear the words: “There is No Alternative.” or “We have no choice,” huge red flags should go up. There is always an alternative. There are always options. Part of a leader’s job is to look for options, to seek clarity and to cast proper vision. An ancient proverb says: “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” Succumbing to panic is an example of casting off restraint. Let’s seek wisdom before taking rash actions.
Beware the Dichotomy Trap. Step back from the right vs. wrong, either/or, false choice arguments and look for a larger solution that encompasses all concerns.
Slow Down. My cabinetmaker father used to say, “If you won’t take enough time to do it right, you’ll waste a whole lot more time cleaning up your messes.” Closely related was his instruction to always: “Measure twice...cut once.” Rushing critical decisions leads to tragic mistakes.
Deliberate. One pronunciation of deliberate means “steady and measured.” Another means to seek wise council and to discuss problems from a variety of perspectives. The pressure to succumb to TINA causes us to forget that: “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Likewise, to an epidemiologist, everything looks like an epidemic. Deliberating on diverse viewpoints in a steady, measured way produces the creative options that TINA blocks.
Ask Better Questions. The quality of an answer is always dependent on the quality of the question. Here’s an example. Question: “How much is government willing to spend to defeat the corona virus?” Answer: “$6.2 Trillion.” Question: “What’s the best way to use that $6.2 Trillion?” Answer: Most of us could think up many options superior to wasting all those tax dollars in a futile attempt to clean up the devastating mess caused by lockdowns and mandates.
Proceed Pragmatically. Pragmatic leaders deal in conversations of cause and effect, actions and likely reactions. They evaluate each potential course of action in light of its possible consequences. The pragmatist is interested in taking actions that produce optimum outcomes. Pragmatists know TINA is a lie. Instead of TINA, embrace the truth of TIAA.
TIAA: There Is Always An Alternative. Let’s find the best one.
In our nation and state, we remain locked down more by TINA at this point than by government officials and media. We need to break the cycle. There Is Always An Alternative.
I’m a business guy, not a politician. As an executive coach to Christian CEOs, one of the issues we address is the integration of faith and business. For many, this is a novel concept, as they’ve been taught not to mix business and faith. I disagree. In fact, a key concept in the Bible is that our lives are to be integrated, not separated. One of the oldest words in the Hebrew text is “Avodah,” which, in one word, means Work, Worship and Service. I wrote a bestselling book about this concept of living an integrated life, called The AVADA Principle. Check it out on Amazon.
Now, as I launch a political campaign to run for State Representative, I’m hearing a similar message from smart political people. They are advising me to avoid talking about faith…to not mix faith and politics, as it will “turn voters off.” I don’t believe so. I value and appreciate people who have well-grounded beliefs, regardless of whether they are the same as mine, and I’ve found well-intentioned people extend the same courtesy to me.
In any event, we are designed to live an integrated life of Work, Worship and Service, whether we are engaged in raising kids, education, law enforcement, medicine, media, business, or politics. Therefore, I intend to integrate my faith into my work in the political sphere…and be authentic and transparent about that.
I’ve also been cautioned not to use Biblical references in a political context. Again, I disagree. The Bible is the greatest book of wisdom ever written. Our US and State Constitution, Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments flow out of Biblical wisdom. Most of what passes for secular wisdom is derived or adapted from Biblical wisdom. Most people who object to Biblical references simply have not studied the Bible and experienced its wisdom firsthand.
I understand some people will object to the integration of faith and politics, just like some people do not like it when I express my faith in the business domain. Here’s the thing. I care what people think about me in business. I want them to like me. I want them to do business with me. I also care what you think about me in politics, as I run for State Representative. I want you to like me. I want you to vote for me.
However, I care more about God’s perspective on my Work, Worship and Service. In the Book of Colossians, the Bible says it this way: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord you are serving.”
So, here are some of my thoughts about what it means to integrate faith and politics.
Regardless of your faith perspectives, I trust you’ll at least conclude that the approach of honoring God, seeking wisdom and engaging in rigorous discernment is a good thing for one seeking public office and that it will serve you well. I hope you like me. I hope you vote for me. Mostly though, I seek to run a righteous campaign and to serve righteously if elected. That’s faith in politics.