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Go Canada!

If only we Americans were as direct.

From the BBC

From the BBC

There’s more good stuff at #BBCTrending: Canada and Russia in Twitter fight over map.

RIP James Foley

James Foley

Oh, God, no, please no… I think that’s what I said when I read the headline today declaring that American journalist James Foley had been savagely beheaded by the demonic gang of terrorist thugs called ISIS. Frankly my brain makes up its own acronyms for ISIS, like Ignorant Savages Instigating Slaughter. I know these people need the love of Jesus, but their merciless rampage of death and destruction, which has included the beheading and crucifixion of Christian children, makes my blood boil red, white, and blue.

I first became aware that Foley was missing in Syria while writing my December 2013 post More Americans Left Behind. In that post I featured a number of Americans who were being held in other countries and strongly questioned why the Obama administration has not done more to bring them home. James Foley had been a captive for nearly two years, for example. Supposedly a rescue mission was mounted on behalf of him and other Americans this summer, but it allegedly failed because the intelligence wasn’t good.

The videotaped beheading of an American is a direct terrorist strike at our nation. It’s a strike at you and me, and I wish more Americans had the mentality of the New Yorkers in Spiderman: You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us. Americans should not be at the mercy of regimes like Iran and North Korea; we don’t bow to them. We should not be tolerating the ongoing torture of Pastor Saeed Abedini or the criminal mistreatment of Kenneth Bae.

“Oh!” some say. “But they’re Christians, or Jews, or they put themselves in a dangerous situation. This is the price they pay for taking those risks.” We would all be living under a foreign language facist freak show if it wasn’t for the risk takers among us. These guys didn’t go to another nation to go skydiving or dabble in extreme wakeboarding. They traveled to these other countries to make a difference, to save lives, to sooth souls, to shine a light on the reality of the situation in these dark places.

By all accounts I’ve read, James Foley was one of these people. His parents say he went to Syria to show the world what was truly happening there. He ultimately gave his life for that. Thankfully most websites that show his execution video have edited out the part where his throat is cut and his severed head is lying on the ground. But you can still see most of it, in which he reads some sort of prefabricated statement.

His voice does not shake, he holds his head up high. His back is straight. His spirit does not appear to be broken. Knowing he’s about to have his throat slashed open by the masked coward with the British accent next to him, he doesn’t panic or scream. He faced death with courage and dignity. He didn’t have to. But he did. It is an image that will stay with me forever.

Earlier tonight I had to ask myself a question: am I more outraged that these (ooh, I’ll omit the next scathing acronym) primitive killers that Osama bin Laden didn’t even want anything to do with executed James Foley? Or am I more outraged that the United States didn’t get him back in time? How many more Americans will die because of erratic and spineless foreign policy and the fact that American tax dollars actually do go to terrorist groups and rogue nations? Who’s next? Whose family has to know that their son’s murder will be broadcast to billions of people around the world?

This shouldn’t be happening. It makes me sick. It makes me angry. One of our own has just been taken out into the desert by a group that has less morality than a fossilized amoeba. They believe their god lauds them for killing infidels, killing randomly, killing other Muslims, killing Christians, raping, and pillaging, and selling Christian women as sex slaves. It’s clear to me who their god really is, and that master will betray them when their last breath is taken.

There will be a lot of debate as to what the American and British responses should be to Foley’s murder, but first and foremost we must continue to pray. We must work harder to bring home the other Americans imprisoned in foreign countries. We must not allow Westerners fighting for groups like ISIS to return home as free citizens. We must demand that our government stop giving our money to groups and nations that pose a threat to our own people, to human rights, and to freedom.

And we must never, ever forget James Foley. For a brief moment in time, in that orange suit with the black microphone clipped to it, I saw all of us, our nation, with a knife to its throat. Because that is what ISIS would do to every one of us if they had the opportunity. These radicals would imprison us, enslave us, rape us, torture us, and brutally kill us. If you question the existence of evil, all you have to do is watch one of their videos. All you have to do is read one story about what they’re doing to women and children in Iraq.

Now is the time for our nation to unite against this evil. Now is the time for us to step up on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and other places stained by the blood that ISIS spills so freely. If we believe in freedom, and justice, and equality, and women’s rights, and human rights, we cannot sit passively by while this brave proponent of the First Amendment was forced to kneel in the devil’s playground and enter eternity at blade’s edge.

Regardless of what action you believe needs to be taken– military, sanctions, covert manhunt, prayer, financial aid to ISIS victims, or whatever else– do something. Contact your elected representatives. Make a donation. Make your voice heard. James Foley was one of us, and we’re Americans. Our forebears didn’t sit idly by when such horrors happened. Neither should we. ISIS messed with one of us. They should find out the hard way they messed with all of us.

As I go to bed tonight, I say to Jim Foley, who walked into the belly of the beast to show the world truth, I’m so sorry we didn’t come for you much sooner. I hope the last thing you thought of on this earth was how much you are loved.

Gary Farvel, Indystar.com. Note that James Foley was formerly a reporter for the Stars and Stripes.

Gary Farvel, Indystar.com. Note that James Foley was formerly a reporter for the Stars and Stripes.

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In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

Ye Shall Be As Gods

Ye Shall Be 1

It’s the original lie: you can be your own god. This seems to be the mantra that narcissists exercise regularly through their thoughts, actions, and words. THEY are superior. THEY are special. EVERYONE should bow down to their every whim, whine, and wish.

We all know these people. Somewhere in their dysfunctional upbringing or exclusive social cliques, they’ve lost touch with anything resembling humility, gratitude, and empathy, trading it in for a soul-sucking mentality in which the world revolves around them. Period. No one else’s wants, needs, or views could possibly be as important as theirs.

Narcissists are cheese graters on the nerves of life. Their self-absorbed temper tantrums and constant demands drain those around them of their time, money, and energy. Their extreme need to be the center of attention and be praised or spoiled is exhausting. Narcissists are sometimes talented people, but they believe the spotlight should be on them far more often than their actions or efforts merit. If they are particularly gifted in certain areas, they might well be deficient in their social skills or lacking meaningful relationships altogether. All that glitters is not gold.

To be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) by a mental health professional, a person must have five or more of the following symptoms (the symptoms have been copied directly from Psych Central):

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Notice how these traits are very much the opposite of what God requires of us. The more deeply these traits are indulged, the farther away we get from values that require us to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect our Creator. It should be no wonder, then, that narcissists wreak so much havoc in life. The path they are walking leads further and further away from the original design. Eventually it leads downhill and over a cliff. It will never come to a good end.

Like a lot of people, I’ve interacted with narcissistic people in nearly every area of my life. I’m sickeningly familiar with each of these symptoms and have experienced the damage they do to families, friendships, workplaces, and organizations. Narcissism can factor heavily into family violence and workplace bullying among other evils, and narcissists often get away with being childish, sadistic tyrants because people won’t stand up to them out of fear or because they’re concerned about litigation. To protect myself and my family, I’ve had to end or severely limit relationships with narcissists multiple times.

Ye Shall Be 2

Over the years many arguments have been made that some degree of narcissism is essential to success. Successful people, of course, are frequently confident and competitive. But you don’t have to be a jerk to get ahead. You can be driven, sure of yourself and your God-given abilities, and focused without being a massive black hole that devours everyone else’s happiness and sanity. You don’t need to steamroll over everyone else to achieve great things, or even to create the appearance that you have. When you are living as the person your Creator intended you to be, your actions and achievements will speak for themselves.

Looking more closely at each symptom gives a clearer picture of why those with a narcissistic bent, diagnosable or not, can be so taxing to be around. When someone has a grandiose sense of self-importance, it’s like they want the first place trophy while giving a third class performance.

I remember seeing an audition for American Idol one time in which a young girl gyrated and mumbled a Christina Aguilera song. Her mother became very upset when the judges passed on her, snapping, “she’s the total package.” I was taken aback because her daughter’s audition didn’t show any exceptional singing, dancing, or entertainment talent, but in her mother’s eyes, she was Christina’s clone. While it’s good for mothers to cheer on their children, this mom seemed delusional (or possibly tone-deaf).

Similarly, narcissists believe that just because they have some good qualities or talents, they are THE BOMB. They can have a very skewed and unrealistic view of their own abilities. In their minds they can be royalty, worthy of the highest honors and awards without putting in the sweat equity that would get them to that level. Does the word actor come to mind? There are actors and actresses who carry a heavy sense of self-importance because of their acting resumes. But I puzzle over their fame when they seem to play the same guy or gal in every movie.

Do they truly deserve the attention and praise lavished upon them? Or do we pay attention simply because they and their agents make such a big deal of themselves? This reminds me of the “popular” kids in high school. Were they “popular” and “cool” because they were friendly, kind, generous people, or because they constantly kept themselves in the public eye through their drinking, sexual escapades, and designer clothes?

Narcissists can be more than preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love– they can be obsessed. The Great Gatsby is a fair example of this. His desire for riches and success (and Daisy) motivated him to go to extremes that were eventually his downfall. Narcissists don’t want imperfect love; they want perfect, effortless love (which often involves meeting a mirror image of themselves, because it would bore them to partner with someone who has different interests). They don’t believe they should rise to middle management and spend a career there; they believe that they should be the CEO, whether qualified or not. They can live in a fantasy world in which their family members and friends become swept up in, and expected to work towards, their lofty dreams. I’m all for aiming for the moon and being the very best, but that involves a strong individual work ethic, not climbing up others’ coattails and bank accounts.

Believing that he or she is special and unique, and therefore should only rub elbows with other special or privileged people, is another frequent trait of narcissists. In their minds, they are so special and unique that 99 percent of the world’s population is riff raff who are beneath them. They think that only other chosen ones can truly understand them because they are superior to the rest of humanity.

Ye Shall Be 3

Now God did, in fact, create each of us as special and unique individuals with a purpose and mission. No human is an accident. You are worth more than gold to Him, so much so that His son died to bring you life everlasting. He did not, however, intend for you to be an elitist snob who only associates with other intolerable elitist snobs. While we should choose our friends wisely, it’s important to remember that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, and your life is not worth more than the guy’s standing next to you in the checkout line.

Narcissistic people have a serious need to be told how good-looking, talented, funny, hard-working, insightful, creative, generous, ___ (insert another adjective, repeat, etc.) they are. They might not be any of those things, but boy do they need you to remind them every single day that they are all that and a super-sized bag of potato chips. If you dare to suggest that they need to make some improvements or aren’t as spectacular as they claim to be, they will attack you. When you do so, you are disturbing their fantasies and their skewed view of themselves. Perhaps that attack comes out of a deep-seated insecurity that could even have traumatic origins, but it’s vicious and unnecessary.

“Has a very strong sense of entitlement.” Whew… I think I have a PhD and a black belt in dealing with this narcissistic demon. When you are around a narcissist, you had better jump when they say jump. You’d better act scared when they want to be intimidating. You’d better grovel and beg and mooch as soon as they hold out the royal ring. If they want food or sex or to watch a particular TV show or to be entertained– you’d better snap to it regardless of your own needs or time.

THEY dictate the terms of your relationship. THEY decide what is best for you. They will punish you if you don’t bow down immediately, and will incessantly remind you of your failures to comply as time goes on. The only way you can stay in their good graces is to treat them like a god. If you have a discussion about people’s rights, they are only concerned with their rights. Any exercise of your own rights is seen as a violation of theirs. If you try to solve a problem, you will soon find that not only is the problem yours to solve, but you are the cause of the problem as well.

Narcissistic people have, as the symptoms say, unrealistic expectations of the people around them (even the pets around them). Like a spoiled prince with half a jelly donut smeared all over his face who has tired of breaking his new toys, they will demand that those around them pay attention to them at all times and keep them from being bored. They take little responsibility for furnishing their own amusements. They want everyone around them to “dance,” as if they are toddlers who need mommy or daddy to keep bringing them the latest and greatest gadget to bounce around their highchair tray and then toss onto the floor. While they should be asking what they can do for others and how to engage others in mutually enjoyable activities, they are so laser-focused on themselves that life with them is a 24/7 reminder that you exist for their pleasure.

Exploiting others is as natural to narcissists as planting a tree in the ground. That’s where you’d plant a tree, right? So that’s what you do with other human beings. Whatever can be gained from the people around them will be taken unless they are stopped. They are powerful vacuum cleaners who contrive all sorts of darling (yet usually transparent) lines about how to gain your money, get you to pay for a trip, buy them clothes, and generally take advantage of you. Some can be intimidating and mean rather than darling, but the goal is the same– to use you as a filling station on the road of life. You are a means to their fantasies of perfection and glory.

It should be noted that narcissists don’t just exploit your time and money, they can exploit you sexually, emotionally, and in other ways. In their eyes their victims must seem like one-stop shopping centers. They pick and choose what they want for themselves regardless of the costs to their victims. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been exploited before or have little to give; what matters is that your store is open. This is why it’s so important to set and maintain boundaries with narcissists, and cut off the relationship altogether if needed. Don’t let people tell you that you have to keep a door open for a narcissist because they’re family, or you’ve known them for years, or they’re your boss. You already know the hell they cause and need to draw a line in the sand to protect yourself and your own people.

Ye Shall Be 4

Narcissists lack empathy. What is empathy? It is the ability to stand in another person’s shoes. Narcissistic folks frequently lash out at others when their demands aren’t being met. They will say the ugliest, most horrible things to try and force others to comply with their wishes. They will tell you you’re stupid, ugly, unfair, evil, selfish, abusive, and any other insult during their tantrums designed to force you to give in. They don’t care how much this hurts you or how low this makes you feel. Yet if someone were to call them stupid, ugly, unfair, evil, or even one of those things, they would be horrified at how deeply you’ve wounded them (and not let you forget it). “Do unto others” is lost on them because life’s all about them.

People like this are often envious of others and think others are envious of them. Their eyes are on what makes them most noticeable, the most outrageous, the most “popular.” They will sometimes do shocking and perverse things to remain the center of attention as they attempt to outdo their perceived “competition.” Again, this sounds like high school. But it also sounds like a lot of so-called celebrities who are basically famous for being famous (or because they “leaked” a sex tape). Life is a cutthroat beauty pageant for them. When they enter a room they want everyone to drop what they’re doing and come fawn over them as if they’ve floated in on a throne perched on clouds. If you don’t pay these games, then you’re “jealous” of them or there’s something wrong with you.

This brings me to the last symptom of NPD, regularly showing arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes. I once worked with a woman who liked to let me know that my opinions and beliefs were inferior to hers. There was no rational basis for her objections; she just enjoyed trying to let others know how superior her tastes were. If I was talking to other coworkers about how much we liked ravioli, she’d enter the conversation uninvited and expound upon the reasons that spaghetti was far superior to ravioli. The verbal spaghetti bludgeoning would be accompanied by a knowing smile and chuckle, as if the rest of the idiots in the office didn’t have the mental capacity to comprehend why no adult could possibly like ravioli better. What a sad way to live. There was such an unhealthy need to dominate others’ views and conversation, particularly mine.

Narcissistic people are adept at communicating like snotty little fifth graders who don’t want the kid in hand-me-downs to play with them at recess. They sometimes lack adult communication and problem-solving skills, yet believe they communicate perfectly well and continually remind you that “you’re not listening.” They like letting you know that you’re not ___ enough (insert giving, fun, adventurous, cool, smart, or other adjective) but that they are. Just the other day I was listening to this type of person extol their own virtues and was reminded how much I can’t stand being around this. I was doubly reminded when I tried to find common ground and a personal jab was taken to remind me that they were “superior.”

If you identify as a narcissist or struggle with NPD, please consider how much your arrogance and haughtiness alienates people. Your family members or coworkers might have to tolerate you to the extent that they see you at family gatherings or work with you every day, but in time they’re going to pull away to protect themselves. If you treat them as commodities rather than fellow travelers on the road of life, your motives will become obvious and they will create distance. Everyone needs a support network and some semblance of a family, so you’re ultimately damaging yourself and your world by being so take and not give. Someday you’re going to wake up and find that they’re no longer there for you, and that will be a very lonely place to be. Now is the time to seek help. You need an intervention. You need therapy.

You also need your Father. Why? By setting yourself up as what we call in my church a little g god, you are denying the power of the big G God in your life. God is love. Who would deliberately turn away more love? Love can cause a radical shift in our behaviors and worldview. The more love we have, the more inclined we are to turn outward rather than focusing inward. The more love we have, the more we ask what other people need rather than what they can do for us. The more love we have, the more power we have to change the world in ways that can last forever. As Marcus Aurelius said, what we do now echoes in eternity. Do you truly want to be remembered as someone who never matured beyond an infantile sense of self-entitlement, or do you want this life, this mere beginning in the grand scheme of things, to count for something far greater than yourself?

Philips Brooks said that the true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. Stand at your highest, and then look at Christ, then go away and forever be humble. How small we are indeed when the created try to measure up to the Creator. No matter how magnificent we think we are, not one of us has ever spoken one complex little atom into being. Not one of us makes the stars come out at night or makes the grass grow or can cause a man and a woman to look at each other and experience a depth of feeling so profound that they are left speechless as some ancient memory is stirred. There is simply no value in being a narcissist when you consider that all of your greatness and all of your glory has been made possible by Someone infinitely wiser and more powerful than you anyway.

If your life is being impacted by a narcissist, start setting boundaries today. Lay down clear ground rules and do not waver from them. You must also provide consequences for violations of those rules and boundaries. You might also need to take away the tools they are harassing you with. You might be in a situation in which you have to tell the person that you will only communicate about specific matters at certain times and by certain means. If you have to obtain a court order to enforce this, do so.

Narcissists will pick at you and remind you of how needy they are by every means imaginable. You might ask them to only speak on the phone and ignore their obsessive texts, or you might ask them to communicate in writing only so you have a record of what was said. Don’t respond every time they prod you. That rewards the bad behavior. Expect them to act within guidelines and stick with it. This applies to children as well. Don’t give in to them by jumping every time they say jump. That’s how narcissists are made. You’re the adult; lay down the law and provide consequences when they start acting like they’re the grown-up instead.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a real problem and can’t be fixed overnight. I believe it can only be fixed if the person exhibiting those symptoms truly wants to change. To change, they generally need to realize how their mindset and choices are hurting themselves. They’re not good at understanding how their actions affect others, so they need to realize that ultimately their behavior is self-destructive and that people they depend on will only tolerate it for so long. So you cannot continue to allow them to act like little tyrants with jelly donut on their faces. You are doing both them and yourself a disservice if you don’t set boundaries and– boom– put them on notice when they try to cross those, which they inevitably will. Think of a gate that comes down when a drawbridge is about to go up. They shall not pass.

Ye Shall Be 5

In conclusion, I am deeply disturbed that narcissism has become so pervasive in our society. Every day self-centeredness is evident by people’s driving, shopping, lack of manners, and lack of empathy. WE are more important. WE are entitled to great things. MY time is more valuable. These are the lies that are dividing people instead of bringing them together. These are the lies that crush families and destroy relationships.

My hope is that as we look towards true perfection, and a truly flawless character in our Creator, that we will use Him as the mirror in which to look when wanting to compare ourselves and not each other. In this form, in the here and now, we were not created to be as gods. We were created to glorify the one true God, and in doing so, to become more and more like Him instead of more and more like humans who took a chance on the lie and ate the apple. The original lie has never worked and it never will.

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Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self… Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Slave to Entertainment

Lolita's (Tokitae's) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Lolita’s (Tokitae’s) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Yesterday, August 8th, was the 44th anniversary of the Penn Cove Capture. In this sickening, inhumane event, a large group of wild orcas was chased into a cove near Whidbey Island, Washington with speedboats and explosives. Seven were taken into captivity and five died during the roundup, including a mother trying to rescue her calf.

No feeling person could read an account of how the orcas responded during this event and not feel disgusted by it. Orcas are intelligent mammals with their own language and culture, and because scores of them were captured in Northwest waters in that time period, they are an endangered species today.

Only one of the orcas captured near Penn Cove– also the oldest captive orca anywhere– is still alive. Lolita, originally called Tokitae, has been at the Miami Sequarium ever since 1970 when she was taken from her pod. She is nearing 50, and for the past 44 years has been having to dance for her food in a substandard-sized tank in the hot sun.

She still recognizes her native tongue; she still has relatives, including an orca in her 90s who is likely her mother, roaming the Salish Sea in the Northwest. Despite all the efforts to bring her back to a sea pen in her native waters, the Miami Seaquarium still won’t allow her to come home and our government has failed to make it happen. Lolita/Tokitae is the Seaquarium’s star attraction and has made untold millions for them.

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

Howard Garrett of the Orca Network provided a link to this documentary in a recent newsletter, Lolita: Slave to Entertainment. This film was made in 2003, and sadly, more than 11 more years have passed without improvements in her situation. As the experts interviewed in this piece said, this orca will be worked until she’s dead. She’s already outlasted the rest of her captured peers, some by decades. Some captured orcas have even killed themselves, as did Kathy, the lead dolphin in the Flipper TV series. It’s why Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry became a marine animal rights activist.

You’d think that after 44 years the Miami Seaquarium’s owners could show a little compassion and let their star attraction retire in peace. Orcas have life spans similar to humans and I know that when I hit 50 I don’t want anyone keeping me locked in a bathroom and making me do ballet for a sandwich a couple times a day. I don’t want that now. Yet this amazing creature, who has shown such resilience and spirit despite the daily cruelty she endures, is required to do exactly that in a crappy concrete prison that’s not even properly sized.

Please take an hour to watch Lolita: Slave to Entertainment in memory of what happened at Penn Cove (and elsewhere in the Northwest in the 1960s and 1970s). Some clips, like seeing Lolita/Tokitae float listlessly and alone in her tub between shows and at night, are difficult to watch. But this is a story every schoolchild in the Northwest and in Florida should know. This is an issue all Washingtonians should unite on.

Now is a good time to make your voice heard. As the Orca Network has pointed out, last month the Miami Seaquarium was purchased by Palace Entertainment, which owns over 70 theme parks. We have an opportunity to change the barbaric practice of orca capture and confinement; let’s do this. The Orca Network’s Lolita page has links so that you can easily contact Palace Entertainment.You can read Howard Garrett’s letter to Palace Entertainment here.

Tokitae Ferry

Next time you board the new Washington State ferry Tokitae, take a moment to think of who it’s named after. Your involvement could save her life. Photo by Karen Ducey, Puget Sound Business Journal.

When the half a century-old Lolita is finally brought home to a sea pen in the San Juan Islands, I’d imagine that her reaction would be similar to Raju the elephant’s, who was just released from 50 years of captivity. Raju had been beaten and forced to wear spiked chains. He ate what he could get from passing tourists but sometimes ate plastic just to fill his stomach. When his captors knew he was about to be rescued they chained him even tighter, and then when those shackles finally came off, he cried.

Raju

Like orcas, elephants are highly intelligent animals who live in groups, and Raju went through 50 years of hell as well. He now lives in a refuge with five other elephants who have welcomed him as a friend. He can now spend the last chapters of his life eating regular food, being loved by a family, and being properly cared for by humans instead of exploited.

I hope for the same for Tokitae. Together we can make it happen.

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A righteous man regards the life of his animal,

But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Being Professional

Roz

When was the last time you walked into a business and wanted to go back because of the generic, cardboard treatment you received at the hands of an emotionless drone? Probably never, right?

Over the years I’ve pondered what, exactly, constitutes professional behavior. We see unprofessional behavior all the time– laziness, swearing, bullying, people who act like their jobs are all about them… the list could be endless. But what, in your mind, causes you to say, “wow, that person was very professional?”

During my first full-time job back in the day I was introduced to business speak. I was listening to a female supervisor banter with some male business guests and felt incredibly awkward about the exchange. But the exchange was, by some standards, professional. It sounded like all parties in the conversation were reading lines from a Dale Carnegie seminar or the latest trendy book on sales that everyone bought because they knew someone else who bought it.

“It is interesting to observe your operations.”

(polite laughter, “a ha ha ha”)

“We’re about improving the bottom line.”

(“Yes, yes, a ha ha ha.”)

“We must improve our paradigm and shift our resources to the bifurcated capital establishment.”

(“Great, a ha ha ha.” Generic smiles and emphatic nodding. This could have been anybody talking to anybody.)

My young mind thought, “that’s how people do business?” These people did not sound like they were talking to other human beings; it was more like they were trading superficial niceties with fancy, fashionable labels, accomplishing…? The stroking of an ego? Future opportunities to throw around more ’90s phrases?

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I don’t do superficial. If someone walks up to me and politely sneers, “hiiiii, how are yooooouuu?” they should be expecting an honest answer. While on the phone, as a public servant, I’m not going to launch into a detailed description of my neighbor’s mishap with his Nutri Ninja the night before, I still cringe when, “to be professional,” I say, “good.” Because if I’m not good, I feel like a liar.

Similarly, I feel that spending any amount of time sounding like I’m reading from a script during a business interaction is largely a waste. We’ve all done this dance. We exchange pleasantries, we toss around worn euphemisms, we talk about the kids’ sports and how the Seahawks are doing. But I believe everyone has a story. Everyone is unique and has something to give. To me a professional person is one who treats me as an individual and shows true caring rather than going through the motions of what they believe their bosses expect of them.

The other night I was brainstorming terms that that can be synonymous with professional. I’m just going to share it as it came to mind, because I’ve both worked in places where some of these traits are expected and witnessed it as a client or citizen.

Stern

Emotionless

Authoritative

Mean

Having the right to insult and disparage others

Superficial (!!!!)

Using worn, shallow, generic phrases instead of actually communicating with people

Patronizing

Impersonal

Not allowing creativity or individuals’ personality traits

Demanding uniformity rather than emphasizing individuals’ strengths

Reading from a script

Artificial

Have you ever felt this way at work? Like you’re expected to be a robot and just paste on a smile and say the same things no matter who you’re talking to? My question to management is, “when have you ever felt better after being treated this way?” Another question is, “is that really what your customers or public want?”

Then I made my list of qualities I consider professional:

Respectful

Helpful

Accommodating

Personable

Upbeat

Creative

Interested

Caring

Willing to think outside the box

Individual personality traits shine

Problem solver

Follow-through

Takes issue to the next level if needed

Respects me as a taxpayer, citizen, customer

Someone I’d want to talk to again

Obviously there are jobs and situations in which we have to show restraint. We can’t create liability for our organizations by apologizing, showing too much emotion, or becoming overly involved. We have defined roles and protocols. But almost every contact we have is an opportunity to treat others like their problem and input is important– because it often is.

If someone is being entitled or demanding you can always wait until you hang up or walk away to rassa frassa aahhhhh!!… and I openly admit to having my rassa frassa aahhh!! moments throughout the day. It’s no secret. I just have to ensure that I was professional enough to allow them to air their grievances (within reason) and make sure they felt heard. They took the time to call; even if they didn’t get the answer they wanted, they need to at least have the satisfaction that a fully functioning human being heard them out.

Government employees in particular can get a bum rap for being staid automatons who are just there for the paycheck. Fortunately I work with hundreds of people who aren’t like that at all. My circles are brimming with personality and I love that. But once in a while you’ll walk into some agency where you find a little truth to the stereotype and think, “It’s Roz! From Monsters, Inc.!” In particular, people don’t like being treated generically or talked down to by those in authority.

This can be a particularly sensitive issue in law enforcement because police officers have to maintain solid boundaries while interacting with all types of people. However, some of the most effective cops and other law enforcement employees I’ve known are those who command respect through being personable and committed to solving the problem at hand. Frankly, when you’re talking to them, you feel like you’re being taken seriously by a fellow resident of earth rather than simply being preached at or chastised by a superior life form. The latter may be seen as professional, but the former is infinitely better received by the public and causes both victims and suspects to open up.

Having been a front counter person for many years, this same behavior can happen in that venue. When you walk up to get help, do you want someone to stare at the ceiling like Steve in Office Space and start in with a monotone, “Good evening sir, my name is Steve. I come from a rough area. I used to be addicted to crack but now I am off it and trying to stay clean. That is why I am selling magazine subscriptions.” If you’ve seen the movie you know exactly what I’m driving at.

And– no! When I interact with someone at the counter I want to know who they are, how I can help them, and find something to laugh about while I’m at it. It creates rapport and fosters a mutual problem solving relationship rather than an adversarial one. I often notice people’s hats or t-shirts and strike up conversations about what’s on them. Inevitably we all know someone who knows someone who also stalks Bigfoot, served in a particular war, or enjoys being a walking billboard for a certain brand.

Next time you’re at the store/renewing your tabs/mailing a package/reporting a crime/buying a suit/getting a new battery for your cell phone that seems to be inhabited by sadistic, power hungry micro-gnomes, ask yourself if you’d treat you that way. Seriously. Were you treated as an individual with a unique need? Was the interaction pleasant or would you have felt the same if strapped to the wall of an overcrowded squash court with a blindfold on and bad Burt Bacharach muzak playing?

Ultimately, the question I’m asking is, “what feels professional to you?” Is it the generic, impersonal, outdated junk that’s been instilled in us from early on that we spew without thinking twice, or is it being human and helping other human beings find solutions? You already know the answer because you already know what speaks to you. Now go and do that, and watch how it transforms your relationships, your job, and your success.

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Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.  -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Pateros in Flames

From VisitOkanogan.com

From VisitOkanogan.com

The City of Pateros, Washington is burning. This picturesque town of about 650 people in north central Washington where the Methow and Columbia Rivers meet is beloved by many. We go there to relax, to enjoy the outdoors, and to enjoy the scenery. An out of control wildfire, one of scores burning in the state right now, has consumed 100 homes in the county at last report. I just received word that a friend’s home– astonishingly– is still standing. That does not mean it is unscathed.

KXLY: Homes, businesses lost in raging Central Washington firestorm

Chaos and devastation cover Washington’s Methow Valley, as a wildfire jumped a ridge and flames burned into the town of Pateros. Homes and businesses are burning to the ground in the firestorm that is burning into the town of Brewster as well.

The fire, stemming from the Carlton Canyon fire, has been burning for several days. Around 6 p.m. Thursday night wind fanned the flames down a hillside and the flames came racing towards Pateros.

At 8 p.m. Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers ordered the evacuation of Pateros. As they left town, witnesses reported seeing businesses and homes on fire. The hospital in Brewster was evacuated as was the evacuation center set up by the Red Cross.

I’ve been receiving email reports about this for a few days and am compelled to share some of that information about the fire as an appeal for help. First, a fire close to Wenatchee. I don’t know who to give credit to; their name is not on the OneDrive page I retrieved these from. This looks like hell. Or a furious volcano.

Central WA Fires 7-14 2

Central WA Fires 7-14 1

Here is one account from Thursday, July 17th:

…the last I heard the fire was headed to the shed in the back of our house in Pateros. The neighbor’s house across the street is now gone. When she called me the fire was in the brush in the back, green lawns and sprinklers didn’t seem to matter, in minutes it was gone. Fire was headed to the church also near our house. I have no idea what is burning and what will be left.  I talked to the Red Cross in Chelan, they said it was very bad.  I tried to get my renters back on the phone, no answer. (Renter) was sitting in her car watching the house and crying. I told her kids to tell her to leave, never mind the house. Safety and their lives is what matters. They were all crying, scared and shocked, after all it is their home and their belongings. It was pitch black at 4:30, power lines went out, so much confusion. Cattlemen trying to save their herds. My daughter’s grandmother in a nursing home has to be moved, the hospital in Brewster is moving patients to Omak. The whole hillside above the town was on fire when I was first called. The water tower’s just above the school. It’s not just one town, it is Twisp, Carlton, Brewster, I heard another on near Leavenworth  and around Lake Wenatchee. So many fires, so dry, like matches and gasoline, then the wind does its thing. One fire jumped the Columbia River, that is a big jump, they got that one under control…   

This is a photo of Pateros burning. It was sent with the caveat, “This picture was not taken at night, that’s how dark it was getting… I hope people here will step up like they did at Oso.”

Central WA Fires 7-14 3

One local said:

I received a call  from (family member), who actually saw the fire jump onto the hill in back of Pateros and he said within minutes it had spread horizontally, taking everything in its path. He said it was so painful, watching Pateros burn.  He had been at Ft. Okanogan earlier in the day and was returning home to Wenatchee.  This Carlton Complex Wildfire is a monster and all the surrounding counties are in flames.

I am sick at heart for all of you.  I am praying very hard and asking others to do so, too.

Tanya Wards Jones took this picture of vehicles leaving town. This looks like a scene out of a zombie apocalypse movie.

Central WA Fires 7-14 4

Okanogan County is in a state of emergency. The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle has continuing local coverage and right now is featuring these headlines:

Emergency declared by county commissioners

Wildfire destroys buildings in Pateros

Roads closed, structures destroyed in Methow wildfires

Methow Valley shelter moves from Twisp to Winthrop

Tribe mops up five fires at Owhi Lake

Malott area evacuation ordered; 100 or more homes lost county-wide

Utility declares emergency; repairs could take weeks

Their front page features this dramatic photo, timely as just before I went to their site I was thinking of these timeless lyrics to a favorite hymn. They’re a reminder that there is only one sure thing in this world and it’s Him.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

From the Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle

From the Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle

KOMO is reporting that Malott has been evacuated as well as part of Brewster. Also:

The fire consumed utility poles from two major power lines, knocking out power to Pateros as well as the towns of Winthrop and Twisp to the north.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, and gusting winds and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.

Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state’s Military Department, said 100 National Guard troops were on standby, and up to 1,000 more in Yakima could receive additional fire training. Active duty military could be called in as well, Inslee said.

“This, unfortunately, is not going to be a one-day or one-week event,” he said.

The Seattle Times has a map of the fire, information on highway closures, and other useful information.

KCPQ has video of the aftermath in Pateros.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources site has great information including a burn risk map, Twitter feed, and links to updates on the fires.

Here’s how to help. Please remember that both people and animals need assistance at times like this.

The Ron & Don show has posted this information:

All of the Les Schwab Tire Centers locations in Western Washington, along with shops in Wenatchee, East Wenatchee and all locations up to Oroville are acting as drop-off points for item donations. All items are welcome. The locations will collect items and then drop them off where they are needed, including Chelan, Pateros and Brewster.

The Wenatchee World has compiled a list of other ways you can help our neighbors in need, some of whom have lost everything:

Chelan PUD offices are now accepting donations of money or gift cards to the Red Cross at their Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Chelan locations. They will also collect donations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Chelan Riverwalk Park. For more information, call 663-8121 or (888) 663-8121. • Wenatchee: 327 N. Wenatchee Ave., • Chelan: 1034 E. Woodin Ave. • Leavenworth: 222 Chumstick Hwy.

North Cascades Bank has set up a fire relief fund at all of its branches. Anyone can donate. For more information, call your local branch — Wenatchee, 888-6000.

A fire relief fund has been set up by the Community Foundation of NCW. The fund, announced by Beth Stipe this morning, will partner with the Red Cross to provide short- and long-term aid to fire victims. To donate, visit cfncw.org or send checks to 9 S. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801. For more information, call 663-7716.

Dicks Towing in Wenatchee will be accepting donations and delivering them to Chelan. There is no limit to donations. Necessary items include food, clothing, personal hygiene items, toys, giftcards and baby necessities. Dick’s will also be delivering supplies to firefighters, including snacks, water and personal hygiene items. Items should be dropped off at 110 Thurston St. near the Link Transit Station. Drop-off hours are Mon.-Fri., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To drop off at different hours or for more information call 663-1623.

Lakeland Veterinary Clinic in Manson is not accepting animals for boarding, but is taking dog and cat food donations for the Chelan shelter. You can reach them at 687-1021. 

Q13 says the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society is also helping the animal survivors. Besides their wonderful website, they also have a Facebook page. They’ve also reported that there is a site dedicated to helping people find pets lost during the fires. It is managed by the National Disaster Animal Response and Recovery Teams.

There are many more ways to help and volunteer at the Wenatchee World’s How to Assist Fire Victims site. Please keep checking their page for updates. And please check before you donate goods– some sites are not collecting them or they might not be needed. Cash donations to the Red Cross are always helpful.

Update 7/23/14: A coworker whose hometown is Pateros says donations can also be made at the Give Naked site.

I have feelers out to the faith community in this county to find out how the churches are helping and what they need. Please keep the people and creatures in this area, great and small, in your prayers tonight. Also pray for the safety of those fighting the fires. I’ve heard some eerie terminology describing these infernos like “out of control,” “a funnel of fire,” and “cauldron of hell.” This is a very dangerous situation and once the flames are out there is a long road to recovery ahead.

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What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? -George Eliot

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

Special Operations

Spycar

You had me at illuminated manuscripts.

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with author Tom Lukas about his first book in a developing series, Special Operations. Standing by his ultra-hip 1972 Volvo p1800e coupe dubbed Spycar, which he’s touring  the country in to promote his series, he offered inside access to a mind always wired for writing, but that didn’t take the plunge until his 30s. At that point he exited a carpentry career to earn a degree in English literature. Readers will be glad he did.

Having recently read Special Operations, I can see how Lukas’ rich and varied life experiences, tinted by both triumph and tragedy, developed into a thriller that showcases the best and worst traits of the human soul. Knowing my interests in forensic psychology, he’d mentioned the complexity of the villain’s character. As you delve into the book you find that some bystanders begin to laud the antagonist’s missions and find yourself wondering how far you would go to protect innocents.

But is it protection, revenge, the indulging of a grossly overinflated, demonic god complex in a garish, theatrical bonfire of narcissism, or all of the above? Or more? What the Illuminator, the shadowy figure who captures key community figures, does is unquestionably over the top and excessive. But in bringing such a character to life, Lukas takes the revenge fantasies that victims of certain horrors might well have indulged and injects them with expired steroids. Some of these stygian twists and turns are so gut-wrenching they’re difficult to read, but they are not beyond the realm of possibility. That’s what makes them so terrifying.

How the Illuminator got from point A to point Z on the sadism spectrum really made me stop and think. I had to build a mental timeline to zero in on how an arguable hero became a butcher who seems like the next incarnation of Josef Mengele. This was especially intriguing because on the very first page, we learn that the Illuminator might be a woman. The MO and signature are not typical of a woman.

Spycar 3

 

Without giving away key plot points, I could see how certain events contributed to this, although how we respond to such events is often a matter of choice. But there was some other factor at play, something whispering behind the curtain that I couldn’t put my finger on until later in the book. This missing puzzle piece nearly floated to the surface by the final pages, shocking in its stark reality, and causing readers to question how often such things happen in the real world.

Also of particular interest to me were the law enforcement characters. I’ve known a lot of cops in various contexts– as a friend, as a spouse, as a coworker, as a student, as a survivor, and so on. Detective Nick Giaccone resembles some of the veterans I know, guys who now do consulting or side work as they age out of the ranks. Those are also some of the best investigators I know.

Giaccone is unwittingly drawn into this case just as he’s about to retire and is pulled deeper and deeper into a tragedy involving a rookie officer. In his investigation he realizes that he should have been paying more attention to his spider sense all along– and this despite his seasoned instincts. As he replays conversations and dredges up old memories, he is able to piece together the bigger picture, leading him to an epic showdown with a surprisingly formidable enemy.

In my writings on sociopaths and domestic violence, I like to remind people of what Gavin de Becker said in his bestseller The Gift of Fear, a book a trusted cop coworker introduced me to over a decade ago. Trust that uneasy feeling you get even if it doesn’t make sense– don’t dismiss it. If someone says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, pay attention.

In The Gift of Fear, de Becker tells us of a man who walked into a convenience store, but had an odd feeling and wound up leaving without buying anything. Shooting erupted soon after. Similarly, domestic violence victims often say that they sensed something was off when they met their abuser, but were charmed by their words anyway. That gut feeling isn’t prone to inaccuracies.

This is the voice that rises in Detective Giaccone as he teams up with a noted professor to interpret clues, particularly bits of illuminated manuscripts positioned at crime scenes. As Professor Canon Nailor and Giaccone connect over their shared second language and common cause, they become the odd couple of policing, at least for a time. We realize there could be more to Professor Nailor when the “dragon” enters, his vehicle of choice. But is there? And why would there be?

Ultimately this book reminded me of what a Holocaust survivor said about Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann– that Eichmann lives in all of us. Human passions and desires, unchecked, can lead straight to hell. There is a point at which the desire for justice  or revenge can cross over into the very territory that the justice seeker wishes to conquer. The abused can become the abuser; the advocate can become the vigilante. In our quest to set the world right we can become something even worse than the monster that violated us or those we love.

Special Operations starts like a roller coaster ride through a haunted house– if you remember the old Flight to Mars ride at the Seattle Center you’ll think you’re inside of that. Safely inside the standard formulaic crime novel, you buckle up and prepare to meet the usual cast of characters. Standard and usual, however, do not apply here. By the end of the book you’re out in the open, ten stories above the city at the top of the tracks not knowing when or how you’ll plummet down in book two.

Spycar 2

 

Lukas knows evil, and as a Christian who studies the dark souls among us, I am reminded of just how dark the night is inside a soul surrendered to forces that strengthen unholy desires. I am also moved to acknowledge how powerful love, devotion, and loyalty are, especially when there is justice to be sought.

In conclusion, Lukas has a gift for descriptive prose and a deep empathy and compassion for victims of sex crimes. For a guy who’s never worked in law enforcement, I appreciate how tuned in he is to the nuances of cops and the frustrations of some of the more seasoned investigators. My only major criticism, other than a smattering of choppy sentences that I tend to write with as well, is that at times I had trouble understanding how many years had passed between a key character’s death and this storyline. At times it seemed like a decade or more; other times much shorter. When I read it again sometime I’ll pay more attention to that. But first I plan to get my hands on a review copy of book two when it’s available. Lukas is actively conducting research to make the next installation at least as realistic and jarring.

Special Operations is published by Spycar Books and Yancastel Inc. in Seattle, Washington. Visit Tom Lukas’ website, Spycar Books, to learn more about this series, the car, and the man who had the courage to switch careers to start chasing his dreams.

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Are there, infinitely varying with each individual, inbred forces of Good and Evil in all of us, deep down below the reach of mortal encouragement and mortal repression — hidden Good and hidden Evil, both alike at the mercy of the liberating opportunity and the sufficient temptation? –Wilkie Collins

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

 

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