Sunday, February 21, 2010

Organization Development Network Brief gets me thinking about the fall of the Berlin Wall

Peter Norlin, Executive Director of the OD Network wrote a piece back in October 2009 (as you can tell by my flurry of posts, I'm clearing out my "to blog" box with this first weekend of relative calm in quite a while).

While it had a larger focus of the walls that OD practitioners put up, I sidetracked on the introductory piece which I paste here:

OD Network Briefs, October 2009

News from the Organization Development Network

Snarling, stinking, snapping his fore-fangs,
out of the woods, wild waste beyond woods,
comes beast, comes brute, carnivorous, ravenous,
but before him--and oh, we were saved--rose our wall.

Violent, fearsome, with invulnerable helmet and shield,
Comes antagonist, foe, furious, pitiless, lethal,
axe-men behind him chanting their cuneiform curse,
but before him--and oh, saved again--loomed our wall.

So we raised ever more walls, even walls
that might fail: Jericho shucked from its ramparts,
men, women, old, young, all slaughtered.
What did it matter? We believed still in our wall.

Then the inspiration to build walls facing in!
Reservation, concentration camp, ghetto,
finally whole countries walled in, and saved were we
from traitors who'd dare wish to flee our within.

That such walls fail, too, fall, too? No matter.
Only raise more. That all walls, facing out or in,
fail, fall, leaving fossils of lives in numb rubble?
No matter. Raise more. Only raise more.

C.K. Williams, "Wall."

Williams, a Pulitzer Prize-, National Book Award-winning poet, wrote this chilling verse to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, an event whose images and implications reverberated quickly around the world. In Willams's short review of the history of human wall-building, however, it's clear that he doesn't believe that, as a familiar solution to terror, hubris, or xenophobia, we're probably done with walls. Consider, as an example, our own trust in the wall we've been erecting on the U.S./Mexican border, designed to discourage illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

While I have nothing other than my increasingly-unreliable memory of world history as support, the poet's position--that we've obviously never learned any lessons about walls--seems persuasive. Despite a long, comprehensive documentation of their failure, it seems that we somehow believe--no, we know--that our best defense in this difficult situation would clearly be . . . a wall! Such a choice sadly, certainly exposes our inability to think systemically. Clearly, we're drawn to walls intuitively, even though they don't work, because we believe they should work. So what a dramatic symbol of the aspirations and limitations of the human mind walls turn out to be.

I didn't really have any deeper thoughts than those offered by the poet or the executive director. I thought at a more personal level about where I was and what I was doing when the Berlin Wall fell. I was living in France serving as a missionary. I actually didn't even learn about the wall fall until a few weeks after it happened when we caught glimpses of it on the news at someone's house. The work in which I was engaged, and the conditions we imposed on ourselves to increase our effectiveness were walls to my even hearing about the event and its implications. It reminds me a bit now of the pleasant isolation I enjoyed while we were living in Hawaii as I filled a visiting faculty position at BYU-Hawaii. News events did not really have to be very timely in some respect- whether things happening on the mainland happened a week ago or yesterday had little impact in our day to day life- completely disconnected. Walls of focused work, blocking out the outside, or walls of geography, separation by distance.
In any case, a bit of an interesting exercise to think of the walls erected of various kinds, and their implications for us at work, home, etc.

Currahee- a wounded soldier in recovery

Buzzword bingo

Back in the MBA student days, we enjoyed either listening to faculty or students bluster their way through an explanation by resorting to buzz speak. One faculty member even made a game of it in his class, calling it out when he heard the language creeping into a student's comments- gently, though, not harshly. There's amusement to be found in seeing how little one can say while speaking so much

Given those fond memories, I thought I'd leverage this value-added post in order to continue to grow my blog business which I recently monetized by adding Google's ad system, a nimble and robust solution.

Getting emotional about being in the military

There is an ebb and flow to my participation in the military- some of the high demand periods come from roles that get offered or assigned (such as a recent assignment to command a rear detachment of an MP battalion) or from the occasional officer education assignment (such as a recent and ongoing program that is referred to generically as "Intermediate Level Education", an expected experience prior to promotion to Lieutenant Colonel).

So I've had a good bit of military "in my face" recently, easily the most since my return from the Iraq deployment back in April '08.

But I typically have had a bit of separation between those experiences and the personal or family life- I, like many guys, have the "compartmentalization" thing where when I put the green on, I'm somehow able to focus fairly well on that. Conversely, when I'm not wearing green, it is a challenge to think in the military world beyond discussions with inquisitive non-military types.

I didn't participate in any real public ceremonies from the redeployment, haven't marched in any 4th of July parades, etc. Really, I've only had 2 experiences since I redeployed where my two worlds came together, and one of them was this past week.

The first experience was probably over a year or so ago when I was asked to speak at my son's scout group's court of honor close to either Veteran's Day or Memorial Day. I spoke briefly about their need to recognize that they need to prepare themselves to serve- family, church, community, country.  It was good for me to think about it- probably much more meaningful to me than any of the young men who participated in the event.

This past week, I got a call from a church friend, he asked me to participate in a flag dedication ceremony at a local middle school. I was there along with a Marine gunny sergeant and a Navy chief (both in dress uniforms) and a retired Air Force sergeant, and a number of local fire and police officers.  I haven't worn a dress uniform in years, and it would be quite the undertaking to try and put one together at this point... figure out what ribbons I have and where they go.... make sure I get the polish right on buckles and leather....

Anway, I was there in my digital camouflage- feeling a bit like a "rag bag", a little self-conscious given that I wasn't in dress uniform as the senior officer in the group (but not self-conscious enough to fix my uniform, apparently...). As the ceremony proceeded, it became apparent that part of the ceremony was to honor the Marine gunny, as he had built a bit of a track record with the middle school providing service and mentorship to the students, as well as participating actively in the community as a member of the police force, including SWAT work, so I'm guessing he's Guard or Reserve. They played a quick powerpoint video with music- the "I'm proud to be an American" folksy type music, showing photos of his couple of tours in Iraq and other law enforcement and military type images and photos.

I almost started crying as I stood there at parade rest.  I was proud of him, proud of myself, proud of these kids showing the respect that they did to the flag, their country and their gunny sgt. I was sad as I thought of those we left behind, of the many lives destroyed in horrific ways. Just an overwhelming emotional wave as I stood there and as we listened to the words, the music, as we saluted the flag.

I've had a number of times that emotional reaction has happened to me since the deployment- a tribute to troops at a fireside event at a scout camp, a musician performing on stage at UNC-Charlotte dedicating a song to military personnel, watching a show about the USO supporters at a Maine airport and the dedication they show in greeting redeployed troops and wishing departing troops well. It even happens from time to time as someone sends me an e-mail with a video or even just a few words of reflection and gratitude for military service.

It exhausts me every time it happens. I worry about being too emotional on one side, and on the other,  I worry about forgetting or becoming so desensitized that it stops meaning so much to me.

There's a bit of a paradox in trying to put it all behind me, but not wanting to forget the ways it has changed me for good. I still struggle to find the balance.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lowe's 10% Military Discount now year round....

And another post with praise to a company supporting the military- my current employer, Lowe's.

Lowe's recently announced expanding their 10% military discount to year round.....

That's nice.

H&R Block supporting the military

Worked through the annual tax filing preparation recently, and I have to say it has been getting consistently easier. Even though our finances get more complicated each year, electronic filing has just made things less painful.

I wanted to proclaim a loud THANK YOU! to H&R Block for their continued support of the military. For a number of years, they have offered their software/online tax preparation services (basic level) to Active, Reserve and National Guard members for free. I have enjoyed this benefit over the years, and appreciate it.