On the third Murphy season…

February 6, 2016 by

We are well into the third Murphy season. And this one promises to be more complicated than the other two combined.

The first season witnessed the bursting onto the scene of Rep Murphy as mental health messiah.   The tragedy at  Newtown  was still fresh and Rep.  Murphy allied with the vision of Dr.  Torrey and the Treatment Advocacy Center came preaching redemption.   What followed was an absolutely amazing scorched earth advocacy campaign in which Murphy insulted the integrity of virtually everyone who disagreed with him.   The Barber Bill was the final blow and the Murphy Bill ended up its first season more irrelevant than anything.

The second season was the drive to respectability.   Dr. Torrey was no longer in the front row of the battle and new faces and new alliances were the order of the day.   While little was changed in substance an effort seemed to be made to mute the ferociousness of the presentation. Major organizations only stay major if they are on the winning side of something and he did find allies willing to sign on.   He was the only game in town and I wonder how much they just didn’t want to be left out.   Major organizations like to promote their brand above all else and Murphy convinced them they won in his vision of the system to come.

The second season also was the entry of the Senate into the issue with their own Murphy Bill. The initial presentation was of the Murphy twins in perfect lock step but differences began to emerge. Sen. Murphy was from Connecticut, a state without AOT, and buttressed by the feedback from advocates in his state he committed the ultimate heresy. He started talking about a Murphy Bill without AOT. I still remember the day I read of Mr. Jaffe imploring all his followers to burn up the phone lines lest they be left with a Murphy Bill they didn’t recognize.

By the end of the year there was several Senate bills and talk of combining them into one giant bill in some as of yet undetermined manner.

In the House Rep Murphy was facing his own challenges. Despite all his talk about being willing to talk with people it turned out what that really meant was he was willing to give everyone an equal opportunity to agree with him. Despite lots of objections not one word of his bill changed. By the end of the summer be had accused the Democrats of trying to sabotage him and the splits were real and obvious. The original task the Republican leadership had given to Murphy to produce a non partisan bill to show that the House could actually accomplish something on a major issue seemed in major trouble.

Rep Murphy did get his bill through mark up in his sub committee but I couldn’t help but wonder if in winning the battle he didn’t put the war in jeopardy. The Democratic attack was withering. They plainly said if a bill was not passed that was more Senate and White House friendly the chances of success, of his bill actually becoming law were slim or none.

And now the third season has started.

Several things cloud the picture. I don’t think anyone really knows what will happen. I don’t think anyone knows for sure if anything will happen. No one has ever went broke betting on the Congress to fail to reach agreement about important matters.

1. The presidential election has and will effect things. Republican candidates in particular seem to be eager to define violence as a mental health issue and in their defense of second amendment “rights” show no reluctance to talk about “crazy people.” To what degree Democrats will support any mental health legislation framed as the solution to gun violence is unclear. This is particularly true if Democratic candidates come out in favor of some type of gun control. If the Republicans are successful in casting gun violence as a mental health issue personally I think we are going to see more and more hostile and limiting legislation as time goes on.

2. The House closed the year with am supposed commitment to address Democratic concerns to the Murphy Bill. The year started with Rep Green introducing a Democratic option. I haven’t yet read his bill yet but I do know it does not start with the assumption of the destruction of SAMHSA like many of the other bills do. It proposes a study but a study not done by anyone named Murphy or Torrey. How the Green bill will affect the Murphy Bill is not clear and not at all played out.

3. Rep Murphy is not in charge of this process. The power players in the Senate are Alexander, Cornyn, Murphy and Cassidy and I see no evidence he will have much influence on them. Sen Alexander in particular has power and he had made his dislike for AOT known.
4. Sen Cornyn would like for his bill to be the one to set the pace. There are strong Democratic reservations to provisions in his bill related to guns and if he tries to push the point it might threaten the “bipartisanship” the Senate is preaching. It might cause the whole thing to dissolve into squabbling.
5. If a bill passes that bill hasn’t been written yet. It will involve compromise from lots of people who do have some differences in the way they see things. Like I said before whether or not that can be done remains to be seen.

6. I think that if a bill can be agreed to that is packaged as bipartisan something will pass. Neither party will let the other own mental health reform. There are just too many people who want something to happen.

7. If a bill is passed I think there will be substantial parts of it not liked by the survivor or consumer community. I have had more than one person tell me that victory in their eyes would be if nothing passed.

8. The future is not written. The verdict is not in. What we do matters. Perhaps there are limits to how much any Bill is likely to improve things. There are no limits though to how much worse a bill can make it.

9. And finally. Rep Murphy has not given up and even with the very real obstacles in his way anybody who writes off his ultimate influence or impact is a fool.

Please support Tracy

February 6, 2016 by



“Dr.Hood informed me yesterday of my monitor results from a few months ago.My heart is staying in a sustained tachycardia and they are doing test to see why my heart is beating so fast even with my heart medicine..My heart is reaching 180 beats a minute pretty regularly..Sent me home and told me to avoid stress because this is dangerous..How do I avoid stress? I really would love that answer..he said that is reason I’m staying tired and feeling weak.and I’m at a high risk for a stroke or heart attack..Also said that maybe about an hour out of the day my heart goes below 130..Will be going back and forth for more test and for them to try and figure how to stop this before my heart just gives out..Thank you for your prayers and would appreciate more..God bless..Tracy♡♡♡”

The fight for Insure Tennessee is about heroism. It is about ordinary people, people without access to medical care, people often suffering, often sick saying they matter. It is about people who refuse to be defined by political convenience or ambition. It is about people who say we are defined by how we care for each other and who know that preventable death and unnecessary suffering can not be the policy of a decent government. It is about people like Tracy Foster.

The quote above is from my friend Tracy Foster. She is in the gap. It is the latest update on her gofundme account and if you open the link you will find the story of her fight for life. If you have read this blog you have heard her story multiple times. She is one of hundreds of people who have been to Nashville this month to tell politicians that now is the time to Insure Tennessee, that right and wrong is not defined by political season.

By any measure I know she is a hero. She would protest and tell you that you were wrong if you told her. But make no mistake. She is a hero.

I have seen a lot of movements in my time and I am convinced that although the powerful may win their share of battles that wars are won by the persistent. And persist we will.

I am thankful for the Tracy Fosters. I am grateful for her spirit and her courage. If this is about courage I celebrate people like Tracy.

I celebrate the courage of so many people.

It is time. The song below says it all. “Fill it up”

Insure Tennessee now.

A thought… A good thought

February 5, 2016 by


Watch “Fill It Up (full song)” on YouTube

February 4, 2016 by

The story of the sea gulls

February 4, 2016 by

I read this in a book.

There are 5 seal gulls setting on a wharf over the ocean.  One decides to fly away.  How many are left?


There is a difference in intending to do something, feeling like doing something, wanting to do something and actually doing it.

I mess that up a lot.  A whole lot.

I cant even begin to count the times I have badly wanted something to happen, or badly wanted to do something or was filled with a passion for something and nothing ever happened.

I don’t always do hard things well.  I have found that for me it matters if I try to make hard things easier to do.  Make them more likely. Every moment of every day we are making things either more likely or less likely.  Make the things you want to have happen more likely to happen.

I do things better when I build the capacity to do them.  Capability matters.  It means a lot of things.  Try to fill my days with things that are good for me as much as possible.  Try to find people who really support me.  I need no more accomplices.  Practice doing the things I want to do, particularly those things that help me to be the kind of person I want to be.

Make deciding a habit. Do something.  Evaluate it.  Change as necessary.  Little steps are steps.

I spend too  much time being a gull.










To do no harm….

February 4, 2016 by

There is a line in a movie, I think “Marathon Man”, that has stayed with me forever.  Laurence Olivier asking Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe….Is it safe….Is it safe….”

Is it???

The last 2 posts have about misogyny in the movement have brought a flood of comments, stories and thoughts.

I think for many people the answer to the question is no.

I have heard people talk about having to quit jobs they feel like it is no longer safe for them to have.  I have listened to people talk about fear for their physical safety.  I have listened to people talk about nightmares.  I have listened to people tell me they tell every female that wants to be part of this movement to be careful because many of the people they come into contact with will be dangerous.  Many have just talked about the reality of exploitation, discrimination and being treated as if what they think, what they write, what they say is not as important or as serious because of their gender.

I have had people tell me everyone knows.  One person told me that everyone also knew not to talk about it.  Another person told me that wasn’t it.  “You just have to live with it.  Saying something about it really doesn’t change anything.”  Several people told me that for them saying something had consequences and that if you wanted to be part of this movement you just had to be careful.  Some people have told me it is long past time for people to say anything.

Several people have said that this movement has the same issues as the wider culture and while that didn’t excuse it it did explain why so many people seemed to feel like it was so prevalent.

Some people said that although gender was a major part of things it was far more than a question of gender.  Personal injury, personal attack they said was common and widespread.  Some people said you had to be careful who you disagreed with or how public you were about that disagreement.  And some people you just didn’t talk to.  Not if you wanted to be safe.

Many people in the last months have told me they had just decided to back off.  It wasn’t they said worth it and first and foremost they needed to take care of themselves.

Perhaps I am wrong but I cant help but think that the ultimate impact of this movement has something to do with the cohesiveness of it (can we find connection amidst diversity) and although cohesiveness is more than one thing at least part of it is about how safe it is to identify with and try to become involved.  To what degree do we do no harm?

If there is enough interest in the topic I would like to do a special series under that topic…”To do no harm.”  Like I said above there are many ways to approach that topic.  If you would be interested in doing a guest post on this subject I would be  interested in hearing from you.  I do not have a time table as of yet….perhaps 3 or 4 weeks.  If there is an aspect of this topic that appeals to you I am very open on topic.

I want to thank the many people who cared enough to make some kind of comment or share something of their experience.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Smile day….

February 4, 2016 by

Today was the 41st anniversary.

In 1975 Linda as a college freshman at David Lipscomb College in Nashville (long before she met me)  had an idea and went to the student body president with that idea.   So was born the first and last “smile day.”   The idea was to have a day when people told each other they were glad to see each other,  that they treasured their company.   It was a day where the most important thing you could do was to tell someone else how important they were. It was a day to smile.

A very important day.   Linda doesn’t think they ever got around to a second one but she doesn’t know.   Shortly afterwards she was thrown out of Lipscomb.   She had several days with a bunch of seizures.   A dean told her they were not set up to deal with “people like her”  and asked her to leave.

But they had a day.   It’s a shame the holiday never caught on.   It’s a shame that it had to be a holiday. Would have been a great way to celebrate every day.

Today was the anniversary.  41 years ago they had a  “Smile Day.”

I think it must have been a good day.

A personal statement

February 1, 2016 by


One core value of this movement is that the exploitation or injury of any person because of the power, status or social standing of another person is wrong.  In every instance it is wrong.

So as you might expect the recent post about the issue of misogyny in this movement  has gotten a lot of response and feedback.   Many people have told me that it is a problem,  has been a problem for a long time and in fact has been an open secret that no one wants to or feels safe talking about. Some people have talked about behavior close to criminal.  Others have talked about exploitation, manipulation, prejudice and different standards of treatment based on their gender.  Some people have named names and some of those people have been named by more than one person.   Some people have said it is a problem but it is a problem everywhere and not much will happen until issues in the wider society are dealt with.  What seems apparent to me is that it is a problem,  from the perspective of many women I have talked to a major problem and that in least some circumstances a blind eye has been turned and people hurt.

The original post happened because someone that I have reason to believe is credible told me she had been hurt, been threatened and that she felt like her personal safety was at risk. She asked me to keep her identity confidential which I have done and will continue to do. Her story and things I have heard from others have left me with the conclusion the subject needed to be broached. Nothing I say should be taken so an attack or accusation towards any specific person. I do not have specific first hand knowledge of anything. I have stories, compelling stories but that is all. I know what I believe to be true.  My assumption, at least my hope, is that most of the people reading this post will have no direct experience with the issues I talk about, but again I do not know.  I am not trying to make trouble.  By any measure I know we have that already.  Anyway I think we are better served by trying to be what we claim to be and trying to hide or to minimize the exploitation or injury of anyway is a violation of who we claim to be and what we claim to be about.

I have a personal bias I need to be open about.

I have a friend who survived 16 years in a state mental institution in Ohio.  She was raped multiple times.  Nothing was ever done.  She was never believed.  Simply she was hurt because someone could and nothing she did, said or wanted had any effect on it.

More than one person in my life has been hurt because of their gender, their disability, their social group or status.

Too many people can make the same statement.

Part of my hope, my fight is to see a culture, a society in which the injury of one person by another is neither expected or simply the way things are.  It is a value I think everybody reading this post shares.

My statement is really simple.  If we are to ask, if we are to demand, that the larger system do no harm to the people in it we must expect the same of the way we treat each others.  Do no harm.  Many of the  people in this movement have long experience of trauma and injury.  And they should be able to expect no more harm will be done.

For me I will try to do a better job holding people accountable for the injury they do to others.  For those hurt I will try to do a better job being supportive of those that have been hurt.

If you identify yourself as a member of this movement you have a right to expect you will be safe.  And you have a right to expect all of us to support you in that right.


What is your plan…..

January 31, 2016 by

Iowa Voter Forces Cruz To Confront The Human Toll Of Ending Obamacare – http://huff.to/1SsUDF3


People die not just from disease or illness, but also from lack of care for those illnesses and particularly from lack of timely care.  The link above tells about an encounter Ted Cruz had with a man whose family member died from lack of timely care.

Politicians talk about time with Insure Tennessee.  They say this is not a good time….Lets wait until after the election…Lets wait until things are not in the way…..Lets wait until it is more possible…Lets wait…

Time is also important to 280,000 Tennesseans.  Some of them cant wait.  The illnesses, the sickness, the pain they know and live with given time to grow and strengthen and feed will grow beyond treatment.  Cancer, heart disease any of a thousand other illness do not exist on a timetable of political convenience.  Why do we want to create problems beyond solution when we can solve problems now?  Do politicians really believe there is a good time to suffer…..a good time to die?  How many of them have spent a night in an emergency room talking to people whose medical system is that emergency room?  How many of them have talked with people who have sat hours waiting because their emergency is not “really an emergency?”  How many of them have talked to people who have left emergency rooms with referrals to doctors they cant pay to go see or medication they cant afford to buy?

The man from Iowa, in the article above, only has one question for Ted Cruz.  He doesn’t care about the rhetoric, about the political points.  He only wants to know one thing.  What is your plan?  What are you going to do instead?  What would you tell the people who cant wait?

What are you going to tell the people who cant wait?  What are you going to say to people who say “If not now…when?”   What is your plan? And if you do not have a plan when will you have one?  And how can you tolerate for one day not having a plan to address the unnecessary suffering and deaths of so many Tennesseans?

Time is important.  Ask any sick person with no insurance.  Ask any poor person who knows that in Tennessee their poverty, should they get sick, may well be a death sentence.  Ask any of 280,000 people who when they listen to politicians talk about the right time and political reality and political risk can only shake their head and wonder why they know so little about real reality and care so little about the risks that 280,000 face each day.

We need to talk a lot more about time than we do.  Ask your representative.  Ask Governor Haslam.  While they wait for the right time, for the safe time…..What are we to tell the people who cant wait?

A question I dont want to ask.

January 30, 2016 by

Everybody has things they hope are not true.  Everybody has questions they don’t want to ask.  This is mine.

Before I start I want to say that I really don’t know the answer, but my hope is that some people reading this post may.

Is male violence, manipulation, and abuse of females a  problem in this movement?

In the last couple of weeks I have talked to several people who say it is.  One person in particular who I have good reason to trust told a harrowing tale and essentially said her involvement in this movement in a very real sense put her life in danger.

It is wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  One time is one time too many.  If you have been put in danger or know people who have been put in danger I hope you will speak up.

To know this and ignore it, to know this and rationalize it, to know this and say “well it isn’t that bad of a problem” forfeit any moral standing this movement has.

Maybe I am over-reacting.  I certainly hope so and no one will hurt my feelings by saying so.

But the question still remains.  Is it a problem and if it is should it not be time to address it and confront it where ever we see it?

The fight for Insure Tennessee…. One perspective

January 29, 2016 by

Many thanks to Justin Jones.  Much of today has been conversation with him and much of what follows below has to do with questions he asked or issues he raised.  He made it a good day.



  1. Upwards of 280,000 people in Tennessee lack any basic health insurance.  Basically they are just too poor to qualify for anything.
  2. The moral, financial, political, social and personal impacts of this in Tennessee are immense.
  3. People get sick who with access to medical care would not get sick.  People who should not have to suffer do.  Individuals, families, and communities are all impacted.  Live are ruined simply because people are poor or they don’t fit into one of the categories that give people access to health care.  And people die.  People die tragically, unnecessarily and unjustly.  Some studies have indicated that 2-4 people a day in Tennessee die from lack of insurance, from lack of access to even the most basic care.
  4. Insure Tennessee was Governor Haslam’s plan to deal with the issue.  It promised care to people, financial help to struggling hospitals, jobs for Tennesseans, Tennessee tax dollars back in Tennessee at no cost to Tennesssee.  All costs would be born by the federal government and the Tennessee Hospital Association.
  5. Virtually everybody in the state was in favor of the plan.  The sickness and death of a portion of its population should never be the policy of a decent state.  People know it.  I know it.  You know it.  Virtually every newspaper in the state came out in favor of it.  Every civic organization, every business organization, every health organization….every, every everything came out in favor of it.  Polls said the Tennessee people favored it by a large margin.
  6. Governor Haslam presented in a special session. It didn’t just lose.  It was slaughtered.
  7. A second try later in the session gave the same result.
  8. And so the wait began for the second season of Insure Tennessee
The second season of Insure Tennessee is here.
Senator Ramsey has notified everyone that Insure Tennessee is dead.  In his eyes dead and buried.  He thinks that if we get a Republican president they might give Tennessee a block grant to develop their own Medicaid program independent of any federal rules or expectations.  And he is willing to wait.  No matter how unlikely it is he is willing to wait.  And most importantly regardless of the cost to those who suffer and badly need access to medical care he is willing to wait.
The legislature I think really does want it to go away. It is election year.  Nobody wants to face a primary challenger accusing them of being soft on “Obamacare.”
Governor Haslam has given them all a free pass.  He thinks it is a ‘good idea” still he says, but it would be a hard fight with no assurance of victory and he has decided not to fight, not to try.  Political convenience wins out.
Nobody has to worry about where they stand because no one is going to ask them to stand.
And now the Tennessee Hospital Association has given Governor Haslam a free pass.  They are still for it and plan a big push to get it adopted.  They are they say going to spend $400,000……Next year.  5 days before his state of the state address they tell him not to worry.  They aren’t going to raise a fuss.  Everyone is safe…..
Except everyone is not safe.  Tomorrow 2 more Tennesseans will die from lack of insurance.  Two more will follow the next day.  Who knows how many people will suffer who shouldn’t have to?  Who knows how many lives will be touched in one way or another?
The people who should really count are not safe.  Not one bit safe.
Smart money says be realistic.  Insure Tennessee will not happen this year.  The cards are stacked against it.  Don’t get your hopes up.  The election is just in the way this year.  Next year will be a better year.
So what do you say?
I am one of the 280,000 and much of my perspective is borne of that.  My hope for Bill Haslam (and for that matter every legislator) is not that they win the battle of Insure Tennessee.  My expectation is that they will fight the battle of Insure Tennessee.
I care about what Bill Haslam says to the legislature.  I care more about what he says to me.
I understand that politicians don’t want to risk their futures on an uncertain cause.  I risk my future every day.  They worry about their safety.  I wish they worried about mine.
They worry about the right times to deal with things.  Moral choices have no season I think.  Justice deferred is not justice.
I am 64 years old and have seen much change in my life time.  Much of it was change not supposed to happen according to the smart money.  The strong, in the end, lose to the persistent.  Battles are not wars.
The question before us is not simply whether or not Insure Tennessee will win this year.  It might not.  In the end we only control what we do and can only try with others.  The question before is given the situation is  how will the situation define us and how will it define Tennessee?  It is not simply what are we to do.  It is also who are we to be.  I have been without insurance for about 8 years now and until I lost it I never really  realized what it meant to try to live without it.  I hope I will survive another year if I have to.  But I hope never to survive a day where what I do is dictated by what suits the ambitions of those around me, where political interests substitute for moral reality, where the right thing is subject to the demands of convenience.
This  challenge is as much about the fight before us as it is the victory in any one of its battles.  I think in all we do we need to strive to insure justice.  It starts with I matter, you matter…..everyone matters and no label or term, no political agenda or ambition that implies otherwise should ever be tolerated, believed or left unchallenged.
When faced with the odds against you and faced with gross injustice before you the challenge is not whether or not you win.  The challenge is whether or not you choose to fight.
This is a challenge I think we should take.  I hope it is a challenge you will take.  Speak loudly and often.  Your voice matters.  The legislature in the end will do what it does.  Governors do what governors do.  Smart people may do what the smart money dictates.  But please let none of this happen in our absence, in our quiet and with our acquiescence.
 It is time.  It is the right time.  Insure Tennessee now.

The capacity for advocacy

January 27, 2016 by

To many efforts fail not because of the action proposed or what people want to accomplish.  They fail because organizations assume they have the capacity for action rather than realizing that capacity must be developed and grown.  Capacity must be planted and nurtured as if a flower worthy of bloom.  Many great ideas die from the inability to do, from the lack of capacity for effective action.  The development of capacity is one of our prime goals.  One definition of capacity would be to have enough people to act who believe that things can get better if their ask, their cause becomes reality, who believe that what they do makes a difference in service of that goal, who believes they have the ability, knowledge or skill to do what matters, who feel supported in their efforts and who feel like the whole effort has meaning and purpose…”

-from an earlier post on advocacy

This post might be considered a companion piece to an earlier post on “building a movement”.  In the next couple of weeks there will be a series of posts that in one way or another deal with advocacy.  We are facing times of challenge and test.  Like never before it is important that the people who want to make a difference with issues surrounding mental health are able to do so.  I claim no special knowledge or wisdom on the subject.  Much of what I think I know comes simply from watching and listening to people who I have been lucky enough to know and watch who have been able to be effective advocates.

More than one person has described much of mental health advocacy as a circular firing squad.  The goal is to straighten the line and hit targets that matter.

Advocacy doesn’t just happen.  It is more than passion and moral fervor.  It is more than wanting things to be different and committing to trying to make that difference happen.  For the most part advocacy is always a competitive sport.  Someone always loses.  There are many passionate and committed people who lost.  Despite their efforts change never happens.  They never make the difference they hoped to make.

Language matters.  The important thing is not simply how well you say things.  How well things are heard is more important and not the same thing.  You must use language that resonates with the people you are talking to.  Tying your message to values that are important to the person you are talking to makes a difference.  If your opponent “owns” important values it is hard to make the impact you want.  For example…. No politician will ever say he doesn’t want to help the “mentally ill.”  Tim Murphy tried to identify his bill with “helping the mentally ill” and any  opposition to him as just not caring and opposing him for their own selfish reason.  It is important not to let Murphy make his proposals the vehicle for core values of legislators but a proposal that should be evaluated like all proposals on how well it will work and the consequences of adopting it.  Basically something like…..”Everybody cares but lets look and see what will really work and what will really help…”

Sometimes passionate and committed people say things in ways not very likely to be heard.  If your message is only likely to be agreed to by people who already agree with you things may not go well.  You have one of two options.  Work to change what people are likely to hear knowing that may be a longer term task and in the short run you may not win very many battles or deliver your message in terms likely to be heard.

Language matters.  Speak with the intention to be heard.

Past language how do advocates develop the ability to be effective in their efforts?  How does a movement or an organization increase its capacity for effective action?  How do ordinary people come to make a difference?

Encourage- people must come to believe things can get better.  People don’t tend to get involved in things that have, in their eyes, have little hope of success.  This is perhaps the biggest problem.  We live in a cultural context that paints so many problems as inevitable and not amenable to change.

Empower- you must convince people that what they do makes a difference.  Again this is a major problem.  Sometimes people believe something might be able to be changed they just believe nothing they do is likely to help make it happen.

Educate- people must be convinced that not only can they make a difference but that either they know how to make a difference or that they can learn how to make a difference.  They can learn, they can be educated, they can develop the skills that make a difference in them making a difference.

Support-  people must know that they will be supported and encouraged in their efforts to make a difference.  That means the people around them care and can be counted upon.

Confirm- people must experience confirmation.  They need to feel like things are getting better and still can get better, they indeed can make a difference, they know how and are learning even more ways to make a difference, and that they matter to the people with them and those people will support and encourage them regardless of the difficulty of the circumstances and how they are doing.

Movements that make a difference do these things.  Everything is a matter of degree and perhaps sometimes they do them better than others.  Making a difference is so much more than the motivation to make a difference.  It is a capacity for action that must be grown, refined and expanded.

It is the way to be a difference that makes a difference.

On building a movement…..

January 26, 2016 by

Do we have a movement?  I hear people talk about “the movement” all the time.  Is “the movement” reality or wishful thinking?

Here is what I think a movement needs in order to prosper, grow and make anywhere close to the impact it hopes to make.

None of these things need to be a result of some kind of formal process, but the extent to which they exist and operate, I think, at least in part, define the chances that the movement will be persist and make progress towards the goals it holds dear.  None of these things are either or.  They are all a matter of degree and they may ebb and flow depending on the circumstances.  As you read these consider “the movement.”

    1.  There should be a consensus about the ethics of being a movement.  There should be an ethics of what it means to be part of the same effort that includes first and foremost how we are to treat each other.  Movements that lack that become cannibalistic and dissolve into competing factions that over time come to believe that the people who supposedly are about same thing you are about,  the people who care about addressing the issues you care about are in fact the real enemy.  Movements that cannot tolerate disagreement without attacking those disagreeing usually end up with some kind of demand that its followers hold to some kind of true belief.  In the end the movement implodes and becomes irrelevant to any impact on the goals it was originally formed around.  On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not at all and 10 being a major strength where are we.  The old phrase I have heard a thousand times still rings true.  How can people who cant stand each other stand for anything that really matters??
    2. The movement should be about something important enough that the people in it place their conflicts and disagreements with others below it.  The most important thing about any movement is what connects people.  What brings them together?  There should be a momentum towards cohesion.  On a scale of 1-10 where are we?
    3. People should feel like the movement “has something for them.”  Their should be some sense that their involvement, their identity as part of the movement means something to them.  It isn’t what the movement demands or takes from their lives but what it adds.  The  movement should represent an opportunity they don’t want to miss. On a scale of 1-10 where do we stand?
    4. People should feel like they have something to give to the movement that matters.  They must feel like they contribute, that what they do matters.  They need to feel more than spectators.  They must feel like the movement is better for them being there.  On a scale of 1-10 where do we stand?

People should feel like someone cares.  They must feel like others in the movement care for them as people, as individuals and that they can get support when needed, recognition when they deserve it and coaching and guidance when they ask for it.  They should feel, even if the movement itself is in some way a dangerous undertaking, safe as members of that movement.  On a scale of 1-10 where do we stand?


The movement should have a set of shared principles, values, and ideas that define the identity of that movement.  Simply it must have a reason for being that those in the movement buy into emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally.  On a scale of 1-10 where are we?

  1. The movement should have a plan.  It should have something it is doing to accomplish something that it thinks is worth doing.  Otherwise it dissolves into complaints and bitterness.  It should have both a focus in goals and a focus in how to achieve those goals.  On a scale of 1-10 where are we?
  2. The movement should have a way to measure how it is doing.  If there is not a clearly shared measure of what constitutes success it is hard to persist through hard times.  It is important to know the difference between battles and wars and know that battles lost do not mean wars lost.  On a scale of 1-10 where are we.
  3. The movement should have a way to welcome, educate, and involve new people into it.  If it doesn’t it tends to die from lack of energy.  Few people come to believe they are doing all the work and it eventually just gets very fatiguing and people back off for their own preservation.  On a scale of 1-10 where are we?
  4. The movement should have a sense of its natural and possible allies.  Movements live and die often based on what they do in coalition with others that do not accept or value exactly what they value.  More people have more impact.  More points of concern have more impact.   A wider base of support is better than a smaller base of support.  Few groups will have the impact they desire without being in coalition with someone.  All movements have “deal breakers”, things that they feel make them unable to be in coalition with other groups or interests.  The nature of those “deal breakers” often define the stability of any coalition we may have with others.  On a scale of 1-10 where are we?
  5. A movement should have the ability to change when the circumstances that gave birth to it have in some way changed.  It is a narrow balance between preserving the historical truths that have given birth to you and changing to meet the current realities you are struggling with.  On a scale of 1-10 where are we?

What do you think?   Some of these things are obviously more important that others but taken together do they not say something about us?   What are our strengths?  What are our weaknesses?  What do we need to grow to meet the challenges we face and accomplish those things we find important?  Are we a movement?  What do you think we should do now?

This is far more than an academic question.  There will probably be a mental health reform bill of some kind come out of Congress this year.  What that bill specifically says is no where close to a closed discussion.  We have a chance to make a difference there.  We are in the midst of a presidential campaign where many of the leading candidates have essentially dismissed us loons and crazies.  If we vote our votes will matter and make a difference there.  There is a movement in this country to lay gun violence at the feet of the “mentally ill”.  We can make a difference there.  The FDA is getting ready to say that electroshock does not present a danger to those that are shocked.  We can make a difference there.  Thousands…..no probably millions….of people with mental health diagnoses either have no access to medical care at all.  We can make a difference there.  The jails are filled with people with mental health issues who are being traumatized and retraumatized and hurt in ways that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  We can make a difference there.  Way too many people in the midst of emotional crisis are deescalated by being shot with bullets by the police.  We can make a difference there.

The list above is no where close to being a total list.  The needs are extreme.  We cant probably make a difference in everything the way we would like to.  We may not even be able to make a difference in anything to the degree we would want to.  But if we have our stuff together to a functional level we can make a difference.  We can and will make things better for many, many people.

But you tell me.  What are the prospects, what are the possibilities.  On a scale of 1-10 will we make a difference?

Get into politics like your life depends on it…. It does

January 25, 2016 by

Food for thought. Important times ahead

Hopeworks Community

Get into politics like your life depends on it….. It does.  ( I think that is a quote from disability advocate Justin Dart.)

And it does. It really does.

I listened to Donald Trump make fun of a newspaper reporter with a physical disability because the reporter had criticized him. I have listened to him make comment after comment that not that long ago would have been labeled as hate speech and been political suicide applauded and hailed by crowds as being the voice of truth, the voice of real America, and their choice for president. I have listened to Republicans trying to defeat him by trying to out-Trump him.

The biggest problem is not just Trump, or Carson or Rubio or Cruz. The biggest problem is that they have obviously touched the emotions of so many people. They have made hate respectable again. They have made rage, prejudice, and violence…

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The state of the state

January 25, 2016 by

Sometime next week Tennessee governor Bill Haslam will make his annual state of the state address.

His address will be about far more than the state of the state.

It will be a lot about him.  One of the biggest productions of his stint as governor was his introduction of Insure Tennessee, his effort to insure 280,000 Tennesseans not eligible for the insurance subsidies of the ACA and not eligible for Tenn Care.  He worked really hard to make it make good sense.  He tried to extremely hard to explain to people who had a phobic reaction to the term Obamacare that it was not Obamacare.  He tried hard and was successful in making a deal with the federal government that would not cost Tennessee a penny and that would bring Tennessee tax dollars back to Tennessee and provide an economic boon more significant than the Volkswagon plant.  He did all these things.

He thought good sense mattered and it didnt.  Fear did matter and no one wanted to take a chance on facing a primary challenge and being targeted as soft on Obamacare.  People wanted it to go away and it did.  In one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my entire life a core proposal from a sitting governor with a hugely favorable rating was massacred by his own party.  Not only did it not win.  It didnt even win a vote on the floor.

He threw up his hands and said their was nothing he could do.  He talked about educating legislators more as if the problem was that they did not know what they were voting on and seemed unaware that the problem was that they did know what they were voting on.  In the end it was all about politics and little else.

The problem was not that he lost.  The problem was that he thought he couldnt fight and 280,000 people who depended on him, 280,000 people who thought someone cared and someone thought justice and fairness were important were left holding the bag.

He still says there is no point in trying.  He doesnt think he can make a difference.  He doesnt understand that by doing this he has put a bulls eye on every one of his legislative proposals.  Bullies are seldom content with one victory.  Any proposal that runs counter to the legislature now has an asterisk on it.  **Please pass this bill but only if you really want to.***  He blinked and backed down on Insure Tennessee and in the process not only the bill but lost a lot of his credibility and his leverage to move the state forward in a way that he wants.

He says that he still thinks Insure Tennessee is a good idea but without action does that even really matter.  Is it anything more than trying to put the blame somewhere else?

My problem is not that Insure Tennessee lost or even that it may well lose this time.  My problem is that there was no fight.  People may say he couldnt have won and was only being realistic.  Politicians who are willing to sacrifice their principles on the altar of realism are a dime a dozen.

It did matter.  It still does.  I am one of the 280,000 people and it would have mattered to me and it would have said more about the state of the state than all the speeches he will ever give.

He will talk next week.  Whether he knows it or not he is talking as much about himself as he is about Tennessee.  Will he even mention Insure Tennessee?  I dont know.  Many people hope he will.  Many people think he wont.

I hope he knows that he is talking to far more than legislators.  I hope he knows he is talking to me, talking to you….talking to 280,000 who are far more interested in whether or not he will ever talk for them.

Governor Haslam Ron Ramsey is a terrible governor.  I did not vote for him.  I voted for you.

It is time to be the Governor.  Please.  Please be the Governor.

Insure Tennessee.




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