Dee's Blog
Thu 02/02/2012
Letter to Lawrence Journal World Regarding a Good Decision

I believe it's much more important, whenever possible, to give affirmation for good decisions that an institute makes than to berate them for the bad.

It's just like giving positive reenforcement to children.  Problem is that it seems to often be more difficult to find good decisions to honor in institutions than it is in children.

Yesterday, a local front page story (not easily available online) was that the University of Kansas has just adopted a written policy that any child abuse that is known to have occurred on campus will be reported to appropriate law enforcement officers immediately.  The article explained that this came in the aftermath of the Penn State problems. 

Except for it seeming like something that should have been done decades ago, there was nothing alarming about the article.  It certainly is a good step forward.  

Wanting to strike while the iron was hot on this one, I took time to send a letter to the journalist who has since past it on to the editorial dept. 

Here are my comments:

 "  As Chancellor Gray-Little says, we do have a moral obligation to protect members of our community. In my opinion, ALL adults should be mandatory reporters!   I am grateful that KU has now spelled out the requirement to report child sexual abuse.  Not only does this protect the children.  It protects the University.  Furthermore, it should insure that a person who reports a colleague will not be in danger of being punished by the system for doing so. 

 As a writer, the problems of institutional collusion have been a major concern of mine since I had a horrible first-hand experience of career loss myself, decades ago, because I refused to be silent when a colleague was abusing adolescent girls.  In that case, the institution was more interested in protecting itself from exposure than in protecting the young people who were victimized!  Since then, I've heard from many victims of professional sexual misconduct.  Sadly, collusion is still more the norm than the exception.
Unfortunately, the abuse of minors is just the tip of the iceberg so far as universities are involved.  We still need a lot of public education, as well as increased training of faculty members and students, so that everyone understands that young people don't stop being vulnerable at age 18 to educator abuse.  Because of the power imbalance, there is no such thing as "consensual sex" in a relationship between a faculty member and a student.  It is always an ethical violation of the one in power, regardless of the circumstances.  The laws to protect young adult students from abuse by professionals are not as strong as for minors; but the moral obligation to intervene and to support the victim, while protecting others from harm, should be of equal concern to all. 
S.E.S.A.M.E. (see )  describes educator abuse, regardless of the age of the student, as 'behavior that is psychologically equivalent to incest.'  " 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 6:08 PM CST
Tue 01/31/2012
Giving Up Before Starting
Topic: coping

"If I had to live life like that, I'd just have them give me a big pill and be done with it."  The man was speaking to my husband in the locker room of a sports club, where they'd just finished a water yoga class. 

Ron wasn't insulted, just shocked.  Amazing to think how often we may all give up on the possibility of coping with something that we think would be impossible--even long before we encounter it.  We imagine the worst and play the scene with all the awful things that may be entailed in a situation.

"Oh, but I'm enjoying life in so many ways!"  Ron responded immediately.  Then, came home to marvel at this guy's reaction.   It made me think that, in all likelihood, this is how a lot of people see life in a chair.  Perhaps this is why eyes are averted and people are ignored or the passerby talks to me, as if I'm the only one who has a life or an opinion.  This is something we adjusting to, something we are coming to understand, leading us to find new ways of communicating with others.

This very much relates to how often we can, if feeling powerless, pass by the opportunities that we have to speak in a poignant and polite manner to people of more power and/or people who are closed-minded about a matter that we have come to understand through experience, giving them opportunity to see things in a little different way.  Think you can't do it.  Well, maybe you CAN.  Never know until you try.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:27 PM CST
Mon 01/30/2012
Welcoming the Unexpected
Topic: spirituality

Yesterday, an hour before lunchtime, I got a call from my son.  Did we have any plans for the day?  Nothing really, I assured him.  Suddenly we had wonderful plans.  They decided on the spur of the moment to come our way.  Just as quickly, I figured out that the frig happened to have just enough for 4 adults and 2 granddaughters.

Here they came an hour later, toting three doll cribs filled with baby dolls.  Oh, what joy! 

It's the sudden things that can so lighten our hearts--those things we don't plan which seem to crop up because of the foundations we've laid.  They bring hope for the future and energize us all.  They inspire us to continue the day-to-day mundane tasks whose importance we may even question at the time.  

Rest assured, whether we are speaking to power or simply nurturing others so that they may someday do so at the most unexpected moments, if we keep our focus on the future and how we can help to bring about change in our world, then we truly will have lived life to it's fullest--no matter what the unexpected may be.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:51 PM CST
Sun 01/29/2012
What Gives Me Some Optimism
Topic: Making Changes

 Near my computer, I put a Christmas card I got from my friend Amy this year.  It says:  "the Four phases of Santa:  1. You believe in Santa  2. You don't believe in Santa.  3. You are Santa.  4. You Look like Santa" 

 I'm starting to realize that we must become more like the person we want God to be if we are to self-actualize.  I like to think that, some days, I'm on the way.  Other days, I know I'm very far from it.  Still it remains an aspiration.

My faith still teaches me that institutions and cultures can change over generations if we, as individuals, each do our own part.  None of us are stagnant.  We just move at a snail's pace.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 4:45 PM CST
Sat 01/28/2012
The Problem with Stereotyping

Adolescents are known for black and white thinking.  "All adults are idiots," one might say to the other.

Adolescents aren't alone in their rigidity that allows for stereotyping. 

Through my years of listening and working with many oppressed and traumatized people, I've noticed that black and white thinking is a common way of being stuck or getting stuck.  To believe that members of a group are all the same as the ones who are oppressors or abusers is a prime example of this. 

Ben Franklin, like almost all colonists of his day, owned slaves and didn't see any problem with doing so until he happened to visit a Negro school run by Rev. William Sturgeon of Philadelphia several years before the Revolutionary War.   Sturgeon's students, Franklin noted, were just as bright as any white-skinned children he'd ever observed.  Because Franklin was a thinking person who was not afraid to entertain new ideas, he began to wrestle with his old belief system, changing his thoughts and attitudes.  Eventually, he concluded that slavery was indefensible.

Adolescents use black and white thinking because they are insecure about themselves and the world they live in.  They are afraid to trust themselves or to trust others outside of their group.  I am convinced it is the same with traumatized people who remain stuck.

Whether we are considering a culture, an institution, or an individual, my own belief in progressive divine revelation leads me to have hope--sometimes faint hope, but a definite hope--that, there are degrees of enlightenment in each of us.  Then, to go on believing that, in time, cultures, institutions, and each of us can deal with our fears and blind spots so that we can see more and more clearly.

It is this hope that keeps me sharing with others what I feel about many things, knowing that sometimes I am speaking from a vantage point of power while at other times I may, even inadvertently, be speaking to powers that I do not even know exist. 

 It is this hope that also keeps me listening.



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:27 PM CST
Fri 01/27/2012
Evoking a Powerful Theology
Topic: Power

Do you ever hesitate to share something good with others you may know for fear of their theological interpretation?  Or maybe it's something really bad?

Amazing how the good always gets attributed to "God was watching out for you."  While the bad may bring comments like "You must have done something that took you out of God's graces."

Such theological interpretations serve as a hot stove to me.  I become much more careful what I say, in the same way that I move cautiously around a hot stove.

Oh, that these comments and ideas could be replaced with a powerfully simple:  "That's great!"  or "That's just not fair."

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 6:28 PM CST
Thu 01/26/2012
Needing More than Facts
Topic: Making Decisions

People who think very concretely--and this seems to be an awful lot of professionals in positions of power--define truth as a set of facts that can be taken into a courtroom to prove how a case should be settled.

Truth is far more than a set of facts.  Anyone who has ever watched Law and Order should be able to see this.  Yes, we need the facts.  Beyond that, though, we must understand the deeper principles that determine what we do with the facts, once we have them.

We need to hold certain truths as self-evident.  Do we really believe that everyone on this earth is created equal?  Do we believe that everyone deserves to be treated in such a way that they are able to continue pursuing happiness?  If so, we will not support institutions or organizations who act as if these things do not matter.  If institutions are acting ethically in some ways and not others, we will address the short-comings as we speak up for ourselves or others in order to improve life for everyone.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:43 PM CST
Tue 01/24/2012
Naive Realism
Topic: Making Changes

Those who specialize in defining truth sometimes speak of "naive realism."  It's something we all need in healthy doses to get through the day.  Without it, we'd have to start back at Day One, doing an indepth analysis of everything we see before making the most mundane decision.

There is nothing scientific about naive realism.  When we act on it, we are not setting out to prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt.  Our actions, choices, and assumptions are based on what seems obvious, in spite of the fact that many of those assumptions are based on illusions that we have been taught to accept without question.

Old people who are "set in their ways" have a lot in common with youngsters who do not know enough to question what they see. 

Naive realism works well for mundane tasks.  How I sweep my kitchen floor doesn't matter much.   When it comes to decisions that impact our world, though, we need the attitude of hymnist Clara H. Scott:  "open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth....."   that "set me free."

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 4:08 PM CST
Mon 01/23/2012
The Power of Much Experience
Topic: Power

When I hold the hand of a child who is looking up at me in trust, I am in awe.  My awe mirrors that child's awe.  I am in awe that he trusts me.  She may be in awe at how anyone so wrinkled and grey could still be alive!

Very few young people keep a sense of awe when it comes to their elders.  That requires maturity that usually takes many years to develop.  Western culture values youth and book learning more than it values age and experience.

Even worse to me, all cultures seem not to trust nor to listen well to young people who have experience beyond their years, due to the traumas of neglect or abuse.  These kids are hard to trust, to be sure, when their behavior masks the truths that their stories tell.  If we, as elders, can find ways to see beyond the behavior long enough to gain from what they have to say, then we certainly speed along the process of maturity that allows them to listen again with awe.

Neither those of us who are old from both years and  experience nor the youth who do not have the years, but are "rich" in experience hold in our hands absolute truth.  What we can have in common, if we dare, is a willingness to challenge the current short-sightedness that can exist in both the young and the old--especially when it comes to institutional short-sightedness. 

Oh, that we may all grow in the skill of listening and considering what new truths we can learn in that process!!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 11:07 AM CST
Updated: Tue 01/24/2012 3:48 PM CST
Sun 01/22/2012
The Power of Silence
Topic: spirituality

This week I realized how thirsty my soul was to sit in silence with others of like mind.  As I've done from time to time before, I went to sit with my Quaker Friends. 

The church I attended is "unprogrammed."  Unlike many others that have programmed services with leaders, a lot of music and speakers or preachers. 

Recently, I was telling my 12-year-old grandson about the Quakers and their interesting way of worship.  He smiled and said that it sounds very boring.  For my personality, which takes little time to be still, I should think it would be to me, as well.  Yet.......

Whenever I sit in silence, I learn what's most important to me.  My heart searches for what I need to contemplate during this luxurious time.  Most of my thoughts come through musical messages, spiritual songs I have learned to treasure in the past.  Nobody else gets in the way of my communion with God.

Today, I was reminded that the world continues to turn without me thinking about what to do or say.

I was reminded that so many times my greatest witness has been through my refusing to respond to the forces of power that would "pull my strings" and use what I have to say as a trap.  There is truly a time to speak and a time to remain silent.  May God give me the wisdom to know when I need to be silent as much as when I need to speak.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 5:05 PM CST

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