Leonard Pitts

Focus on Caring: The Spineless Bystander Effect

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Compassion facesOn July 7, 2014, I wrote an article Spineless inaction: the bystander effectan article that told the story of a female McDonald’s restaurant employee who was severely beaten by another woman.  No one called 911, no one tried to intervene, but everyone within a block of the beating took cell phone video of the attack.  That, my friends, is an example of spineless inaction.

I’m going to counter that horrific example with a rewarding one out of Buffalo, New York.

Darnell Barton, a bus driver in Buffalo, New York, was on his multi-trip route over a bridge on the expressway.  Ahead of him, he could see a woman standing over the railing on the ledge; the intent of this woman was obvious to anyone who observed her.  The entire episode was caught on the bus dashboard camera. Read the rest of this entry »

Focus on Caring: Boundaries that constrain us

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How are you defined?  What kind of box would you fit into?  Here are a few characteristics some might assign to me:

  • White American
  • Baby Boomer
  • Pacific Northwest resident
  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend
  • Seattle Seahawks super fan

Box with color cubesAll items on that list are correct but if that’s all that people see about me, they’ve greatly reduced the trueness of who I am because my box also contains the following:

  • spiritual but definitely not religious person
  • free-thinker (is that redundant?)
  • writer of things that matter to me
  • advocate of the elderly and just about everyone else who crosses my path in life

Setting boundaries between who I am, and who you are, benefits no one.

Compassion facesLeonard Pitts, Jr. spoke at a TEDx event in February of this year.  His 20 minute talk, The Boundaries We Choose, is readily available on YouTube so I strongly suggest you seek it out.  He suggests, “Our labels shouldn’t define who we are and place us in a strict box.”  He then spoke of labels one might put in his box: African American, Christian, Husband, Father, Fan of the LA Lakers.  If you’ve read any of Mr. Pitts’ literary pieces in the Miami Herald or any of his books, you already know that he is more than the contents his box may imply.  (To be sure, there is a very valid reason why he was named the 2004 Pulitzer Price Winner for Commentary.)

During his February TEDx talk, he provided a fabulous story that illustrates the downside of labels or identifying markers.  I’ll let you discover that beautiful and clarifying story by watching his TEDx video, but for the purposes of this blog posting, I will provide you with one of his statements from that video.

Our bonds are more than connecting with certain markers that define people.

Examine, if you will, your way of describing something that happened to you during the course of your day.

Cup of CoffeeWhen you relay a story about a person taking his or her time in line at the Starbucks store, holding everyone up for far too long a time, do you define the person this way?

This Asian woman in front of me acted like she owned the damn place.  She was so selfish, taking her damn time ordering her fancy drink when all I wanted was a damn cup of brewed coffee.

Or did you simply say

This damn person in front of me took so much time ordering a fancy damn cup of coffee that I  just about ran out of time to get my plain and simple cup of brewed coffee.

Read the rest of this entry »

No one is perfect

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A big issue for small minds | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. had an Opinion piece in the January 19, 2014 Seattle Times Sunday newspaper.  His article focuses on the cruelty that comes out of the mouths of people who feel they are obligated to point out the obvious to others.  During and after her appearance on the Golden Globes, the exceptional 30-year old actress, Gabourey Sidibe, became the target of many anonymous, and sometimes identified, Twitter trolls who decided to remind her that she’s fat.  One Tweet said she looked like the Globe in the Golden Globes; another stated that she missed the hour glass look by 10 hours.

Leonard Pitts questions when and how did this type of truly sadistic personal meanness become acceptable, even common place? “Everybody’s got something…some physical or emotional blemish measuring the distance from you to perfection.”  So why do we think it’s any of our business to criticize someone else’s imperfection?  Doing so is an act of judgment of someone about whom we know very little.

When us kids would say something cruel about someone, my dad would offer the following: "It's too bad that everyone isn't as perfect as us."
When us kids would say something cruel about someone, my dad would offer the following: “It’s too bad that everyone isn’t as perfect as us.”  Point taken.

What happened to what Mr. Pitts calls “home training” that is supposed to teach us that there are just some things you don’t say to – or about – people in a public forum?  Are these grown adults mimicking the behaviors from their upbringing, or did they just decide on their own to cut people to pieces, not caring a wit about the harm such cutting banter will have on the recipient?

Bullies – all of them.

Whether our “something” is shaped like the emotional scars of abuse, an eating disorder, physical or developmental disabilities, bad teeth, or a nose that is too big, too fat,or too small, no one has a right to inflict hurt on us by their words.  Does hurting someone with words serve to downplay our own imperfections and/or personal issues?  Does a person actually feel better after they’ve called someone a tub of lard, or uglier than sin, or dumber than a doornail?

I’ll leave you with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Eli Wiesel’s statement during an interview with Oprah Winfrey a couple years back.  May it be a challenge to me, and a challenge to you.

As a human race, we must choose between: the violence of adults, and the smiles of children; the ugliness of hate, and the will to oppose it; inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man, and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves for naught.

Even in darkness, it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.  Every moment of our life is essential; every gesture is essential.  Our role in life is to give an offering to each other.

The desperate evil of impotent men – Leonard Pitts Jr. – MiamiHerald.com

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Leonard Pitts: On machete-wielding terrorists in London: Don’t be complicit – Leonard Pitts Jr. – MiamiHerald.com.

You’ll see that the title of my blog article is different from what is attached.  This blog title reflects what my local Seattle Times newspaper printed as a heading for Leonard Pitts’ article concerning the May 2013 bloody attack on a British soldier.  The Seattle Times title said it all for me.

Now keep in mind, we’re not talking about impotence for which the pharmaceutical industry holds the panacea.  The impotence addressed in this must-read article by Mr. Pitts is that which comes about because of a lack of true power.  Have you ever been bullied?  I have – and it wasn’t until fourteen years ago that I came to the realization that those who bully are those without power; those who feel they must wear trappings that give the illusion of power; such as the trappings of abusive language, character disparagement, and small & large scale violence – destructive acts by anyone’s assessment.

Pulitzer Prize winner, Leonard Pitts, Jr., believes that “terrorism’s threat lies not in its power, but in its effect, its ability to make us appalled, frightened, irrational, and, most of all, convinced that we are next, and nowhere is safe.”  Mr. Pitts provides an example of an acquaintance who, after 9/11, told him she would never enter a skyscraper again – as if each and every tall building in our country would be on the receiving end of an airplane attack.  My god, think of those people who work in these buildings and who, if they maintained the same fear and naive determination as that woman, would throw our economy even further into the toilet because of their refusal to enter their place of employment – a very tall building.

I think the biggest weapon these flaccid terrorists carry in their arsenal is the world’s ability to instantly broadcast – and then repeatedly broadcast – these desperate acts of violence, and our desire to catch such acts on television, You Tube, blog videos and photos – the list of viewing opportunities almost endless.

“We cannot control what such people do.  But we can control our reaction thereto” states Mr. Pitts.  Please readers near and far, let’s not fuel the fire of violence with our cravings to see it played out before us countless times through instant electronic images.  Let us fuel our empathy and strengthen our determination to turn our backs on the sensational by responding in such a way as to not “become the weapon terrorists use against us.”  Let’s not give these weaklings any more power – because as stated in the Miami Herald piece, “the only power they have is the power we give them.”