This inauguration, let’s remember that unity is possible. It just takes us putting the effort into doing it. I’m inspired to re-share the music video I had the honor of making with Amy Obenski a couple of years ago for her song, In Each Other’s Arms. It’s especially salient today.
I was scrolling through my twitter feed, as one does, and I saw someone had tweeted something to the effect of “Check in on your MAGA friends. See how they are doing. Do they have any big plans coming up?” I kept scrolling, but that idea stuck with me. So I started checking on my MAGA friends by looking at their facebook feeds.
It’s not pretty, y’all. I saw a lot of denialism. The bubble has not burst. In the past, I have engaged with folks on an argument by argument basis. Like “hey, you know that’s not quite true? Check out this data (citing a source) and this data (citing another source).” Only to be told that my sources aren’t true, and that I’m being lied to. But when I asked them for their sources, I would get nothing whatsoever. Or I’d be told to watch some youtube videos (ha!). Or I’d be told to google something, I’d google it out of due diligence, and find myself in a conspiracy theory and clickbait filled website that clearly has no journalistic integrity whatsoever. Engaging with folks about this stuff became Sisyphean. Yet they are still out there, doing their thing…
Now, I feel like we need to be talking on a different level than individual arguments. I just want to say “Dude, you’re in a cult.”
I don’t expect that simply pointing out to someone on their facebook page that they are in a cult is going to go well. I don’t expect that pointing out to them that their distrust of “mainstream media” has been weaponized to get them to willingly believe lie after lie after lie… will be accepted readily.
But, what is going to make a difference? Back when I was in high school, we’re talking the late 90’s, I would just say the shit I had to say. I would just stir the pot. Some of the desire to do that is still in me. One of my favorite phrases is “the truth shall set you free, but first it shall piss you off.”
I do know from experience, that even if the truth is said in the most caustic way, if it’s repeated and inescapable it will eventually sink in. But how to do that online, during a pandemic, when this sort of communication is effective in person? How do we compete with the lies that are repeated and inescapable to our friends and family who have sipped the kool-aid?
In person, a person can see that when I’m telling them that they’re in a cult that I still love and respect and admire them. Online, I’m just words on a page. A person can think “do you think I’m so stupid that I would join a cult?!?” And I, not seeing that on their face, can’t say “no, being in a cult isn’t about intelligence. It’s about the cult meeting a deep unmet need that you have.” I imagine the person that is being told they are in a cult will think they need to defend themselves, lest they get cancelled, or defend their cult – because cults are bad m’kay. But I don’t want to make their life harder by telling them they are in a cult, I want to make their life easier. I want them to know that the world outside of their cult isn’t filled with scary, lying, evil people. It isn’t filled with communists. It isn’t even filled by deluded sheep that have had their minds numbed by the mainstream media. Really!
I haven’t written something like this before because I have been afraid of the backlash. People in cults don’t like being told they are in cults. Some of those people are my friends. Also, now that the events of the last few weeks have confirmed all of our instincts about Donald Trump as a president, it’s intellectually easier to call a spade a spade. Or a cult, a cult.
I’m not an expert here. I have read quite a bit about cults, and my biggest takeaway has been that no one is really an expert. We might just have to muddle through these conversations.
So, if you think this may apply to you, imagine when I say “Dude, you’re in a cult” that I say it with love. That I’m not attacking you, I’m inviting you to look at life differently. And if you aren’t ready to look at life differently, I’ll be here when you are.
The process of making this film outlasted my passion for it
I’ve been making one movie since I was 23. I’m 38. I’m done with it. More precisely, I’ve been sick of working on it for years – but I finally have an edit of it that feels finished.
I’ve learned a lot making this movie. It’s a documentary, and the big lesson I learned was how not to film a documentary. Even though the raw footage was only about 20 hours; because I did not have an idea of how the final product would look, I spent countless hours watching the footage to find the story, refining the story, organizing it, putting it into a digestible format….
All while life continued. I had a day job, or multiple day jobs. I met the love of my life, and we got married. We got dogs. We had kids. We bought a house. We got a cat. So a project that I wanted to take three years on, became this. I never wanted this to be a fifteen year project. I never wanted to spend the amount of money or energy on it that I did. But it’s my first feature film, and it never felt right to give up. Even when emotionally, I was long done.
What’s the documentary about? It’s a focus on the gaps in the mental health system that lead to people who are depressed, bipolar or suicidal to average 5-7 years after onset of symptoms before seeking help. It illustrates the structural reasons that exist that lead a to huge number of Americans to live lives without the mental health assistance that they know they need.
What’s sad is, those conditions haven’t changed notably in the fifteen years that I’ve been working on this project. I’m sure that the content of the film is just as real and relevant as when I kicked off this project a decade and a half ago.
From a filmmaking and communication perspective, the structure of the film is wrong. But it would take at least one more re-shoot to do it right… and I don’t want to spend a few grand more of my money on another shoot. I don’t know if this film is going to go anywhere, anyway.
I want to be proud of this film, like I am of my first music video. But I’m not. I’m sick and tired of it. I’m embarrassed that it took this long. I’ve been embarrassed for a while. I think my feelings toward this film kept me from finding a structure for it I like – I have certainly lost the capacity to think creatively about it anymore. I’m writing this blog in the hopes that by writing and posting this I can unload some of the burden that this film has become.
I wasn’t originally going to post the film here, but here is the link. After I’ve done such a great job of selling this movie, I’m sure you can’t wait to watch it 😉
It’s a little less than an hour long. If you’d be so kind to take a look, I need to know what it this film is, and if it’s worth pushing forward with it. I lost perspective on it too many years ago to know. That link is a private listing, if it gets a bunch of views I’ll take it down.
Thanks for listening, friends.
We now have an opening in this country, and this is what I would like to see
Since we are in the waning days of the Trump administration and the Democrats may take the senate as well (we’ll see what happens in Georgia), I’ve been thinking about what sort of opening could exist if those two things come to pass. One thing that I hope for is a retiring of an old form of leadership. A form that Trump embodied, but that certainly didn’t begin with him.
I think that, for most of my life, I’ve been looking for a certain kind of leadership. I’ve found it many times, but never where I wanted to find it. I have wanted to find it in our government leaders, in the leaders of our businesses and organizations, in my community. Instead, in my experience, I’ve found it at random. I cherish the folks that embody what I’m about to describe, and I have found them in the most unexpected places.
So what am I looking for, in leadership, that I am so rarely finding? Wisdom and patience are the first things that come to mind. To speak metaphorically; to be able to guide the ship without over-steering. People who feel the extent to which their employees and customers rely on them, and do their best to honor that commitment at all times. I am looking for people who are honorable. It’s one thing to understand and appreciate that some people get things done by backstabbing people and leaving people out in the cold. It’s another thing to do it. I’m interested in leaders that understand that any business or organization is also a community, and who honors that community. It’s also important that a leader honors the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of other people. If you are a leader, reasonable and respectable people will come to conclusions that are different than yours. Reasonable, respectable people will also make mistakes. The type of leader I’m looking for will respect that and will respect them. I’m looking for grace. In a leader, I want someone who can give others grace. Who can distinguish what someone means to do, and who can lift people up and help them grow when they fall. If I’m an employee, I’m looking for a leader who will protect me. If I’m employing, I’m looking for a leader who will protect the people they work with. I’m looking for leaders who ask questions; of themselves, of their staff, of everyone. People who are curious, and who know to rely on the expertise of the people around them. To extend the boat metaphor, I’m looking for leaders who do just guide. Who don’t get hung up in the color of the lifeboats, or the fuel mixture ratios in the engine. Leaders I’m looking for have delegated those decisions to people that they’ve empowered to make the right decision. I also want a leader to have enough knowledge and wisdom to know when they are being buffaloed. A great leader who otherwise always takes bad advice will inevitably look on blithely as their happy ship full of people sinks to the bottom of the sea. Yet, every leader will take and act on bad advice. I’m looking for leaders that can recognize their mistakes, acknowledge them, apologize to any aggrieved parties, and then correct course quickly.
A leader must also, always, be cultivating other leaders. Why? Because all this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I know that when I’ve been most effective as a leader, a large part of that formula has been having advisors and mentors of my own. A leader must have and continue to cultivate; people in their lives who give them guidance, help them process their feelings when they are upset, and people who are unattached to their work who can give them unvarnished advice and perspective. A leader needs to be delegating to people nearly all the time. Those people that are being delegated to need to all be on the same page. One day, the leader will have to delegate the entire operation of the organization they are leading. I think it’s important to have people around who can step up to the task, and that doesn’t happen without cultivating leadership.
A leader must want to be held accountable, and must be able to hold others accountable. We all make mistakes, and we all have errors in judgement. We all have impulses occasionally that aren’t the best. A leader that can be held accountable will have their own worst impulses held in check, and a leader that can hold others accountable will do the same for the others around them. For all of us, being held accountable is an opportunity to grow. Accountability is a gift… give that gift.
This is the sort of leader that I have always attempted to be. I cannot say that I have embodied these principles all of the time, but I can say that I have aimed to. What I am hopeful for, that in this new opening we have in our country, is that leaders of this kind can get more space to operate. I am hopeful that we all can see what good can be done from leading this way.