Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Report

It's December 25 and I just got off work at 6:30 am. The temperature is 34 degrees and the snow that was falling when I came to work at 9:30 pm turned to rain sometime during the night. There is still a lot of snow on the ground, and the roads and sidewalks are coated with a treacherous cocktail of snow, water, and ice. Without a pair of good boots it wouldn't be a great morning to walk the 5.5 miles home from work, as I have done a few times in the past year. I did it last December 25 when I tripped at the corner of Heron and 13th, and fell on the sidewalk breaking my nose, and giving myself a couple black eyes, thereby adding some unusual and unsightly cosmetic touches to our holiday celebration. I have no plans to make that an annual tradition. I drove to work last night.

It's a Thursday, usually a work day, that is, if it weren't the best known and most popular holiday of the year. So there is little or no traffic on the streets. Most businesses are closed. I think the only ones open are the "essentials;" medical centers as well as police and fire protection. A few trained specialists are on call, emergency repair persons such as doctors, plumbers, the power company, people who deal with the transport of substances needed to sustain life such as blood, water, oxygen, and electricity. It's a safe guess that none of them really want to be called today.

So on the way home from work I temporarily abandon my commitment to use less gasoline and take a longer route. I circle around downtown a few times and then drive the approximately five miles on State Street to the intersection at Glenwood. Usually on a Thursday morning these streets are thick with traffic. I obediently stop at about twenty red traffic signals along this route, but if I hadn't stopped or even slowed down, I wouldn't have hit anyone, or even come close to causing an accident. A few motorists might have been startled by my actions, but that's all that would have happened. There was virtually no traffic. When I stopped at traffic signals downtown, I looked both ways and usually there was no other vehicle in sight for as far as I could see, other than a few parked cars still covered with snow. Except for a few convenience stores, nearly all businesses are closed. Even that most villainous of retailers, which shall remain unnamed, at the corner of Glenwood and State is closed at 7:00 am.

I like this kind of day, not just because it's Christmas, but because it's a holiday that most people and businesses actually treat with respect and honor as a holiday. It's a time for people to relax, sleep in, rest, and share their lives with families and friends. Of course, for mothers and others, usually women, who have to prepare for Christmas dinners and other yuletide celebrations, there is work to do. But I also like holidays that are actually treated as holidays for other reasons. I like them because they give people a glimpse of what their hometown, regardless of size, would be like if it became a ghost town. Many towns and cities in this country that were lively locations of human activity a hundred years ago, no longer exist. Some died because the mines that supported them ran out of minerals. Others died because the railroad passed them by, and still others were swallowed up by larger cities. In human history, entire civilizations have vanished, leaving only archaeological remnants proving they once existed. On a morning like this I wonder what Boise would be like if I was the last person in the city, or even in the entire Treasure Valley. What if everyone else had left, moved on for some reason or another? Considering how most Americans live, consuming vast amounts of non-renewable natural resources, it's probably inevitable that at some time in the future, the cities of this country will become non-existent. It's possible, and perhaps even likely, that global warming and the decreasing supply of water that accompanies it, will someday make Boise and other western cities uninhabitable?

What would a newly abandoned Boise look like? Like this morning the streets would be empty. The blowing wind would be playing with dry snowflakes, or if it were summer, dust and tumbleweeds. The traffic signals would be idiotically blinking from red to green, then to amber and back to red, regulating non-existent traffic like silent actors on stage performing to an empty auditorium. Houses and other buildings would be abandoned, a few vandalized with broken windows, and others with open doors swinging in the wind. Feral dogs would be roaming in and out of open buildings, searching for edible garbage. In western cities that normally get more snow than Boise, such as Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, and Billings, what would it be like to see snow that had fallen weeks or months before on streets, sidewalks, and around houses, melting naturally in the spring without ever being marked by a human foot print, or re-arranged by a shovel, blower, or snow plow? Of course the image of an abandoned Boise would be different if our city were destroyed by war, instead of drought or economic disaster. But even the Pentagon believes that future wars will be fought over water rather than oil.

However a holiday like Christmas raises another important question. Why are there so few of them? A holiday such as today when businesses are closed and traffic is significantly less is good for everybody. It's good for the environment. The air was definitely cleaner this morning that it would have been if traffic was at normal work day levels. Of course, to reduce our waste of natural resources, we may have to ease off on the excessive gift-giving, use living or recycled Christmas trees, and change a few other habits, but otherwise Christmas is a green holiday, as well as a strong pro-family event. It's also a day off work. Americans work an average of 350 hours a year more than western Europeans, and have nothing to show for it. Citizens of Western Europe have more benefits, better health care, greater longevity, and superior transportation options than we have. As we all know, our economy is not very healthy. Perhaps it desperately needs rest. Expecting the economy to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week is unrealistic. There should regularly be days when people stay at home, or visit family and friends, days when stores and businesses are closed, the roads are nearly empty, and business activities takes a break. Holidays are good for our physical and mental health, but only when they are actually treated, celebrated or memorailized as holidays. Even anticipating and remembering holidays can be healthy.

It's not that we don't have anything to celebrate. Even those who embrace the so-called literal interpretation of the Bible, believe that there have been between 5,000 and 10,000 years of human history. So as humans, there is much to remember and proclaim. Even though the United States has had over a quarter of a century of continuous, "pro-family," conservative Republican and Democratic administrations in control, the Reagan, Clinton, and two Bush Administrations, nothing has been done to support or enhance family life as much as creating more holidays would do. Instead family life has been undermined especially by the union-busting, pension-breaking, and health care depriving Republican administrations. Unfortunately the Democrats haven't been much better. Adding more holidays, like Christmas, that are actually treated as holidays would do much to enhance family life, and they would also help our economy and our cities survive.

Why is there no official holiday to celebrate the the writ of habeous corpus that guarantees individuals the right to seek relief from unlawful detention, a right that dates back to before the Magna Carta in 1215. Perhaps if we had a holiday to celebrate this basic aspect of democracy it wouldn't have been possible for Pres. Bush and Congress to undermine that right in the Military Commission Act of 2006. Part of that act was, two years later, by a narrow margin, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. That right is certainly worth a significant annual celebration, comparable to Christmas. Why is there no holiday celebrating the life of Martin Luther, whose 95 thesis nailed to the Wittenburg Church door on Halloween in 1517 is seen as the start of the Protestant Reformation? Since that date is already occupied by Halloween we could celebrate Luther's birthdate which was in 1483, on Nov. 10. Another date to celebrate is May 27, the birth date of Rachel Carson in 1907. The publication of Carson's book Silent Spring, in 1962, two years before she died from breast cancer, may be the most important date in the struggle to protect the environment and preserve the earth as a planet, suitable for human habitation. There is no shortage of needed celebrations. Why is there no holiday designated especially for the family? We have a Father's Day and Mother's Day and even lesser known days for grandparents, but shouldn't there be a holiday of Christmas status just for the family? It would be easy to find justifiable reasons for at least a dozen more holidays, special days really treated as holidays by government, education, and business. Everyone would benefit and so would the environment, human health, and the economy. Our cities and our civilization would have a better chance of long-term survival. Let's work on it. Merry Christmas.

Leonard Nolt

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My daughter, Marika, wrote this for Father's Day and perhaps even my 60th. birthday, both in June, but it's so nice, I 'm also using it for a Christmas present.

Thanks, Marika.
On the way home from our Christmas Eve service at our church, Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship, here in Boise, motoring through a heavy (for Boise) snowfall, with the flakes flying toward, and then over or past our windshield, Zachary, our five-year old grandson, sitting in the back seat of the Prius said: "It's like driving through water, and all the snowflakes are fish."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Please note that, unless otherwise indicated, all the writings, prose and poetry, and images on this blog are the property of Leonard Nolt and may not be used without permission, except for brief credited quotes. For permission contact me at Thanks."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On Censorship

"Censorship is not the answer: repressing or stifling free expression is an ostrich move that can only fail as a response to a problem. But it is not censorship to criticize representation that may be harmful or offensive" (Page 78).

"My answer has to be firmly against censorship, because the vast array of human experience needs to be represented in art and in literature, as well as in other forms" (Page 123).

These two quotes are from the book "The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It," by M. Gigi Durham. This is an excellent awareness-raising book on this important topic. I appreciated much of the information provided by the author, but especially these two quotes. Many people concerned about the content of TV, movies, and other media advocate censorship as a possible solution to the problem. Censorship by govenment creates more problems than it solves. Questions like who decides what should be censored are impossible to resolve to everyone's satisfaction. I believe there's a very thin and almost invisible line between censorship that blocks content determined by some to be obscene, immoral, un-American, and unpatriotic; and censorship that blocks expression of religious beliefs or artistic endeavors. However I believe it's very appropriate and mandatory for parents and guardians to censor what their children read and watch on TV or on the computer as well as the games they play and the movies they attend. Of course there are always some parents who fail to protect their childen from such harmful media exposure. However the solution is not for the government to act as parents for those people. In this post 9/11 world where our freedoms are already endangered, thanks largely to the Bush Administration, but also the repressive Patriot Act, as well as the Homeland Security Dept., that's simply too dangerous and only a short distance from undermining our freedom. The quote by Durham from Page 123 expresses the truth very succinctly. People need to have the freedom to express themselves. Any attempt by government to censor expressions that they determine are immoral, obscene, or inappropriate will inevitably silence some races, religions, cultures, political ideas, etc. more than others, and in so doing be harmful to democracy and freedom.

Leonard Nolt

Zach: "I love you more than God loves the universe!"

Friday, November 28, 2008

Recent Readings 11/08

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen - Tragic autobiographical account of a young girl's descent into promiscuity and her recovery. Unfortunately this 210 page book devotes 205 pages to the promiscuious part of her life, so the reader is not really sure the recovery actually happened.

New Geographies of the American West: Land use and the Changing Patterns of Place by William R. Travis - A scientific look at the changing demographics of the 11 western states in the continental US. Valuable for anyone interested in the growing cities of the west, the environment surrounding them, as well as water and land use issues.

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe - Refreshing collection of poetry including brief poem "stories," and lots of questions.

The Great Awakening by Jim Wallis - This is the first book I've read by Wallis, one of the founders and leaders of the Sojourners Community in Washington DC, since "Agenda for Biblical People." ("God's Politics " has been sitting on my book shelf unopened for a couple years). Wallis looks at the current changing religious and political climate in the US emphasizes his interpretation of Christian teachings (which is similar to mine), and accents his mostly positive and upbeat report with quotes from scores of other people, including his two young sons. Nice overview, but no really new or eye-opening revelations.

In the World, But Not Of It: One Family's Militant Faith and the History of Fundamentalism in America by Brett Grainger - Grainger, formerly a part of the Sojourners Community, presents a concise history of fundamentalism enriched by his own first-hand experiences growing up in a fundamentalist family, church, and community in Canada.

One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds - Worthwhile collection of provocative, edgy poems by the award-winning former Poet Laureate of New York State.

Falling into Manholes: The Memoir of a Bad/Good Girl by Wendy Merrill - A largely unsuccessful attempt at a humorous telling of the author's attempts to overcome kleptomania, buliema, anorexia, alcoholism, co-dependancy, pot smoking, as well as sex and cocaine addiction on the path to becoming a "normal" adult. More sad than funny, but it's nice to see that the author still has a sense of well as her life.

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram - The Diary of a North Vietnamese doctor, working under horrid conditions to provide health care for her fellow Vietnamese. Killed by the Americans before she reached the age of 28. Highly recommended and very moving. More information is available at and at

Dear Darkness by Kevin Young - Another worthy collection of poems from this prolific poet. Better than his previous collection "For the Confederate Dead" and almost as good as "Jelly Roll."

Saving the Queen by William F. Buckley Jr. - His first novel, published in 1976, about a CIA agent. Written by the conservative guru and founder of the National Review. Mildly interesting.

Learning to Breathe: One Woman's Journey of Spirit and Survival by Alison Wright - The very inspiring and unbelievable story of photojournalist Wright's nearly fatal accident in Laos and how she, against all odds, recovered to scale the highest peak in Africa, told against a backdrop of her travels and exciting experiences in Asia and other parts of the world. Enriched with touches of culture, religion, politics, and relationships. Easy, fast, and very worthwhile reading.

60 Poems by Charles Simic - This is the third time I've read this compact collection of bizarre, mysterious, and offbeat poems by the US Poet Laureate which is exactly the kind of excellent poetry we've learned to expect from him. These poems are taken from previous collections by Simic and they have a magnetic nature and keep drawing me back, like someone returning to a location where he once had an amazing experience, an experience that he still doesn't entirely understand.

Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age by Maggie Jackson. A scholarly and heavily researched account of how many, perhaps most, people today in our culture are distracted and unfocused, and tells us how to regain "our ability to connect, reflect, and relax." It took me about 100 pages to really get into this book, and then it became really interesting for only a short while, but I gradually lost interest again the last couple chapters. I guess it was about me!

How Does it Feel to Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America, by Moustafa Bayoumi. Excellent and very readable account of the lives of seven people and the hassles they and their families had to put up with as a result of profiling and fear in the aftermath of 9/11. Reminds us that still in the United States some productive, law-abiding people are not as free as others. If you're going to read only one of the fifteen books on this post, this is the one to read.

The White Mary by Kira Salak - Average adventure novel with interesting descriptions of sloshing through the jungles of New Guinea and coping with war and other dangers in third world countries, but weak and predictable on relationships and interactions with other people. Fast, easy reading, but not much to think about afterwards.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Cambium Level

Just in case you wondered where the name of my blog came from, if you remember the cambium layer of a tree is the living cells between the inner bark and the sapwood. It 's where the cell growth takes place. The cambium layer of a tree is also where the xylem and phloem is produced. The xylem is the tissue used for the tranport of water and minerals through the plant. The phloem conducts the organic food material through the tree. For obvious reasons I use the word "level" rather than the word "layer." My goal is to have "The Cambium Level" seen as a metaphor for writings and photos that are creative, life-giving, and informative.

Leonard Nolt

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Remembering the Vietnam War

Recently I read "Last Night I Dreamed of Peace," by Dang Thuy Tram. This excellent book is the diary of a North Vietnamese doctor who was killed in the Vietnam War on June 22, 1970. Although her life was only one of millions who died in that horrible conflict, this book reminds us of how priceless each one of those lives were, and how much suffering resulted from the war. I was reminded again of how much influence the Vietnam War (which I've heard is called the "American War" in Vietnam) had on me and many other people from my generation. The Vietnam War is one reason, along with the Christian Anabaptist faith of my ancestors, (and also several other reasons), that I am not a conservative. Conservatives have a habit of choosing bloody solutions to problems. Unfortunately far too often liberals, progressives, and others support harmful conservative actions. It seems that the lessons of the Vietnam War have been forgotten by the conservative leaders of this country, and others, who currently have the US bogged down in two losing wars. It's estimated that the Iraq War alone will cost us from three to five trillion dollars, and, as in all wars, the financial cost is the cheapest expense. The cost of the lost lives, destroyed and damaged families, and the illnesses and injuries are even greater.

The use of depleted uranium by the US military guarantees that the death toll from the Iraq War will continue to rise indefinitely. Depleted uranium has a half life of a billion years. The rate of pediatric tumors in Iraqi children increased 12-fold in the areas where depleted uranium was used after the 1991 Gulf War when only 200 tons of depleted uranium was used, mostly in rural areas. Much more has been used in the current war, and most of it in urban areas, which means that long after the United States is as gone and forgotten as the ancient Babylonians, there will still be children in what in now Iraq coming down with potentially fatal tumors, as a direct result of the current military violence of the US. No dictator in history has yet been guilty of threatening the lives of children whose ancient ancestors have yet to be born, but that is exactly what the US is now doing in Iraq. The question that must be asked is this: is this the worst evil that any nation has ever inflicted on others, or is it simply a tie for the worst?

Dang Thuy Tram in her diary expresses some of the sentiment that the Vietnamese felt as they were targeted with US military violence not so long ago. This is also the sentiment that will be used to curse the US by other innocent victims, possibly for the next several thousand centuries. Hear her words:

"Oh! War! How I hate it, and I hate the belligerent American devils. Why do they enjoy massacring kind, simple folks like us? Why do they heartlessly kill, life-loving young men like Lam, like Ly, Like Hung and the thousand others, who are only defending their motherland with so many dreams" (Page 39)?

"The bleeding has stopped; the patient's urine has become clear and normal. A life saved should be a great joy, but somehow I feel apathetic and inadequate before my smiling patient, unmoved by his respectful eyes. Is it because I know I have stemmed but one bloodflow while countless others are still bleeding? I must mend all the wounds of our nation. The American are upon us like blood-thirsty devils, stealthily sinking their fangs into our bodies. Only when we have chased them all out of Vietnam will our blood stop pouring into the earth" (Page 47).

"Be willing to die, but also be willing to love life dearly, this precious thing that our people have paid for with blood and tears for twenty-three years" (Page 57).

"Every time I say good-bye to you, my young brother, I realize I love you even more. Hugging you in my arms, kissing your eyes, I feel that nothing can make us forget the hours and minutes we share. You have asked me many times why I love you. Why? It's because of your suffering, because of your courage before tremendous dangers, and because your heart thrists for love, but your life is lonely and cold" (Page 68).

"Life spreads before us in a thousand pieces of love, pain, hope, and jealously. Half of our heart is filled with red blood, half with black" (Page 69).

"Now Duong is captured again. Fresh out of prison - still not yet recovered from that saga - he has to weep for his father, shot by the Americans. His father's funeral was barely over before the enemy came again and killed his big brother in a tunnel, and captured Duong and took him away. They burned down his house. His mother is left to weep silently by her son's body, on the bare, charred ground of their burnt home. Is there anything more painful than that" (Page 74)?

"Late at night, I'm lying next to my comrades. They are sound asleep, their breaths are even. Outside artillery shells explode all over the sky. Oh. my comrades, we breathe the same air on this fiery, smoky battlefield. Let's love and care for one another" (Page 205)

"Come to me, squeeze my hand, know my loneliness, and give me the love, the strength to prevail on the perilous road before me" (Page 225).

(A foot note on page 223 states: The bombs and chemical defoliants used during the war decimated the bird population of Vietnam. Many Vietnamese commented on the eerie quiet, and on how sad they felt in the absence of birdsong.)

We should have learned a lot by now from these horrible mistakes we've made as a nation, mistakes that have resulted in the premature deaths of millions of people, most of them innocent women and children. One thing we know for sure is that neither the Vietnam War, nor any war we've been involved in since has had anything to do with defending the US. These wars have been about imposing our will on other nations, stealing resources, trying out new weapons, padding the Pentagon's budget, yielding to weapons manufacturer's pressure, and lobbyist's influence, and other reasons, but not about making the US safer. Families, doctors, and birds in Vietnam have never threatened the US. If there are any wonderful diaries like this left from the Iraq War, diaries that help us view the war from our victim's perspective, will we ever see them, considering that there is a lot more censorship imposed on the media now than during the Vietnam War? To get an idea of what the victim's perspective is in the current Iraq War, check Baghdad Burning at, and when you get a chance, read "Last Night I Dreamed of Peace."

Leonard Nolt

Just Paying Attention.....

Open notecard found on a table at 5:00 am in the US Post Office in Boise on Aug, 16, 2008.

Dear ----;

We are so proud of you!
Have ---- put the kite together to hang in your classroom.
The DVD and books are from the World Birds of Prey Center in Boise, Idaho.

Mom & Dad ----

Question of the day...

"When and for what reason did the compliment "bleeding heart" become an insult?"
(answers welcome)

Zach and I decided we needed a new bedtime prayer,
so we wrote one and here it is:

Be with me Jesus,
As I rest.
Please stay nearby;
You are the best!

"And as the forests fell, the creeks and springs dried up, devastating winds swept from western prairies, and so the work of changing the climatic conditions of a world was well under way."

By Gene Stratton-Porter; an excerpt from "The Last Passenger Pigeon, first published in 1925. Taken from the anthology "American Earth," edited by Bill McKibben, page 193.

"The time will come when , with elation,
you will great yourself arriving at your own door...
You will love again the stranger who was your self."

Derek Walcott

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Tell Everyone!" (Part 3 of Workplace Psychological Abuse)

( I recommend reading Part 1 at and Part 2 at before reading Part 3.)

This is the third in a series on the experiences I had at my previous employer, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise Idaho, where for the last app. two and a half years I worked there (Jan. 2004 until Aug. 2006), I was the consistent target of a bully, the "adult" workplace version of what many of us had to endure, or witnessed in grade school or junior high. Saint Alphonsus (often called St Als) is a part of Trinity Health, headquartered in Novi, Michigan. In this part of the series I will encourage those who are being, or have been, the target of bullies in the workplace to speak out and tell others. I will also address the part denial plays in this kind of situation. Often management simply refuses to acknowledge the problem exists, even when, as in my case, there is documentation that someone is being injured, and patient care compromised as a result of the bully's behavior. In addition I want to introduce a few of the findings of the 2007 WBI-Zogby Survey on Workplace Bullying.

This "adult" bully was a woman who I was responsible for supervising in the Respiratory Care Department where we both worked. Our respective job descriptions made it necessary for us to communicate with each other. She consistently targeted me with psychological abuse in various ways, including by making derogatory comments about me to others, making false accusations against me, refusing to communicate with me, pretending I didn't exist, and withholding information I needed to do my job. Her behavior daily jeopardized patient care.

I first reported the bullying to management in the spring of 2004, and when nothing was done to address the problem, kept reporting it repeatedly throughout the rest of that year. I sought help from an Employee Assistance Program counselor who diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the bully's harassment. In January of 2005 I began a series of reports, first to the Human Resource Department, and later (in August) to Senior Management. In May of 2005 a manager from Human Resources requested the names of co-workers who might know about the conflict, so he could conduct an investigation. I gave him the names of approximately twenty people. Later in the middle of the investigation he sent me an urgent "high priority" e-mail asking me to not ask those twenty people if they had been contacted, or if they participated in the investigation. I followed that request. However when, weeks later, I was ordered to never talk to anyone about the investigation, I began to get suspicious. How does talking about an investigation in August change results obtained three months earlier in May?

As I did more research into the problem of bullying and the way businesses respond to it, I became aware of a couple new (for me) discoveries. I found out that investigations are conducted, not necessarily to find out the truth about what happened, but to protect senior management and the company from blame, liability, or any exorbitant expense associated with the conflict. It's clear that the investigation conducted into the conflict I was having fell into that category. No sincere attempt was made to find the cause of the problem. It's my impression that the investigation was manipulated to get pre-determined results. After the investigation, several people came to me and reported what they told the manager. Their reports contrasted drastically with what the manager told me in a very sparse verbal report I received at a meeting, scheduled by me, before the investigation was over. I was promised a written report of the investigation as well as a chance to discuss it with the department manager, but the written report never arrived, and when I requested it, the request was emphatically denied. The meeting to discuss the investigation with the department manager was never scheduled and didn't happen.

The part denial plays in this kind of situation is the second discovery from my research. Many companies, for a variety of reasons, try to deny that they have a bullying problem. That's certainly one reason why I never received a report of the investigation. Since then a member of senior management told me that I never should have been promised a report of the investigation, or expected one. But if the investigation is being done to get to the root of the problem, how can withholding the findings of the investigation contribute to solving the problem? The Workplace Bullying Institute ( under 2007 WBI-Zogby Survey states: "Bullying is a Public Health Hazard." If that's true then the more everyone knows, the safer everyone will be. To protect the public, public health hazards have to be publicized.

Several times I was ordered to not talk about the conflict. This was part of management's attempts to enforce their policy of denial. On Oct. 4, 2005 in a meeting with him, the manager from Human Resources ordered me to lie about my PTSD injury if asked. Denial also seems to be a factor in the willingness of managers to even listen to someone who is reporting the problem of bullying. I think denial was a factor in the department manager claiming that the PTSD injury I was diagnosed with as a result of the bullying, was "petty." Surely he knew better. Before he met with me the first time on Jan 14, 2005 the manager from Human Resources refused to listen to my side of the story, and before our third and last meeting on Oct 4, 2005, he let me know ahead of time that I would not have any opportunity to respond to the information given at that meeting.

At no time was I given an opportunity to defend myself against the false accusations of the bully, not in front of the bully nor in front of any member of management. Although I requested the information, I was never told exactly what her accusations against me were. In fact I got the impression that management didn't even know for sure what the problem was. The Human Resource manager told me a couple times that there was "some ambiguity" about the bully's charges. Of course! Anyone who has done their homework on bullying in the workplace knows that ambiguity is a typical characteristic of a workplace bully's abusive behavior. The whole point of a bully's behavior is to be a bully. The bully will not provide management with precise information because that would make it easier to resolve the conflict. Then the bully will have to find another target. One of the chief characteristics of a workplace bully's behavior is "the refusal to be specific about criticisms" (from "Bully in Sight" by Tim Field, Page 41).

The writings of Marie-France Hirigoyen in her book "Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity," emphasize the fact that bullies refuse to be specific about criticism and also refuse to talk about the problem:

"Emotional abuse in the workplace goes through different stages, all of which have the
refusal to communicate as a common theme."...."By refusing to label and therefore discuss
the conflict, the abuser obstructs finding a solution."..... "Withdrawal from discussion is an
effective means of aggravating the conflict..." (Page 62).
"Abuse is perpetrated by the refusal to acknowledge what is happening, discuss the
situation, or jointly find solutions. If the conflict were out in the open, discussion would be
possible and a solution might be forged."........ "An effective way of aggravating the conflict is
avoiding dialogue, which silently imputes blame on the other person. The victim is
refused the right to be heard.".... "This refusal of dialogue is a way of saying, without directly
expressing it in words, that the other person.....doesn't even exist" (Page 96).

Hirigoyen make it clear that in any bullying situation, the person who refuses to be specific about criticism, and who refuses to participate in a resolution process should be assigned the responsibility for the unresolved conflict. Also note that when things are out in the open, a solution is more likely, so prescribing censorship is unwise and harmful. When someone suffers a psychiatric injury, such as PTSD, as a result of bullying, a responsible resolution will include the needed mediated dialogue between bully, target, and management, even if the injury occurred years before. Psychiatric injuries require a much different treatment than physical injuries. Unlike most physical injuries, treatment for psychiatric injuries have to take the cause of the injury into consideration.

On Aug. 29, 2005 I received an e-mail from a member of senior management ordering me to not talk about this issue with other employees. She was the third member of management to order me to not talk about this potentially disabling on-the-job injury. Managers claimed that information about the bullying was "confidential," but the truth is that their efforts to silence me were acts of censorship. It was, and still is part of their denial of the problem. Talking about the problem is necessary to raise awareness and prevent others from being injured. Managers of a medical center ordering employees to not talk about a PTSD injury that occurred on the job at their institution are acting as irresponsible as public officials prescribing censorship about mosquitoes and West Nile Virus, or about cases of mumps or measles in the neighborhood. Communication raises awareness and protects people while censorship endangers the public. With such overwhelming evidence, why would management deny that there was (and still is) a bullying problem at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center? Here are a couple possible reasons. Perhaps because they are not interested in, and have no training, skills or experience at addressing the problem. One reason is because some managers are bullies and they see bullying by them, or by others as a way of using fear to help keep employees "in line." Certainly a manager threatening an employee with termination for reporting a serious and potentially disabling injury, as the manager from Human Relations did to me on July 18, 2005 when I reported the PTSD to him, is guilty of a severe act of bullying.

What does it mean when management imposes censorship on employees concerning a public health menace like bullying? It means that managers are acting exactly as child molesters and pedophiles act when they tell their victims to not talk about the harmful and abusive treatment they are experiencing. Workplace psychological abuse is at the same place now that child abuse was fifty years ago. Half a century ago child abuse was hidden, denied, not talked about, and the victims who reported it were not believed. Now targets of bullies in the workplace face the same dilemma. Despite more than two dozen reports to them that I was being seriously injured on the job by a psychologically abusive co-worker, at no time to this day (Nov. 18, 2008) has any member of any level of management at St. Alphonsus responded, addressing that problem. Their "response," if you can call it that, is one of complete denial. What's the solution to this denial? The solution is to defy the censorship orders and "tell everyone!" You keep telling and telling until people wake up and address the problem. The solution is the same as the solution for child abuse. In her book for children "Something Happened and I'm Scared to Tell: A Book for Young Victims of Abuse," Patricia Kehoe writes on Page 11; "You tell and tell until somebody listens." Other authors on child sexual abuse echo Kehoe. In "Everything You Need to Know About Sexual Abuse," Evan Stark writes "Tell someone who can help you about the abuse," and also "Keep speaking up until you get the help you need to stop the abuse" (Page 7). Stark also writes, "Keep telling people you trust about sexual abuse until someone listens" (Page 24), and "...if you have been sexually abused, speak up" (Page 40). A pedophile tells his victim to not talk about it so the molester can continue to abuse his victim. A manager at St Alphonsus who tells an employee injured by a bully to not talk about it, as I was told at least half a dozen times by management at St Als, is doing exactly the same thing to the victim of bullying, as the pedophile does to his victim. Such orders have the effect of giving the abuser permission to continue to abuse his/her victim. In situations of sexual, physical, or psychological abuse, ordering the victims to be quiet about the abuse is medically inappropriate. Silence always supports and encourages the abuser.

The comparison between child abuse and psychological abuse in the workplace is a valid one. Numerous titles on bullying compare the emotional harm done to the victim of a bully with the emotional harm done to a rape or torture victim. (For one example check "Bully in Sight" by Tim Field, pages 6, 50, 317-318, 323-324). Judith Wyatt and Chauncey Hare in "Work Abuse: How to Recognize and Survive it," write that bullying in the workplace is "one of the most severe forms of emotional abuse anyone can experience" (page 13), and they also tell us that anyone bullied at work has experienced it as "a life-threatening event" (Page 158). They write that the experience of being bullied at work "is very similar to the impact on a child who is beaten every day" (Page 68). Wyatt and Hare also emphasize the destructive impact that a policy of denial, such as the one that exists at St. Als, has on the victim of bullying. They write, "Living under continual attack in an everyday setting and having it denied is a nightmare. It is a horrifying experience that depletes trust in the world and in one's perceptions of reality..." (page 68).

Psychological abuse is as serious as sexual and physical abuse. Bullying is a personal attack on another person's health, safety, and professional integrity. Bullying is an act of violence. Talking about it is necessary to raise awareness of the problem. However the target of bullying in the workplace who talks about it will probably lose his job as a result. It's important for any victim of bullying to realize that before he/she speaks up. An employer will not long tolerate an honest employee who is exposing the employer's dirty secrets. An employer who tolerates bullies is a bully. The Zogby Survey reported that "in 62% of cases, when employers are made aware of bullying, they escalate the problem for the target or simply do nothing." The report goes on to say; "It must be said that doing nothing is not a neutral act. When a person asks for relief and nothing is done, the employer becomes the bully's accomplice, whether deliberately or inadvertently, by allowing it to continue." My experience at Saint Als confirms those findings. Although I was initially targeted by a co-worker, it wasn't long before management became a part of the problem. I reported the problem to management numerous times but nothing was done to stop the bully. It seemed as if management consistently tried to support the bully. I requested a professionally mediated conflict resolution process with the bully to try to resolve the problem. It was denied by management because the bully "didn't think it was necessary." I have an e-mail I received from the Respiratory Care Department manager which states, and this is an exact quote; "If she (the bully) can accept your presence on her shift, then there is no issue other than for you to do your job" (Italics mine). He sent that to me more than six months after it had been documented that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the bully's harassment. To management the fact that one employee was intentionally causing a serious injury to a co-worker was "no issue." Is it surprising that bullying is such a problem at St. Alphonsus? I'm no longer working there, having been forced to leave because I was gradually becoming disabled by the bullying, but the bully is still there, and is now on day instead of night shift, which many would see as a promotion. The department manager who wrote that the fact I was being injured on the job with PTSD was "no issue,' is still there, and has received a significant promotion. Upper level managers who knew I was being injured and did nothing, are still there. The Zogby Survey confirms my experience at Saint Alphonsus by reporting that targets leave, and bullies stay.

The 2007 WBI-Zogby Survey is a valuable source of current information about workplace bullying. It can be found at There are numerous interesting findings of the Zogby Survey, and most of the findings confirm my experiences at Saint Alphonsus. Thirty-seven percent of American workers have been bullied at work according to the poll. Being the target of a bully is an eye-opening experience. Although I knew little or nothing about workplace bullying before I became a victim of it, I was forced to learn rapidly and, in a few months, read eight or ten texts and scores of articles on the topic. That new information made me aware of how common the problem is at St Als. By the time I left Saint Alphonsus, I knew of half a dozen other employees who were having the same experience, or who had just left for the same reason I was leaving. I only knew approximately 250 employees at St. Alphonsus and most of them superficially. So with 37% of Americans workers having experienced the violence of being bullied and with app. 3,000 employees at Saint Alphonsus, you can calculate how big the problem is at St. Alphonsus. The Zogby Poll found out that 40% of the targets of bullying never complain. At St. Alphonsus undoubtedly that percentage is higher, perhaps much higher, especially if employees know what happened to me, as many do since I reported it to hundreds of them after I left Saint Alphonsus. Reporting it was the responsible action to take since, as the Zogby Poll reports; "Bullying is a public health hazard," Forty-five percent of the targets had detrimental health effects from the bullying. The number of days I missed work annually for health reasons doubled after I became the target of a bully. By reporting it, at least I helped to raise awareness, which will make it easier for others to defend themselves if targeted by a bully, and hopefully avoid a serious injury like PTSD. Unfortunately they still cannot safely report it since management at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center has yet to demonstrate any commitment to addressing the problem.

There is no question that management at Saint Alphonsus is capable of acting responsibly with regard to the problem of bullying. They have the ability to learn how to recognize bullying and help eliminate it from their workplaces. They can develop the skills needed to properly help victims of bullying, including protecting them from additional injury, and providing the kind of treatment that detoxifies the hostile workplace and creates a safe working environment for the injured employee. It's likely that high quality, experienced employees are being lost to bullying, probably by the dozens, each year. It's a matter of choice. Will they choose to address the problem, or will they continue to be a part of the problem? This can and should be seen by management at Saint Alphonsus and Trinity Health as a great opportunity to take the lead in addressing the problem of bullying in the health care sector, which is one of the areas where bullying is most common.

When an employee at St. Alphonsus falls down the stairs and breaks his leg, the employer will offer the required treatment in the emergency department and, if necessary, also as an inpatient. The injured employee will be allowed enough time to recover, and will be given an opportunity to provide input on how the accident happened, and on what could be done to prevent a re-occurrance. But if an employee suffers a psychiatric injury like PTSD as a result of intentional mistreatment from a co-worker, the victim will still be scheduled to work with the abuser, the victim's request for a change of schedule and a resolution of the problem will be ignored, as will his request for time off to recover from the abuse. He won't be offered any treatment. From Jan, 14, 2005 when I first reported the PTSD injury to Human Resource Management at Saint Als, (which was 20 months before I left St. Als), until today, almost four years later, I have had to seek, obtain, and pay for all my treatment for PTSD myself with no help from St Alphonsus. In a meeting with him on May 19, 2005 I requested compensation from a Human Resource manager for the PTSD injury and the expense it was costing me. He promptly denied it. Later I requested, from a nursing official, the forms needed to complete and apply for compensation. She told me that the only forms they had were for patients and covered only physical injuries. That says something about how primitive the care for a relatively common psychiatric injury such as PTSD is at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, which advertises itself as the "Center For Advanced Healing." Management has completely refused to acknowledge that I was injured, even though the first diagnosis of PTSD was made by Saint Alphonsus, as occurring on the job at Saint Alphonsus! To draw a parallel, if St. Als treated the broken leg the way they treat PTSD, they would let the injured person lying at the foot of the stairs indefinitely, ignoring his cries for help. The injured employee would have to drag himself to the nearest "other" health care facility for help. He would be threatened with termination if he talked about his broken leg, and how it happened, to other employees. He would be ordered to not report the fracture, and fired if he reported it to management. He would receive no days off work. He would be expected to show up at work and continue to do the same quality and quantity of work as before, and even work with the person who pushed him down the stairs!

Why is the response to bullying and on-the-job psychiatric injury at Saint Alphonsus so primitive as well as hopelessly irresponsible? Because management at St. Alphonsus has yet to take the problem of bullying and workplace psychological abuse seriously. Recently a vice-president told me that management has a lot more awareness of the problem as a result of the information I sent them. That's nice, but actions speak much louder than words, and so far there has been no action to address the problem and no accountability from managment at Saint Alphonsus with regard to those who have been injured and are still dealing with PTSD and the accompaning issues. We can only hope and pray that the Center for Advanced Healing at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center will soon live up to its name and begin to apply some healing to the serious problem of psychological abuse on their campus.

Leonard Nolt

Next: Part 4 - Find out what happens when a responsible health care professional and citizen reports a public health hazard to the public. The title is "A Knock at the Door"

Friday, November 7, 2008

"The great menace to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."

Daniel Boorstin in "Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected."
"In a way, nobody sees a flower really, it is so small, we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."

Georgia O' Keeffe

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Post-Election Speeches... Plus

If you listened to or read the post-election speeches from the two major presidential candidates, you probably heard some of the same predictable platitudes we've learned to expect from the winners and losers.

I thought McCain's concession speech was clearly the stronger of the two. He seemed to harbor no bitterness and expressed what appeared to be genuine and unselfish support for the winner. He also had the shorter speech. The best and strongest part of Obama's victory speech was the section near the end where he told the story of 106-year-old Ann Nixon Cooper who voted this year on election day in spite of her sex and color, something she would have been unable to do as a much younger woman.

However both McCain and Obama repeated some comments that, I think, we need to examine, and even question as to accuracy and usefulness. McCain said, "Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this..the greatest nation on earth." I have no problem with people valuing their citizenship in any country. But what scale of measurement is McCain using to conclude that the United States is "the greatest nation on earth?" "Greatest" is a very vague term. How do we measure "greatness?" Is it comparable to wealth or destructive potential? If so than perhaps the US is the "greatest" nation on earth. We have more wealth than most other nations, although there are countries with fewer poor people. We also have more destructive potential, but that's because we invest more of our resources in developing our ability to destroy other peoples or countries. Some might call that "greatness," but others would call it foolish, wasteful, and dangerous. Certainly our treatment of slaves and our destruction of many Native American cultures and peoples are not signs of greatness. Our use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only nation in the world to have ever used nuclear weapons to attack civilian populations, is not a sign of greatness. Neither was our war against the Vietnamese, nor is the current war against the Iraqi people a sign of greatness. Most industrialized nations give a much larger percentage of their GNP to non-military developmental aid than the US does. We spend more on health care but don't live as long as people in many other industrialized nations. We have much less support for families from business and government than any country in western Europe. The gap between the minority rich and majority middle and poor classes is increasing. Real wage increases for the working people in this nation have been, at best, nearly stagnant for many years, since early in the Reagan Administration. So what does McCain mean by "greatest?" It would be nice if politicians who claim that the United States is the "greatest" nation in the world would state exactly what they mean by "greatest."

Obama was caught making a similar mistake. At the closing of his speech he said, "And may God bless the United States of America." Some would say that asking for God's blessing on a country which has already been blessed more than most countries is simply selfish. I understand that view, but I'm wondering why Obama stopped with the United States. Why not ask for God's blessing on the whole world, or on Planet Earth. God knows that with all the problems facing this limited planet and it's finite resources, the Earth could use some blessings. I would think that if any presidential candidate would have a more global perspective for the future, it would be Obama. But in closing his victory speech he sounded just like dozens of winning politicians who have gone before him.

McCain might have had the better closing since he said "God bless America," not simply the "United States of America" as Obama concluded his speech. Presumably "America" could mean any country, or all the countries, in North, Central, and South American, making McCain's request for God's blessing broader and less selfish than Obama's. However I doubt if McCain was thinking of Haiti, Colombia, or El Salvador when he made that statement.

At one point in his speech Obama said, ".. we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us." I have no problem with the bravery part of this quote, but I believe every thinking US citizen, including Obama, knows by now that the "brave Americans" in Iraq are not there to risk their lives for us, but for oil, and the oil companies who want access to those resources. Those in Afghanistan are still a part of an incompetent president's act of retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that has been a complete failure in that it's done little to bring those to justice those who planned the attacks, and has done incredible amounts of damage to civilian populations.

McCain said, "Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history." Again these platitudes also raise questions. We "never quit," and "never surrender," compared to who? These statements are as empty and meaningless as a cheerleader's rah! rah! rah! Certainly there were and are times when quiting would be the more intelligent and civilized choice, like now, with regards to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also now concerning our use of fossil fuels to run this country. It's possible to make the transition, in one decade, to a transportation system primarily run on electric. We should quit killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan and we should quit using fossil fuels, or significantly reduce our use of them. We should also quit polluting our rivers and atmosphere. We should quit using military violence to try to solve our problems with other countries. "Making history" is not necessarily good if it involves killing large numbers of innocent civilians, as it often has throughout US history.

Fortunately neither candidate resorted to using another platitude often heard at times like this and that is referring to the US as the "land of the free and the home of the brave." This one is particularly void of meaning and reflects in those who repeat it, a condescending and discriminating attitude toward other countries and citizens. There are other countries where people are not as free as in the US, but there are also countries where people have much more freedoms than US citizens have. Any country with universal health insurance provides their citizens with a freedom many people in the US do not have. With universal health insurance people have the freedom to change jobs and relocate, whereas in the US, such a transition could cost them their health insurance, and they may not be able to obtain comparable coverage due to preexisting conditions, or lack of availability. Bravery is even less of a unique US citizen characteristic than freedom. There are brave people in every country. In fact one could argue that those who are wealthy and have a nice home, a consistent income, and know where their next meal is coming from, do not need to be near as brave as the poor who work hard every day and yet barely survive. Bravery is probably a lot more common in third world countries than in the US.

It would be nice to hear a victory or concession speech from a national candidate that is free of the meaningless phrases and empty platitudes so often heard after the election is over, but it didn't happen this year.
"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room."

from "Learning to Breathe," by Alison Wright, page 36

Election Reflections

Needless to say I was pleased that Obama won and is now the president-elect. During the campaign he was accused of being the most liberal senator in the senate and his opponent made that claim indicating that it was a reason to not vote for Obama. However if the current President Bush is an example of what happens when one of the most conservative politicians in the country wins the presidency, then certainly what this country needs now is someone in charge from the opposite point on the spectrum, to undo all the damage Bush and his cronies have done. I sincerely hope Obama is as liberal as his critics say, because the conservative policies of the past eight years have severely damaged this country and our reputation around the world. One of the reasons I am not a conservative is because conservatives seem to be perpetually trying to drive the country backwards into the past, instead of looking to and addressing the problems and challenges of the future. Of course it's important to begin to address these problems soon, because if not addressed promptly, they will eventually become the problems of Obama and the Democrats.

The four major problems facing our new president, in my opinion, are (in no particular order) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, energy, the environment, and health care. We need a president who will, as quickly as possible, put an end to the ongoing military attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq and address and reverse the destruction of the environment that has been promoted by the Bush Administration. Obama also needs to concentrate on an energy policy that focuses entirely on clean sources of energy, that is solar, wind, geothermal, ocean tides, electric cars, more mass transit, and conservation. Because of the cost, waste storage problems, and the potential threat of an accident, nuclear should not even be considered. There is no point in drilling for oil or digging for coal since using either aggravates the environmental problems. The USA is way behind other industrialized countries and even some third-world countries by simply not having universal health care. We need universal health care that includes coverage for everyone including psychiatric and medical care. After establishing that and getting it working properly in a couple years, before Obama's term is over, universal health care should also include vision and dental. For this to work it must be a single payer plan. Insurance companies should not be allowed to have any say in the development of the plan. Any input from insurance companies will not reflect concern for the sick and injured, but will simply be attempts to try to preserve or protect their profits and that will result in more expense and less coverage for the citizens of this country.

In case you think I missed one major problem facing this country by not mentioning the economy which has been in the ditch for some time, it's my opinion that if we properly address and correct the other four problems I mentioned, the economy will correct itself. It will takes some time, possible a couple years, but the appalling mistakes of the Bush Administration which is responsible for the current decrepit economic, energy, and environmental status of the US did not happen overnight and they won't be corrected overnight.

In other election issues, California voters approved a ban on same-sex marriages which indicates that there is still in this country, even in California, a majority of people who believe they have the right to shove their religious beliefs down the throats of others. Probably the most dishonest and outrageous claim of this and any recent election season is the fear-mongering by some Christians, that allowing homosexuals to get married in some way threatens the institution of marriage and the marriages of heterosexuals. If my 35 year old marriage to Karen fails, it will be our fault. It won't fail because homosexuals in California or Massachusetts are allowed to get married. That's an idiotic accusation, if there ever was one. I guess we have to wonder if the human race will ever advance to the point where we won't be looking for some group of people, slightly different from ourselves, to discriminate against. When laws prevent us from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or religion, then we start railing against humanists, evolutionists, and homosexuals. Perhaps it's just nice to find someone different so we can blame the problems of the world on them. Honest, scholarly, and sincere people have always disagreed on the biblical interpretation of verses that address the issue of homosexuality, even though Jesus did not consider it important enough to say anything about. If there are two interpretations, one that includes accepting homosexuals into our churches and fellowships, and one that excludes them , why would anyone choose the latter? Can that choice be a "Christian" choice?

Voters in Colorado and South Dakota rejected measures that could have led to wide-scale bans of abortion. The Colorado version would have defined life as beginning at conception, which could have also resulted in a ban against some forms of birth control like IUDs. Although not a supporter of abortion, neither do I support laws banning abortion. The abortion rate in this country is determined by much more than laws that either permit or ban abortions. The abortion rate increased by 50, 000 a year when George W. Bush became president over what it was when Clinton was president, because Bush's economic policies made it more difficult for people to afford to have children, and because Bush also put the brakes on sex education in the schools, by emphasizing abstinence instead of protection, which was not an entirely successful approach to the problem. It's been my impression for some time that even though consevatives and Republicans use the abortion issue to try to get votes at election time, that's the only thing they are willing to do with the issue. Conservatives don't want to ban abortions any more than liberals do. We had twelve consecutive years of George Herbert Walker Bush and Ronald Reagan in the White House and nothing was done during that time to ban abortions. Now we've had another eight years of George W. Bush in the White House with only a ban against late-term abortions which make up less than one half of one percent of the total abortion rate. Those are puny and heartless efforts, to say the least. Much more can be done to reduce the abortion rate by supporting families instead of corportions, by providing universal health care, by facilitating adoption and making it less expensive, and by having an administration and a president in the White House who supports the working people, which we will have again starting next year. I expect to see a decline in the abortion rate, also probably starting sometime next year. The abortion decision belongs to women, not male law-makers. If men were able to get pregnant, the right to get an abortion would be at least as available as the right to get a driver's license. For another interesting perspective read:

An energy proposal in Missouri that requires the state's electric utilities to get 15 percent of their electric power from renewal resources by 2015 passed, while a more aggressive bill in California, requiring their state's utilities to generate half of their electric power from renewable resources by 2025, failed. It's likely this forward-looking measure failed, in part, because of the lack of commitment to clean and renewable energy sources by the federal government. But perhaps that will soon change.

Another interesting and worthwhile bill that passed and may be echoed in other states, is California's bill that prohibits cramped cages for chickens and other livestock.