Monday, September 27, 2010

My Thoughts on Father Ray

“Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River.
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree.
I am yours, the passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For the bright morning dawning, for you,
History, despite the wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.”

--Maya Angelou, from On the Pulse of Morning

For so many years, when the community gathered to face an issue, to struggle with what to do, or where to go, or how to get us started down the path of solution rather than crisis, he was there.

Usually, it was in the small groups of people, doing the work of Sisyphus. He was there, daring to dream, daring to imagine what could be, not accepting the status quo. When our courage faltered, he would speak up, and quietly urge us forward. Sometimes, it was a story from Scripture. He was a priest, you know, and you would expect that. His reference to the Bible was never preachy, never dogmatic. Yet, it was always what we needed to hear.

More often, it was a story of one of his experiences, a story of hardship and determination. He would challenge us to take the hard road, and to live our principles. Funny how he never asked more of us that we were able to do. He knew each of us that well.

When there was grief, he stood beside us. When there was hunger, he would find food and a firm, warm handshake. When there was confusion and anger, there were quiet, gentle words, filled with wisdom and support.

When there was loneliness or a turning point in our lives, there was his gentle voice and his laughter, which filled the room with hope.

One raw winter morning, the air filled with rain turning to hail, I took a young man to him. The man had shown up in my court that morning, dirty, tired, and hungry. He had been sleeping in his car and hadn’t eaten for four days. I took him to breakfast and then to see Fr. Ray.

All of us have ended up in Fr. Ray’s office, when there was a great need. The young man dragged his feet, not wanting to deal with a priest or step inside a church. Yet, there was a big smile and a warm handshake, and kind words. And, twenty minutes later, the young man had hope and direction, and knew he would go to bed that night in a warm place with a full belly, and the prospects of a job. But, most important, he had a new friend.

One of the blessings of my life is being a friend of Fr. Ray. Not that he needed friends. Everyone in this community is a friend of Fr. Ray. And every time he saw me, there was always a big wave and a big smile, and his love for all people would fill the room.

The last time I saw him, he was at the Domestic Violence Summit. I had thought his cane and his electric wheel chair might slow him down, even just a little bit, but he took it all in, in his usual style. He added his voice at the critical times, to move us down the road a bit, and recommit ourselves to doing the good work he did every day, in his quiet, steady, and powerful way.

We found ourselves in the bathroom at the same time, and had one of those delightful one on one conversations that you always treasure after it’s over. We marveled at just being at a conference of over a hundred people in the brand new community college in our little town. And, we laughed at how things have changed.

Twenty years ago, when I was at one of those sparsely attended meetings, the ones where you are feeling discouraged about why you even showed up, he spoke about domestic violence and the need for a real community college building, and all the other things this community suffers, its needs, and its hopes and dreams. He was usually the lone voice willing to be heard when no one else dared speak, or when the topic wasn’t politically correct. He always spoke up, though. He broke the silence and reminded all of us what we are here to do in our lives.

As we washed our hands, he urged me to keep working. The journey wasn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. As I dried my hands and walked out the door, I was inspired again, renewed. He always had that way about him.

The next time I go to a community meeting about an issue we need to deal with in our town, his car won’t be in the parking lot, and his smile won’t light up the room. But, his big heart and his determined call for action will be there, right in the front row.

---Neal Lemery, 9/27/2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Enjoying the local beverage, a 2007 Syrah, in Walla Walla, Washington!
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Monday, September 20, 2010

What I Learned at the Domestic Violence Summit

What I Learned at the Domestic Violence Summit

By Neal Lemery

Tillamook County Women’s Resource Center, sponsor
Tillamook Bay Community College, September 9-10, 2010


Lundy Barcroft

“Domestic violence is the well spring of all criminal behavior.”
--Lundy Barcroft

One out of three women are victims of domestic violence. This is shown in a Tillamook County survey and is also true nationally. One fourth of all police calls involve domestic violence issues. The Center for Disease Control has concluded domestic violence is the number one public health issue nationwide.

The mentality of the batterer: the circumstances justify the violence. There is a feeling of having no other alternative.

Domestic violence is domestic terrorism. 2,000 women a year are killed in the US each year from domestic violence. The “ripple effect” of physically injured people and psychologically injured people is enormous.

2/3 of batterers do not have violence or control issues outside of their domestic relationships.

1/6 of men are abusers.

The Impact on the Community

Terror. Depression, being afraid, experiencing pain.

There are lasting mental health problems. The abuser has a victim’s persona against violence. Thus, they will argue they should, for example, have custody of children because they are the victim of the victim’s reaction against perceived violence.

Employment. Lost time from work, lower productivity, experiencing fear while at work.


Children. Children who witness and experience domestic violence have higher rates of attachment disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

The community colludes by saying that there are simple solutions to domestic violence (“just get over it”, “stop it”). The issues are much more complex, deep, and far reaching.

Kids learn by modeled behavior. (“Don’t do what I do, do what I say”)

There is a strong correlation between bullying behavior and domestic violence in the home. For some, being a bully is acting out after experiencing domestic violence at home.

Health care costs

Drug usage.

Community Collusion

There are subtle community values:

“Women cause violence”

Accepting use of certain exercises of power, such as bullying, and money as an exercise of power.

Refusing to impose consequences. Jail improves a decrease in recidivism.

Diversion is a disaster.

Reluctance to take guns away.

Victim blaming
Substance abuse
“Easier to focus on her”
“Easier to change her”

We tend to tell the victim what to do and how to be. “You should figure out what is bothering him.”
Degenderizing domestic violence
We pretend to know the answer, to oversimplify.
We are silent
(including acquiescing in or laughing at demeaning jokes)
Men are silent with each other

What we need:
Jail time
Restitution for medical costs, property damage
Child visitation: supervised
Change in cultural values
How we talk about women
How we raise boys

What a child concludes about domestic violence and the situation in which domestic violence occurs is critical. (“It’s not Mom’s fault.”)

Child custody
Society needs to say “no custody” to the batterer, and not
joint custody.

Barcroft, Lundy. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Berkley Books, New York (2002)
Barcroft, Lundy, When Dad Hurts Mom
Barcroft, Lundy, Parenting

Working With Men
Ray Dinkins

He is a domestic violence worker in Grants Pass. He leads men’s groups in local high schools, where the discussion centers around how to be a man and how young men can be leaders of men.

The national Fatherhood Initiative is a grant stream of federal funded projects.

Jackson Katz and Paul Kivel are writers and leaders in developing healthy manhood for young men. Jackson Katz wrote Tough Guy. Paul Kivel, of the Oakland (CA) Men’s Project, wrote Men’s Work.

The groups are up to fifteen high school men. It works best if the men come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The goal is to build community.

Give them an “out”. Require that they only attend three sessions, and can then leave.

Put them at ease. No hugs, and don’t have them do stuff that they feel is uncomfortable.

Commit yourself as a leader. Show up on time, every time. A lot of men in their lives have abandoned them.

Is this prevention or risk reduction? By helping the victim, we reduce risk. By helping the potential batterer, we practice prevention.

The leader has to believe in the inherent goodness of all people.

Achieve an agreement. What are the rules of the group? How does the group operate. Have the group develop the rules. Confidentiality will be their first rule. The group has to own the rules, so the group needs to develop the rules. The rules create a safe environment to deal with difficult issues. (safety: safe to be able to reveal weakness and doubt and ask hard questions.)

What do young men want out of life? To be their own man. Not someone else’s, and not to let someone else run their life. Some men are traveling the wrong road, and they want to get off and get on the right road. Why some men are violent is a common question and a common dilemma.

Play “two lies and a truth”. They want to reveal truth about themselves and they want to participate in these deep discussions. To develop credibility and to model the process, the facilitator reveals something about himself. Trust is developed.

The rules (see Jackson Katz and Paul Kivel for the list), includes confidentiality, let people speak; try on the process, the right to pass, getting people to share. No put downs (this forum is safe), respect in listening, using “I” statements.

In the second meeting, talk about power. Who’s got the power in their lives? A lot of people. Big power and little power. Big power lords it over little power. You exercise power over those who have less power than you.

Third class. Word game. The class labels the word as masculine or feminine. English doesn’t have genderized words, unlike Spanish or French. But, there are feeling words and other words with emotional connotations that we instinctive know, in our culture, as masculine or feminine.

Our culture holds young men to those “masculine word traits” and bars them from expressing and living those “feminine” words as their traits.

Create a list of “man words” and “woman words”. Draw a box around the “man words” and you have a “man box”. Guys will then see how culture puts their “acceptable” emotions and feelings into a box. Guys can feel they are stuck in the box, and cannot have other socially acceptable feelings and emotions. This creates conflict and stress and a sense of frustration and hopelessness. How do I get out of the box?

Preventing Long Term Trauma in the
Aftermath of Violence

Elaine Walters

Unresolved trauma negatively impacts individual and community health and mental health, our quality of life, our ability to be effective in our work, and our capacity to create just societies.

“…in every nook and cranny of our lives”

We are hard wired for healing. We can heal outward, but there needs to be internal healing, too. Time does not heal, but when you are in the midst of caring, supportive people, then you heal.

The trauma framework. We should shift our perspective from “what’s wrong” to “what happened”. If you are healing, you have gifts to offer, and you know what healing looks like.

How we get hurt.
Accident: things happen
Abuse/violence: intentional, patterned
Oppression: systematic, institutional mistreatment of one group by another
Contagion/hypnotic – this is historical, internalized trauma. We sometimes carry trauma that is intergenerational, cultural.

The fundamental injury is disconnection

Trauma is truly a community problem, not a mental health problem.

“Trauma occurs in layers, with each layer affecting every other layer. Current trauma is one layer. Former traumas in one’s life are more fundamental layers. Underlying one’s one individual trauma history is one’s group identity or identities, and the historical trauma with which they are associated.” Bonnie Burstow.

Trauma is both the injury and the wound.

Often, attention is given to one but not the other. Effective responses should address both and address the intersection of both.

“Trauma is not a disorder, but a reaction to a kind of wound. It is a reaction to profoundly injurious events and situations in the real world, and, indeed, to a world in which people are routinely wounded.

“Trauma is a concrete physical, cognitive, affective, and spiritual response by individuals and communities to events and situations that are objectively traumatizing. On a simple level, for the most part, people feel traumatized or wounded because they have been wounded.” (my emphasis)

--Bonnie Burstow

Impact of trauma:
Primary distress is the immediate experience.
Long term exposure
Post traumatic stress reactions
Affective, dissociation and anxiety
Childhood victimization
Often labeled “borderline personality”

When people have never had power, they act differently and respond differently. There is a lack of childhood development.

In trauma, there is the flight or fight reaction. Or, we may freeze
Frontal lobe development may be impaired
Processing is non linear
(the “story” is told without a chronological time line)
Disrupted attachment
How we store the trauma in our memory depends on what stage of
development we are at at the time of the trauma.
--Linda Baker

Thus, the kind of trauma and the age of occurrence are significant.

If we are not allowed to heal, we can experience denial or lack of memory, avoidance, altered belief systems, addiction and compulsion, depression and numbness, violence and aggression, risk taking, and self abuse. (If these are present, it is very likely that we have experienced abuse.)

The consequences are emotional, physical, developmental, social, individual and collective.

So, our responses must also be emotional, physical, developmental, social, individual and collective.

To heal, we need a supportive environment. The relationships between many social problems and trauma are complex. There needs to be all encompassing and systemic support for healing.

Trauma is also stored in our bodies, as a “physical memory”. Research shows that yoga, tai chi, chi gong, and other physical meditative practices can release traumatic feelings and memories.

To heal, we need to feel connected, being present.

Guiding principles for intervening: Safety, empowerment and action, advocacy and liberation, and accountability and justice. What is my responsibility?

Telling the Story. The quality of listening is critical. Listening is most important. Being believed and not judged, being allowed to name the experience, moving (physically and emotionally), being supported to participate in public rituals for taking action and expressing grief and outrage, being supported to become or stay connected, being supported to reclaim personal, community, or national space.

“Start with the assumption that all human beings are intact and deserving of respect. The most important thing you can do is listen. No interruptions. No sounds. Just listen. That implies that the survivor has all the power back in their court and can do with it what they choose.”
-- a survivor

How Religious and Secular Communities Can Work Together
Rev. Marie Fortune

Domestic terrorism is living in fear in your own home. Terror is constant. Violence is sporadic, and the community supports the view that domestic violence is “merely” violence, as if you don’t see the violence, is there a problem?

There is collusion, from the faith community, when Scripture is misapplied, misconstrued, and is used as a justification. There is collusion when the community supports men’s control over the family.

What is the message to the community?

The process:
Holding accountable
Allow repentance
Encourage change

Esther Barnes, The Good Stranger

We need to redefine behavior from normative, to deviant

The effective penalty: expensive, shameful

The Bible

Fundamentally, it is a code of hospitality. In Hebrew culture, and in Mideastern cultures generally, hospitality was the core of social value. The desert was harsh and often fatal. The core of a just society was to welcome strangers, and offer them what you had, at the oasis (water, food, shelter, community, safety).

All of society is responsible to strangers, widows, and orphans

The power of society is that life circumstances can create a great need, and only society can fulfill that need.

The message of the Old Testament and the Gospels is love.

We need to reshape the norms of our society. We need to re-create norms and redefine norms.

One person at a time.

Silence is isolating. We need to be vocal.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

On The Fifth Day of Fall

The geese, gray
against the coming rain sky
honking, persistent, filled the heavy air
before showing themselves
in one half of a Vee
their leader exhorting
heading south.

Neal Lemery, September 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Own Kind of Holiday

The rush of tourists had been building steady all summer long. Even before Memorial Day, they started filling the campgrounds, the restaurants, and the beaches. RVs kept rumbling down the highways, and the local grocery and variety stores were filled with them, buying last minute items and some of the camping gear they thought they needed for the beach. Given the weather, rain gear and blankets would be on the list.

I got used to waiting at the traffic lights for two or three lights, inching forward, checking out the out of state plates in front of me, and occasionally stomping on the brake to avoid a maneuver by some tourist who was lost or needed to make a sudden lane change. Navigating in our small town isn’t too difficult, but that assumes you know where you are going and you can figure out if you are going to the beach or to the big city over the hill. Left or right, it doesn’t seem too difficult.

But, then again, I live here and I know the geography and don’t need a road map. And, I don’t need to find a campground or a motel tonight. I have my groceries stashed at home, and a quiet back yard to enjoy for the evening. And, if I’m playing tourist somewhere else, I would be a good candidate for some of the whacky driving I see here.

But, today is different. It’s Labor Day, a special day for us locals. It’s the day we get our town back and our roads and our beaches. Most of the tourists are leaving today, headed back to work and the start of school. The highway noise has already abated quite a bit, and I am enjoying the silence of the neighborhood, now that the campers and RVs and the trailers hauling the ATVs for the sand dunes have headed back to the big city.

My wife and I jumped out on the edge this morning, and headed out looking for breakfast at one of our favorite spots. We knew we’d hit the tourists, making one last grab at the restaurants and one last visit to the beach. Traffic was thinning out nicely, and we didn’t even get behind an RV on our way to the restaurant.

Still, we were pretty disappointed to find it closed. I guess the owners had finally had their fill of the long lines and crowds of hungry tourists filling their restaurant. I can’t say that I blamed them. It had been a long summer, despite the long bouts of cold, wet weather, and the endless weeks in June when we didn’t even see the sun. The tourists still came, and were a bit grumpy, but business was good and the motels and campgrounds still filled up.

We kept on driving, going about twenty miles farther up the coast than we had planned, and hoping Choice #2 was open. Well, it wasn’t. They must have had the same thought as the owners of the first restaurant, and actually took the holiday off, like the rest of us.

I suspect a lot of the restaurant and motel folks head up the river and find a quiet spot, taking a bottle or two of wine or a case of beer, and having a quiet picnic. Some peace and quiet would definitely be in order. They’ve earned every minute of silence by the riverbank.

On we went, hoping that #3 was open, and it was. There was even a place to park and we grew optimistic that we’d find a nice quiet table and enjoy a peaceful breakfast, at a place well known for its good and hearty breakfasts.

Instead, we were greeted by a line, and a waiting list, and many of the tables were filled with tourists with hungry, tired kids. The parents looked even more beat, and you could tell they were secretly waiting for the start of school the next day and some time of peace and quiet during the week. The kids were sunburned and had a few scrapes and scratches from their time at the beach or in the campground. The cars in the parking lot were crammed with disorderly mounds of camping clothes and beach toys. The dads all needed a shave and the moms hadn’t bothered with makeup.

Still, the wait wasn’t all that long, and the waitress actually recognized us as locals when she brought us coffee and menus. She just rolled her eyes in a silent commentary on the noise of the tired kids all around us. She was ready for a break, too, and was probably wishing she’d worked at Restaurants #1 and #2.

As we waited for our food, the place started to thin out a bit, and we saw families getting back in their car, for the final leg of the drive home. You could tell mom and dad were hoping that breakfast would result in sleepy kids on the way home and some peace and quiet.

Later on, we ambled down the sidewalks of the beach front town, exploring some of the stores and taking in the pretty sidewalk flowers of the place. It was so overrun with tourists during the summer, that we’d never taken the time to walk around, and see what all the tourists were enjoying.

We wandered into one of my favorite rainy day stops, the local book store. It was just us in there, and the clerk, who looked both tired from the summer, and bored because she didn’t have to answer any tourist questions. I had time to browse and finally found a good book for a friend. It was one of those simple pleasures that summer at the coast never lets you enjoy.

Apparently, we had worked up a thirst of sorts, and we stopped by the espresso place, one of those places that has a lot of magazines and nice tables to sit at, and where you can read the New York Times and not feel like you need to rush off. At least, that’s the feel you get on a rainy day when it’s not tourist season.

Still, as we walked up on the patio, there were at least twenty people loudly laughing and crying and saying good bye to each other. Apparently, a group of beach house seasonal types had planned to gather at the coffee shop for one last latte and to say good bye.

I felt like shoving them aside, and helping them to their cars, just so I could get to the barista and order a nice quiet cup of Joe and find an empty table, like I’d do on a respectable fall day around here. And, my patience, what little I had, was rewarded when the seas of departing tourists finally finished their good byes and got in their cars. There really was an empty table for us, and a copy of the Sunday New York Times to purview. Peace at last.

Thoroughly enjoying my coffee, I also had a chance to look at some of the art work on the wall, a creation of a local artist, and browse the newspaper. No crowds hovering around the cashier, and no long wait for my coffee, either. Yes, it was truly a holiday and the tourists really were leaving. I was celebrating in my own quiet way.

Afterwards, we ambled back home along the back roads, with only a few bicyclists reminding us that we still had the “little season” to endure. That’s the time in early September when the college kids are still out doing athletic things like bicycling the entire length of the coast, or the old folks in their giant RVs venturing forth to the beach, before they get geared up to play snow birds and fly off down the road to Yuma for the winter. We’d need a good southwest storm to come in to make them go home. But, the storm would bring the fish in, and then there’s the fall fishermen. But, that’s another story.

Still, as we passed the cheese factory, which boasts, or cringes, at the fact they have a million visitors a year. That place was still a zoo. I guess you have to make one last stop before you head back to home after your vacation at the beach, and get an ice cream cone. I wanted one, too, but I could wait a day. Tomorrow, there will be plenty of places to park there, and no line for the chocolate peanut butter on a waffle cone.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Best Books of 2010 -- So Far

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of the books I’ve really enjoyed in 2010. The year is certainly not over and the good reading seasons of Fall and Winter are yet to come.

Against the Stream, Noah Levine. A very easy read, taking you into the heart and soul of Buddhism. Levine has a sense of humor and his writing is seductive and enjoyable.

For The Time Being, Annie Dillard. A look into who we are as a species, and where we come from. Dillard’s superb writing is worth it, even if you may not be intrigued with her journey. But, after getting into the book, you will be hooked.

Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell. The author takes us on journeys of people who have become successes. What is it that makes some people successes and others not? It is a well written and compelling exploration. This book stays on this year’s best sellers list, too, for good reasons.

Writing to Change the World, Mary Pipher. Writing well and thoughtful does change the world, and the author inspires me to write, write, and write some more. This book inspires one to really focus on writing something meaningful.

Ethics for the New Millennium, The Dalai Lama. How should we live a life in search of truth, and to be true to ourselves? This is timely and inspiring, and much needed in this age.

Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, Tamim Ansary. This just appeared on my reading table, and appears to be much needed perspective of our world and “Western Civilization”. Probably not being reviewed in the major media channels!

Oak: The Frame of Civilization, William Bryant Logan. More than you would think. The author takes me on an intriguing journey of our historical relationship with trees and wood, and how our use of this wood really has changed our culture and our exploration of the world.

Given, Wendell Berry. More timeless and provocative poetry from one of this country’s greatest poets. Soul food for the lover of nature and good poetry.

Buddhism Is Not What You Think, Steve Hagen. A well written and captivating exploration of Buddhist thought and practice.

How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer. A fascinating exploration of the brain and decision making. We are not the completely rational and logical decision makers we might hope to be. This book is easy to burrow into and causes me to contemplate our humanness as we problem solve.

Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan. This is a fresh look at human sexuality and our social institutions. His thesis is provocative and interesting, and supported by a lot of sociology and anthropology.

War, Sebastian Junger. The author spends a year with American troops at a fire post in a remote and hotly contested valley in Afghanistan. This is a very good description of life for American soldiers in Afghanistan today, and is not something you would see on the evening news. I was uncomfortable reading this, because it was Real. We need to hear this voice, as it is the life of the soldiers who are lucky enough to come home.

Alaska, Walter Borneman. An in depth, but not plodding, journey through the history of Alaska and where the 49th state is today. I gained new insight into events I thought I knew about. An easy read, actually.

Pandora’s Seed, Spencer Wells. This is a fascinating book, the premise of which is that the advent of agriculture in human history was not really an advancement for humankind, as we are still dealing with the impact of the change in diet, culture, and family. This is probably one of the most important books of the year, and is worthy of more attention, and not just from those of us who enjoy biology, history and anthropology.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer. I finally got around to reading this book, after several years on the best seller list. A delightful and intriguing book, with an engaging writing style. Despite being set in the German occupied British island during World War II, this book has a wealth of interesting and beloved characters.

Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion. Superbly written, this is a journey of a well known author who nearly loses her daughter and loses her husband in a tumultuous year. Some of the best writing of my year in books.

Stones Into Schools, Greg Mortensen. The sequel to Three Cups of Tea. I learn more about how one American is changing the Hindu Kush and Central Asian life by working with local people to build schools, educate children, and really change the world. He’s certainly not the Ugly American!

God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchins. A well educated and thoughtful agnostic takes a hard look at organized religion throughout the last 2000 years, and offers much food for thought to the spiritually inquisitive.

Jesus, Interrupted, Bart Ehrman. This theologian and historian takes a much needed examination of modern Christianity and its theological sources. He challenges a lot of current thinking and viewpoints.

New York, Edward Rutherford. An intriguing look at the social and economic history of New York from the time Henry Hudson sailed into New York harbor, written from the perspective of family members living there over the last 400 years. This was enjoyable and informative, giving me a new approach to thinking about life in the Big Apple.

Coming up, Steven Hawkings’ new book on the origin of the Universe, which comes out in September.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Golden and soft in the early evening,
Even a bit of chill --
Not anything like
August’s intensity,
which was last week?

The Solstice is just a few weeks away,
the light now like the second week of April
when spring was just getting started in earnest.

Time is moving on, leaving this summer behind
and with it, its hot and steamy pleasures.

I wonder why the new year
doesn’t start now
when the days are in balance
and a new season
sliding into the dark.