What's Tony Thinking

Party On!


I wish I thought there were a big distance between spring break beach-goer’s who don’t want the party to stop and President Trump who insists that the nation be “open for business” by Easter.

Sure, you can make an argument that a recession/ depression will be costly to human life and health too. We know that. We’ve been put through that already, courtesy of people eager to “make deals” whether it was prudent or necessary.

But Trump’s current insistence on creating a new controversy — and as we like to say these days, “a false binary” between preventing ruinous spread of corona virus and a ruined economy — isn’t really about his deep concern for human welfare brought on by job loss, is it?

And he drags Easter into it!

Which is kind of interesting. For years pastors have been saying, “You can’t get to Easter without Good Friday.” Or, “No crucifixion, no resurrection.” There’s a real death before there’s a real new life. Skipping Good Friday’s end to jump to Easter’s new beginning is, well, just so Trumpian.

A couple days ago I made the argument that one way to sum up the adaptive/ spiritual challenge we face is to convince people that only by working together will their own lives and the lives of their loved ones be saved. Unifying rather than dividing. That may sound pretty low-level, even platitudinous. As in, “Now, now, let’s all just work together.”

Until you realize that the politics of division and demonization, indecency and fear have come to rule the American landscape like a plague all its own. The deeper issue exposed by the corona virus is that a nation and leaders who require demonization of someone else to thrive will not thrive, not for long.

But Trump can’t stop sowing the seeds of division. He has, as someone commented, “No unifying instincts.”

I’ve referred, in my posts on the virus, to this moment as a huge adaptive challenge and requiring spiritual work (loss, risk, changed hearts/ minds). I’m borrowing and building on the work of Harvard’s Ron Heifetz. One of the things that Heifetz insists that effective leaders do when leading adaptive work is to “maintain disciplined attention.” That means you stay focused on the core adaptive challenge. You don’t let yourself or the people facing the challenge off the hook. You don’t get side-lined by work avoidance issues or larks. You stay the course. You affirm the people for their good work. You celebrate the small steps. You keep focused on the hard work, the real work.

One imagines an Oval Office conversation: “Mr. President?” “Mike, what is it? Can’t you see I’m watching TV!” “Mr. President, it’s time for the daily briefing on the corona virus crisis.” “Oh shit, that again? I’m so tired of that. It’s boring. Aren’t we done with it yet?” “Probably another couple days, Mr. President. But listen, you can say ‘Chinese virus,’ one more time.” “Oh, okay, thanks Mike, be there in a minute.” I’m afraid that “maintaining disciplined attention” isn’t in Trump’s playbook.

Sure, put people back to work as soon as it doesn’t risk ramping up the spread of the virus with the corollary risk of overwhelming our health care system and the human beings, those who really are that “system.” But at this point, creating a fight over economy versus health care/ disease prevention care is work-avoidance and distraction par excellence.

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