Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Minefields, stumbling and explosions

Well, I made it through the conference. But, as the title suggests, I didn't do it without managing to set off a few "mines" of the social variety.

Some of it was unintentional. At a preconference meeting, I have it on good authority that at least one of my contributions came off as interrupting, slightly off-topic and maybe rude. That's me when I'm trying to behave.

I've written a long account of the major events that sparked some explosions in the NDY blog. Here's an excerpt describing a key event I want to discuss here:
For me, things came to a head on the first day when a representative of the LaRouchePAC stepped up to the audience question-and-answer microphone. He read a piece of crap he called “research” that labeled Obama’s health care plan (what we know so far) as a “Nazi plan.” To my disgust and horror, over half the audience broke out into applause over that.

(Note: Below, "Alex" refers to Alex Schadenberg, who is the E.D. of the Canadian-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which organized the conference.)
I took Alex aside and told him that he had no idea what just happened and how bad it was. The LaRouchePAC is one of several entities attached to Lyndon LaRouche, conspiracy enthusiast. Pretty much no one of any political stripe who wants to be taken seriously becomes associated with the man or his group. (BTW, the guy from the PAC got in for free with a “media pass” – probably from his home printer, and then did the un-journalistic move of leaving promotional materials. He also didn’t ask any questions. Maybe this gives you an idea of the ethics – or lack thereof – in how they operate.)

Alex let me take the podium in response. I can’t remember everything I said, or the argument I had with the guy from the PAC. But I knew it wouldn’t be enough, especially with repeated exposure to material that had nothing to do with euthanasia and assisted suicide.
There are a few things I should share here about what went on within my brain and body during this short span.

I don't get panic attacks, but my body can do a good imitation of one in high-stress situations. When I know I am heading into a high-stress situation, I take a beta blocker in advance. That medication dampens the bodies response to stress hormones and adrenalin.

Stupidly, I had not taken one that day.

So, when I went up to Alex, I did so knowing I was risking a full-scale physiological rebellion. In fact, when talking to him and when I went up to the podium, my legs were shaking badly and I was having trouble controlling my breath. Fortunately, it didn't escalate into facial contortions and even worse problems with breathing. I may have looked enraged rather than alarmed and pissed, but I looked in control.

And it was necessary - letting it go would have signalled acceptance or approval, making the work ahead much more difficult. That includes damage control.

As you can read on the NDY blog, I followed up with more of the same the next day, this time with a body becalmed with a beta blocker.

As you might imagine, some in my audience - justifiably - heard what I had to say as a criticism or even attack on them. This is seldom done in the context of a "coalition."

Thing is, I am more likely to go there than most. I understand the power that group dynamics play in the lives of people. I understand a lot of it intellectually. But I don't feel the pull - emotionally - to maintain the appearance of unity, cohesion and solidarity at any cost.

On the one hand, it leaves me freer to see when it's appropriate to break from the group. OTOH, it means I am vulnerable to underestimating the cost of breaking those norms.

Fortunately, I have someone who "gets" those dynamics in a more conventional way. When I lay my case out and Diane says she agrees, then it's always been a good move - or - to be honest - the least bad one.

S'all for now. Gotta go on another longer drive tomorrow. Be back Sunday night and hopefully posting again next week. --Stephen


sanda said...

Safe journeys.
I got a message this morning, with an
apology of sorts, from the person I recently put spoke of in a comment here. He admonished me for being rude for interrupting him. He said he'd been a bit "sharp". OK. The rest of the message was the more important to me: he thanked me for "raising his awareness and consciousness" on an issue at my favorite radio station, after disagreeing with me on Sunday.

Lyndon LaRouche...I can't take anything seriously from his "people". Not all conspiracy theories are without merit. There's a (free views) documentary on the Jim Garrison tapes of the JFK assassination. The documentary was made in the 1990s and ignored. I was living in NOLA in the mid60s and Garrison made sense then, and still does. He was ridiculed and taken as a joke for saying he suspected the CIA in the murder. Garrison was DA in New Orleans in the mid1960s. I think the documentary was by Jim Barbour and the title, I think is, "The JFK tapes" based on 3 hour interview with Jim Garrison.

sanda said...

Correction (I couldn't figure out how to check while editing.):It's John Barbour and the 1992 documentary is The JFK Assassination:the Jim Garrison tapes.