Friday, January 29, 2010

How Restorative Justice Works

According to restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr, when a crime or offense is committed, the offender incurs an obligation to restore the victim -- and by extension, the community, to the state of welfare that existed before the offense.  The idea of restoration seeks to balance three factors: 

  • holding offenders accountable to victims,
  • ensuring community safety and providing positive,
  • productive development for offenders so they can pursue legitimate endeavors after their cases have reached a conclusion.

What Does Research on Restorative Justice Tell Us? 

Based on quantitative and qualitative research carried out in different parts of the United States and other countries such as Canada, New Zealand and England, the American Humane Association writes that restorative justice:

  • Reduces the likelihood that youths will reoffend
  • Reconnects youths to their families and communities
  • Rebuilds youths’ sense of self
  • Restores victims to the state of welfare that existed before the offense
  • Reunites families
  • Restores a sense of safety and welfare in the community
  • Relieves the criminal justice system from unnecessary costs

Additionally, stakeholders such as victims express satisfaction with the process outcomes:

Victim Satisfaction
  • According to a study conducted by Umbriet, Coates and Vos in 2004, victims who participate in conferences with offenders report higher levels of satisfaction than victims who do not.
  • In Evje and Cushman’s 2000 evaluation of restorative justice programs in California, general satisfaction of all participants uniformly scored above 90 percent.
  • Umbreit, Coates and Vos found in 2004 that over 80 percent of participants -- victims and offenders -- were satisfied with the restorative dialogue experience.
Offender Satisfaction
  • Braithwaite found in four 1999 studies that offenders’ satisfaction and perceptions of fairness were higher if the offender had participated in a restorative practice.
  • Umbreit, Coates and Vos discovered in 2004 that agreement was reached in 90 percent of victim-offender dialogues, and between 80 and 90 percent of those agreements were fulfilled.
  • Evje and Cushman reported in 2000 that in six victim-offender dialogue programs evaluated in California, completion rates for restitution and community service were higher than in programs where a face-to-face meeting did not take place.

Current literature varies in its report of recidivism outcomes.  Research has shown that the fewer times a youth comes in contact with the justice system, the greater the chances he or she will not reoffend. The more the system diverts cases to family involvement and community-based solutions, the more caring and effective the justice system becomes. 

  • Four studies on restorative justice programs, Umbreit (1994), Niemeyer and Schichor (1996), Nugent and Paddock (1996), and Wiinamaki (1997), produced on average a 90-percent reduction in recidivism as compared to the control group.
  • In combining the results of multiple studies in 2004, Nugent, Williams and Umbreit focused on reoffending in 15 experimental studies on 19 victim-offender dialogue programs, involving 9,307 juveniles; their results suggested that juvenile offenders who participate in these programs may be 30 percent less likely to recidivate.
  • In Evje and Cushman’s 2000 study, five of six counties had reduced recidivism using a restorative justice model; one county reported a 10-percent reduction in recidivism as compared to a group that did not participate in a dialogue with the victim.

For the original article on which this blog post is based, click HERE

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hell in Haiti

25 January 2010
I received an email purporting to be circulating a letter from a woman working as a first responder in Haiti, written to her parents in Australia.  The letter, below, is quite moving.  
After investigating the authenticity of the letter, I decided to reproduce it on my blog.

The author's name is Alison Thompson.  The letter she writes on 24 January 2010 reveals some of the horror as well as the hope of what is happening in Haiti.  It reminds us to pray not only for the people of Haiti, for also the rescue workers and others who are helping the people, and for the future for all of them.
Hi mum and dad –
I won't be around when they announce my award on January 26th. I am with Sean Penn, diana jenkins, Oscar and 15 doctors embedded in the 82 airbourne ( USA) Dante would describe it as hell here. There is no food and wAter and hundreds dying daily. The aid is all bottlenecked and not reaching here . The other day i assisted with amputation ( holding them down) while they used a saw to cut a young boys leg off with no pain killers. Today I went with a strike force and army patrol in hummers into the streets and walked 5 miles through the camps set up on every street corner ..sewage and bodies stench is everywhere. As i attend to a patient 30 people crowd around me and it's hard to breath. I nearly fainted today as the sewage smell went straight down my throat. I went white and dizzy but couldn't sit down as sewage is running through the streets. There is much infection and it feels like the job is too big. No antibiotics anywhere. Good news, today our new york doctors evacuated 18 patients with spinal injuries out to miami and we're all so excited. Our mash unit is in the 82 air base overlooking a refugee camp of over 50000 people. The refugees start singing Christian songs at 4 am and line up for food until the army hands it out at 8 am ( thats if there is any food) On the first night I was in the nearby jungle camping under the stars with my team and woke up to the beautiful music drawing me to them. I thought it was a church and we went to find it and came across the 82 airbourne camp and the refugee camp.( that's how we ended up here) as it wasn't safe to stay where we were even though we had our own security force. We are totally self suffient with food gas and medicines and have a private donor (Diana Jenkins who was a refugee in camps in Bosnia as a child - her family died of starvation in the camps. ) Sean Penn is here purely as a volunteer and is cutting through bureaucracy to get aid moving and food water and medicines to the people. There is no agenda but to save lives. Helicopters fly over head and it feels like vietnam. That night 50,000 people sung me to sleep and they sing every night for the world to save them. There is always hope but she's not here right now.
Alison xxx
My writing is a mess as it's on iPhone and keeps changing my words and the generator is on for a few hours but I know it's important to tell the world. Please send to any press who may call or family and friends.

Here's what I learned about Ms. Thompson:  An Australia native, Thompson first went to New York City as an investment banker, but then went to film school at NYU and became an independent film maker.  

Photo of

Alison Thompson from

LA Splash
(below, at link for  The Third Wave)


Thompson first became involved in relief work after the 9-11 attacks in New York City. According to Huffington Post, on September 11, 2001, she rollerbladed to the World Trade Center with a paramedic kit and became a first responder rescue worker.

Then, in 2004 as she was watching news footage of the aftermath of the Tsunami, she felt compelled to go and help in Sri Lanka.  Established Relief agencies were not interested in people without special skills or training, so Ms. Thompson showed up and just started to help on her own.

She and her team became go-to persons for others who also showed up to help.  The site where she began her work became Peraliya refugee camp.  She and a team of four others stayed and ran it for fifteen months. 

She filmed an independent documentary about her experience in Sri Lanka, entitled The Third Wave.  For her work in Sri Lanka, she is scheduled to be the recipient of a 2010 Medal of the Order of Australia award, for her "service to humanitarian aid, particularly the people of the Peraliya region of Sri Lanka following the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami."

Ms. Thomson Tweets @lightxxx

Friday, January 22, 2010

What is Restorative Justice?

When two people use the term "Justice," each person may be referring to a different concept.   There are many concepts of what Justice is.  This blog post will contrast two of them, Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice

In a nutshell, the form of "Justice" that most people think of, when they think of our "Justice System" is Retributive Justice.  RETRIBUTION.  Penal System. Penance.  Paying the Price.  Fines.  Retributive justice is the parking meter ticket.  The time spent in prison.  Punishment.  An eye for an eye.  
Restorative Justice is different. 

Rather than asking, how do we make the offender feel pain (so he won't do it again), Restorative Justice asks the question, how can things be made right?  How can things be RESTORED? 

  • The crime was committed against the victim, so how can the victim be restored to wholeness? 
  • What does the Criminal need to do to facilitate the process of healing for the Victim? 
  • What does it take for the Criminal to be RESTORED back into the community?  

Restorative Justice is not about making it "easy" for or "coddling" criminals.  To the contrary, the emphasis is on both repair and on responsibility.  The Criminal is asked to acknowledge and to take full responsibility for the evil he has perpetrated. 

The model of Restorative Justice is one of restitution, of apology, of repainting the vandalized wall.  In a video link HERE, Dominic Barter explains that, in his view, the bottom line for restorative justice is about restoring connection -- connection within people, between people, and as communities.


This blog post contains two videos.  In the first video, Dominic Barter (an advocate for Restorative Justice), discusses the reason we must understand Justice as a system which can be modified and changed as society changes, to suit our needs.   In the second video, a former inmate discusses how Restorative Justice was applied in his case to transform his life.  

To understand that Justice as a system which exists to serve the needs of society is a necessary first step.  Our cultural assumptions -- the things we take for granted about the "way things are" -- is a lens which colors the way we see our world.  If we are not aware of the lens, we may not even be aware that it exists or that there may be other, viable ways of doing things.

Our assumptions about the worth of the existing system, of Retributive Justice, are a bit like that lens.  We may take certain propositions for granted without ever questioning why.  In order to move toward a system of Restorative Justice, we must first understand that certain structures in society are not necessary to justice per se, but rather that some of those systems are linked specifically to our notion of Retributive Justice.  As Barter illustrates in his school principal example, the discarding of older, dysfunctional systems requires systemic change in mentality from the top down, in every layer of society.  Adoption of Restorative Justice is something that must be done within a proper theoretical framework, intentionally, and with proper support. 

The second video is a powerful illustration of how Restorative Justice can work.  Notice that this individual, a criminal, progressed from not really having an awareness of his effect on his victim to one of awareness and concern.  Only after he was awakened to the personhood of his victim, could he comprehend the gravity of what he had done and feel remorse.  The victim also, over time, became aware of the criminal as a person.  Barriers to communication and relationship fell.  This illustrates the restoration of connection -- connection within people, between people, and as communities -- that is at the heart of restorative justice.     

Victims in restorative justice programs report higher rates of satisfaction with the justice system, and offenders have lower rates of recidivism.  This new direction in criminal justice is one that every community should consider incorporating, especially for nonviolent offenders. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What We Should Teach Our Children?

This is an inspiring video of Fred Rogers giving testimony to the U.S. Senate in 1969.  In less than six minutes, Mister Rogers convinces Sen. Pastore of the importance of television programming that deals in a healthy way with feelings and emotions, not through violent drama but through every day actions that involve decisions. His moving speech not only gave the self-proclaimed "tough" Senator goose bumps but also led to the rejection of President Nixon's $10 million funding cut. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood would go on to become the second longest running show on PBS, after Sesame Street.



The older I get, the more I appreciate Fred Rogers.



Monday, January 18, 2010

Waging Peace: Thank You Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This video combining footage from the civil rights movement with Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech with music from Sarah McLachlan is amazing and beautiful.  Enjoy ... and be inspired! 



I think there's a common misperception that confuses peacemaking with cowardice.  Perhaps that's because the common notion of "keeping peace" can include avoiding confrontation.  But faking peace is different from making peace. 

Making peace, waging peace, is active not passive.  It requires vision to know the truth and courage to meet the iniquity head on.  Those who step outside social norms to confront oppression know that they risk not only public censure or jail, but even death and torture. 

There is nothing cowardly about waging peace.  Standing up and acting on the principle of truth force, or soul force is a weapon, wielded against the forces of oppression and injustice.  It is moral weapon which, like the sword of King Arthur, can only be wielded by the morally strong.  It is not for the faint of heart. 

Dr. King, thank you not just for your dream, but for your footsteps marching to lead the way in the walk of peace.  For by walking the way of peace, and through your sacrifice, you led my people -- Black and Brown and White -- to a place where no war could have taken them.  You have led them to within sight of a promised land, the land of reconciliation and brotherhood. 

I know there are those who feel that objective has not yet been accomplished.  But we are closer now more than ever.  With continued warfare in the way of truth force, it will happen.  That's my dream.  I have that promised land within my sights. 


Peace Be With And In You

Truth Force Be With And In You


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Letter from a Birmingham Jail


In 1963, a group of clergy issued a statement entitled "A Call for Unity".  These men admitted there was social inequity but argued that Dr. Martin Luther King and his followers should seek redress through the courts rather than through waging a nonviolent direct action campaign.  Dr. King responded with the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which I reproduce here.  It is not a sound bite.  On this day which is set aside to honor Dr. King, I suggest it is worthwhile to take some time to read his words (for original source, click HERE):     

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Published in:
King, Martin Luther Jr.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Another Type of "Plan B"

The New York Times this month ran an excellent article, that I recommend reading: "Overlooking the Frail Years".  This insightful piece highlights something people really need to know.:  EVERYONE needs to have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and also a Durable Power of Attorney designating a General Agent who can run their affairs if they are incapacitated. 

The legal detail about Powers of Attorney is beyond the scope of this blog post.  The purpose of this post is to tell you that, even though these Powers of Attorney are some serious documents that no one should take lightly, you need to overcome whatever psychological barriers prevent you from thinking of these things, and get it done:  Everyone needs these documents in place as a "Plan B" in case fate throws its worst your way.* 

There's no need to be morbid.  Use of these things is not always a matter of high drama or life and death.  Here's an example.  I got a phone call one time from a man who had been ill for an extended period of time.  He needed advice about how to get his car back.

Get your car back? 


While he was in the hospital and then recovering in a rehab facility, no one made his car payment for him.  So, when he was discharged from the hospital, the first thing he learned was that his car had been repossessed.  It wasn't repossessed because he didn't have the money.  The money was sitting right there in his bank account.  The problem was, he had not given anyone legal authority to access his bank account or to pay his bills while he was incapacitated. 

The process of getting the car back was not "life and death" or "dire" or even an "emergency", but it sure was a pain in the you-know-what!  This man had to put up with the grumps at the collection agency, experienced some embarrassment in his small community, and had to pay a couple hundred dollars from his fixed income to bail out his car  (a taxi ride to the lot where the car was being held, towing and impoundment fees, and various late fees).  That's not to mention trying to fix his credit report. 

Does this sound like something you'd want to be faced with the moment YOU get out of the hospital?  Because unless you have a Durable Power of Attorney, you are not immune.  The bottom line is that everybody needs to have designated a somebody who will have authority to manage their affairs if it ever  happens that they're incapacitated.   

You may answer, "It won't happen to me."  Well, that's B.S.!   It can happen to anybody, whether you want it to or not.  You don't control whether some idiot runs the red light and crashes into your car.  The N.Y. Times article says that 2/3 of us eventually need this kind of help. 

You may answer, "I already have a Power of Attorney."  Well, that's fine. But you'd better check to make sure it's a Durable Power of Attorney.  Unless it's Durable in form, it likely expires the moment you are incapacitated, just the time when you need it.  Just today, someone told me of a family who thought their loved one had executed a Durable Power of Attorney; but when they went to exercise it, they found out that it wasn't durable.  That means the family will have to go to court in order to get authority to pay the parent's bills for them. 

You may answer, "Well, my son is on my bank account."  Well, that's fine so long as you understand that you may have just given your son the right to spend everything in your bank account on a new red corvette, if that's what he wants to do with the money.  And that if you die, he'll be entitled to all of it and won't have to share a dime of it with your daughter. 

Perhaps you're worried that someone may use these documents to pull you off of life support or to steal all of your money.  Well, these are the type of documents that you do, indeed, need to careful whose hands you put them in.  It is a big decision whom to trust with such power in your life.  You wouldn't want your worst enemy to be the person designated as your proxy under your Health Care Power of Attorney, and you wouldn't want convicted bank robber Davey "Sticky Fingers" Jones to be designated to manage your money.   However, there are a few protections. 

First of all, you control who you designate.  You will not necessarily appoint your first born son, if that person is not the best person to do the job.  What matters most for the general agency is that it be someone who can is willing and trustworthy to perform the duties, who will act rationally, who will account for the money, who will act in your best interest, and who will not steal from you.  The most important thing you can do is to choose this person wisely according to their ability to assume responsibility, not according to birth order or some other prejudice.  You may decide that the best person for this job is your second-from-the-youngest daughter or even your friend Susie the bookkeeper.   

A second limiting factor for the Power of Attorney is that these documents are, as a practical matter, only used in limited circumstances.  If you are able to make decisions on your own behalf, then you make those decisions yourself, then and there.  If you can pay your own bills, you don't need someone else to do it for you.  If you can decide whether or not you want a surgery, you don't need someone else to make that decision for you.  Nope, these documents are there only for the times when you can't take care of your own affairs.  For example, when you can't pay bills on your own, or when you are unconscious and someone has to decide whether you'd want x surgery or to be put on a ventilator (or not).  Don't appoint someone who will not respect these boundaries. 

As for Health Care Powers of Attorney, I won't repeat what I've already said in blog posts HERE (on Just Mediation blog) and HERE (on Peaceworks blog) about how important those are.  What matters most for the health care is that it be someone you can talk with about what you think you would want, what your values are.  That person should also be someone who will be there in the hospital to talk to the staff.  And they should be someone you would trust to do what you would want (not necessarily what they would decide for themselves).  Your closest friends and family are the most obvious place to look for people who would do this for you, but if there are people you would trust more, you should seriously consider naming the person you think will do the best job. 

If you do name people who would be a surprise to those who would expect to do it, however, do your family the favor of talking with them about your decisions.  You don't have to say, "I chose Jane Doe because my son Tom Smith is such an irresponsible jerk."  It's sufficient for you to tell Tom and all of your other family, "I chose Jane Doe because ___," and name the positive reasons that favor Jane.  Give your family an opportunity to voice any concerns they may have about Jane, and listen carefully to those concerns.  If Jane has been your best friend for 40 years, that's one thing.  If you met Jane last week in a Playboy Bunny Club, your family may have valid reason for concern. 

The bottom line is, work through all these issues and TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS.  Get it done!   

Okay, well, (drum roll) ...

I have both a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney.  Do you?! 

(drum roll)  

Do you?!

If not, GET THEM! 


*And now here's the disclaimer, and it's an important one:  I am not your lawyer; you are not my client; and this blog does not give specific legal advice!  Since every state and every nation has its own laws, what may be true in my state may not be true in your state or country.   I've told you my personal opinion:  you're an idiot if you don't make a contingency plan for disability. But in terms of exactly what to do, I'll leave it at telling you one thing:  Make sure you talk with your attorney about what documents you need, then take the time and effort to do whatever your lawyer recommends.   

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What's Your Personal "Plan B"?

I'm reading the book The Power of a Postive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes, by William Ury.  I won't try to review the whole book right now.  I just want to mention one concept that struck me yesterday as I was reading.  That is, the importance of having a workable "Plan B". 

In the lingo of negotiation, and in the previous two books Ury has written, Plan B is the same as the BATNA:  Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.  Prior to a negotiation, each party should consider what is their best alternative in the event the negotiation fails.  If a negotiated settlement offers less than the BATNA, then choose the BATNA.  Unless a party knows their BATNA, they don't know when to walk away from the negotiation table. 

Your "Plan B" may not be something you would voluntarily choose, if you had a choice.  For instance, a "Plan B" for a manager negotiating a supplier agreement may be that he will lose a sale, or even that his company might go bankrupt if that were the company's sole source of income.  The "Plan B" for a woman in an abusive marriage may be to leave her husband, even if she has no prospects for living on her own and must go stay in a shelter for battered women.  The "Plan B" for an employee who cannot work requested hours may be to lose his job.  These "Plan B" scenarios don't leave the person in a good position.  Therefore, the person loses power in a relationship; they are unable to negotiate for what they truly need and must accept a "second best" existence. 

On the other hand, the Plan B may be much better than this.  Perhaps the "worst case scenario" isn't so bad after all.  Jenny Sanford, for instance, wife of the adulterous Governor Mark Sanford, has independent means.  Because of the strength of her position, her "Plan B" is simply to leave behind the cheating spouse.  Having a strong "Plan B" is crucial to having a strong bargaining position for life. 

What struck me about my reading yesterday was not the simple fact that one must know what "Plan B" is.  No, it was a different observation.  It's quite simple:  If your "Plan B" isn't appealing, then you need to work on improving your options. 

How can you improve the other options available to you, so they will be more palatable to you if negotiation doesn't work and they must be exercised?  In the examples above, the Manager may wish to cultivate other customers.  The wife may wish to pursue career training.  The employee may wish to ask for assistance in meeting demands at home or for help from other employees to make his job more reasonable.  No matter what the circumstance -- whether dealing with the local auto mechanic, with an unruly teenager, or with the leader of a nation on the verge of war -- it's always a good idea not only to have thought out, but to have consciously worked on creation of an acceptable "Plan B". 

This leads me to ask, in general, "What is YOUR personal 'Plan B'?"  If it's not something you find acceptable as a fallback, then you need to work on making it more palatable.  The New Year is a great time to reassess and reposition to answer the question:  What concrete measures need to be taken in order to improve my personal "Plan B" list of options?