This is Not a Political Post, by Joanna Tebbs Young

Editor’s Note: In response to the election, there has been a lot of crying — and outcrying — on both sides. The TLA Network asked for practitioners to share their thoughts. This one was originally posted on Joanna’s blog, here.


This morning I woke to find that the nightmare developing when I finally went to bed at 1 AM, the one where the map turned increasingly red, was real. I immediately broke down sobbing. I haven’t really stopped since. My children have never seen me like this; it scared them. I tried to gain control of the whirling weather-map of emotions surging through me, but they were too much.

So, I will try, now that I can see through my waterlogged eyeballs again, to break down these various emotions:

  • Sadness

For my country, for those who had so much hope that “Love Always Wins,” and for those who believed we were finally going to see a woman in the White House. That people have experienced rifts in their friend and family circles during this election.

  • Shock

That which I, and so many millions in this country and around the world, couldn’t even conceive happening, did.

  • Despair and Disillusionment

That half – half! – the population of this country voted for a man who has been shown over and over again to be a crappy — and dangerous — human being. That many of these voters (other than the ones who supposedly voted for him because they felt they had no other choice) don’t believe in love or compassion, don’t believe in equity, don’t believe in diversity, and instead believe, as a bumper stick I saw the other day declared, that what makes America great is God, Guns, and Guts. People who favor above all their whiteness, their sexually-aggressive maleness, and their so-called Christianity; those who prefer a leader who parrots their worst fears back to them and, like some orange fairy godmother, tells them their greatest dreams will come true.

“The charismatic or hypnotic leader who successfully rallies his followers… exhorting Americans to go out and battle the ‘heathen and immoral humanists, feminists, and communists [or socialists or liberals or Muslims]’ — whom they blame for all our world’s ills.”**

It is in despair (and utter bafflement) that I witnessed a man stand in front of the world spewing hatred, fear, and lies, and have his repulsive, illegal behavior excused away or completely ignored by even the smartest of his supporters. I despair that people I know, who I know are fundamentally good and not stupid, can vote for a person who could well take our country to war while denying people healthcare and equal rights — human rights.

  • Fear 

That violence will rise. That hate crimes will increase. That white supremacy will surge. That our Middle-Eastern and Hispanic friends and neighbors will be targeted, including the Syrian refugees who are arriving in my town soon. That families will be separated through deportation. That our gay friends, friends of color, our liberal friends will take verbal or even physical abuse.

“Elites of fascist and communist totalitarian state hierarchies … impose [their word/law/ideology] by force or the threat of force… Obedience and conformity are the supreme virtues. And in both, violence is not only permitted but ordered if it is in service of the officially approved ideology.”**

Fear that our children will see a rise in bullying and name-calling. That our sons will grow up continuing to believe females are inferior and objects for their enjoyment. That sexual assaults will continue to be dismissed as female over-reaction to a male’s right.

That the advances we’ve made in women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, healthcare, etc. will be over-turned. That we will be looking at a country (once again) governed by archaic patriarchal/religious laws. (Sound familiar, Sharia-law fearers??)

“The first policy priority in a male-dominated system has to be the preservation of male dominance. Hence, policies that would weaken male dominance — and most policies that offer any hope for the human future will [i.e. reproductive freedom and equality for women] — cannot be implemented.”**

Fear that this presidency will lead us to war. World and/or civil. That the gun culture will make our country a tinderbox.

That the “hoax” of climate change will endanger our planet to the point of extinction.

  • Anger and Frustration

At all the above. (Plus some at the DNC, the non-voters, the 3rd party voters, the uninformed voters, and those who wanted the country to go to shit to prove some point. And a lot at the electoral college which have gave us a president the majority did NOT vote for.)

  • Love

In times of group grief, love surges. I am so in love right now with the people of my “tribe” who are reaching out over social media to give virtual hugs and inspiration, who are meditating for personal and communal peace, who are taking this as an opportunity to speak out from a place of compassion. A friend on Facebook, after I had posted of my despair, wrote, simply, “I love you.” In those three words I felt the circle of connection tighten, my heart lurch. I began crying all over again but this time it wasn’t out of desperation, it was because of love.

  • Hope

I believe what has happened today is the death rattle of a mindset/heartset which is will no longer be tolerated. The fear-focused individual has a heart in which love cannot flourish. For a long time the worst of these fearful ones have been hidden away. But Trump has drawn them out and legitimatized their fears and hate. They are out in the open now.

While we have been living for a few decades in a world of advancing rights for minorities and human-beings in general, what the majority of us have been able to deny or file away as the point of view of a few disturbed, angry individuals, is staring us in the face. And we are not going to ignore it.

Women have bravely risen up to tell their sexual assault stories — by the millions. People are demanding their human right to healthcare and freedom to make their own choices regarding their body. Women are determined in their right to career options and advancement, and equal pay. The working class are asking to have a living wage and students to be able to be educated without drowning in debt. Activists are working on the behalf of the incarcerated. Bernie will continue to lead us in a fight for social reform and environmental restoration. I could go on and on.

The point is, inequities created in our society by old, tired patriarchal, religious, aggressive-capitalist ideals are no longer tolerated by the majority. As a friend, who just stopped by to give me a much-needed hug, put it, the boil has festered into a pustule. It will burst — and that’s when the healing begins.

Our world is changing. Indeed, writes Riane Eisler in Chalice and the Blade, during a historical period of greater gender equality, when “women obtain relatively more freedom and greater access to education… one of the most telltale signs that the pendulum is about to swing back is the revival of misogynist dogmas.”

Apparently it took a major, uncomfortable kick (and it might be a longer lasting and more painful kick than we would like under the inflammatory rhetoric of our new president) to jump start actions that will get that pendulum swinging the other way. But swinging it always is.

According to Eisler, Cultural Transformational Theory shows that, “following a period of chaos and almost total cultural disruption,” when there are unstable states, “a shift from one system to another can occur.”

“What may lay ahead is the final bloodbath of this dying system’s violent efforts to maintain its hold. But the death throes of androcracy [form of government in which the government rulers are male] could be the birth pangs of glylany [partnership society based on gender equality] and the opening of a door into a new future.”

And in that frightening yet hopeful assertion by Eisler, I will hold my hope — a tenuous silver lining — that today wasn’t the end of the world, but the beginning of a new one.

— —

*This isn’t intended as a political post. However, I will say this:

I love Bernie. I supported Bernie. I trust Bernie. Reluctant as I was to have to support someone else, I trusted he knew what he was doing despite any corruption which may have/probably forced him out of the race. And to see a woman as candidate, was, despite my love for Bernie and his message of change, inspiring and exciting.

I was elated that my children would see a woman break the last glass ceiling. And that woman would, I absolutely believe, have continued facilitating positive change for the equal and human rights of women, LGBTQs, people of color, immigrants, children, the sick, the poverty-stricken, the working-class, etc. etc. No, she isn’t Bernie but she is a mother, and an educated and experienced one at that… and, above all, NOT Trump.

I don’t intend this to start a political dialogue. I am too raw to engage right now. But, all other discussions are welcome!

**From Riane Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, which read today like all-too real-right-now prophecies.

Influencing Values Through TLA, by Doug Lipman

In our society, “influencing values” brings up images of someone lecturing children on abstract concepts (e.g., “honesty,” “perseverance,” etc.).

values-of-futureIt turns out, though, that we learn values from our own experience. In workshops I do with organizations, I often ask, “Choose a value that is important to your work. How did you learn the importance of that value?”

In response, people almost always have at least one story of something that happened to them. Having told it, they continue, “After that happened, I realized that…” Rough examples of their stories might be:

  • The time my family cooperated to get something done, taught me the value of cooperation;
  • The time I lied taught me the value of honesty;
  • The time someone else was disrespectful to me, I learned the value of treating people with respect.

Prompting Value Changes

As we’ve seen, values grow out of specific experiences. We don’t learn them by prescription, but by construction: we build our values over time. If you want someone to change their values, then, you probably shouldn’t begin by arguing with them about why their values are wrong. Instead, you need to make sure that they have experiences – first-hand or vicarious – in which they are practicing those values and then, as a consequence, experiencing success.

Having had those experiences, they can realize at some point, “Yes, when I acted that way, things went better than when I didn’t. And, yes, that was an example of this value.” Initially, they may not realize it consciously, but in time they will begin to regard acting in accordance with that value as good, right, or worth the cost.

Imagined Experiences

Storytelling gives people imagined experiences. When I listen to your story of how treating someone disrespectfully caused painful results, I imagine a version of your experience. I see and hear things similar to what you saw and heard. I feel emotions similar to those that you felt.

If I tell a story that is about living out a value (or failing to live that value) then people imagine my experience, thus replicating that experience in their minds.

Embedded Values

Of course, the idea of telling stories about values is not, by any means, a new idea. Anyone who has thought seriously about language arts has probably realized that stories, songs, poems and more can reinforce certain values.

But have you considered this idea: The very process of telling stories reinforces certain values! In fact, the very process of participating in many language arts can do the same.

In a society where we see political debates in which people call each other names and shout each other down (only listening long enough to form a rejoinder) the value of open, delighted listening seems foreign and impractical, like some ideal from the distant past or from an impossible future.

But storytelling, for example, already gives people the experience of open, delighted listening! In every culture, people learn unconsciously to listen to stories differently from how they listen to explanations or exhortations. You might readily interrupt someone, for example, who is telling you their opinion about a political race. But if they are telling a story about their own experience, the unconscious rules of conversation change: you are expected to wait for the story to be over. Further, you listen, not so much to comprehend, but to imagine and feel.

Eight Values Embedded in the Processvalues-of-the-future

As it turns out, even the process of preparing a story to tell (discovering, developing, shaping, and practicing stories) can give people practice in certain values, as well.

I’ve made a list of eight values that, I believe, are potentially embedded in the process of learning and telling stories:

Group A: The Primacy of Connection

  • Value #1: The Power of Listening
  • Value #2: A Predisposition Toward Compassion
  • Value #3: The Importance of Relationships
  • Value #4: The Efficacy of Openness

Group B: Respect for Our Amazing Minds

  • Value #5: The Preciousness of Every Human Point of View
  • Value #6: The Universality of Human Potential
  • Value #7: The Whole Mind: Conceptual Thinking Plus Image Thinking
  • Value #8: Emotion’s Role in Thinking

Further, I suspect that most, if not all, of these values can be reinforced by numerous arts.

Process Shapes Values

As we have seen, conventionally we tend to think that values are taught by talking about them. Many of us have come to the deeper realization that we learn values primarily from experience, including the imagined experiences provided by the arts. I invite you to explore yet another layer, as well: experiencing the processes involved in an art form can also reinforce values.

And, as it turns out, the values embedded in certain artforms are values that can guide the transformation of our society—to one that is more just, less wasteful of our abilities,  and more supportive of the flourishing of every human.

Learn More!

If you’d like to learn more about how the very processes of storytelling reinforce these values—and might like to participate in describing how the process of other arts can do the same—there are two upcoming opportunities:


In 1970, Doug Lipman was a struggling teacher of troubled adolescents. He had given up connecting with them when one day, by accident, he found himelf telling them a story. They responded! Ever since, he has pursued the transformative power of storytelling.

Over the decades, Doug has coached hundreds of people on their storytelling, writing, and recordings. He is the author of three books on storytelling (Improving Your Storytelling, The Storytelling Coach, and Storytelling Games), scores of published articles, and over 150 issues of his own email newsletters, including “eTips from the Storytelling Coach (http://StorytellingNewsletters.com).

A professional storyteller since 1976, Doug has performed and led workshops on three continents and led many online courses and webinars. His ongoing search for effective ways to teach the transformative power of storytelling has led to projects such as a new paradigm for coaching storytellers, an exploration of the seldom-noticed Hidden Storytelling Skills, and the pursuit of ways that storytelling and related arts can allow our true humanity to blossom.

Callid Keefe-Perry Reflects on Service, Change, and New Vision

maxresdefaultFrom 2009 – 2013, Callid Keefe-Perry served as coordinator of the TLA Network, transitioning in 2013 to chair the TLA Network Council, our leadership group. In the last year, Callid has worked closely with the council on strategic planning and on training our new chair, Emilee Baum. Here he shares his thoughts about his journal through TLA Network land, and in a beautiful way to transition again, he may be leaving the council, but he’ll also be one of our keynoters at the 2015 Power of Words conference.

On Nov. 1, 2009 my wife Kristina and I began as Coordinators-in-Training under Scott Youmans. Having first been workshop facilitators and panelists in the 2007 Power of Words Conference we were excited to join in forwarding the work of an organization full of folks that seemed to be a welcoming community. We eagerly began to learn of the history of the organization and help where we could. On 2/17/10 we first served as the coordinator of the network on a Council Call. It would be the beginning of years of connection to a powerful and inspiring web of artists, seekers, and agents for change and healing.

In the years that followed things were not always easy. In 2010 I began with a healthy balance in the bank. By 10/23/13, our lowest financial point, we were deep in the red. However, even at that most trying of moments we still held out for some hope and tried to imagine a way forward. Today that same bank account is very healthy again, we have no outstanding debt, and for the first time ever in the history of the organization we have agreed to become the employer of an executive director. But finances are hardly the only ways that things have grown.

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Callid passing on the TLA Network coordinator to Deb Hensley in 2013 at Pendle Hill near Philadelphia

When I came on we didn’t have the ability to update our own website, needing to go through a contractor for every change. Now we not only have an easily updateable site but an integrated membership system with more features possible than we had even considered before. Between then and now we added not only TLA certification, but also Chrysalis, and online classes, neither of which existed when I started. As of tonight we have over 160 active members, a number up from the 87 when I began and far from the 36 we had at our lowest point. Yes, things certainly have changed, and while I’ve been proud to see it happen I can hardly claim personal responsibility.

Outside of the odd late night Power of Words event I can rarely point to moments that something happened specifically because I came to some rescue. I did what I could when I could, but truly, if it were not for the unflagging support and energy of others next to nothing could have been accomplished. Since I began more than 30 people have served as members of the Leadership Council, and many times that more have helped out with things at the Power of Words and in One City One Prompt. I’ve been able to be part of more than 100 Council Conference Calls and graced by the readings of 200 opening and closing Council poems. I’ve been able to develop relationships that I cherish and hope to maintain for years to come.

Kristina Keefe-Perry, and past council member Suzanne Adams holding Kristina and Callid's then-baby (and first TLA baby!) Nahar.

Kristina Keefe-Perry, and past council member Suzanne Adams holding Kristina and Callid’s then-baby (and first TLA baby!) Nahar — all happening at the Power of Words conference at Goddard College in Vermont

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Emilee Baum

Ever since the Transformative Language Arts Network grew from Caryn Mirriam-Golderg’s inspired vision, its success has always been a result of those willing to give their time and energy to a project broad in scope and broader in heart. As I found my time increasingly limited I knew I could not see things through to their needs. Luckily, Emilee Baum has found her way to us and so it is with incredible gratitude and hope that I leave you all. In the past 6 years there were months that went by with only 3 or 4 people on Council calls. Now our numbers are greater and you all are about to have a chair with a vision and energy that will be put to great use in the next stage of maturation and focus. I’m grateful to leave this way and with the Network in such great health. Thanks to each of you for your contributions to that, and I look forward to seeing you in August.