Spinning in high-profile disasters is no longer acceptable. As public relations experts note in the situation of illegal lion-killer Walter Palmer, a "human" response is demanded.
His best bet probably is to make what is called a "living amend." That is, act in a way to showcase that he has realized the severity of the wrong and done something concrete to correct it. An example might be to fund a initiative to protect wildlife. The expense of doing that should strain his budget.
Celebrities and corporations must embrace the same ethos of the living amend. The spun mea culpa doesn't cut it. It's mere massaged rhetoric, not a human response.
If Bill Cosby is convicted in a court of law of sexual assault we demand a living amend. Maybe that could be to fund a foundation which helps victims of such misconduct heal.
The same goes for corporations. The routine apology and paying a fine aren't enough. That seems exactly why in the prosecution in the case of Stewart Parnell, former head of the Peanut Corporation of America, is demand a "pound of flesh" - that is a life sentence. It was his deliberate negligence in food safety procedures which resulted in deaths and injuries.
That's what a veterinarian in Seymour, Connecticut said to me. That was immediately following the "sudden death" of my animal companion Molly Mittens.
He had called me over from the examining table to show me a list of medications we could try. Therefore, I had taken my hand from her furry little body and stepped 3.5 feet away. She probably saw that as her one and only opportunity to die.
The vet later explained that there had been hardly a heartbeat when we had entered his examining room. For about 18 months she, like most small aging dogs, had struggled with congestive heart failure.
As Melissa Dahl writes in New York Magazine, I was among the pet parents who exploited medical science to prolong our pet children's lives. Yet, all the while, they were probably trying to figure out a way to signal us with love that they needed to hit the road, jack.
I had spend thousands of dollars not allowing feline Sarah and canine Nicole to pass on. Likely the most unselfish acts I ever perform was going to those 24-hour emergency clinics during the night and letting them pass over. I got it: They shouldn't have to spend another day not capable of enjoying their lives.
Why do we hang on? For me it was knowing how awful the pet grief would be. It's irrelevant that there are other four-footers at home. The first holiday season after Molly Mittens passed on, I had to contact a pet medium. It was worth every penny. It wasn't until 7 years later that my friends could persuade me to adopt a rescue dog.
In Tucson, Arizona, I have joined a church which believes that our animal companions welcome us to the afterlife. For me, that possibility is far more attractive than having a human relative manage the transition. Again, I can feel whole.
In 2013, I interviewed a former classmate from Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Kathleen Huebner. So many readers of my three syndicated blogs were struggling with loss. Huebner explained how she was coping with the black emotional hole created by the death of her mother. Here is that interview.
But, that kind of information and insight is on the micro or personal level. What our society, which is becoming overwhelmed with change, needs is for thought leadership to put out there fresh paradigms about getting from how it used to be to what can be in the future.
In short, job number-one for thought leaders, dealing with values (such as David Brooks with his "Road to Character"), is to transform "over" into "open." What has ended doesn't have to represent loss. Instead, it can be joyously positioned and packaged as possibility.
At work, a colleague told us at lunch about how her family had been the group caretaker for a dying relative. Their house was where the cancer patient spent six happy weeks, before the hospice was became where she needed to be.
After she died, this co-worker explained how proud she was that she could have assisted with that passage. However, she was a bit stunned that the deceased's daughter sent her ashes. "It's over," she said. "Now, new people I can be there for can enter my little life."
After my dog, Molly Mittens, died on the vet's table of congestive heart failure, I indicated, "No ashes." I had to shift to paying more attention the felines, Jason and Carlotta. That was the right decision. However, I still got stuck in pet grief.
When over becomes a symbol of new beginnings the transition phases might not be so jarring. Instead of looking back, we can focus ahead for how to welcome what is coming.
Beloved Chihuahua, Tinkerbell Hilton, died after a long life, at least for a small dog. The New York Daily News reports that pet parent, Paris Hilton, is devastated by the loss. After all, they went everywhere together. That included appearing on talk shows.
Since our animal children are only allotted a short time with us, we pet parents tend to experience that soul-withering grief over and over again. I have been through it three times. The most recent was when Molly Mittens died of congestive heart failure, at age 13. That holiday season following her death I knew that I could only make it through if I got in touch with her through a pet medium.
Currently, seven-year-old rescue, Lily of the Valley, shares my life. Sometimes I slip and call him "Molly Mittens." After a while, these loves of our life just blend into a continuum of one fur ball.
Lily of the Valley and I wish Paris the strength to weather this emotional storm. It's irrelevant that she is also pet parent to about 17 other dogs.
"The co-pilot [Andreas Lubitz] of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps last week had been treated for suicidal tendencies years ago ..." - John Bacon, USA Today, March 30, 2015. Here is the coverage.
Any alert depressive has long known that sharing suicidal thoughts could get you locked up. In many jurisdictions, that's the law. You will be confined against your will in a psychiatric facility, until "they" decide you can be released.
No surprise, those in despair are reluctant to take the first step to seek out some kind of help. Usually, that's by just talking. Opening up can let in the light.
When I had to put my feline companion, Jason, down a few years ago, a smart neighbor warned me, "Don't don't don't say you feel like dying now." Yes yes yes I did feel like dying. She went on to explain that the elderly man a few floors down in our high rise had said a similar thing when his cat died. He had been taken away to Yale Psychiatric Hospital.
Lubitz's crazed act had bundled in too many minds suicidal ideation with homocidal tendencies. Well-meaning citizens could now be scanning the horizon to identify those who might have thoughts of checking out and perceiving it their duty to "turn them in."
" .... my luck has run out - a few weeks ago I learned that I had multiple metastases in my liver." Oliver Sacks, The New York Times, February 19, 2015. Here is the opinion-editorial.
Loved thought leader Oliver Sacks is going to teach us how to die. He kicked that off with his already iconic op-ed. It has received more than 800 comments.
In doing that Sacks follows in the steps of Christopher Hitchens. His essays in Vanity Fair were his platform for letting us know that, no, you just don't go gently into the night. The pain was preventing him from having access to his number-one tool for dealing with life on life's terms: writing.
Thought leaders, particularly in Campaign 2016, also need to share their wisdom on these end of life issues. I'm among the 76 million Baby Boomers who can't duck those realities.
For one thing, our close friends in our age group want us to listen as they sort out. For another, so many of us have been searching for a belief system about What's Next after we pass over. And, third, to help us with the grief of losing our animal companions, we want a sense of where they might be hanging out.
Looking at death doesn't have to be a downer. I wish I had embraced that when my father was dying. I would have been a more effective listener.
"Two teenagers [ages 15 and 17] who allegedly fed a live cat to two dogs, videotaped the attack and posted it online have been arrested in Kern County [California] on suspicion of cruelty to an animal." - AP, in Sacramento CBS Local. Here is the coverage.
The sound of the suffering from the cat must have been soul-piercing. When I was about five years old, there was a shriek I have not been able to pack away in a box labeled "Bad Seeds" or "Mankind's Dark Side." Three neighborhood boys in Jersey City, New Jersey had started a fire in a bag. Into it, they stuffed a stray cat.
More than half a century later tears come to my eyes. I hope that, as with humans, enough adrenalin flooded the cat's system so that he or she could dissociate from the experience. When I almost died in an apartment fire that's what happened: Thanks to chemistry, I simply wasn't there. Instead I was emotionally off-stage watching.
About a quarter of that half of a century I took part in cat rescue. For instance I purchased a This Old House. There my seven adopted felines bunked. Many other fosters passed through on the their way to permanent homes. However, the sound of that suffering likely will never be silenced.
The good news is that the ring leader of the cat murder, as well as his brother, spent most of the lives in various prisons. Maybe it was kindness, maybe it was that I just couldn't talk about it (and never did until this holiday season), but I never told their mother what had happened. Not then. Not when she was among the residents of our neighborhood who moved from downtown tenements to uptown multi-dweller apartment buildings.
Telling this story didn't, as people insist, heal. At least not yet.
I took my hand off her little furry body to walk over to review some medications with the vet.
Within about 90 seconds, the tech advised us that Molly Mittens had given out her last breath on a vet's table. "She was waiting for you to let go," was what the vet told me. He offered CPR. I said, "No." That happened at the end of summer almost nine years ago.
The first holiday season after that I knew I wouldn't make it through without Molly Mittens. She had seen me through the collapse and re-invention of my communications boutique, the death of Sarah my first feline companion, and the sale of a cute house I could no longer afford.
Talking with a pet medium helped. Reading books on pet grief gave perspective. Joining a spiritual organization which believes in reincarnation, including for pets, also provided comfort. Sixteen months ago I adopted a five-year old dog whose severe behavior issues distracted me from my pain.
But, here it is the holiday season and the loss still bites. Here's what I know:
Don't compare loss. Two years ago a close friend lost her 31-year-old daughter in a freak accident. It doesn't help me and it doesn't help her to stand those losses side-by-side and attempt to measure the comparative devastation.
Find a soulmate to discuss the grief. Talk does help. But only if it's with the right human being.
Help another pet parent. Recently, a neighbor was foot-dragging about allowing her two very sick, aging felines to pass over. I pitched in with the vet logistics, lent her my cat carriers, and did the driving.
Cry. The release is amazing. And necessary.
Meditate. Eighteen months learning mindfulness at a Buddhist temple gave me a tool for the worst of times. Change the thought, change the reality.
Be gentle with yourself. Forget time-tables when "you should be over it." I never have, at least not yet, gotten over my grandmother's death. That was 1956.
I hear all sorts of accounts about where Molly Mittens is at the current time. However, as long as I harbor the memory of her love for me and the cats in the household in my heart, I will be able to pass that good spirit on. During the holidays, and beyond.
Your best mentor for public speaking and getting those opinion-editorials (op-eds) published in The Wall Street Journal is your dog.
Dogs know exactly the right things to do to win minds, hearts, and jerky treats. Think about this: The world is deeply concerned about Excalibur and Bentley. They are the dogs of the healthcare workers who were diagnosed.
What is your dog doing that you, as a leader, should be doing in your communications? Here are just a handful to recommend.
Show you care. Dogs jump into our laps, eye us when they sense we're in distress, and stick with us until the bad patch is over. No, don't say you care. Show you care.
Demonstrate joy. Dogs have a tag to wag. You have facial gestures, body language, and one-syllable words. That's how to bring hope to the world through your own ability to transcend what is.
Stay simple. Dogs have very fundamental routines. In fact, they are incapable of piling on complexity. Likewise, simplify every concept you introduce. Provide one example, not 100. Use basic language.
Make gratitude standard. No, you're not going to lick faces. But you are going to integrate a mission to give back for what has been given to you. Jerky treats come to us in many forms.
So, for Halloween, should you select a dog-themed costume? That could lift the souls of those in angst about Ebola, the value of the equities, global growth, and outliving their income.
Jane Genova - Executive Communications Connect with Jane Genova for a complimentary consultation at email@example.com, 203-468-8579, SKYPE ID genovajane, 734 E. Roger Road - Suite 210, Tucson, AZ 85719