Conflict Mediation, Resolution, Remedy

Part 14 in multipartite post, The ‘Madwoman’ v. the Madness of the State.

Big Pharma

As alternatives to abusive responses, innovative pharmaceutical companies could choose to feel excited by the opportunity to shift the focus of their research and development, welcoming innovative treatment. As you can see, there is almost no competition for local raw materials. Much like Canyon County, what is still available in Ada County desperately needs to redesign its identity, web and print collateral, and in-warehouse experience, where, in Idaho, Van Gogh tore off his foot instead of or maybe in addition to his ear:



The Department of Education could forgive my debt and welcome my assistance developing curricula offering carrots instead of wielding impotent sticks. As well as welcome my expert witness in various and sundry open or needing to be reopened investigations.

Health and Human Services

HHS could welcome my educated professional deep design research into what is hopefully an already instigated system-wide investigation of Idaho’s and perhaps nationwide mental health services. Or stay tuned for forthcoming design analysis of still more institutionalized fraud within Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare and/or its private contractors providing no services not already available online and for free 24/7/365 from the private sector beyond surveilling the poor, managed by former bankers now carpetbagging their CEO salaries. What do you do when the quasi-governmental agency to whom you are supposed to report food stamp fraud is busily defrauding taxpayers of their hard-earned cents? According to my electrical engineering brother-in-law, stellar graduates of the state’s flagship institution of higher learning should subtract still more hours from their job search by sitting in poorly ventilated, fluorescent-lit rooms using outmoded computer equipment and watching badly designed PowerPoint lectures given by programs that brag about their inability to perform simple arithmetic:


Pace the opinions of my visually illiterate brother-in-law, governments are also designed, with some folks in Big Technology working toward finding solutions for 21st century policy problems. Where our social services are badly designed, or hindered by poor communications both internally and externally, it is because design decisions are made by administrators pedaling as fast as they know how to comply with top-down, dictatorial, poorly written legislation prior to consulting the expertise of visually educated designers. Much like the Design for Pepsico designers tasked with solving the problem of obesity correlated with the problem of poverty, the Coders at venture capitalist-funded startup America began by correctly naming the problem: a lack of empathy, or all too often taxpayer-funded disdain for the public that bureaucrats are elected or hired to serve.

The class-privileged coders rolled up their sleeves and got to work conducting design research toward solving the problem by applying for SNAP funds so they could experience the dysfunctional bureaucratic process for themselves, while hastening to assure finger-pointing pundits that they did not defraud the government by actually spending those dollars towards their own pizza lunches. Had the San Francisco coders actually spent their SNAP funds, or better yet, simply conducted design research listening to the expert narrative of their client’s clients, or impoverished citizens, they may have learned that the monthly remaining budget for a SNAP recipient prints on each grocery store receipt, no need for condescending reminders to be texted to a smartphone device that I can no longer afford. If you are not solving the problem for the poorest of the poor, you’re not solving the problem, and you need to hire better educated designers. No need to design and code an irrelevant app for communications between department and clients. Sure, I guess San Francisco can afford to fund and build another mousetrap, or maybe the live human beings behind the Department of Health and Welfare could just make more responsive use of email and the message service that Dick Costolo and team already built? Balancing a SNAP budget is not that different from managing NIH, NSF, private foundation, public utility, or construction costs in the multiple millions of dollars other than fewer zeroes to the left of the decimal point. If anything, the educated dire poor are better at money management than our greed-driven politicians or CEOs simply because we have to do more with less. We do not have the luxury of shutting down the government or writing laws to dole out dollars to our wealthy friends or printing still more money.

My brother-in-law refusing to supply soap only meant that I learned how to design and build soap with food products limited by SNAP rules. Threatening to starve my cat only meant I learned to design and build – in my second iteration – a product that met the approval of the most discriminating of design critics, and with the right backing could give Idaho pet food supplier Zamzow’s a run for their money in the other Moscow. Of course all of this product research and development took more time away from that lie of Title IX or my own career goals, leaving me dependent on my abusive brother-in-law for longer, hence the counselors’ description of codependent relationship. Again, counselors, before offering conflict mediation advice, ask, who is in the position of power-over?

Back to that unsolved problem of disdain or lack of empathy that middle-class bureaucrats express toward impoverished citizens as if suffering cultural amnesia or failing to recognize the gestalt that we are all connected, and without the poor to administrate, a serious chunk of government-paid or -contracted workers would themselves be out of a job and joining the ranks of America’s destitute.

Kudos to Code for America for recognizing that the empathy problem extends beyond virtual to architectural space, and encouraging San Francisco’s social services to rid their offices of the bullet-proof glass obstructing communication between public servants and their clients. In many ways less progressive than California, Idaho’s welfare offices already lack bullet-proof glass, yet the empathy problem languishes unsolved. State Hospital South lacked the fishbowl windows separating Intermountain Hospital staff from their patients, yet passive aggressive communication still flourished in both facilities.

From the executive level, the state desperately needs my help redesigning visual communications to encourage employees to treat their clients with respect instead of blaming the victims of poverty stimulated by corporate and legislative abuse of power, as illustrated by this pair of bilingual, poorly proofed, badly designed, punishment-threatening clip-art posters decorating the offices of the Department of Health and Welfare in lieu of empathy stimulating art or healthy graphic design:


More condescending nutrition advice from top-down, dictatorial government administrators fails the number one rule for effective teaching/parenting/psychotherapy: get to know your clients. And do not assume your impoverished clients do not already eat better than the bureaucrats who do not take any better care of their bodies than of their minds.

Have yet to receive so much as a retweet from Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare that does not want to respect or facilitate communications between the impoverished clients it is paid to serve, the mathematically unsound middle-class bootstrapping mythology it encourages, and the executive leadership it grovels before, so I soon stopped bothering with courtesy that used to be common:

Nice interactive timeline visually communicating the inefficiencies of just one bloated bureaucracy to a global audience though.

Law and Order

Justice could welcome my educated expertise visibly lacking from its “anti” domestic violence programming. As well as welcome my expert witness in various and sundry open or needing to be reopened or initiated investigations.

Interrogators at the CIA or the FBI could. Well. Gulp. Umm. How do you folks help victims of human trafficking anyhoo? As I suggested to the detectives in Meridian, maybe a witness protection program? You could ker-plop me in one of Governor Huntsman’s houses if Governor Otter’s not willing to give up his empty Simplot Mansion, but I genuinely believe, as I suggested to the irrationally fearful fellows at Meridian Police Department, I can be of greater benefit to any community in America by assisting with revitalization of our downtrodden historic districts with a live/work design/build gallery/workshop community conflict mediation/healthy communication/trauma recovery center. Maybe this writing helps you rethink the value of my witness in your case against Idaho’s Skittles School, as I suggested to the Ada County Sheriff’s Deputy and again when I left a voicemail at your Boise office? Remember your support of Iowa’s creative writing program? We are now living in the era of what educated people describe as the visual turn. An era that government hasn’t quite caught up with yet. But you will. One day history will look back and this era will seem barbaric. Backward. Primitive. Besides, my writing is more entertaining to read than Congressional emails, don’t you think? Could we meet in a public place to discuss? Amnesty? Truce? A woman who also attended Seattle Police Department’s domestic violence orientation session described past experience with FBI domestic violence training. Send her instead of arrogant white males. Felicia or Felicity, something like that. Gorgeous redhead. You can’t miss her. I always did have a weakness for redheads.

Local police departments across our nation could recognize their need for my now imminent qualifications helping them learn how to listen to the quote mentally ill unquote.

Or do those vernacular designed signs posted on telephone poles and rest stop restroom doors from Washington to Washington indicate choices for America’s destitute between private human trafficking or publicly sanctioned pharmaceutical company experiments? Social justice activists urging universal base income (UBI) to promote meaningful work and innovative solutions to social problems may not realize we already do have a UBI option. Of sorts. As long as you do not mind being a test subject in the largest clinical trial conducted in the history of the world. I do mind. Thanks, but no thanks. If society has so failed that those are my choices, maybe I’ll keep walking, expanding my territory by trying my luck with the nudists who congregate at the Sun Tunnels, so far west in Utah’s remote desert that you have to drive into Nevada before turning east to arrive west.

State of Idaho

The State of Idaho could get more bang for its buck by valuing my communications as an opportunity to develop mental health and broad spectrum social services establishing a national standard so far unseen despite the best efforts of 50 Congressional years. Or we could spend the next 14 years battling it out in a court of law.

University of Idaho

Maybe the University of Idaho should just voluntarily, as one of my brighter, more critically thinking, drawing students suggested during our 2007 collaborative project following the campus shootings across the nation at Virginia Tech, shut its doors before it causes more harm? Or its slender few functional faculty interested in rigorous intellectual cross-disciplinary research applied to real world problems could join me in starting our own university?


We’ll need some urban planners to transform car culture, architects, designers to work with me in turning these trailers into viable workshop spaces, graphic designers, as well as some historians, psychologists, theologians, philosophers, artists, maybe even an administrative assistant or two who want to be engaged in the execution of meaningful work. Lots of room for advancement. I think we can probably together devise a healthy communications plan for debating issues, resolving conflict, and making decisions without a bloated CEO salary and benefits package. Together creating, you know, more jobs meaningful work.


Savvy business executives could direct their hiring managers to sift back through their application files and approach me with competitive offers, maybe innovative job titles. If you do not have any designers on staff, you need to add an entire department, and you’ll need someone to direct it. With my experience directing an all-male team at a state institution to design success, how do you feel about Corporate Aesthetic Officer? Learn from Boeing’s mistakes: if healthy communications do not come from the top, you’re flushing money down the toilet. I’ve grown a lot since my last application, but likely you already have my data on file, so I do not need to resubmit. I don’t need another database. I need healthy community. Seduce me. Do not begin your cover letter with the first person pronoun. Indicate why I should prioritize your offer over all other considerations. Write well, so I will know that you are not spam. Will images increase your powers of persuasion? Does your offer need to be designed or will just writing suffice?

Do you see any shortage of databases already freely available 24/7/365 already developed by the private sector?

Do you see any shortage of design jobs posted to Design Observer, many cross-referenced but many are unique to Coroflot. There’s also Creative Hotlist, Behance, and of course those pesky little emails that litter my inbox from LinkedIn, though their interface designers or maybe it is their CEO who seems, mmm, more worried about control and acquisition of files than about genuine connections between human beings. Demanding separate cover letter attachments in this era of email-? Maybe he’s building a collection of well-written cover letters to help JPMorgan Chase and friends learn how to write cover letters?

If you want to use your education and skills to accomplish meaningful work, however, to me that means the work of ideas applied toward helping others, and that does not mean selling cheap meaningless product. Even narrowing that field, I have yet to run out of jobs to apply for. Meanwhile, my abusive family and the abusive State of Idaho have apparently combined forces, together or separately blaming me for not carving more hours into any given day, week, month, or year while paradoxically complaining at me to sit in still more rooms listening to still more people yapping uneducated, meaningless drivel.

You maybe begin to see the more you become aware of design, the more you begin to realize our entire world is designed? And that’s if you don’t count job databases still more specific within the field of design, where you can see even within the broad field of publishing, you must still further narrow your priorities. And these job database options don’t even include the administrative jobs around the globe that are, if you read the job descriptions closely, the work of graphic designers, requiring knowledge of the software tools of design, without requiring visual literacy, which goes a long way toward explaining why the world suffers so many communications problems.

After four years of trying, I had to give up hope of my Idaho credentials ever landing an academic job. It does not matter that my portfolio is stronger than the work of tenured art and design faculty across much of this nation. If academia is no longer the place to go for innovative, cross-disciplinary research toward solving real-world problems or even effective teaching, I would rather not be trapped in “higher” education anyway. Years ago I quit trying to find potential employers capable of writing job descriptions on Craiglist, though there is that time-wasting option for uneducated applicants, and even Twitter is a terrific job posting resource, as you follow what interests you and attract to you whatever you put out into the world of social media.

Taxpayer dollars fund our National Endowment for the Arts, which funds a badly designed interface that acts as intermediary for a host of public art projects, as well as, presumably, salaries for its administrators who fail to educate many of their clients on the differences between art and craft or art and design or art and flat-out tacky illustration that some art-educated critics might describe using their high-brow term for it, kitsch. Imagine if the unions represented the executive bosses instead of the laborers, that’s the NEA’s contribution to national culture. But to designers looking to dip into the public dole for the arts, dudes, maybe try science, technology, engineering, or mathematics instead-?

Veterans of America’s War on Democracy

For legislators struggling to write effective law, I will not pretend to be expert in your field. While I am by no means perfect, I do have some experience at least proofreading for fields far outside my own expertise. Or I might better assist with my expert knowledge of human identity, psychology, and communications before you go writing still more law with no method for enforcement beyond blaming the victims of criminal behavior.

Much as we have programs encouraging employers to hire veterans, how are you serving the six-year veterans of America’s war on democracy? Contrary to the illogic of Idaho’s bureaucrats and my abusive family, there is not a conveyor belt system for X candidate has been out of work longer, so s/he gets slotted into the next job. Otherwise I would have multiple employment offers vigorously competing for my affection. One option might be to include the poor alongside race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender, and religion as a protected category. But how well has that worked for the rest of those identities? And who will enforce that law? How does the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protect me from violence from the women who uphold the abusive patriarchs within my own family? Maybe a Conflict Resolution Act instead? An Intersubjective Communications Act? The Unplay the Shame and Blame Game Act?

Maybe a law requiring employers to offer criticism specific to the candidate if the applicant meets or vastly exceeds all qualifications for any given position instead of a bulk bcc email, if that, so I can continue learning and growing more directly rather than obliquely? It is like playing detective, looking for clues. I know, human resources departments are busy, busy, busy, poor dears. They might have to hire still more people to keep up with the workload. And who is going to enforce that law?

Psst, I may be of assistance. I am prepared to start uploading data from the last six years. Should keep a whole pile of eight-hour-day bureaucrats busy for the next decade or so particularly if they continue to prioritize time for their water cooler bitch sessions. Big Technology might concern itself with the human resources departments in “higher” education whose clerks request digital files, only to print out – thereby making analogue those digital files – before, here’s the funny thing, scanning them back in, thereby re-digitizing those analogue documents, all the while outputting emails complaining about how hard they work at their jobs to their job candidates or, presumably, to anyone else who will listen.

Do we need more technology?

Are you sure?

Or are human beings struggling to keep pace with the technology already widely accessible?

In that community in Maryland not a stone’s throw from our nation’s capital, home to more registered sex offenders than any community in the state outside Baltimore, I met with poorly funded but nevertheless employed NGO workers every bit as fearful of technology as the director of Boise’s women’s homeless shelter. At my suggestion so he could survey the skills I brought to his community otherwise bereft, the director opened his preferred web browser – answering my question of what sort of chap would prefer Internet Explorer, a mystery for every web developer anywhere on the planet – which defaulted to Microsoft’s search engine, where he reminded me of one of my first semester design students at the University of Idunno when he started typing my URL into its form search field: double-you, double-you, double-you…

“You do not have to search for my website,” I explained, “You can just type it into the address bar.”

“You mean up there?” he asked, his voice rising on that same shrill note of panic that he shares in common with Ms. Dice.

Two doughie white ladies in his outer office were equally unfamiliar with both the mute and volume buttons on their keyboards as well as the video enlarge and volume adjust visual controls on their screen interface, yet could not comprehend the value that my art, design, and technology skills could have added to their community.

The posters in their foyer were a clutter of visual chaos assaulting the gaze of their impoverished clients while failing to solve any communication problems between America’s destitute and her more socioeconomically privileged classes.

Similar to a director on Seattle School Board, the chain-smoking, red-haired, aging, white “gallery” owner whose business plan depends on unpaid African American labor and her union-laboring significant other still owes me money for half a day I spent trouble-shooting her convoluted chaos of web collateral and database “designed” 14 years earlier by the town’s only marketing firm and maintained by a visually illiterate hysterical entrepreneur:


That same Maryland marketing firm never bothered to even acknowledge receipt of my letter of interest for their advertised web developer position that directed to a 404 (page not found) error on their own site, or 14 years of writing sloppy code and selling it to the entrepreneurs in their own bedroom community:


Or you can just follow my blog, where however many days or years of my remaining job search will be as transparent as the goal of this writing to encourage transparency and integrity in government as a refreshing change from abuse of power-over to healthy communication or power-with.

Case Study

One teeny, tiny example relevant to the tightly entwined rather than “loosely associated” cross-disciplinary design psychology problem of trauma and communication in higher education and coincidentally one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century I’ll include here:

In June 2010, I applied for the position of Instructional Designer, whatever that means, for the College of Education at one Ohio University in Athens. What that means was not clearly communicated in the vaguely worded announcement posted to a design job board. Best I could tell, the college envisioned an administrative position communicating the scholarship and research of visually impaired faculty and students to their internal and external audiences. Not atypical of administrative positions offering far lower wages than professional designers, the job required no education beyond knowledge of professional design software.

By early July 2010, two of my supportive letter-writing recommenders emailed me, excited to report they had already been contacted by the college, whose administrators had been “blown away” by my portfolio, and it sounded like my American Nightmare might be approaching dawn. I readied myself for a telephone interview after receiving a politely worded email acknowledgment of my application. A decade after the Y2K scare, the administrative assistance to Ohio University had not yet discovered the bcc field on their email interface, giving me the opportunity to research my competition. Suffice to say we have a national problem of visual illiteracy. But the software is readily accessible.

That telephone call never came.

Instead, the College of Education sent another ambivalent group email informing the surprisingly small – given the Great Recession era unemployment statistics – batch of candidates that they had decided to repost the position in hopes of attracting a larger pool. Fair enough. The newly reposted job announcement had been dramatically rewritten as if bullet points lifted from my perhaps unique combination of skills, education, and work experience. A design position in higher education that previously required no education suddenly sought a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s preferred. Editorial experience. Web design. Mentoring students. And so on. I called to inquire, hoping for more insight before reapplying, confident in my qualifications. The college wanted not someone capable of visually communicating critical theories identifying social problems and ready to apply her education to real world visual solutions, but just someone with, uh, more experience making, umm, posters.

I call that the subject-object problem for design professionals whose passively consuming lay public audience might dimly recognize the detritus objects produced through design’s problem-solving process: I need a website. I need a poster. I need a business card. I need a logo. I-I-I- need a clue. As a schizophrenic director on Seattle School Board shrieked at me, “I need a sign! I need a sign! I need a sign!”

Without the budget for print media, my response:

“Are you sure you need a sign? Or do you need to visually communicate your message to your intended audience? Now, who is your audience? What is that message?”

Whose job is it to better educate the lay public about the graphic design profession as providing solutions for communication problems, not merely manufacturing pretty posters under the irrational art direction of visually uneducated managers or marketing reps? I guess it’s mine, where our design departments at institutions across this nation are largely failing to better educate their own executive administrators, as visibly abundant to any visually educated individual situated anywhere on the planet with an Internet connection and a web browser. From my wealth of experience submitting faculty dossiers, I can count on one hand institutions to which I would even consider reapplying, so visually evident are the abuses these organizations reveal to their visually and psychologically educated global audience.

My job-seeking challenge being the folks who most need my help are the folks least aware of how much they need my help.

Or they attribute hard work to “talent.” Or “talent” to “mental illness.”

For the new job description swiped from my own résumé, supplementing an online portfolio that already included poster designs, I resubmitted a newly designed PDF portfolio as per the requirements of the job posting, this time emphasizing poster designs over my full range of experience across analogue and digital media.

Still no telephone call.

Not until October 2010 and many, many, many job applications later, did I learn why I had not heard from my third recommender, via email that read not like the full tenured ranking Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry one generation removed from the Nobel prize whose writing and dedication to her work I long admired and after whom I emulated my commitment to my own work, but like emails from my mother or my sisters.

She hoped it wouldn’t come to this, she wrote eight years after warmly offering to supply me with a job reference in grateful appreciation for eight years of my dedicated administrative support of her research goals fitted in and around my undergraduate art education along with two and sometimes three other project-based positions moonlighting for her interdepartmental colleagues whose own administrative support oftentimes refused to make photocopies on the rationale that task was not included in their taxpayer-funded job descriptions, opting instead to play taxpayer-funded games of Solitaire on their taxpayer-funded computers, jobs I juggled while simultaneously putting one of your former students through law school, but she was too “busy” to write a letter of recommendation.

The globally revered research scientist worried about “hurting my feelings,” but in the intervening years had decided that she should not have to speak civilly to her administrative assistant, I should just understand that sometimes people are too “busy” to ask for things in a nice way. Similar to the balding white male Microsoft engineer who wanted me to pay my own way to play his servant in Thailand and the impoverished mental health patient diagnosed by Idaho’s mental health professionals with schizo-affective disorder whose drug-addicted fundamentalist Christian friends agree with her perspective, Dr. Bass had talked to “lots of other people” since, and all of those people agreed with her that she should not have to worry about “hurting” her assistant’s “feelings,” and finally shared her long-repressed accusation that I had “reprimanded” her for not treating me with more consideration during what may have been what I remember as an aborted tête-à-tête with me seeking further clarification for her abrupt demands wherein she tearfully reassured me that she thought of me as a friend.

Snarling instructions as she passed my desk or grumbling daily complaints from the next room with her head three inches from her computer screen, sometimes audible from my desk but usually better to assume she was complaining at her computer instead of at me, was how she performed friendship. And all these years later I had blithely understood that we had resolved the conflict by my agreeing to greet her cheerfully each morning afternoon as she brushed past my desk and scurried into her office. I never took her behavior personally; I just figured she was thinking about Very Important Science.

Blindsided by this new-to-me perspective, I privately recalled giving two months’ notice, writing my replacement job description, which had grown during the years of my employment if not in salary than in responsibility from another job that required no education to Bachelor’s degree, Master’s preferred, vetting the candidates, crafting letters of rejection and acceptance, training my replacement, and sacrificing time away from my 2002–03 job search to provide still further email insight from Portland many months after my professional obligations terminated. Communication in that office was so poor that her new assistant emailed me to ask for help finding the research papers of Tom Czech [sic], a 1989 Nobel laureate in Chemistry who then headed the estate tax write off for the neurotic aerodynamics industrialist billionaire who stored bottles of his own urine in his hotel room in Las Vegas, or the executive ultimately responsible for her paycheck, and under whose supervision Dr. Bass had conducted her own graduate work at the University of Colorado. Sometime before its hatchback window was smashed by an unseen assailant, I accidentally locked my keys in that same bitchin’ Camaro while fetching hors d’oeuvres to serve after Dr. Cech’s visiting guest lecture, yet still managed to arrive back to campus in a timely fashion.

Sharing none of Boise Art Museum’s long-term memory failure, I recall that Dr. Bass was not too “busy” to write letters of recommendation for: 1) a bigamist who dropped out of her laboratory and eventually the graduate program after running off to Vegas to marry a man who had not yet divorced his first wife, 2) a scientific researcher prone to periodic screaming fits in response to opinions that disagreed with her own followed by long, brooding silences, who went on to become faculty at Yale, 3) another scientist who cost the department double his tuition waiver dollars because he refused to claim Utah citizenship despite purchasing property there, who went on to attain a research faculty position at Berkeley, and 4) I could go on and on here, but my graduate school faculty taught me to use three examples as both strong literary and rhetorical device.

Dr. Bass sent those recommendation letters only after I proofread them, suggested editorial changes where appropriate, formatted and laser printed them onto lithographically printed letterhead, and acquired her signature at the bottoms of those recommendation letters prior to carefully folding them into thirds with a soft rather than a sharp crease between paragraphs, if possible, and if not, then in the leading between lines of type, and deposited those recommendation letters in the department’s outbound mailbox. Back in the day when we still sent letters of recommendation via that decaying democratic medium for civil communication, the United States Postal Service.

I remember another scientist in that same laboratory confiding to me during one particularly trying workday, “Brenda makes everyone feel like [sic] shit, especially the women. I hate even going into her office to review my projects.”

I remember the publication deadline that coincided with a conference presentation trip to Europe, prior to which Dr. Bass had avoided resolving a conflict with a postdoctoral researcher in her lab and coauthor on that paper, a military veteran whose belated attempts to negotiate the conflict in absentia included shouting, swearing, and getting in my face before and after I explained that I was not qualified to mediate their dispute over scientific ethics, thus I could not make the changes he demanded. Having delayed consultation with our boss, he needed to resolve that conflict via email or telephone, and only with her approval would I make changes prior to meeting their publication deadline. What a passive aggressive communicator remembers as “reprimand” may have been the email wherein I reported my feelings of disappointment and asked for the guidance of her higher authority.

I remember the Chinese manufacturing and shipping delay after Cupertino design of the then-latest and greatest hardware and operating system that is already antiquated and likely replaced many times over again in cash-rich science in the intervening years. I remember Dr. Bass demanding instant gratification one Monday morning after the HHMI purchasing manager had unexpectedly died the previous weekend due to a brain aneurism. To my assurance that I would follow through and my tearful suggestion that we patiently wait a day or two before inquiring again, she snarled, “Well, somebody down there [in the four-person office reduced to three serving HHMI labs for the entire University of Utah campus] must know something.”

That’s three rhetorical examples, but because my father taught me that I am a Brubaker’s half-dozen much like a generous baker who includes a 13th to an order of a dozen, I’ll include free of charge one more:

I remember another time in response to my oblique reference to my Cousin Ted relevant to a discussion about genealogy and human genetics and the nurture/nature dichotomy, her widened eyes communicated fear masked by long-unresolved anger, wherein I learned about her coincident connection to his slaughter of one of her girlhood Florida friends where she grew up in an era when girls were still required to wear skirts to school, before her parents shipped her to private boarding school in Colorado, a decision that a middle schooler might interpret as maternal abandonment.


However well educated, we do not escape human psychology anymore than human biology, nurture (or its lack) and nature.

As much compassion as I feel for his victims and their families and friends, I am still not responsible for the actions of one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century who may or may not be an adopted shirttail cousin. Meanwhile, I have no way of estimating how much damage Dr. Bass may have done to my job searches between 2002–2010 simply because she was unable to be direct and honest in her communications with me by the beginning of that era.

Perhaps the change of heart of a dues-paying member of the National Organization of Women (NOW) was related to my coincident rejection of the persistent interest from a former major marijuana supplier for her lab, who seemed deaf to my civil attempts to communicate disinterest so I increased my volume over his daily email correspondence. Using four-letter words. Perhaps I should have limited my communications to ALL CAPS instead? Yes, I recognize I could attempt to repair my bad behavior with an apology, but I have not done so because accelerating my speech along that spectrum of violence accomplished my goal at that time, ceasing the deluge of his monologic emails.

No, he could not pick up the phone to recommend me to a former mentor at his undergraduate institution for an available design job there, because he felt too ashamed to be back in Seattle and dependent on his parents. He could not think critically to recognize that, during a telephone call networking brute survival for a former friend, his mentor need not learn that a narcissistic Ph.D. research scientist was surviving the Great Recession on SNAP food and living in his parents’ lakeside vacation second home, oh poor him. He had long avoided my recommendations for therapy instead of working out his feelings of shame over his new-found poverty on former colleagues, and still wanted my empathetic listening while he waxed nostalgic for his salad days of self-medicating his unrecovered childhood traumas with his high school friends as the best years of his life. No, he did not want to talk about literature. No, he did not read contemporary literature. No, he had not read any literary theory. No, he had not read philosophy since college. He just wanted to write autobiographical stories because his life has been so interesting. No, he was not feeling anxious driving aimlessly through West Seattle, despite repetitively declaring in a tone of panic, “I just need a map. Everything would be okay if I knew where I was. Everything will be okay once I get back home and figure out where I am on a map.” And I should listen in rapt attention while he expounded forth at some considerable length on how to bake bread while feasting on bread I had baked.

This might sound to casual readers as if the scientist-cum-bread-baking-dilletante had “hurt my feelings” but actually I am as confident in my artisan bread-baking capabilities as I am in my educated knowledge of trauma underlying all of the subcategories of “mental illness” described by the psychiatric community. I made quite the study of bread-baking while pursuing my BFA in painting and drawing and schlepping paperwork for ungrateful scientists, one might even say a scientific study, keeping notes more thorough than many of the scientists maintaining notebooks on their lab experiments. At one point, I thought I might do for bread what Wayne Thiebaud had done for little dessert cakes, and thoroughly absorbed what I now think of as the “method” approach to painting. I could not very well paint bread without understanding, or as my undergrad painting profs liked to say, thoroughly empathizing with bread.

Your colleague Professor Cassell may or may not remember chatting with me about the sourdough start that his ancestors hauled across the Great Plains, but by the time I reached Seattle I had retired my commercial yeast starter in preference for the wild-type yeast I collected while baking bread for one of your former students, you guessed it, that son of ex-FBI parents, a then-Deputy District Attorney in Umatilla County, hence my naming my recipe, Pendleton Wild. Perhaps needless to say by the time the research scientist shared his “expertise” limited to whinging about how hard it is to make sourdough bread so he hadn’t yet dared try baking sourdough bread, while nevertheless still telling me how to bake bread, I decided that if I should have to listen to still more of his trauma monologue I should be earning a professional salary. Some very interesting primal scene revolves around how to cure cast iron cookware, no doubt. Lots of stuff to explore there. In therapy.

And was I sure I didn’t want any of his special, grownup ginger cookies?

Keep in mind these are the folks making research decisions for firms like Lilly, Amgen, and Genentech.

In my volunteer experiences that have yet to network into a living wage, I have literally donated my DNA to further research at a company that hires scientists who go poking around in those double strands while they may or may not be stoned out of their minds, but according to the Ada County Prosecutor in Boise, Idaho, I have no insight into basic research or trauma, basing his judgment on zero knowledge of my educated knowledge and professional experiences. While I thank the Ada County Prosecutor for sharing the limits of his knowledge and experiences, actually, effective psychotherapy may actually repair strands of DNA broken by multigenerational familial abuse or childhood riddled with trauma. Patiently waiting to meet the innovative, critically thinking scientists courageous enough to actually conduct similar research on painting, psychotherapy, and DNA.

Six years of postgraduate post-Great Recession job applications to the contrary, I remain not suicidal but perhaps naïvely or perhaps optimistically hopeful that the best day of my life is not Jana, as my name translates in Swahili as I learned from a Kenyan graduate student at the University of Idaho and coincidentally reminded by a Tanzanian mental health professional subcontracted with the State of Idaho, but still tomorrow.

And if my former boss does not require civility of herself, then surely she does not hold a penniless artist to a higher expectation?

And surely the National Organization of Upper Middle Class White Women members do not expect their former administrative assistants to play mother-substitute-object for their male prodigies?

Maybe science and engineering have such difficulties attracting women to science and engineering not because STEM-isolated fields are male-dominated so much as populated with deeply traumatized individuals, women and men, whose parental and K–12 education role models failed to teach them healthy communication skills?

“And it’s my opinion that matters here,” my former boss announced her rationale for contradicting her opinions communicated over eight years of annual evaluations wherein she always gave me the highest marks possible until that one year when the administrators at the medical research institute peeing in Uncle Howie’s cup got the brilliant idea of combining personnel budget with lab supplies and I learned that my value was less than a package of pipette tips. Before spinning one step further to the blame station of her passive aggressive volvelle, when she figured there was just something wrong with me for asking questions to better understand her research goals so I would know how to go about better supporting them. Contradicting still further her opinion shared during my outbound performance evaluation when comparing my pay with my then-current job description against the pay scale and responsibilities of the jobs that I performed daily, “[The royal] we should have been paying you more. Why weren’t [the royal] we?”

Why passive aggressive communicators continually ask questions for which they are woefully underprepared to hear the answer either in or outside a court of law I have yet to understand, much as I struggle to empathize with a white, property-owning research scientist earning six figures whose signature is ultimately responsible for public and private foundation funding, even while she remains a little hazy on the numbers for its daily operations.

But I do know better than to question the logic of a scientist making emotional, or irrational, judgments.

I learned that lesson on my honeymoon.

The second one, I mean. Not the first.

As far as I can tell, there is no repairing long-running unresolved conflicts with passive aggressive communicators. All conflicts are best resolved at the time they occur. Catch-22, conflict resolution requires healthy communication. Structurally, as her assistant, I was never in a position to “reprimand” my then-boss. That language echoes the structure of an adult abandoned by her parents at a tender age in child development. In healthy communication, emotionally mature adults neither assume responsibility for nor blame their feelings on the behavior of others. The beautiful freedom of Unplaying the Shame and Blame Game is that it relieves you of the worry of “hurting” other people’s “feelings” once you learn how to treat others as you would like to be treated, thus more of your energy can be focused on meaningful work.

Even before grad school and focusing my research on trauma and recovery, I arrived at the hypothesis that “busy” is the bullshit term of the committed passive aggressive. My sisters taught me that. Always asking for empathetic listening of their one-way martyred complaints of their husbands, their children, their this that and the other, but if I dared ask for reciprocal listening, that question inevitably launched raging tirades in response.

Asked to reciprocate respect and care, the narcissistic martyr will first whine about how “busy” s/he is, too busy to treat other folks with what I consider to be basic human dignity.

“Busy” is just shorthand for not my priority. Or I can’t be bothered to reciprocate your care. Or it’s all about me.

Lesson learned: get your hard copy recommendation letter on your way out the door.

Science, too, is designed.

Another of those abrupt demands for instant gratification resulted in my wandering around the Bass laboratory with a 12-inch schoolgirl ruler “measuring” the floor space because the principal investigator did not want to more rationally wait for the building manager to deliver the floor plans I requested after she asked me to find out how much floor space her lab occupied. Better question, in retrospect, and after my further education and gains in confidence: why were the architects of the globally renowned Huntsman Cancer Institute asking the P.I.s for their laboratory space needs? Why not talk to the folks who actually work in the labs? Or, better yet, do your design research by spending time in the labs to observe the problems that occur daily before recommending design solutions? Instead of designing a building that shuts down an entire floor – not just one laboratory, mind you – of scientific research for several hours whenever a clumsy undergrad accidentally drops a bottle of phenol. I always liked the odor, personally, sort of sweet, reminds me of something from childhood that I could never quite put my finger on, but I understand that not everyone shares my same scent receptors. Not sure that my post-graduate school lungs could withstand those toxins now. Not sure what design recommendations the other research scientists offered, as I was not privy to that communication between executive management and architectural design professionals.

Not to sound ungrateful, but before ker-plopping me into one of Mr. Huntsman’s homes for the homeless, maybe the powers-over could give me a supplies budget, and I’ll design and build my own?


Bespoke furniture design and build, Rolling Hills of the Palouse, 2007, 70x88x136 cm (from floor).

Would it be okay, too, if we ker-plopped that homeless home someplace other than the wild west?

Not that I don’t appreciate the wide open spaces out here, but I would like to live someplace a little more civilized.

Typing for at least as long as it would have taken her to write a recommendation letter, Dr. Bass assured me that she had said nothing “bad” about me in her telephone conversation with Ohio University, and in a subsequent email, she praised the strength of my “artistic” accomplishments, noting that my failings as a secretary probably speak to my competencies as an academic. High praise indeed from an academic researcher at the top of her field, the recommendation that she was not too “busy” to type into email to me, while reverting to the passive voice to acknowledge, “there are mixed messages in all of this” without owning her behavior, quite, as the sender of contradictory messages. She really hoped that she hadn’t “hurt my feelings” and further worried that her belated honesty meant that she would never hear from me again, more of the chronological adult still struggling with issues of abandonment leftover from childhood, which would disappoint her, because she looked forward to passively consuming my art as I continue to mature in my career. Without comprehending, quite, that means finding a way to fund those visual accomplishments.

Mr. Stanciu would likely describe these professional experiences as still more “grandiose delusions” or “paranoia” before researching my cv. From my perspective, his autobiography simply reads nothing at all like mine, and I call that putting two and two together or making logical deductions, responsive to feedback in my attempts to successfully land a job some day before I die.

Invisible bullet points added to my cv by 2010: I taught an entire College of Education that design does indeed require an education, and bring to the first firm, institution, or community healthy enough to reciprocate respect my project and fiscal management skills worthy of induction into the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

You may give me the title of Scientific Artist if it helps you feel better.


Maybe Engineering Designer?

Mathematical Visual Communicator?

Meanwhile, how well did Ohio resolve its communication problems without my visually educated expertise?

By January 2012, in the midst of my last season of higher education faculty applications, I applied for a Visiting (as you, Professor McConnell, may or may not recall, that’s academic-speak for non-tenure track, wages too low for luxury living, or what I would consider to be a survival job) Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at that same institution in Ohio. I figured since I had taught their College of Education that design does, indeed, require an education, but I was too “academic” for an administrative support position according to an academic at the top of her field, then their Graphic Design department should welcome my addition to their faculty, on at least a temporary basis, right? Submitting my academic faculty application resulted in a brief email exchange initiated by a nagging group reminder from tenured higher education faculty over a decade into the 21st century still seeking PDF portfolios on those shiny disc-objects, without which my application would not be considered. Our dialogue ended when the chair of that hiring committee prissily suggested that I better communicate with future hiring committees before exceeding their expectations.

Beyond including an interactive hyperlink to my online teaching and professional art and design portfolio within lots of white space surrounding the running head? On? Every? Single? Page? Of? My PDF faculty candidate dossier? As well as inviting review of my online portfolio within the verbiage of my cover letter? And a link to my portfolio in the signature file of my email? And once again that bastion of higher education in Ohio gave me the opportunity to review the portfolios of their other candidates who agreed with me that shiny-disc objects are sooo 20th century and higher education should stop creating landfills. Because they still had not found the bcc field on their email interface. Suffice to say visual literacy had not much improved in two years nationwide. No end of technology though.

Maybe I should have embedded an audio clip shouting to cut through the noise of the competition?

Never mind that I vastly exceeded their department’s expectations for design faculty candidates. The hiring committee preferred making hiring decisions from a bureaucratic yes/no data checklist based on the presence/absence of shiny-disc objects rather than actually reviewing their candidates’ qualifications. No rejection letter beyond the hiring committee chair informing me that websites are just fine but many designers over a decade into the 21st century did not yet have online portfolios.

Maybe not in Ohio.

Is there any state in this nation where exceeding expectations, integrity, hard work, and healthy communications are rewarded with a paycheck instead of still more passive aggression?

I want to move there.

Remember, by November 2012, I was hunkered down trying to find a way to survive our narcissistically aggressive culture in a cheap motel in West Virginia not far from Steubenville, the town just across the Ohio River that became in August of that year internationally acclaimed for the criminal behavior of its high school football players, the allegedly criminal behavior of its coaches, at least one school principal, tech support staff, and school superintendent, with the sexist reporters at Fox News and other victim-blaming mainstream outlets every bit as sexist as they are racist and every bit as racist as my shirttail Cousin Cliven whom Nevada Senator Harry Reid described as a domestic terrorist.

By 13 October 2013, more mixed messages from the campus in Athens whose education faculty wanted pretty posters instead of designers identifying and solving complex social communication problems in higher education, and whose design faculty do not expect designers to be familiar with global communications technology. A campus rally proposed changes in campus policy sure to be ineffective in solving the campus and wider community rape problem simply because the student activists lack the education in systemic understanding of gendered communications and human psychology.

On 15 October 2013, the community police chief condemned bystanders for raising their smartphone cameras to visually document instead of intervene during a public rape incident on community streets reported in the national business press. No shortage of global communications technology off-campus in Ohio.

But by 28 October 2013 another of the Athens police officers responded as fearfully to vernacular graphic design as the Ada County Sheriff who prohibited my professional graphic design portfolio that visually communicates my expertise identifying and solving communication problems before criminal behavior spills from our campuses into our community streets. Giving up on their chronological adult role models ever designing solutions to their communication problems, students took to Post-It notes speaking out in support of the rape victim after their College of Education and tenured design faculty failed to better educate design solutions for that communications problem.

As of this writing in November 2014, Ohio University is committed to diversity, bound morally, emotionally, and intellectually to pursue the realization of a vision of real community, according to its president’s verbal and written communications from a decade earlier. In practice of that theoretical commitment, the institution boasts an innovative, if complex, three-tiered system for graduation that has received a Program Excellence Award from the Ohio Board of Regents. Cross-cultural graduation course requirements span from an impressive array of languages and literatures to Environmental and Plant Biology PBIO 2170 and Restaurant, Hotel and Tourism RHT 1200 from which students raping each other in their real community’s streets must choose only two credit hours prior to graduation. Visual Communication VICO 1000 is taught under the aegis of the humanities and literature, which prepares students for further study in the discrete communication industries of photojournalism, commercial photography, interactive multimedia design, and publication design, none of which, presumably, dialogue with another in our postmodern era, but at least their Women’s and Gender Studies: WGS 1000 includes some small subsection of the study of other genders. It appears the chair of their 2012 hiring committee must have since retired, while Ohio’s School of Art and Design site still includes no links to their faculty’s individual portfolios.

Perhaps there is an arcane Ohio state law prohibiting visual communication at its institutions of higher learning?

Ambitious students may choose to learn all about that through the university’s course offering in Law Enforcement Technology: LET 1050.

AKA Forbidding Post-It Notes 101.

Meanwhile, back in my own private Idaho, the flagship institution of higher learning boasts to its global audiences that it offered no diversity core requirements between 2008–2010. Not until 2012 does my graduate school alma mater require coursework in what they describe as American diversity that happily includes courses like COMM 233 Interpersonal Communication, PSYC 315 Psychology of Women to help future generations of Idaho’s mental health professionals learn to differentiate between Dora the Explorer and Dora the death camp, still offers that pinkly titled WMST 201 Introduction to Women’s Studies after Idaho’s higher education faculty hiring committee couldn’t figure out what the social construction of gender has to do with the design of a culture or maybe intending to appeal to those frat boys who want to go to college to study women, ho-ho-ho. Perhaps this writing will evolve into required reading for a course with a particularly intriguing title, FCS 414 Idaho’s Journey Toward Diversity & Human Rights.

mfa graduation announcement

Letterpress printed graduation announcement. When the University of Idaho denied my petition to change the name of my degree as a critique of the masculine bias of language in higher education, I decided to print my own – between color changes and baseline alignments, no fewer than nine press runs on this baby!

Baby steps on that journey.

Dinosaur footprints across the desert sands of southern Idaho.

Or, to paraphrase the neanderthals populating Meridian Police Department, Idaho must not be very far along then, ho-ho-ho.

Such an array of courses from which to choose only one that might hope to better educate healthy intercommunications between students with as great as a 1:5 or 1:6 chance of arriving on campus from homes where they were sexually abused. While I feel happy that the University of Idaho openly acknowledges to its global audience its failure to provide me with a safe place for scholarship, research, and working between 2005–08, I am still patiently waiting for an apology for the institutionalized harm it caused me. And for students transferring to the University of Idaho for some unforeseeable reason, the State Board of Education still does not yet require education in basic human dignity. Will it take another five years before statewide educators apply that Act of Congress from 1972 to their curricula?

Or longer?

For the sake of strong rhetorical comparison, sometime after the turn of the last century, my college alma mater reduced its diversity course requirement by half, from two courses to only one, but I am happy to note that course that the institution only offered after Professor Appleby encouraged me to poke the philosophy department chair with a sharp metaphorical stick has now expanded to an exciting array of learning that includes human psychology married to PSY 3245 Human Sexuality, architecture that takes into account ARCH 3850 The Human Dimension, as well as the diversity of MG EN Utah’s Mining Industry from which Mormon returned missionaries might learn to treat their objects of fear and desire with basic human dignity. Or maybe the diversity requirement was splintered to also require another dizzying array of international coursework with telltale offerings of our times: GEOG 5320 Terrorism & Security, HONOR 4700 Ideas as Weapons: MIGs, and MKTG 4840 International Marketing.

Question I would very much like to ask and can already anticipate the deny, avoid, blame, and martyred answer of one NOW supporter: how do you feel recognizing that, while your actions are qualitatively different, your communications are structurally identical to Ted Bundy’s rationale for his actions?

Do you feel happy? Do you feel proud? Are you capable of feeling remorse?

Dr. Arendt identified that as the problem of the evil within, so much more complicated to solve than the evil without.

I feel happy to listen to other people even or perhaps especially if they disagree with me, especially when those perspectives are better educated than my own. As I used to tell my graphic design students, we can learn as much from “bad” design as we learn from “good” design.

In fairness to Dr. Bass, her narcissism is by no means unusual in the research sciences. I remain grateful for her flexibility with my hours that allowed me to jockey my studies with work for her and so many of her colleagues. Not many bosses would permit their administrative support staff to disappear for three-hour studio painting courses only offered during traditional work hours. I could tell stories about one or two of her colleagues that would curl the hair on the toes of any morally sentient human being. But maybe that prosecutor son of ex-FBI parents has already regaled his law colleagues with tales from his science days? Nietzsche wasn’t kidding about the death of god once science came along. And in the pantheon of science, most if not all of the principal investigators battle to replace Zeus on the highest throne, if not omniscient, then traumatized by that war and self-identifying as the center of the universe.

Maybe good for Big Pharma to include life drawing, intensive psychotherapy, and Unplay the Shame and Blame Game retreats for its own employees? Maybe book groups with required reading followed by discussion of literature and philosophy? Not art for the sake of art. Art for the sake of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. For the health and well-being of the STEM professionals. Most of the scientists I remember sought out some kind of art-making as hobby to balance their work stresses, from piano playing to jewelry making to pottery, but clearly analogue-media-making on its own does not wholly repair trauma or necessarily build empathy or teach healthy communication skills. Unplay will help you come up with more innovative solutions for your problems than what you’ve got going on so far.

Maybe legislators could benefit from my expert assistance directing a communications campaign better educating our national bootstrapping delusion? For that you’ll need my strategy, copywriting, and design skills across analogue and digital media. Because if an entire manic system of passive aggressive mental health professionals can delude themselves into thinking that I must be mentally ill for no real reasons other than my poverty, their sexism, or stupidity that possibility suggested by Dr. Olnes, what do you suppose are the responses of hiring managers across this nation to a candidate whose graduation and subsequent geographic location happened to coincide with the collapse of Washington Mutual, all those bankers pounding the pavement for those same survival jobs?

Not many hiring managers share Mr. Feeney’s values. In my experience, abject poverty largely results in squinty eyes, lip curls, and backing away as if irrationally afraid of contagion. Or more overt whining martyred victim-blaming.

That’s in meatspace.

Ditto with the cyberspace equivalent.

Maybe rewrite social service laws expanding SNAP to include basic hygiene as preventive healthcare, saving vast trillions of taxpayer dollars over a longer-term perspective than current law shaming and blaming the poor? Why include seeds without also including tools for gardening? My delusional ex-husband with paranoid ex-FBI parents awarded himself our gardening tools in his divorce. Don’t ask me why. He never gardened. Of course he never did laundry either. How am I supposed to make food from seeds without tools? Soil? Pots?

Maybe kill two birds with one stone, consider pets and pet care as psychologically therapeutic essentials thereby drastically reducing our national mental health crisis and maybe save 10 million animals’ lives as well? I can understand the no alcohol rule in a hypocritically Puritanical nation such as ours, but think of the bureaucratic red tape you’d cut by simplifying the entire system with a poverty-line UBI. Then the only two numbers our over-burdened bureaucrats would have to juggle are base living expenses and income to accommodate brute survival. Second bird bonus: poor people would learn excellent budgeting and finance lessons without Big Government replicating the shame and blame game of abusive parents. If you prefer to purchase toilet paper that month, then you go without dinner for maybe a night or two – personal, not legislative, decisions. How hungry are you? Maybe that depends on how desperately you want to wipe your ass? Of course an entire militia of low- to mid-level bureaucrats would then be out of jobs, but maybe some of them would choose to perform meaningful work instead?

Mormon Mafia

The Mormons could send their Mafia after me again, or they could choose to listen to the son of their god: I am the least of you, my brethren. Ye have done it unto me. How do you feel about abusing, raping, and trafficking your own definition of god?

Do you feel happy? Do you feel proud? Are you capable of feeling remorse?

Not comfortable in the martyr position, this survivor is hopping right down off that cross. The only stigmata on my hands usually comes from a one-eyed cat.

Listen to the voice of their President Dieter F. Uchtdorf when speaking in spring 2013 to his global audience describing a woman severely abused as a child and battling for trauma recovery before she found a pathway to the divine light of forgiveness similar to the light inside each of us described by Ms. Betancourt, or the light I experience without brain-damaging meds and represent through painting the blur between light and darkness, the light I observed in my students interacting with other human beings once they learned to visually communicate their traumas to an empathetic, listening audience.

Listen still more closely to the unsayable elided from Mr. Uchtdorf’s speech:

“From the time Jane was three years old, she was repeatedly beaten, belittled, and abused.”

He names the victim. Describes the action of abuse:

“She was threatened and mocked. She awoke each morning not knowing if she would survive until the next day.”

But who performed the action?

“The people who should have protected her were those who tortured her or allowed the abuse to continue.”

Ohhh, those people. You mean her family? Or the abuses institutionally sanctioned by the Department of Health and Welfare? Maybe her local police department? Are you sure those psychotropic meds are needed for the victim? What are you doing to repair abusive behavior of her family, or local or state authorities? No abuser describes him or herself as an abuser. The most heinous crimes are rationalized by oftentimes God- or empirical logic-fearing folks who self-identify as victims or tell themselves how busy they are just doing their jobs.

If the executive management of the Mormon church genuinely wants to resolve the systemic problem of child abuse within their congregation, maybe revise the sales pitch? Try teaching healthy communication skills instead of the foot-stamping insistence on your one true rightness, and telling all others to do as we do-? Maybe in the 21st century it is high time to shift the focus of missionary work from proselytizing to learning to get along in families, in communities, and with other religions?

By the time I was five I was wondering why my parents were taking me to worship at a place that taught me a word I would not add to my vocabulary until later but still recognized as bigotry, from listening to the adults pounding the pulpit that Catholicism was the mark of the beast.

By 1978, I thought I could buy this as prophecy if y’all (yes, we were living in New Mexico then) had attempted to eradicate racism in 1878. Again, not quite in those terms, but you catch my drift-?

By the time I was 15, and my young women’s advisor tried to stop me from exiting the building after one sacrament meeting by threatening the same eternal damnation as a mental health patient diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder by Idaho’s mental health professionals, I looked from those brimstone-lined eyes into the bright white sunlight, arid blue sky, and irrigated green-green grass of a Vegas summer beyond the chapel doors, and decided to find god outside efficiency architecture, industrial carpeting, and folding metal chairs.

In my experience, fluorescent garage lighting also interferes with divine light. Beware the tendency toward realism. Remember the Nazis also condemned modern painting, homosexuality, and intellectuals.

Have you considered illuminating your manuscripts? Pricey in today’s dollars, I know, but compared to Gutenberg, your Martin Harris could have paid more careful attention to page layout. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Religious scholars have been working at this stuff for centuries.

And about that very blue interface to your 21st century global audience… Well, maybe step back and think it through a little more. I know blue is popular. But. Kind of the WalMart of religions. Or the Facebook of churches.

A terrific naming and branding problem for your in-house communications team though. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is such a mouthful, isn’t it? No wonder it never caught on. I don’t know what the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was thinking by tacking on. Still. One. More. Word, maybe something like AIGA seeking NEA funds?

Back to solving those correlative problems of visual illiteracy and child abuse, I am not going to sift back through written or audiovisual clips of your October 2013 General Conference to identify which pulpit pounders were preaching passive aggressive communication, providing rationale for the actions of abusive parents. Your salaried design team can do their own design psychology research. A perspective I would not have been able to hear as a child growing up in a Mormon household without television but with Mormon conference blaring twice a year from a staticky audio device in every room, I feel grateful for my adult year in my abusive Mormon family’s compound that replicated that experience, now perceived through my educated lens:

Added to the problem of a dogma that preaches that children in a “pre-existence” choose to be born of specific parents, thereby enabling abusive parents to justify their actions by infinitely blaming their children, what I overheard was one of your executive patriarchs – with his voice choked near tears or brimstone or death – employing that strong rhetorical device, describing lay clergy who, while visiting the homes of your congregation: 1) required a widow to supply documentation of her finances before your church would offer food to her or her children, 2) turned away from children abused by their father, with the elder of the clergy commenting to the younger, “We cannot help these children now, but at least they will know God loves them,” and 3) amplified the martyred complaint of an aging mother whose adolescent or young adult children were now acting out the behaviors very likely role modeled for them throughout their childhoods, blaming her children for the very likely psychological if not physical or sexual abuse of their parents. Intermittently, the passive aggressive audience murmured its appreciative feedback, identifying with the individuals in the structurally more powerful position in each of those retold unresolved conflicts. Preaching passive aggressive communication skills to a global audience that daily struggles with passive aggression inherent in a hierarchically dualistic culture.

Funny, how a large enough audience murmuring its approval sounds like a dull roar via 21st century audiovisual broadcasting technology.

The thing is, when clergy lack the courage to be the bystanders who intervene, and acquiesce to the abuse of fathers instead of speaking out, from a psychoanalytic perspective, they teach children that abuse is God’s love when of course Christ taught blessing the beasts and the children, and love looks nothing at all like abuse. Evidence supporting psychoanalytic theory: our state mental hospitals are packed with victims of traumatic childhoods, still raging their insistence on their rightnesses of their parents’ definitions of god.

Which begs the question, I thought religious leaders were required to report abuse, at least in the United States?

So why are the Mormons encouraging child abuse from their global pulpit?

Do the Mormons still thumb their noses at secular law as they did in my great-grandmama’s day?

And still a fourth, one more, an excess, beyond the rhetorical trinity, the most challenging question of all: could their executive leadership find a way of teaching their congregation to teach their children right from wrong while still respecting the voices of those children?

After listening to Mr. Uchtdorf lecture again this October 2014, it occurs to me maybe our differences are less spiritual than aesthetic-? He and I seem to be on a similar wavelength. Why should my brother-in-law or the State of Idaho or any of its medicated unrecovered trauma sufferers enjoy the brutal privilege of dictating what experiences are spiritual and which are psychotic, as long as none of us is threatening – or causing – harm to the other?

Mental Health Professionals

The individual mental health professionals named here or otherwise recognizing themselves in this writing could welcome my experiences as learning opportunity, a chance to self-reflect, and those overdue apologies to their patients come forward, as did one nurse and one of the psych techs at State Hospital South, chapters in my forthcoming book very similar to Ms. Betancourt’s interactions with some of the guerillas, pace the limits of personal experience and poorly educated judgments of Ms. Dalrymple.


My brother-in-law and oldest sister could have welcomed instead of feared or forbid my religious differences as an opportunity for another of their sons to practice healthy communication skills prior to shipping him off to his Mormon mission on the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border, coincidentally retracing the footsteps of his great-grandmother and my grandmother with the butterfly tattooed on her thigh to a region that has at least as much difficulty keeping track of its bodies in the desert as Arizona. His parents’ role modeling has taught him to fear confrontation so much that he literally passes out to avoid conflict, while his immediate family chuckles – so reminiscent of Detectives Miller – ho-ho-ho, leaving him ill-equipped to persuade the rightness of his opinions to an intended audience much less compassionate than his loving aunt. The nephew who declared to me one evening shortly after I arrived in their compound that he wanted to be like me. And how will he resolve the internal conflict once he learns the abusive behavior of the father he respects resulted in incarceration of the aunt he adores? How much louder do children have to sing before their parents hear them? Let’s hope he can continue to find relief in his music instead of resorting to those pharmaceutical options causing grievous harm.

Either way, I am no more responsible for the feelings or actions of any other human being than for the actions or feelings of my Cousin Ted.

Legal Representation

“No one ever challenges the doctors,” Mr. Malone – of the Ada County Public Defender’s office, not to be confused with the U.S. Attorney formerly assigned to the District of Idaho – advised. I have no doubt his legal advice describes the “truth” as Mr. Malone sees it, or the limits of his experience with the clients he typically represents in Idaho’s dysfunctional mental health court system.

Too bad Mr. Malone never met my ninth-grade public school English teacher, who first gave me permission to write about what you know.

Had he followed my suggestion to establish safety and get to know his clients before yappity-yap-yapping at them on his way into the cell, then he would have known better than to throw down such a gauntlet with me.

Not ever?

Sounds like I got back to Idaho just in the nick of time.

Maybe now is a good time to bring in doctors better educated than the quote mental health professionals unquote with their personal snouts buried in the public trough or up the trousers of Big Pharma’s sales reps?

Professor McConnell, while I do not know you well, as far as I can remember we have not actually met, although your online image looks familiar so I’ve likely heard you speak or maybe observed your courtroom presence, in your writings you sound as if you love our constitutional freedoms, that great idea of democracy, at least as much as I do. Are they just pretty words on a screen for you? Or is there integrity behind your writing? If Stanford University does not otherwise present a conflict for you, would you consider reciprocating my respect and tuition dollars by representing my claim against Meridian Police Department, Ada County, the University and/or the State of Idaho, and/or Universal Health Services?

Pro bono, you understand.

I feel happy, humbled, and grateful to serve the greater public good as the claimant to establish precedent-setting case law if that is what it takes to resolve the ills within our broken mental health juridical system, bringing justice for victims of state-sanctioned abuses, and stimulating an economy of care.

Maybe as an assignment for your 3-Ls? Under your very attentive tutelage, of course.

If not, would you be so generous with your expert time as to make any other legal recommendations?

According to Idaho Legal Aid’s web content copywriter, Idaho is the only state in the union that does not fund legal aid to the poor. Visibly abundant from their online presence, further replicated in meatspace, they lack funding for artists, designers, or technologically competent staff, so obviously they will not be able to afford legal resources capable of representing my claim(s). The local receptionist informed me they do not handle domestic violence cases here, because the office is only staffed with two “lady” attorneys. Though why “lady” attorneys would be any more or less capable of running DV cases than gentlemen lawyers is beyond me, so I did not try to explain the complex, deeply entwined associations between trauma, mental health, education, Title IX, healthy communications, or mutual respect.

One of those office management-type positions that my brother-in-law wants me to apply for only without access to the Internet or telephone and while concealing my verbal, written, and visual communication skills from potential employers, I was in the midst of researching before his struggles obeying the ninth commandment got me tossed into the clink. So I way missed the deadline for a Director of Development position with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Yet another of those administrative positions that reads like the job description for a designer, once again omitting the qualification of visual literacy. Their annual operating budget is only a piddling $1.25–1.5 million. If they want to increase that at all, of course, they’re going to need to come up with a strategy that does not pattern itself after every other NGO on the planet, sucking as many funds from government as possible before going after the pennies of the audience it purports to serve, because of course its destitute audience has no pennies left. Do you suppose their altruistic board of directors would risk their own bread and butter to support my claim? Does a snake swallow its own tail? Do they have children? How are those psychotropic meds working for their own children, you wonder?

Of course I will also reach out to the ACLU. Ever pounding the virtual pavement, wondering why they have ‘careers’ buried a click after ‘about’, and a whole new menu of options on a left column instead of drop-down directly from the ‘about button’-? It looks like right now they’ve got a few job openings for someone with my level of education, skills, and very recent experiences. Praise Jesus, I’d have to move out of state. With all the visual junk on their site competing for my attention, I scrolled all the way to the bottom to find buried there a teeny, tiny text link to local affiliates, or, as the dear friend of mine who also researched your snail mail address for me and offered her visually uneducated analysis curiously aligned with mine from the other end of Intermountain Hospital’s staticky landline while I was locked up without arrest or access to legal counsel or the Internet, standing in a hallway with mental health patients screaming their unresolved conflicts with their psychiatrists, President Obama, or their competitive definitions of god, her beloved Aussie accent a life saver from the abuses of Idaho’s government, “Bloody awful website… can’t find the contact information… hang on… Do you want New York? Or do you want Idaho?”

“Umm. Maybe both?”

Looks like the Idaho office doesn’t have email yet. Despite insisting they have no positions available. Are they sure? Looks to me like they desperately need a visually articulate web designer.

Maybe your colleague Catherine Mackinnon would consider working with a former-feminist-turned-21st-century-digital-slavegirl? Would you put in a good word for me?

Or maybe Ed Kane is ready to jump from the Public Defender’s office into retirement after representing me in a civil suit for which he should be able to provide deep legal insight?

Venture Capitalists

And of course, venture capitalists, if all you have to give is cash, I pity you the meaningless paucity of your existence, but welcome your investment inquiries getting in on the ground floor of a business competitive with the very lucrative pharmaceutical industry. Take your pick of any of the projects pitched here and earmark your donations if you would like me to set my priorities in terms even you can understand.

Venture Laborers

For readers at the stratospheric other end of the socioeconomic spectrum who still want to help or want my help, I don’t get stuck at money or its lack when trying to solve a problem. Even your life story has value; add your narrative to mine here in the comments or ping back to your own blog, portfolio, or audiovisual channel for qualitative data collection. What skills do you have? Where would you like to go? What is keeping you from grasping your destiny by the tail and enjoying the ride to the best of your ability despite the seemingly insurmountable hurdles crossing your path?

Okay, my open source word processing software tells me this brief synopsis has crested over 250 pages, so I better quit before the mental health professionals who do not read get their panties in another twist.

(Dusts off hands.)

Up next: upload my art and design portfolios to social media. Edit my open letter to Governor Otter, first congratulating him on his campaign win. Do you think a multiracial, female, pagan, destitute, nonpartisan citizen will be able to persuade the white, male, Catholic, property-owning governor of the reddest of the Republican red states to increase his budget by $7 million plus or minus if he follows my recommendations for slashing social services?

Wish me luck.

The clinician at the state mental hospital thought she only needed $2 million to improve their internal and external communications problems, but with a closer look, I suspect they could probably trim at least twice that amount from their current budget. Combined, that gives $11+ million to my community conflict mediation healthy communication trauma recovery center. Not a huge budget. Not even half of the state’s retail sales. But by the time the Department of Justice pitches in the value of a healthy communications model where the market is visibly starved for what the business world coins disruption… What I call redesign… Well, maybe enough to buy my way into meaningful work with colleagues who reciprocate my respect?

Respectfully yours,

Jana Brubaker

P.S. Quickie post-election update before I post, just in case Dr. Sonnenberg may have missed the results of the general election. Looks like I predicted the outcome of the gubernatorial races in Idaho and Texas without having to waste my time listening to a single stump speech. He can call it hallucinating if it helps him feel better and as long as he apologizes for violating my civil liberties by surrendering his licensure; to me it’s just graphic de-sign. Who does this guy think he’s kidding?

balukoff design analysis

Black outlined white serif face with white outlined red against blue of the same value? And cringing on the leading. Blowing smoke out his own ass. Wonder how many campaign managers raged at each other for how many hours before they came up with that tagline? Probably he will agree with my family that what I do is not hard work. Whose truth is he trying to tell? He can’t even put people first on his own campaign collateral, but he expects voters to believe that campaign promise will carry forward into civil service? Wonder which Idaho business major whiz kid art directed the poor print production staff without a single person on the entire team thinking, hmm, maybe we need to hire a visually educated designer? Some severe abuse repressed from somebody’s childhood. Should keep his therapist busy for another couple of decades.

Too bad Wendy Davis didn’t add me to her visual communications team after I art directed via Twitter that shot that the national press was still writing about a full year later, coincidentally granting brand recognition for Mizuno in the editorial, not just the lowly ad section of the papers.


Without running with those shoes, her campaign identity and branding communicated nothing more than just another politician. Oh, well. Better luck next time. Maybe for her bid for the Presidency?

P.P.S. According to an article published in the Las Vegas Sun, O.J. Simpson’s lawyers are neither manic nor professionally thorough. The Nevada Supreme Court accepted the length of their appellate brief, but not until after they made formatting, or design, revisions.

On my birthday this year.


Patient. And waiting.

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Bldg
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Educational Opportunities Section, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Room 506 F, 200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20201

[10 January 2015. Page updated to reflect that a Kevin Malone had not been the U.S. Attorney assigned to the District of Idaho since at least 2010, which means that citizens incarcerated at Intermountain Hospital are not only deprived of access to the outside world via the Internet, but also telephone contact information is at least four years out of date.]

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