Truth, Justice, and the American Line

There is a tragic irony in the fact that Simon Wisenthal died the same weekend that Pvt. Linndie England’s case continued to be deliberated; ironic in that Wisenthal spent his life bringing to justice Nazi officers who played a role in the brutalities against Jews. Not surprising, many of these officers defended themselves with lines like, “Ich war gerade folgende Aufträge.” Translation: I was just following orders.

We are now hearing lines like that again. Linndie England’s case took up renewed energy this past week with testimony from a clinical psychologist. Conclusion: England has an overly compliant personality; moreover, she was looking to boyfriend Graner as her “social accomplice” for guidance on morally acceptable behavior. Translation: I was just following orders.

Some will wonder whether such a comparison is unduly harsh and unfair. Certainly England didn’t kill anybody. She just had them lay naked one on top of another, and took repeated opportunities to sexually abuse and humiliate Iraqi prisoners: acts which, to many Muslims, are worse than death. Are we somehow suggesting to a world-at-large that treating a human like an animal is evil when it’s a Nazi to a Jew, but is psychological when it’s an American to an Iraqi?

The old lines of defense ring hollow, whether dressed up in a German accent or masqueraded as a psychological condition. The reality is that England abused prisoners and, in that, committed a crime. She could have chosen not to, she didn’t. How many Nazis would have been released had they argued, “I was simply in love with Hitler and trusted that he would not use improper techniques”? Not a single one. And yet this is the defense that is supposed to exonerate England’s actions, portraying her as some troubled victim of love and circumstance.

Well, there’s another line that we should be concerned with: a line drawn in the sand of morality. On the one side stand those “evil” Nazis who were “gerade folgende Aufträge,” (and all those like them). On the other side stand those who held them accountable for their actions, orders or not. On the one side is truth and justice. On the other is hypocrisy and justification. The only real question remaining for any of us is where will we stand?


Ambiguous Context & Personal Contact

Today, I learned that some people often want something they can’t even describe. It is as though someone comes up and says, “Hey, I just want a widget that allows me to import foreign languages directly through my cerebral cortex without wires, be desirable to youth, and ultimately be an item that Apple computer will eventually purchase from me.” Such a request is not only unhelpful, but ultimately impossible because of the ambiguous nature of the request. People in corporation want the elusive goose that laid the golden egg. Unfortunately, they rarely know where to find it, and even usually are uncertain as whether they want a goose and golden eggs or a golden skillet to fry eggs. Principles. When working in marketing and PR, I am being asked to discern the principles behind the request that are being made. Like the parables of Jesus, I have to read with an eye toward something that isn’t being said clearly. One says, “I really like this,” but that doesn’t mean he wants a rip-off of that product. Another says, “I don’t like that aspect,” but that doesn’t take into consideration that elements of color, design, shape, size, stock, and image/text are like lines in a symphony. Changes in one line impacts the entire tenor of the piece. You can’t willy-nilly drop a E flat into a piece written for C major just because Beethoven used the E flat well in his Symphony No. 3. Principles and discernment. Ultimately, that is what I’m called to: finding the story in the parable.

I also learned that even the greatest PR / marketing pieces cannot replace the human element of personal contact. There remains a certain quality of human experience that is not moved by the mere reference to imagery or text, but is stirred deeply by the mouth of a friend used to encourage, inspire, and imagine. We pursue messages not as an end to product, but to the end of persons. Community over consumerism will have greater effects in reaching people with a message of hope that runs deeper than the moments of discouragement, disillusionment, and depression. We wither under the constant drip of commercialism—like over-watered herbs—but blossom under the warm sun of friendship. Principles and discernment cannot be ignored. But neither can people.


Waiting for the Update

Today I learned that sometimes it takes 10 hours to do what it should only take 2 to accomplish. An outdated driver simply refused to interact with my OSX updates, completely removing the ability to print directly from Quark. Nothing that IT tried would get the printer and my MAC to play nicely. And so the day was more, “Make changes. Export. Wait Print. Wait. View. Edit. Change. Export. Wait. Print. Wait…” and so on.

I also learned that the changes we want to see in the lives of others—or, for that matter, our own lives—often don’t come when we expect them to, and rarely as quickly as we desire. Maturing in people comes like waiting for Quark to export my 10 meg document so I can open it in Acrobat and print it: rushing it will only screw up the process. So I wait. I watch for change, seeing none, but ultimately trusting that something is happening, that God has not forgotten me…or anyone else for that matter. What can I do but wait, watch, pray, wait, watch, pray, and only occasionally speak.


The Image Behind the Words

Today I learned that it is essential to separate the images from the text. I received one of the job jackets back sometime in the middle of last week. I kept wrestling with the message. My intuitive alarms were going off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. In talking with my boss today, I see that I was really wrestling with the text more than with the “message.” The text didn’t have our key words, main concepts, and only one tagline. New key words were repeated, old concepts phrased in new ways. For example, “Don’t frown. Have a soda pop,” rings quite differently than, "Have a Coke and a Smile!' The idea is the same; the wording is exactly wrong.

I also learned that my heart aches with a longing to work at something more substantial, something more lasting and meaningful. I ache with desires unmet in the day-to-day churning of projects and deadlines. Half-completed walls at home are but a sign of my struggle with an incomplete calling inside. Shannon asked, “Will you ever come home happy from work?” Lord, only you know. So I stand and stifle a yawn as I push through the resistance of my own dis-ease. I take up another job jacket and set to the task of knowing that repetition is at the heart of habit, and habit can produce in the long run a productivity that boldly answers, “I was made for such a time as this.”


Importing My Inability

Today, I learned that you can import a .PDF into Illustrator, save it as a .EPS, open it in Photoshop, save it as a .tiff (300 DPI or more), and drop it into Quark as a background and lose none of the quality of the image, allowing you to drop new imagery over it replacing anything that is corrupt, outdated, etc. without the need of upgrading InDesign.

I also learned that in the midst of exhaustion I can begin to question the meaning of what I’m doing. Such questioning shakes me, like an earthquake shakes a building. But such shaking is no bad, for it proves where we are weak, in need of reinforcement. Such questioning need not threaten, unless we see it as a statement of inability. We each must be driven to deep introspection to find what treasures lie in the unexplored regions of our hearts; but the miner who never returns to bring his treasure up will die: from the weight that such introspection brings, and unbroken seriousness. I have delved deep, and now I long for the light. A hint of depression settles over me. The past stands in the room, like an old friend (an old enemy), never speaking but always ready to remind of what has come. Calling, like the Sirens, that I might heed the invite and wreck myself upon the rocks of regret, remorse, recollection, and remembrance. Where do past-minded people look when the sun settles behind clouds and the shadows threaten to swallow us? Lord, you know.


The Exportation of Authority

Today I learned that you can export a Quark file as a .PDF and include all bleeds and printer markings. Also, trim to bleed means that one-eighth of an inch will be lost in any cut. And here, I thought that only happened in the woodshop. There is a lot of similarity between the workshop and the print shop.

I also learned that the right decision is not always the easy one. I am still feeling out the issues with G1 and G2. I survey a road long tread before, looking back for a history that will be the key to understanding the present. What role does affirmation play, what role authority? That which is granted cannot be earned, given up, nor relinquished without great sacrifice. Those to whom authority has been given, let them wield it with benevolence, gentleness, and service; but let me not relinquish it in the silence of inactivity evoked by fear. To do what is right: that is hard. To do what is right in a way that is good: that is the challenge of human ability.


When People & Process Break Down

Today, I learned that files don't all work the way they are supposed to, regardless of what you do. Andrew created a file for me in InDesign but when it exported, the .tiff would not print. I spent eight hours on something that should have taken me two.

I also learned that hard decisions have hard unforeseen consequences. G1 spoke a dozen words to me today, all telling me what I needed to do differently with regard to some given projects. In the face of challenge, I shy away from the place of responsibility. I tell others I am a farmer and a writer. Am I, or do I pursue those professions the way that Moses pursued shepherding: hiding out the wrath of a foreign king, content to give myself to obscurity out of fear? I stand upon the precipice and survey the unknown future. Success is not in question. The current of purpose runs much deeper. Lord, grant wisdom.


Impressions of Inadequacy

Today I learned that once a software program has been found lacking, little can sway users to stay with it, or come back once they leave. Quark is quickly displaced as a platform for design layout by InDesign. Why? Quark...well, has quirks.

I also learned that some people, once they’ve made up their minds about it, simply won’t be impressed by someone else. I fight the uphill battle to show what is true already: that some quality or other has moved my boss to offer me this job, empowering me to lead in an environment where leadership is undesired, often despised, and sometimes dismissed. While respect is not something given but earned, so respect is also given when it comes with authority and the assumption that benevolence and kindred desires will ultimately prove the wielder worthy of such respect. Some days, I believe that and simply think, “If I can just show G1 what jobs I’ve been able to do, how I’ve learned Quark, Photoshop, and brought back all my old AP style of writing (from college Journalism classes), then I’ll have proven myself worth of some portion of respect. But I’m a undesired platform, deemed unworthy. So I preserver, faithfully labor at the tasks before me, and trust that in time G1 will find within herself the desire to follow, if not for the sake of a man (or any man) but ultimately for the sake of God.


Stretching Imagery

Today I learned that printers need pictures to be 300dpi, which means that shots taken at lower dpi but larger than the necessary dimensions can be reduced to the necessary size. The opposite is also true, that something shot or scanned at a higher dpi can be increased in size proportional to x where x equals the pixel quality higher than 300.

I also learned sometimes the workplace is the environment in which heart-felt insecurities arise, showing the strain of an image stretched beyond its pixelation. Sometimes the straw that broke the camels back really had nothing to do with the straw and everything with the ten-ton weight dropped on the camel’s back moments before. And, sometimes it’s the work environment that pushes someone beyond controllable environments but what comes out thereafter has little or nothing to do with work. I feel like G1 has some issues that have little or nothing to do with me, save that I sadly exasperbate the areas of hurt, fear, or insecurity that reside in a wounded heart. Sometimes, an image just can’t be stretched any more, and you need to go to a different image. Sometimes, sadly, that’s true for people too.


Distrorting Fonts; Distorted Words

Today I learned that simply telling a font to become “italics” or “bold” is actually a corruption of that font, a distorting of the font by electronic means to give it a tilt or darken it up. The result is that making “Goudy” italics will look radically different from using “Goudy Italics.” Either way, the text leans and, alone, the difference is nearly indiscernible on a single piece; however, set next to half a dozen others, the difference becomes stark. This is why printers want to know what fonts you are using and what you’ve done to them, ensuring that what you “see” on the screen is what actually ends up on the proof.

I also learned that sometimes all of us use our words to “distort” the natural lean of people, the way the Italics button does a font. When this is done, we actually undermine the unique giftedness of others. In the process, we actually undermine our own giftedness. Someone may use knowledge, experience, and an untemptered wit to smack at the position of another, to subtly undercut authority without outright insubordination. What does one do in such a situation? The heart screams revenge while the Gospel sings grace. But even Jesus said (in essence), “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you; blast it all, you are doomed if you don’t repent.” Like Tim Habbershon said, “Sometimes the pattern in a business is: grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, your fired.” And so we love, and trust that we cannot trust our own hearts or mental dispositions. The reality of what it means to walk by faith comes to play in no clearer place than when dealing with those whose apparent goal is self promotion through the humiliation of others.