Monthly Archives: June 2019

The Stupidity of Unintended Consequences

I recently saw a news article about a federal criminal prosecution in Arizona that reminded me of an unwritten law which should be called The Stupidity of Unintended Consequences. Or to put it another way, short term thinking will rise up and bite you.

In the Arizona case, Scott Warren was accused of conspiring to harbor and transport illegal aliens, a crime carrying a 20-year prison sentence.  Mr. Warren spends a lot of time hiking in the Arizona desert. During his backcountry hikes, he has buried the bodies of individuals, most likely illegal aliens, who died in the desert from dehydration or starvation after becoming lost.  He was prosecuted for helping a couple of illegal aliens avoid that fate.

The case is currently in limbo after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.  The prosecutors must decide soon whether to start over with a new trial.  They have already watched their case boondoggle once due to the Stupidity of Unintended Consequences.

The unintended consequences began back in 1993 with a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  This law was originally intended to carve out a narrow religious exemption to federal drug laws that would allow the Native American Church to use peyote during their services.   The RFRA prohibits the federal government from creating a substantial burden on an individual’s religious freedom unless the government has a compelling interest to do so.

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court said the RFRA applied to the states. The states began passing their own unique versions of the federal law based on the culture wars.  Most of the state versions of the RFRA allow conservative Christians (and so far only Christians) to ignore or break anti-discrimination laws they don’t like in the name of religious freedom.

In Mr. Warren’s case, his supporters argued that the RFRA protected him from prosecution because he followed his conscience and a higher authority in giving aid and comfort to the illegal aliens.  Although unsuccessful, the argument was apparently sufficient to cause the trial to end in a hung jury.

The irony is extraordinary.  A law intended to reduce discrimination is now the basis upon which a segment of the population is authorized to discriminate.  Liberals are now embracing a law they once loathed in order to support Mr. Warren.  And Mr. Warren would probably be a convicted criminal today if the religious right had thought about the long-term consequences of ignoring Jesus’ commandment to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That’s the Stupidity of Unintended Consequences.


About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle ( which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (

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Going Home

Today has been a remarkable confluence of a variety of events – the 30th birthday of a dear son-in-law, the celebration of life of a beloved church member, the good-byes to neighbors who are moving on, my husband’s return to work after the first round of chemotherapy (three more to go). I spent the afternoon yesterday with the youngest member of our family – our 14-month-old granddaughter, walking, talking, playing – making her wishes clearly known.

When I opened the New York Times newsletter that I receive daily, I turned to the op-ed features, as I so often do.  Margaret Renkl, a fellow Nashvillian, wrote a beautiful piece about time and loss and mortality.  The link to this piece is here.  It is so worth reading, and so I offer it to you today.  Enjoy.


About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at

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Trauma Comes in Many Forms

agave beach cactus california

Photo by Natália Ivanková on

I recently read in an article that trauma, though usually associated with a sudden, unexpected horrible event or occurrence, can also be caused by something positive.  The article explained that trauma is anything that divides your life into before, and after.  I realized, as I approach the 12th anniversary of my move to Tennessee, that I’ve been dealing with the trauma of being uprooted from the only home I ever knew and relocating to a place where I had no family or friends.

My discovery was triggered by a call from someone I don’t know, but who is a colleague of my brother.  This person and his wife are considering moving to Nashville and my brother suggested they reach out to me to learn the ropes.  As I first spoke to the husband, I answered his questions and gave him the broad strokes about life here.  He’s concerned for his wife and how she will fare.  I next spoke with the wife, who had very different questions and concerns.  We had a great conversation, but as I shared my experiences with her it became clear to me that I’ve suffered some trauma as a result of the move.  In fact, after our conversation, I felt a wave of grief wash over me and it stayed for several days.

I’m sure on the spectrum of trauma, my experience is somewhat mild.  But I do distinguish my life before the move and my life since.  I often spend time wondering what my life would have been like if we’d never moved.  I fantasize about what I’d be doing at this moment if I was still, “back home.”  And I long for a time we can move back.

I don’t know much about recovery from trauma, but in this case, it’s come as a gradual process.  The last 12 years have been challenging but, I know now, also incredibly rewarding.  I’ve learned that I am a resilient person.  I’ve become more confident in my ability to navigate new situations.  And while I always knew I’m someone who makes friends easily, I’ve learned to consciously use that skill when necessary.

And there’s been another, unexpected lesson I’ve learned.  The concept of, “home,” is one I always associated with a place.  In my case, that home is Southern California.  But home is a funny thing, wherever you are, wherever your loved ones are, that’s home.  For some people, it’s obvious but for me, it was something I really had to live through to understand.  And the places that I long for are always with me, in my heart and my memories.  Just like people who have passed through my life, places I treasure don’t disappear.  But unlike people who have passed, I can, and do, revisit places.  The shores of the Pacific Ocean, the rocky peaks of the Sierras, the desert sands of Palm Springs, all are still there for me.  Not to mention the breakfast table at my best friend’s house, the neighborhood parks where my children played, the street where we bought our first home and the duplex I lived in when I was a child.

Right now, I actually feel lucky to have two big parts to my life.  The part before the move that gave me my values, my inner strength, my education and my family.  And the part since, that put all of that to the test.  I know now that, given the choice, I wouldn’t go back to the life I had; that life exists in my memory.  The one I have now is so much richer, more meaningful and more satisfying.  As time passes I feel blended rather than split in two.  I get to choose what part of my past to keep and what to let go and I also get to decide what to embrace in my new life and what to let pass.  I guess for now, the grief is passed, but I’m sure it will resurface and next time, it will be different.

Springtime in my Garden

Here are a few shots from my garden.  This is definitely something new for me!  A vegetable garden of my own is something I always wanted in So. Cal. but never had time or space.  Check it out!


The latest veggie harvest


First yield of the season.


The garden!


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