solving culture’s struggles, big and small

Sometimes I’m not certain how much we get it. When a child is born, for example, as future parents, we spend so much time dreaming and scheming and planning and shaping all that we will teach them. And indeed, what a sweet opportunity. 

But I wonder then if we’ve missed what’s wisest.

On the eve of the birth of my third son, as we anxiously but humbly attempted to sturdy our hearts, reorienting them to the divine plans for our life that we never expected, wanted, nor intended, a wise friend left a letter on my doorstep. “I look forward not to what I will teach Joshua. But to what he will teach me.”

It shouldn’t take a disability to see what’s wisest.

Then again, God uses all things.

As we ponder what’s happening in current culture, in the world around us, in the struggles we face both big and small, I wonder if one of the reasons the struggle is great and solution seems insurmountable — if not oft even preposterous — is because we’ve missed a foundational tenet in our approach to solution.

Let’s ponder for a moment…

What if, for instance…

  • in our approach to the current inflationary crisis…
  • in what’s best for our schools…
  • in dealing with racial unrest and where discrimination is systemic and where it’s not…
  • in religious conflict and even war…
  • in addressing poverty…
  • in foreign affairs, law enforcement, healthcare, etc….
  • in government spending and accountability…
  • in how to respond to a man who feels prompted to use his car as a weapon…
  • in making sense of our rights and freedoms in how we use weapons…
  • in the bias and sensationalism within our news…

What would it do to our political polarization…

What would it do to our social media conversation…

What would it do to our individual interaction…

What would it do if we actually realized the humbling truth that we have more to learn than to teach?

Let us say that slightly differently, but dare I say, profoundly…

What would it change in the perceived insurmountableness of solution if we recognized that the astuteness of our answers mattered less than the quality of our questions?

My sense is we’d have less bias in our news… fewer politicians convinced their political standing makes them brighter or better… and no more “I-just-have-to-say” tweets, rants, and off-putting expletives on social media.

Maybe solution is less dependent on having all the answers…

And more dependent on being a humble people.

Humble people ask questions. Humble people never belittle others. Humble people are not jealous nor care who gets the credit. Humble people don’t feel sorry for themselves nor spend so much time focusing on the wrongs of others. Humble people spend more time putting themselves in someone else’s shoes than on complaining about the shoes they’re actually wearing. Humble people are thankful; they’re known for their generous expressions of gratitude. Humble people forgo judgment and embrace respect. Humble people never think they’ve got it all figured out.

Precisely because humble people know they’ve never got it all figured out, they see other people — no matter age, stage or circumstance — no matter income, education or ethnicity — no matter any identifiable demographic — they see others as persons from whom they can learn. 

What a sweet thing it would be — and what more solutions we could find to life’s struggles both big and small — if we began by being a humble people in how we viewed one another. 

Respectfully…

AR

up to date with 3 weeks of questions

Maybe like me, you’ve been a bit distracted by the holiday celebrations in recent weeks. I believe in being fully present; hence, current events have been secondary to the persons in my presence. 

Therefore, to help us all get up to date, here are the first 100 observed questions asked in the news the last three weeks (note: all sources are listed below, but not all news sources encourage us to think — uh — versus tell us what to think). Thus, here are the first 100 Q’s noticed by the Intramuralist — getting us all up to date …

  1. A “Reckoning” for U.S. Journalists on Coverage of the Steele Dossier?
  2. After Nordstrom robbery in California, will other retailers be next? 
  3. After Rittenhouse, Will ‘White Freedom’ Destroy America?
  4. America Has Moved On From Covid. Why Can’t Democrats? 
  5. America to Covid: Are We Done Here?
  6. Are CNN and MSNBC About to Make Rittenhouse Rich?
  7. Are Courts Getting Ready to Crack Down on Reporters?
  8. Are Donald Trump’s California Gas Price Claims Accurate?
  9. Are New Federal Funds Contributing to K-12 Administrative Bloat?
  10. Are We Turning the Corner on Covid-19 Treatments?
  11. As Trump Hints at 2024 Run, Would Any Republicans Challenge Him?
  12. Biden Is Doing a Great Job, So Why Are His Polls So Bad?
  13. Biden made huge promises to HBCUs. Can he sell its students on compromise?
  14. Biden Shocked by Price of Gas During Biden Administration: ‘Did You Ever Think You’d Be Paying This Much?’
  15. Can Biden Whip Inflation Now?
  16. Can Democrats Avoid Electoral Disaster in 2022?
  17. Can the Government Hide Its Misdeeds as ‘State Secrets’?
  18. Can We Say Goodbye to the Woke, Guilted Age?
  19. College Football Fans Can’t Stop Rushing The Field. But Which Games Are Worth It?
  20. Congress to airlines: Where did all that Covid money go?
  21. Could Biden’s Legislative 2021 Have Been Better?
  22. Did Critical Race Theory Really Swing the Virginia Election? 
  23. Did Garland Mislead Congress on Purpose?
  24. Did Glasgow Deliver ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’?
  25. Did Latinos Leave Dems, or Did Dems Leave Them?
  26. Did MLB Commissioner Manfred Signal Beginning of the End for Woke Corporatism?
  27. Did state’s own witnesses hurt Rittenhouse case?
  28. Do Americans Like Talking Politics At The Thanksgiving Table?
  29. Do Democrats really believe things can’t get worse?
  30. Do election failures mark the end for ‘defund the police’?
  31. Do Progressives Pay the Price for Progressive Legislation?
  32. Does Only 11 Percent of Bill Go Toward ‘Real Infrastructure,’ as Trump Claims?
  33. Does Sesame Street Need Racialised Muppets?
  34. For Whom Do the Covid “Fact Checkers” Really Work?
  35. Hitting the stores on Black Friday? 
  36. How Are Kids Handling The Pandemic?
  37. How can we get election losers to admit they lost?
  38. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Elon Musk?
  39. How Easily Can Vaccinated People Spread Covid?
  40. How high are today’s gasoline prices compared with recent history?
  41. How Is “Wokeness” Being Covered On Television News?
  42. How popular is Joe Biden?
  43. How to Ensure Student Achievement Va. Parents Voted For? 
  44. How unpopular is Joe Biden?
  45. How Will Build Back Better Impact Inflation?
  46. How Will the Covid Pills Change the Pandemic?
  47. How’s the Economy Doing?
  48. If Employees Can’t Talk Politics, Why Do CEOs?
  49. If Pfizer’s COVID wonder drug is so effective, why hasn’t the FDA approved it yet?
  50. Inflation: is now the time to get worried?
  51. Is America Creating an Anti-Resilient Society?
  52. Is Kamala Harris simply not a good vice president?
  53. Is LeBron James a Dirty Player?
  54. Is Manchin about to tank the reconciliation bill over inflation?
  55. Is the West Wing out of touch?
  56. Joe who?
  57. Kids and Masks: What Are the Downsides?
  58. Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Who are the key players?
  59. ‘Refund’ the police?
  60. So, What Color Is Virginia Now?
  61. This Supreme Court believes in protecting religious rights. Or does it?
  62. Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the country. So why are cases surging?
  63. Was the FBI Manipulated by the Democratic Party?
  64. Was Rittenhouse Coverage Fair?
  65. What are President Biden’s challenges at the border?
  66. What are the charges in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing?
  67. What Do Parents Want?
  68. What Endorsements Has Aaron Rodgers Already Lost? 
  69. What if Low-Cost Private Education Existed?
  70. What if we just gave up cars?
  71. What is the risk of a war between Russia and Ukraine?
  72. What’s in Democrats’ $1.75 trillion social spending and climate bill?
  73. Where Have All The Good NFL Teams Gone?
  74. Where Is Peng Shuai?
  75. What Rhymes With Breyer?
  76. What Would It Look Like If We Treated Climate Change as an Actual Emergency?
  77. What’s Driving California’s Mass Exodus?
  78. When can you shoot as self-defense?
  79. When might the release from the US strategic oil reserve affect gas prices?
  80. When Will the NYT & WaPo Return Their Pulitzers?
  81. When Will You Answer Our Questions?
  82. Where are we at with Covid?
  83. Where’s the Democrats’ Covid Off Ramp?
  84. Who is Darrell Brooks?
  85. Will Austria’s Vaccine Mandate Work?
  86. Will Biden run again in 2024?
  87. Will Joe Manchin Stand His Ground on Inflation?
  88. Why Are Americans Unhappy With Biden?
  89. Why are oil prices so high? And what can be done about it?
  90. Why are states banning critical race theory?
  91. Why Are the Media Treating ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Like Criminal Hate Speech?
  92. Why Do So Many Young Americans Hate Sports?
  93. Why is Joe Biden smiling?
  94. Why Is the ‘Woke Mob’ Angry With Aaron Rodgers?
  95. Why Should Economists Dislike Higher Inflation?
  96. Will Democrats’ Covid Vaccine Mandates Steal Christmas?
  97. Will Democrats Listen to the Wakeup Call on Schools? 
  98. Will Uncle Sam Force Big Tech to Break Up? 
  99. Will You Pay More in Taxes in 2022?
  100. With Dems in the Doldrums, How Much Is Biden to Blame?

As asked by ABC News, AEI, The Age, The American Conservative, The American Mind, Associated Press, Association of Mature American Citizens, The Atlantic, BBC, Bloomberg, Brookings, Brownstone Institute, CBS News, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, Current Affairs, The Daily Caller, Daily Kos, Detroit Free Press, Epoch Times, Financial Times, FiveThirtyEight, The Guardian, The Hill, HotAir, Inside Hook, Fisher Investments, FiveThirtyEight, Fox News, The Guardian, Hot Air, Los Angeles Times, Mediaite, MSNBC, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Politico, PolitiFact, PowerLine, Rasmussen Reports, RealClear Education, RealClear Markets, RealClear Politics, Reason, Reuters, Roll Call, Salon, Slate, Spectator, Tampa Bay Times, Tax Foundation, Time, Townhall, USA Today, Vox, Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner, Washington Monthly, The Washington Post, and Yahoo! The 360.

Keep asking… keep encouraging objective thinking, please…

Respectfully…

AR

one brief point about Thanksgiving

Sometimes — in a skill few politicians regardless of bent seem to grasp (unless, of course, if actually avoiding the press) — a person can actually say more by speaking less. I’ll thus make this short today. 

The sweet thing about Thanksgiving week is that gratitude is our number one focus.

It’s amazing what happens when we focus on something so good…

… the biting division, discontent, and disparaging treatment of one another simply fades away. Judgment is quieted. Insults are rare. Mistreatment and meanness stop being justified. Even behind the back.

Make no mistake; gratitude is good.

But there’s one point about gratitude that if we fail to master, we will miss the mark. 

Gratitude, if not expressed, feels like ingratitude.

I understand the notion that those I love and do life with should just know. But way too often falling prey to that line of thinking results in us not thanking the persons in our lives who deserve it most. 

Gratitude is most meaningful when it is personal, specific, and expressed.

So as I continue to ponder the focus — and ponder the intentional expression — I must admit: I find myself increasingly humbled.

Gratitude has that effect; the more it’s expressed, the more humbled we become.

It puts life in perspective. It puts me in perspective — in other words, the expression of gratitude helps us not think of self any higher nor lower than we ought.

Gratitude is thus, yes, good.

So happy Thanksgiving, friends…

Know at Thanksgiving and always, I am grateful for you. I am grateful for your friendship, your reading, your participation, and your mutual sharpening. You have made me better at what God’s gifted me to do. This is a joy.

I am grateful for you.

Blessings…

AR

the verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse

On Friday afternoon, the jury reached a unanimous decision on the legal fate of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who shot and killed two unarmed men, injured an armed man, in last summer’s violent disorder in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Allow us to provide some brief background for the purpose of context. The unrest was due to the serious injury of Kenosha’s Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, who was shot multiple times by a police officer, when turning toward law enforcement carrying a knife. The police were aware of a warrant out for Blake’s arrest for third-degree sexual assault when they responded to a 911 “domestic incident” call.

In a summer that served as the so-called perfect storm, with so many of us frustratingly locked in due to Covid, and then the awful, horrific killing of George Floyd at the beginning of the summer, the riotous aftermath of Blake’s shooting was not unforeseen. People were hurting. People were angry. People wanted to respond. With understandable emotions all over the place.

Rittenhouse is white. The three men he shot are also white.

In a video interview with The Daily Caller on the evening of but prior to the incident, Rittenhouse — 17 at the time — stood in front of a boarded up business that was burned the night before. He told the camera, “So people are getting injured. And our job is to protect this business. And part of my job is to also help people. If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself obviously, but I also have my med kit.”

According to The New York Times, Rittenhouse was chased by a man named Joseph Rosenbaum. “As Mr. Rittenhouse ran into the parking lot, a man nearby fired a handgun into the air. Rittenhouse turned in the direction of the gunfire, just as Mr. Rosenbaum lunged at him. Mr. Rittenhouse then fired four times.” Rosenbaum did not survive.

Rittenhouse continued to run. Rittenhouse was then chased by a crowd that included Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. Grosskreutz had his gun out when chasing Rittenhouse. According to The Washington Post, “After a few yards, Rittenhouse stumbled and fell to the ground. An unidentified man ran toward him and delivered a flying kick. Rittenhouse fired at him but missed. Then came Huber, who swung a skateboard at Rittenhouse’s shoulder and reached for his rifle. Rittenhouse fired again, hitting Huber in the chest. Last came Grosskreutz, who ran toward Rittenhouse with his pistol drawn. Rittenhouse raised his rifle and shot. A bullet tore through Grosskreutz’s right biceps.” Huber tragically died. Grosskreutz survived, and under testimony acknowledged he was pointing his gun at Rittenhouse.

Also according to WaPo, Rosenbaum had spent years in prison for sex crimes against children. They report that Huber had actually been friends with Jacob Blake, and Grosskreutz was both a former paramedic and anti-police-violence activist. CNN reported video footage showing Rosenbaum following Rittenhouse.

After three days of deliberations the jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts, including intentional homicide. The Intramuralist was stunned.

To be clear, I wasn’t stunned by the outcome of the proceedings. I was stunned at the number of people who felt they knew better. 

Please know I don’t claim to ascertain the guilt or innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse. When the verdict was announced, I didn’t hiss, cheer nor even shake my head. I didn’t handle the evidence. I didn’t sit in the courtroom. Maybe others know more than me.

As is my practice, I also tuned into both left and right leaning news sources — those who even with bias, seemed earnestly attempting to objectively examine the evidence. The majority — left and right — shared that Rittenhouse had a valid defense. As left-leaning CNN reported, “While the jury’s decision drew harsh criticism from the victims’ loved ones, legal experts say they were not surprised by the verdict.”

One can validly question whether or not Rittenhouse considered himself to be in imminent threat of harm; one can validly question what aspects of privilege entered into this case; one can also legitimately wonder how we apply the laws of self-defense. But for one to claim they know for certain, to claim this is a grievous injustice and that they know far better than the jurors that were in that room — whether that be another celebrity attempting to shame us, a politician again focusing solely on a singular side, or maybe just a prolific Twitter user who feels a need to tell the rest of us how they are right and we are wrong — my respectful, strong sense is their opinion is based more on politics than on facts.

If we are going to address the continued injustice in this world, we need to ensure our passion and politics don’t skew our view of the facts. CNN, The New York Times, and WaPo would seem to agree.

No judgment, friends. No need to hiss or cheer either.

Respectfully..

AR

when politics becomes my religion

Noted English novelist C.S. Lewis and his close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, are responsible for several of the books which have spurred on the world’s individual and collective imaginations for decades. One of those fictional august accounts is Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, a novel first published in 1942, in a satirical style in which the characters address far deeper issues.

In one exchange between Screwtape, a senior demon, and Wormwood, his nephew and a less-experienced demon, Screwtape counsels his protégé in how to turn “the patient” away from God…

“Let [your patient] begin by treating … Patriotism or Pacifism as part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ‘cause,’ in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism.”

Pause for a moment, comprehending the significant sequence laid out by Uncle Screwtape. A political passion begins as a singular aspect of our faith. It then, “under the influence of a partisan spirit,” becomes the “most important part.” And lastly — and this extends to more than Christianity — politics becomes the actual religion. As one columnist described the sequence, “It’s genius.”

It’s made me ponder how such rings true in our country today — wondering if part of the reason America’s religious landscape continues to change is because we have allowed politics to become an accepted religion. Knowing how deep this issue potentially penetrates, allow us to utilize singular, first-person pronouns for the rest of today’s conversation. What happens when politics becomes my religion?

I justify widespread binary thinking… If you’re not for me, you’re against me; there is no gray… If you can’t see that Trump is evil, you, too, are degenerate… If you can’t see that Joe’s a joke, you aren’t very intelligent nor bright… While there are many clear principles and encouragements in Judeo-Christian teaching, there also remains a healthy existence of gray, where the answer isn’t so black-and-white. The person who does not share my political viewpoint is not my enemy. Such dichotomous thinking may happen when politics becomes my religion.

So I ask again: what happens when politics becomes my religion?

I forgo fundamental tenets… Be kind. Be generous. Clothe yourself with compassion. Do what is merciful and just. Be honest. Be thoughtful in how you both speak of and treat other people — even behind their back… Those are a mere bit of the basics. But when I routinely fail to be kind, when I give grounds for my lack of compassion, or when I even go so far as to make excuses for the dishonesty of one with whom I sense political alignment, politics might be becoming my religion.

And one more time: what happens when politics becomes my religion?

I become increasingly, only selectively aware of others… Love your neighbor as yourself… All persons are created equal… All persons were created in the image of God… Those are embedded, core religious teachings. But when loving my neighbor depends on who my neighbor is, I’m not fulfilling that directive. When I attempt to root out injustice by applying more injustice, I’m forgetting how equal we all are. And when I treat absolutely anybody like only I am created in God’s image, no doubt I have fallen prey to this idea that politics is somehow a worthy religion.

When politics becomes my religion, I have begun to embrace something lesser… something lesser than consistent kindness, charity, and justice.

When politics becomes my religion, I have missed the value and beauty of true equality.

And when politics becomes my religion, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain humble, recognizing I will always have so much more to learn — so much to learn about me, God, and other people. Let me be a student of other people.

I admit: politics can be an “attractive pull” in our culture. And let me be clear that it’s totally understandable and ok to be politically passionate. But simply put, I don’t want to drift into accepting a religious creed which nurses me away from the totality of what’s truly most important.

Respectfully… always…

AR

the Kyle Rittenhouse trial

Many are observant of the ongoing trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. For those unaware of why Rittenhouse is currently facing said legal proceedings, allow us first to share a brief, objective summary…

After the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer, riots and civil unrest broke out in the southeast Wisconsin city. The Kenosha Area Business Alliance estimates that the riots were responsible for up to $50 million damage.

Rittenhouse, a 17 year old from Antioch, Illinois, approximately 20 miles away, came to Kenosha for the said purpose of protecting a car dealership from being vandalized and to provide any necessary medical care; he was carrying a Medkit. He was also carrying an AR-15 style rifle.

Multiple direct confrontations ensued between Rittenhouse and varied rioters. Two were shot and killed by Rittenhouse; one had his right biceps severed. All three had criminal histories.

Rittenhouse was subsequently charged with multiple counts of homicide and unlawful possession of a firearm. A 19 year old man was also charged with illegally giving Rittenhouse the gun. Rittenhouse emphatically asserts he acted in self-defense. The trial for Rittenhouse began November 1st.

To say the nation has once again responded in a polarized fashion is an understatement. To say politics have been the filter through which many have chosen to examine the scenario also reigns true.

To some, he is a hero… selflessly and justly utilizing his unfettered 2nd Amendment right to stave off an increasingly violent, summer chaos. 

To others, he is a symbol of everything wrong in America — and as one Reuters columnist put it, “of an American gun culture run amok.”

And most likely due to that passionate polarization, many have felt justified in publicly chiming in…

From the liberal House representative who in the immediate aftermath referred to Rittenhouse as “a 17 year old white supremacist domestic terrorist”…

To the conservative pundit who felt called this week to mock Rittenhouse when the now 18 year old cried on the stand, referring to his emotion as “crocodile tears.”

To the NBA star who went further with his mocking: “What tears????? I didn’t see one. Man knock it off! That boy ate some lemon heads before walking into court.”

Consistent with the mantra of the Intramuralist, we sincerely respect the opinions of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, CNN’s Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, and LeBron James. But to also be clear, they are only opinions; opinions are not facts nor necessarily educated. And these specific opinions are from strikingly far away.

So let us humbly attempt to extract the politics and polarization — a perilous task, I know. I will proceed at my own, respectful risk…

In our efforts to value all people and embrace and pursue justice, isn’t there a question all should be asking first? 

To the Pressley’s, Navarro-Cárdenas’, James’, etc… to all the celebrities, politicians, persons on Twitter, IG, and you and me…

Wouldn’t our perspectives be wiser, our shaming be lesser, and our opinions be potentially more accurate, if we first asked ourselves the following huge question…

Were we there?

Tell me… when the riots unfolded in Kenosha, when Kyle Rittenhouse tragically shot and killed or injured those three men, were you there? Did you see everything that happened? Did you feel what each felt? Do you know every angle? Are you aware of absolutely all that transpired? Do you know what every person did? Every way they behaved? Do you know all that didn’t show up on camera? Do you know everything? Do you know it all that exactly?

Or…

Is there a narrative that’s easier for me to understand, that fits with my already established paradigm, that I can continue to cling to, conveniently forgetting the fact that I wasn’t there?

Friends, I make zero assertion about the innocence or guilt of the current defendant. But I do wholeheartedly believe every voice and opinion would be more prudent if we recognized when we were and were not there. 

Respectfully…

AR

not about sports. not about Duke.

Let me start with two statements:

One, this is not a sports post.

And two, I am not a Duke fan.

But allow me to humbly share with you what I actually am. No matter the arena, I am an admirer of someone who leaves a program or position better than what it was when they began. I deeply respect the person who cares more about those who follow than about any glorification of self. There is no prudent place for the mantra of “look at me.”

Much as I adhere to statement #2 above, one person who has clearly left his legacy by making his place of influence better is Mike Krzyzewski, the head men’s basketball coach at Duke University. First hired 41 years ago, year 41 is set to be his last.

No doubt he has collected his share of outward accolades…

  • 5 NCAA Division I Tournament championships
  • 12 Final Fours
  • 15 ACC Tournament championships
  • 12 ACC regular season championships
  • And 3 times named the Naismith College Coach of the Year

Acknowledging the impressiveness of accolades and success, years ago I learned there was something better. Something more honorable. Lots of us can be successful, but will we be something great? As learned under the expertise of Dr. Tim Kimmel, “A person can be successful without coming close to being truly great.”

Success looks inward; greatness focuses outward. Success is about receiving; greatness prioritizes giving. Success pays off for now; greatness pays off for always. So much of greatness is visible via its impact on other people.

I then think of the wisdom consistently offered by Coach K, pouring into hundreds of young men for the past many decades…

“Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.”

“To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.”

“Making shots counts, but not as much as the people who make them.”

“A common mistake among those who work in sport is spending a disproportional amount of time on “x’s and o’s” as compared to time spent learning about people.”

“In leadership, there are no words more important than trust. In any organization, trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is going to be achieved.”

“I believe God gave us crises for some reason — and it certainly wasn’t for us to say that everything about them is bad. A crisis can be a momentous time for a team to grow — if a leader handles it properly.”

“We’re only going to win if we win together.”

And…

“I don’t look at myself as a basketball coach. I look at myself as a leader who happens to coach basketball.”

Hear those words… communication… selflessness… learning about people… trust… managing crises… together…

Mike Krzyzewski has done more on the hardwood than win all those championships. He’s tirelessly poured into the next generation. He’s realized his position and profession are about more than him. 

Even though not nor probably ever a Duke fan, it’s hard not to deeply respect what’s far more than accolades and success in Coach K. 

Best wishes on your final season, Coach. Keep the faith.

P.S. Still cheering on those Boilermakers from here.

Respectfully…

AR

Rodgers, Jones, Bisaccia & Carr

In a week in which current event bloggers have had much material, three stories stood out to me, making me think. Here at the Intramuralist, it’s no secret we like to think.

To be clear, let’s insert an important caveat before we opine. “Think” is not a synonym for “agree.” In fact, if we dismiss a perspective simply because we disagree with it, my guess is we’re pretty stuck in our own stunted learning. Hence… 

First there was Aaron Rodgers… Let me say from the start that this semi-humble blogger has sort of a love/hate relationship with the reigning NFL MVP. He’s incredibly talented; he’s fun to watch play; but sometimes he’s really cocky and not all that kind to his family. For those of you who are not ESPN enthusiasts, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and must now quarantine a minimum of 10 days. His story is also sensed to be somewhat controversial in that he was “secretly” unvaccinated.

Making me think, here’s how The Federalist’s Kylee Zempel editorialized the situation: “9 Truths from Aaron Rodgers’ Explosive Vaxx Interview You Aren’t Allowed to Say: [I’ll pick 5.] ‘You’re Selfish’ Smear is Media Propaganda…‘Pandemic of the Unvaccinated’ Is a Lie… Health shouldn’t be political… ‘Health Is Not a One-Size-Fits-All’… Science Is Better Than Shaming.

… Thinking how when politics and shame are inserted into the conversation, how solution can be polluted…

Then there was Van Jones… The articulate, liberal CNN political contributor had much to share on Election Day’s evening. As is the Intramuralist practice, when I watch the news (which is rare, as I read my news from more balanced/less biased sites), I will rotate between the three primary cable news networks, CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. I do so in short swift sweeps, seeing what each station prioritizes and how they frame a story. For example, on Tuesday night it was fascinating to me that when Virginia Lieutenant Governor-Elect Winsome Sears, the first female and first woman of color in the office in Virginia’s 400-year legislative history, was giving her acceptance speech, neither CNN nor MSNBC covered it.

Making me think, when sharing his analysis of a disappointing evening for Democrats, Jones offered multiple insights and conclusions. Coming off the 2020 Presidential victory, there’s a sense that Joe Biden’s victory had most to do with the fact that he wasn’t Donald Trump — not that the country had moved ideologically left and now desired as a majority to embrace some of the more radical policies being pushed. Said Jones, “I think that Democrats are coming across in ways that we don’t recognize — that are annoying and offensive and seem out of touch, in ways that don’t show up in our feeds, when we’re looking at our kind of echo chamber.”

… Thinking how sometimes we can become so emboldened in our political convictions that we fail to discern how poorly we may come off to those not as convicted as we…

And last there was Rich Bisaccia and Derek Carr… There was an awful, off-field event in professional football this week. Henry Ruggs, the incredibly talented, 22-year-old, star wide receiver for the Las Vegas Raiders, was driving his car at 156 m.p.h. with a blood alcohol level of .161 when he struck another vehicle, causing it to catch on fire, killing the 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her pet golden retriever. Ruggs was immediately dismissed from the team and now faces multiple felony charges. If convicted on all counts, Ruggs would face up to 46 years in prison.

Rich Bisaccia is the Raiders coach. Derek Carr is the QB who used to throw Ruggs the ball. Making me think, the two addressed the media the next morning. First and foremost, they addressed Tintor’s family. Bisaccia began, “We want to express our sincere condolences to the victim’s family. A person lost their life yesterday morning, and we think it’s important to keep focus on that as we talk about this tragic event. We’re deeply saddened for everyone affected, especially the victim’s family. 

That being said, we love Henry Ruggs. We want him to know that. It’s a terrible lapse in judgment, of the most horrific kind. It’s something he’ll have to live with the rest of his life. The gravity of the situation is not lost on anyone here, and we understand and respect the loss of life.”

Added Carr about Ruggs, “I will always be here for him. That won’t change, and I will prove that over the course of time to him. Not to anybody else. But he needs people to love him right now. He’s probably feeling a certain type of way about himself right now, and he needs to be loved.”

… Thinking of the significance of offering love to the perceived unloveable… and being on the receiving end of it, when it doesn’t seem deserved…

Still thinking, friends… always…

Respectfully…

AR

now that Election Day has passed…

So in a community that celebrates community when the kids trick-or-treat, the adults often find themselves in extended silly and serious conversation. That’s what community provides: a foundational backdrop in which both the silly and serious can respectfully occur… with kindness and an always sincere, listening ear.

Knowing our shared interest in current events, one neighborhood friend offered his brief, political commentary, knowing whatever he shared, it would be welcomed and we could discuss. It isn’t an exact quote, but it began with something like this…

I just don’t know anyone who would openly admit they’re a Republican right now… or with the current executive/legislative dysfunction, a Democrat either…

There was no intended disrespect toward any of either party faithful. There was simply a recognition that our home of the free/land of the brave is facing some immediate, increasingly intensifying issues — and there are members in each party who are either (a) getting in the way and/or (b) making things worse. While there are indeed long term and foreign issues in need of serious attention, there currently exist at least three sobering challenges in need of immediate attention and solution — so that we can actually deal with those other issues. We are in need of a rational, respectful “middle” to put pet issues and partisanship aside in order to solve these pressing problems. 

Now that November’s Election Day has passed, we need to embrace what’s prudent — not partisan — and respectfully figure out the following…

COVID-19… With case numbers declining — but more variants and outbreaks possible — what’s our medical approach as we move from a pandemic to an endemic? What’s a wise way forward with mask and vaccine mandates? Does a “one-size-fits-all” approach make sense, noting the demographics of Big Sky Montana are way different than a bustling, urban NYC? How do we honor all people? (Note: the key word in that last sentence is “all.”)

Crime… Crime rates are up. The FBI reported last month that there was nearly a 30% increase in homicides last year; a midyear report by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a coalition of the largest police agencies, suggests this year’s violent crime rates are even higher. While it’s historically true that crime rates vary — but with at least four cities voting yesterday whether to dismantle law enforcement and effectively defund the police — the question before us is whether these two years are an aberration or a sign of things to come. This cannot be answered accurately if partisanship impedes problem-solving.

Inflation… While some would like us to believe that the current inflation is transitory or temporary, as the weeks turn into months and soon to a year, such analysis seems wholly inaccurate. Prices are on the rise; the United States currently sits at a 13 year high, annual inflation rate. Airfare, lumber, food and shelter — they are all costing exponentially more. While there exist multiple factors that impact inflation, three are especially significant: 

  1. increased money supply
  2. the declining value of the dollar
  3. supply chain issues*

That’s why prioritized policy matters. It matters how much the government spends; how much money is being infused into society? When too many dollars chase too few goods, inflation is likely to occur. When there are too many U.S. dollars in the system, the value of each of those dollars is lesser. And regarding the supply chain, when much of the American economy was forced to shut down in the wake of COVID-19, maintaining the same levels of production became impossible. Then came a labor shortage on top of the production slowdown, neither which have yet rebounded decisively nor well, and both which are detrimental to our economy and inflation’s continued rise.

Let the Intramuralist not negate the plethora of other issues that we as Americans — who have that in common by the way — need to address. There are serious issues both foreign and domestic — from within our individual state boundaries to the swollen, southernmost border to even the intensifying South China Sea. From energy to education, poverty to police, equality, justice, and the First, Second and even more Amendments, we’ve got a lot to talk about and work through; we’ve got a lot to solve. But there’s a wise way to do it.

Just as a parent said this week from Loudoun Country, Virginia — the current ground zero for what education should and should not include, how parents and teachers could partner together — we need to recognize we all have so much in common… “We’d all be better off if we declared peace, recognized our common love as parents who want the best for their kids and looked for a solution together.”

Whether parents or simply people, whatever the issue, we all have so much in common. So let’s be prudent. Let’s declare peace. Let’s then look for a solution to the above pressing issues together, refusing to accept anything partisan, worse or less.

Respectfully…

AR

(*Forbes, “Buckle Up: 3 Reasons Why Inflation Is Rising,” June 10, 2021.)

teacher, teacher, give me the news…

I’m not really a pet peeve kind of person. I mean, I suppose I have a few random hot takes — such as putting two “e’s” in “judgment” or overusing the phrase, “it is what it is” when the reality is you really just want the conversation to end. But if pressed to share a potentially more precarious vexation, I think it would be this growing idea that so much of life is a binary choice. 

We all do it… sometimes totally seriously…

If you’re not for me, you’re against me.

If you’re not anti-racist, you’re a racist.

If you didn’t vote for Hillary, you must love Trump.

With all due respect to those who sincerely possess the above convictions, I get it. I understand. I simply don’t believe the binary to be true. Binaries seem more what we employ to explain away what’s most difficult to fully comprehend.

There’s a current, popular binary that the Intramuralist finds increasingly disturbing. I feel like there’s this thought being promoted that you’re either pro-teacher or anti-teacher. Related black-and-white categories evolve to be as simplistic as all teachers are good or all teachers are bad… the union is all good or all bad… Sorry, friends. None of those make sense to me. 

Like many, no doubt, I have dear friends who are professional educators. Starting with my gifted madre, teachers have sweetly shaped me into much of who I am today… It was Evelina who spurred on my interest in government, the popular Mr. C who inspired me to be observant of current events, and the articulate Carol F. who taught me to love Tennyson. It was Virginia D. who made me work, Mrs. Greaves who made me write, and Coach Potter who made writing a joyful, rhythmic discipline.

Combine that with dear friends who’ve become teachers or teachers who’ve become friends. Several have been lifelong friends (… shout out to you, dear Roni). Several others, we have delightfully met here. I am grateful for each of you. 

I also have tremendously deep gratitude for those who have selflessly invested in the lives of my children. From baseball to biotech to even basic hygiene, I have so much respect for you. Call me pro-teacher, therefore, if you will.

But I think there’s this trickle down evolution of thinking, that if we’re pro or anti anything, we fall prey to ignoring what doesn’t fit our narrative. Like if we’re pro-teacher, we can’t admit that we’ve at times had some bad ones — not bad people, just educators who weren’t all that good at what they did. That doesn’t change anything about the excellence of Evelina, etal. 

It seems this has trickled, too, to the school board races across the country. Sadly, in my opinion, here is where national elected leadership has done the rest of us a tremendous disservice when they choose to be disparaging of those with whom they disagree; Democrats and Republicans alike have modeled awful interactions. Hence, now at the local school board level, rumors, accusations and insults are way too common. Just because a singular board, member or candidate may act or say something foolishly, that does not make all boards, members, or candidates to be foolish. There’s no need to be pro or anti school board; it’s simply not a binary assessment. 

One school board situation that isn’t helping — and one that is having significant state (and potentially national) implications, especially in the hours before the gubernatorial race is decided — is in Virginia’s Loudoun County, home of the nation’s highest median household income. Loudoun County Public Schools has become the current center of the education debate. With the school district’s stated intentional effort to become more equitable and inclusive, there have been multiple intense interactions with parents, concerned about the perceived extremity of the district’s approach. Unfortunately, the friction only intensified when a parent was arrested for his outburst at a public meeting, upset about the district’s perceived lenient transgender bathroom policy. The dad was arrested even though his daughter was assaulted by a male student, who had dressed as a female and freely entered the girls’ bathroom under the policy. To make the situation sadly worse, it was recently uncovered that the district’s superintendent lied about having knowledge of any assaults in their restrooms. He knew of the assault even when he allowed for the arrest and shaming of the parent, who was the father of an actual victim. 

All this to say that we have to find a better way to handle the educational challenges that continue to evolve in this country… How do we best care for our students? What should we be teaching? What should we not? How do we not oppress one student in order to meet the needs of another? When does the woke-ness go too far? Is Critical Race Theory a thing? How are political affiliations getting in the way? How do we deal with the very real challenges of teacher pay, classroom size, and school safety? How do we sustainably fund? How do we better care for those with special needs? How do we improve education in impoverished communities? What’s the role of standardized tests? What’s the deal with Common Core? What’s the wisest way to handle the transgender restroom situation for all students? What’s an effective disciplinary approach to bullying? Are letter grades still effective? How can schools and parents partner more together to better care for students social and emotional development? What role belongs only to the parent?…

I am no expert, friends. Not even close. But these are the conversations we should be having. It isn’t about being pro-teacher or anti-teacher or pro-education or anti-education. It’s about focusing on our students, listening to the entirety of our communities, partnering with parents, leaders humbly leading, teachers utilizing their sweet gifting, and no one attempting to enact any political agenda. The political agendas seem to be distracting us from acting in the best interest for all our kids. Their well being — the well being of the entirety of students — should always come first.

No judgment, friends. Ever. 

By the way, that’s with only one “e.”

Respectfully…

AR