diversity training

One of the best parts of the annual NCAA basketball tournament is its clear manifestation of diversity. Too often too many inaccurately boast of their all-accepting, diverse nature; then they reject the one who does not embrace diversity, meaning the original boaster isn’t as diverse as he or she might believe.

Not true in the madness of March. Each of the 351 Division I men’s basketball teams has an opportunity to make the tournament. It’s a striking, sui generis field…

68 teams fill the benches and brackets. As is typical, we see our share of birds, bears and more.

From the Cardinals of Louisville to a soaring pair of Eagles — with even Golden ones flying from Marquette… not to mention the Hawkeyes and Jayhawks and that team from Temple (although I’m sensing that an Owl doesn’t exactly intimidate one’s opponent all that much). 

Speaking of intimidation, I like Maryland, but few seem fearful of a team named after a turtle.

Bears seem to instill a little more fear in one’s adversary, as I assume Baylor can attest to. Just as formidable, however, are the Bruins and Grizzlies.

The Belmont Bruins are actually represented by “Bruiser the Bruin” — who is not to be outdone by the prowess of VCU’s “Rodney the Ram.” Still more of the furry and fictional will grace the sidelines, noting especially “Kaboom” (the gargoyle), “Pounce” (the blue panther), and “Peter the Anteater” (… yes, I did say “anteater”…). Pete is a popular name, no doubt, also represented via “Pistol Pete” from the state of New Mexico and the muscular “Purdue Pete” from my absolute favorite college in the country.

The “Pistol” is really an Aggie — of which there are two. (What’s an “Aggie,” by the way?)

That pales, I suppose, to the Billikens, another ambiguous name, whose moniker — crazily — is said to have originated from the football coach’s uncanny resemblance to a charm doll 108 years ago.

Let’s not forget, though, man’s best friend and its feline counterpart; the numbers included are impressive. There are four sets of Bulldogs (although only Gardner-Webb’s are Runnin’), a pair of Huskies, and one Wofford Terrier. Then there’s the Queen City’s Bearcats, the resurgence of Phi Slamma Jamma’s Cougars, a pair each of Tigers and Panthers, and four more of the always well-represented Wildcat.

Let’s give a brief shoutout to Abilene Christian’s “Willie the Wildcat.” I love the creativity! Granted, it would be even more fascinating to see a face-off between Buffalo and NKU. We would then witness the sweet, semantic duel between “Victor E. Bull” and “Victor E. Viking.” (Does the “E” in each stand for “epic”?)

There is more of course — the homologous mammals found in the Wolf Pack and Wolverines. Forget not also the Catamounts, Golden Gophers, Badgers, and Bison. 

Then come the Ducks. (Right. Another intimidating sports team.) Please don’t let a Gator near a Duck. 🙂

As with any diverse group, no less, the royal fighters and tough-sounding teams abound. This year we find Spartans, Monarchs, and Cavaliers included, in addition to two sets each of Knights and Gaels. 

The tough-sounding teams always sound tougher when opposed by perceived bad guys. We have two sets of Raiders (only one which is Red), one organized group of Rebels, and one band of Pirates. With all due respect, don’t even get me started on the worthiness of a Devil, regardless of whether it’s Sun(ny) or Blue. No worries. The nice guys still show up, Volunteering from the southeast state of Tennessee. 

Still more teams are a little ambiguous, i.e. the weather-representing Cyclones, the actual color Orange, and then the combination of weather and color found in the men from St. John’s. 

Virginia Tech shares its pride on the hardcourt by depicting what most of their buildings are made from — the Hokie Stone, a limestone common in Southwest Virginia — while Florida State and Oklahoma duly honor their Native American heritage. 

To be truthful, as much as I desire to be inclusive and diverse — I greatly respect them — but I struggle with the athletic nuts from Ohio and the tar, pitch, and turpentine created from the pine forests in North Carolina. There the freedom Flames, too… and the Racers… ah, yes, the Racers. Now there’s a basketball name.

What a great representation of diversity. What a great tournament, too.

May the madness now begin.

Respectfully…

AR

the current, drama triangle

“Too much drama!”

And as I once more reiterate the familiar refrain in our family to my budding young son, he knows exactly what I mean. There is too much drama. Too many theatrics. Too many times a circumstance becomes a spectacle. And too many willing players on the scene. 

Allow me to briefly introduce the “drama triangle.” The roles of the 3 players are clear…

_____

The victim… the one to whom something has happened to — maybe bad — but maybe not… yet when bad things happen, we far prefer to see ourselves as the innocent one… we struggle with how we may have contributed…  

The rescuer… the classic enabler… the hero, if you will… they feel guilty if they don’t help… the challenge with the rescuer is that their involvement keeps the victim dependent and gives the victim continued permission to fail — sometimes so much — often so much — that the victim never has to evaluate how they have contributed to the conflict…  

And the villain… the perceived bad guy… they can be mean-spirited… insistent… maybe even evil.

_____

When we see ourselves as the victims or heroes/rescuers (because none of us ever see ourselves as the bad guy), we actually create villains; we manufacture the miscreants.

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while — wrestling with the realities and fallacies of victimhood — as not everyone who claims to be a victim actuallyis a victim. Something is clouding the picture. So allow me to respectfully ponder further…

is there a relationship between being a victim and identity politics?

I pause, struck by the preposterous, real life example of actor Jussie Smollett, who appeared in court again last week, as one alleged to have intentionally utilized identity politics to concoct a well-defined victim status.

Why actually invent your very own victim status?

Remember that the rescuer comes to the immediate aid of the victim; the rescuer must help. The extent of the facts matters less than the potential depth of offense; the whole truth matters less. The rescuer heroically sweeps into the situation, saying, “Victim, let me help you.”

Together then, the victim and the rescuer create the villain.

Look again at Smollett — a victim in search of a rescuer. Smollett attempted to create a Trump-loving, gay-hating, possibly white villain. Said author Eboo Patel in his diversity blog: “He [Smollett] knew that there would be enough prominent people out there in politics, pop culture, activism, thought leadership, the media and liberal twitter to create a blizzard of support that might just snow over the facts of the case.”

Those prominent people played the role of rescuer. They snowed over the facts. There was zero accountability. When the rescuer and victim align, they forget the need for accountability.

Accountability means a person, institution, etc. must justify their actions or decisions; the facts must back up the feelings. But what’s happening in our current, reactive culture is that the rescuer runs in, aligns with the perceived victim, and creates the villain before all the facts are analyzed. 

That’s what’s happening in our politics…

That’s what’s happening in our media…

That’s what’s happening in us.

They/we are creating some pretty big villains. As comedic genius Billy Crystal once said, “The size of the villain determines the size of the hero. Without Goliath, David is just some punk throwing rocks.”

So I ask more questions than provide answers this day… what big villains are we creating? … where are we forgoing the prudent need for accountability? Where have we allowed the agreement of the victim and rescuer to serve in place of accountability? What role has identity politics played? And where have prominent people in the media played an unhealthy role?

More and more, people are tuning out politics and turning off the media.

“Too much drama,” they say…

Respectfully…

AR

the week in questions

Want a concise, respectful (albeit incomplete) summary as to what the country’s talking about — and not solely reports from singular, slanted sources? 

Time, once more, to summarize recent current events in question form. All answers and opinions are welcome. We simply repeat what we read, as questions prompt listening; listening prompts dialogue; and dialogue leads to solution. Also — and perhaps most important — and consistent with our mantra — respectful dialogue never forgets relationship. Relationship is always important.

Hence, here’s 35 questions — what we’ve seen asked on the news recently…

“Sunrise early enough for you?”

“Why is Luke Perry’s death so personal for many Gen-Xers?”

“Smollett drama to bring down ‘EMPIRE’?”

“What do feds say Huffman, Loughlin, spouses did?”

“Aunt Becky paid $500,000 to bribe her daughters’ way into USC?”

“What’s next for the World Wide Web?”

“Where is the balance between freedom of speech and hate speech?”

“What happens after Robert Mueller delivers his report?”

“Should Trump be impeached?”

“Why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi want to impeach Trump?”

“Do British voters still want a Brexit?”

“Do Americans care about Britain’s next royal birth?”

“Is it a good idea to break up big tech companies?”

“Is Joe Biden Running for President in 2020?”

“Is Beto O’Rourke in or out?”

“What’s up with Biden and Warren?”

“If he runs, would Mark Cuban have a shot at the Presidency?”

“Will woke progressives allow celebrities to be Christian?”

“Do vaccines cause autism?”

“Why didn’t she vaccinate her youngest child?”

“What’s happening in Venezuela?”

“Why are we still debating the merits of socialism?”

“Three decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, what does socialism even mean?”

“What’s in Trump’s 2020 budget proposal?”

“Does President Trump feel as passionate about debt as candidate Trump was?”

“How do you celebrate International Women’s Day?”

“Who’s a lock?”

“Who’s on the bubble?”

“Can Tim Tebow actually be a hit in the majors?”

“What is anti-Semitism?”

“Who’s afraid of Ilhan Omar?”

“Sorry, not sorry?”

“Is it time to worry about the Boeing 737 Max 8?”

“Why did Colton Underwood jump the fence?”  … and…

“Who decides what is fake news?”

Remember: the question mark is the only punctuation piece that invites a response. What would it change in our conversations if no matter the topic, we always invited a response?

Respectfully…

AR

represent us (please)

Something in their messaging attracts me.

Something in their logic draws me in.

And something in their approach seems atypical of current culture.

With current culture seemingly spiraling divisively out of control, I am curious to learn more… 

Hear the initial words of actress Jennifer Lawrence…

“We are witnessing a total political system failure in America. 

If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself constantly overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong with politics. And when I say politics, I’m not talking about Democrats or Republicans. I’m talking about the flaws that exist in our political system regardless of which party is in power. And I know, it’s hard to talk about politics these days, but look: the government is ours; we pay for it, so it needs to work for us. And right now it doesn’t. And I mean it really doesn’t.

So what’s going on here? Is it Russian meddling and social media? Is it him? [Insert picture of Pres. Trump.] Is it her? [Insert picture of Hillary Clinton.] No. Those two were the least popular presidential candidates since they began keeping track of such things. 

Only 4% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in Congress now. Just 4%. America is no longer even considered a full democracy. We are witnessing total political system failure in America. Which is the complete opposite of what our nation’s fathers had in mind…”

Lawrence is a board member and spokesperson for “Represent Us” — a growing group of people, politicians, business persons, and celebrities who no longer believe government represents us.

That means that they don’t believe if they could simply eliminate one of the current parties, branches, or elected individuals, they would then be wisely represented. That means that they don’t believe there exists one party which is all good, all ethical, or that only the other party has lost its so-called way. They have resisted the societal lure to believe that the lesser of two evils, so-to-speak, can somehow translate into one which is good and one which is evil; evil is still evil. Bad is still bad, regardless of what it’s compared to. 

Note some of what Lawrence points out in their now-viral, introductory video…

“Consider this: politicians are spending up to 70% of their time raising funds for re-election after they get into office. Why? Because in order to win a seat in the Senate in some races, you would have to raise $45,000 every single day, 365 days a year for 6 years to raise enough money to win…

Meanwhile, you’ve got lobbyists writing our laws and donating to the politicians who pass them, we have a two-party duopoly of Democrats and Republicans that makes it so that independents can’t win, while the American people are leaving the major parties in droves…”

There’s a reason people are leaving — especially the younger generations. They can see that our system isn’t working; our government isn’t working for us. That’s with or without Donald Trump… and with or without one of the 316 Democrats who think they should replace him.

“Represent Us” recognizes that. Noting that Americans currently self-identify as 25% liberal, 34% moderate, and 36% conservative, we have to find a way for us to work. “This isn’t party identification,” says Lawrence. “This is how you feel, politically.”

We have to stop beating the other party down… acting as if they are stupid… refusing to talk to them. We have to stop refusing to have any likeminded friends… and resisting the veiled hubris that only they are in need of change. 

Liberals speaking to liberals, keeping their lists, and using liberal language is not going to effectively impact the other 61% and make government work again. Conservatives speaking to conservatives, tweeting incessantly, and using conservative language is not going to effectively impact the other 59% and make government represent us once more. We have to learn to speak and respect the language of the other.

“Represent Us” believes that fixing our current broken government is possible. They are bringing conservatives and progressives together to pass anti-corruption laws all across America. They are assembling right-left coalitions, calling out corruption, and building a movement that starts at the municipal and state level. They are listening to the left and the right, wanting to be sure that we are truly represented.

Did I mention that something in their messaging, logic, and approach attracts me?

That something seems atypical of current culture?

Respectfully…

AR

what’s my role?

Rarely do I simply repeat the words of another. CNN news analyst and USA TODAY contributor Kirsten Powers, published a recent piece, however, that deserves to be shared. And shared again. The Intramuralist may or may not agree with every opinion within, but Powers’ approach and main points are acutely admirable. Her post is entitled “I’m not proud of role I’ve played in toxic public debate. I plan to change.” An excerpt is published below, with all emphasis mine. It’s lengthy, but it’s worth reading… if willing to ponder how it personally and potentially powerfully applies…

“Whether it is the Covington controversy or the abortion debate, it’s critical to remember that people are not the sum of their worst moments in life.

I recently took a hiatus from social media to reflect on what role I might be playing in our increasingly toxic public square. I was not proud of what I found.

During this time, I reflected not just on my behavior on social media, but also in my public expressions both on TV and in my columns. I looked back over the past decade of my work with a clear eye to assess whether I was shedding light on issues or just creating heat. I cringed at many of the things I had written and said. Many I would not say or write today, sometimes because my view has changed on the issue and sometimes just because I was too much of a crusader, too judgmental and condemning. What’s interesting is that at the time, I was convinced that I was righteous and ‘speaking truth’ and therefore justified behaving as I did, and that anyone who didn’t like it just ‘couldn’t handle the truth.’ ‘The truth hurts’ was practically my motto.

When I took to Twitter Monday to apologize for my lack of grace in the public square, many people expressed concern that I would stop speaking with moral clarity on important issues. This is not my goal. I will continue to stand on the side of equality and justice, but also mercy and grace. My goal is to speak in a way that remembers the humanity of everyone involved.

That includes the Covington teenagers, who I believe behaved disrespectfully, but who don’t deserve to have their entire lives defined by one day. It includes Trump supporters whom I, in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue of white privilege, not too long ago regrettably characterized as uniformly racist for voting for him. Not exactly a conversation starter.

It also applies to Al Franken, whom I called on to resign from the U.S. Senate but now believe he should have been giving an investigation even if it resulted in cries of ‘hypocrisy’ from the right. It includes Planned Parenthood, which I have excoriated in years past in ways I would never do today. It includes those on the left who were the targets of my 2015 book on free speech, in which I was too dismissive of real concerns by traumatized people and groups who feel marginalized and ignored.

As I surveyed my work, the thing that struck me is how much I have changed. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, let alone 25 years ago. Yet our media routinely dig up information from decades ago and demands judgment be deliveredwith no regard to whether the person has evolved. We need to be more interested in who people are today, not who they were decades ago.

Don’t we want people to change and grow? We should. Yet even if they have, demands for heads to roll abound when their ancient sins are unearthed. When old homophobic tweets by MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid were discovered, there was a clamor for her firing. But did even a single person believe that in her current life she’s a homophobic person?

This is not an argument against accountability. It’s an argument for us to think about whether the punishment fits the crime. Al Franken shouldn’t get the same punishment that Les Moonves did because they didn’t do the same things. As a baseline rule, a person losing his job should not be the default punishment for noncriminal behavior or behavior where there hasn’t been an impartial investigation.

We need to have humility and realize that there but for the grace of God go I. It’s easy to delude yourself that you would never do whatever today’s designated bad person is accused of doing. But don’t be so sure. Given the wrong circumstances, people would be surprised at what they are capable of doing.

We also need to recognize what we are doing: It’s called scapegoating.

In the Bible, a scapegoat was an animal burdened with the sins of others through a ritual, then driven away. This is in effect what our society does when we designate certain people to bear our collective sins. Once it’s discovered that a person behaved in a racist, homophobic or misogynist way — often in the distant past — she is banished from society, creating a sense that something has been accomplished. That somehow there has been atoning because someone was punished.

This creates two problems: First, the systemic problem still exists. Second, one person is not responsible for the sins of everyone. People should not be treated as disposable and banished in perpetuity with no path to restoration with society. Would you want that to happen to you?

It’s critical to remember that people simply are not the sum of their worst moments in life. Go back through your life and write down every terrible thing you have done or said, and now imagine a video of it is on the internet. Would you want that to be the record of your life? Don’t underestimate the power of denial. I frequently hear people who I knew to be homophobic 20 years ago express indignance over anyone who doesn’t support same-sex marriage today with no sense of self-awareness.

I know there is a double standard when it comes to the benefit of the doubt in our culture. People of color, especially young black men, rarely receive the benefit of the doubt or context for their failings and can receive a literal death sentence as a result. I just don’t believe that refusing to provide white people the benefit of the doubt will right that wrong. The way to right it is to have one standard for all people and to actively work to reform a system that is fundamentally discriminatory.

It’s often noted by people on the left that conservatives don’t understand systemic oppression because they think of everything as an individual case. They fail to accept the larger picture that all of those cases create. I agree with this. But the corollary is that sometimes people who are left of center can fall prey to only seeing the systemic and missing the individual. I’m certainly guilty of that.

We need to develop a way to address the systemic problems in society without throwing sacrifices to the gods in the hope of a quick fix. We need to reform a culture that is fundamentally punitive and willing to throw away people’s lives for making a mistake. Our prisons are filled with such people.

We also need to create a culture of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation that is based on those who have made mistakes taking responsibility for those errors — however grievous — and working toward righting the wrong in which they participated.

This would be a radical shift, but one I am determined to make.

I hope you will join me.”

Thank you, Kirsten Powers. I’m in.

Respectfully…

AR

singing

[Originally published March 3, 2016. Deserving of an edited “reboot” for so many reasons…]

When contemplating today’s post, I knew it would be challenging for me to write. It was a year ago yesterday my 34 year old sister lost her courageous battle with cancer. FYI: I don’t like the word “lost” in that sentence. Nicole has always been beautiful and brave. Now, though, I fully trust that she has a far better eternal perspective than any of us here. That doesn’t equate to “losing” to me.

That said, knowing the emotional hurdle necessary to pen any post about anything lesser (which includes all that small stuff we still seem to sweat and the mole hills we make into mountains), I pulled out last year’s post, entitled “That’s My Sister” — a heartfelt tribute to Nicole in how she sharpened me and many… encouraging us to focus on what’s most important… on powerfully showing by example how deeply our faith matters… and on how we can hold onto hope regardless of circumstance.

I get that such is easier said than done. It also would have been easier for me to run with the previously penned post.

Yesterday morning, however, I noticed something. Alone in my quietness — wrestling with the weight and awareness accompanying this sobering anniversary — I heard a single sound…

I heard a bird outside, singing.

Then it donned on me… I know it takes time to grieve — lots of time. And I’m not certain my heart will ever fully be the same; it’s not. But I never want the pain on this planet to keep me from hearing the bird outside, singing.

I believe that those who’ve faithfully gone before us — those who now have that unprecedented, unspeakable, unparalleled, eternal perspective — would encourage us to quit sweating the small stuff… to quit getting bogged down in the daily crud of life that causes us to be so demanding and self-focused… to quit dividing us… to quit encouraging the shouting and the hating and the looking down on someone… to quit being so awful to one another. I believe they would instead encourage us to…

Keep the focus on what’s most important…
Grapple with your faith…
Come near to God…
Hold onto hope…
And never be so bogged down with the messiness of life that we miss the bird outside, singing.

Nicole, too, had a blog in which she sometimes chronicled her experience. In one of her final posts, she shared the following:

“As this journey may be tough for me, I know that many others are struggling with something in their life and I just ask that you take a moment and say a prayer for them. This weighs heavy on my heart, feeling like I have it pretty easy compared to so many others out there…”

Crazy, that from her vantage point, she was still so focused on others. Not self.

She continued…

“That being said, I would like to share

‘… I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun…’ ”

I hear her voice. I hear her hope. I also believe with all the wisdom Nicole has now she would encourage us to not get lost in the current events, emotions, and circumstances that threaten to pierce our peace; she would encourage us to trust God… and to always hear those birds…

…outside, singing.

With truth in my tears…

AR

who do you believe?

I keep wrestling with the following Q’s:

Who do you believe and why do you believe them?

Jussie Smollett…

Justin Fairfax…

[Pick a person… any person…]

Do I believe in someone because they are a man? … because they are a woman? … because they are black? … because they are white? … because they are gay? … because they are straight? … because they are conservative? … because they are liberal?

Do I believe them because I have a shared experience? … the expressed emotions are the same as mine?

Is there an aspect of their story or their situation or their personhood that resonates deeply within me?

Is there an aspect to which I am partial?

When Jussie Smollett’s story was initially shared — a man whose self-publicized account was that he was assaulted by two men of unidentified color who wore MAGA hats and shouted racial and homophobic slurs — did we decide what we believe about the story because we identify with a specific ethnicity, sexuality, or hatred of “Make America Great Again” hats?

Or… 

Did we decide what we believe about the story because we do not identify with a specific ethnicity, sexuality, or hatred of those hats?

What about the nation’s supreme summer saga…

… Christine Blasey Ford… Brett Kavanaugh…

What decided what you believe?

Or the better question — and no doubt the harder question…

Was it something other than evidence?

(I just have a gut feel…)

In every circumstance or scenario, the potential for partiality exists; it often provokes deep emotion within us — emotion understandably tied to gender, ethnicity, or that shared experience. But when evidence becomes secondary to emotion — and the truth then becomes secondary to our judgment — we have a problem.

Our increasingly, rash, reactive culture seems to have flippantly dismissed the prudence in due process and the wisdom in the presumption of innocence; too many now say too often that such is unnecessary. Even the intelligent lambast what they have failed to take the time to completely comprehend. They lambast based on emotion — not evidence.

Remember the boys of Covington Catholic? … the teens who were panned by the Washington Post and multiple other news outlets, pundits, and celebrities a month ago? A third party investigation recently cleared the young men of any wrongdoing, saying they found no proof of “racist or offensive statements by students.” Those news outlets, pundits and celebrities — and even many of us — allowed our emotion to dictate our perception of truth. 

Let’s be clear, friends: perception does not equal truth.

Truth will always be most important.

Respectfully…

AR

a word from this HR director

Little publicized by this semi-humble, current events observer, my primary professional background is in Human Resources. With two Bachelors — one in Business Management and the other in Consumer Affairs — HR seemed a sweet set up for me. I have been blessed with an HR tenure that’s included a phenomenal BFF mentor, some incredible peers (love you, Chef), the privilege to work with precious, diverse people groups, and the continued opportunity to consult still today.

As any HR professional will tell you, the work days can be unpredictable. Sure, there exists standard meetings, month-end activity, reviews and analysis. But since Human Resources (HR) is the umbrella term focusing on the management and development of all employees, any one thing that happens to any one employee can alter the course of the day. 

Sometimes it’s a slight alter… like perceiving one employee who would benefit from a little added affirmation…

I think of my sweet friend, Donald, an employee mentioned here in one of our very first blog posts. From the first day this middle-aged man walked into my office — and we sat side-by-side for well over an hour, while he filled out his application and even misspelled his own name — I would take time to affirm him often. I learned so much from this sensitive, expressive man.

Sometimes the altering of a day is far more… 

Like the soon-to-be-terminated employee who locked himself on property — then called the local station and activist group, saying he was being discriminated against. Never mind he neglected to share any details of his poor performance record and had also decided that day to cook breakfast, in a nice restaurant, in a public setting, in front of our clients, in his flip flops, spandex shorts, with no scalp nor facial hair protection, but still a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Excellent HR professionals will always be marked by their flexibility and fair-mindedness, compassion and problem-solving skills.

With last week’s news dominated by talks of socialism, Smollett, and the seemingly seventieth person to enter the Democratic presidential race, this former HR director has still been thinking about what happened a little over a week ago in Aurora, Illinois.

In Aurora, an employee of 15 years was told he was being terminated for “workplace rules violations.” Perceived to be angry about his dismissal, he later pulled out a gun and started to fire.

Killed in the fire were five individuals…

Josh Pinkard was the plant manager at the company.

Vicente Juarez was a stockroom attendant and forklift operator.

Russell Beyer was a mold operator; he reportedly was sitting in on the meeting, because previously, he had tried to help the terminated employee improve his performance.

Clayton Parks was the human resources manager.

And then there was Trevor Wehner.

Trevor Wehner was an intern — a Human Resource intern. This was his first day on the job.

No doubt my heart breaks any time the life of the innocent is taken, but something in this hurts more. As an HR professional, I certainly understand the tension of the moment; personally, before most terminations, I said a quick prayer to the good Lord above. But rarely would I have thought the intentional taking of someone’s life would be at stake. This was an awful, awful act.

Truthfully, I have little more to say. I have no primary point to make nor impassioned stand to take today. Not even a heartfelt plea. I suppose more than anything, I just wanted to pause. I thought we should stop long enough in this rapid-paced, cultural news cycle to focus on the victims… especially on Trevor. 

On Wednesday of the past week, Sheridan, Illinois buried their 21-year-old, hometown son. Trevor was a senior at Northern Illinois University, finishing up his study of Human Resources and Business. He is described by his family as a fun-loving young man, who had “a smile that would light up the room.” He “never met a stranger” and always had “a silly joke or comment” to share.

I sit back… soberly reflecting… noting how HR professionals are typically tasked with affirming the excellent, encouraging the norm, and either improving or dismissing that which is considered substandard — all at the same time. It can be a very fulfilling and fraught job — often on the very same day.

God be with the family and friends of each of the victims in Aurora. May we pause long enough to remember you. May each of the five rest in peace.

Respectfully… 

AR

who is dividing us? (see below)

People justify disrespect, deceit, and division by pointing to someone else. I get it; the end justifies the means. And the other person is always said to have done it first.

But maybe the means isn’t justified. And maybe that’s part of current culture’s huge problem.

Note the following recent, brief excerpt from ABC’s popular “Good Morning America,” in which host Robin Roberts interviewed Jussie Smollett, a well-known black, gay actor, who reported being assaulted on the 29th of January:

Roberts: “I’m Robin Roberts in New York. Musician and actor Jussie Smollett sat down with me for his first interview since that night in Chicago. Smollett told me how he’s doing now and responds to those who doubt his account.”

Smollett: [teary] “I’m pissed off.”

Roberts: “What is it that has you so angry? The attackers?”

Smollett: “It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks. It’s like, you know, at first it was a thing of like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth, then that’s it, ‘cause it’s the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that? Like how do, how do you not believe that?’ It’s the truth. And then it became a thing of, ‘Oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth; you don’t even want to see the truth.’”

[emphasis mine]

Roberts then asks Smollett to share what happened that night. Smollett describes the events… having no food in his apartment, he went out “for a smoke,” ran to Subway, got his order, was on the phone with his manager, when someone called out “Empire,” suggesting Smollett was identified by the TV show he’s on. Smollett then starts by sharing details how “the attacker, masked” initiated the confrontation by using racial, homophobic slurs and talked about this being “MAGA country.” They started fighting — Smollett and two others — putting a rope around Smollett’s neck, but walking away. He admittedly couldn’t tell you much about his attackers — couldn’t see much in the icy cold of Chicago at two o’clock in the morning. He didn’t have any measurable injuries, but said he was “in a lot of pain” and his clavicle was a little messed up.

The media reacted immediately. Said CNN’s Brooke Baldwin in response: “He [Smollett] said his attackers hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him. This is America in 2019.”

Except that it’s not. Yes, there are slurs and division fueled and fed by the left, right, even CNN. There are awful, awful hate crimes. But there’s a problem.

Smollett’s story is not believed to be true. As more info has been released, the Chicago police no longer consider Smollett a victim; in fact, the investigation is now focused on whether or not Smollett made up the entire account, maybe even practiced, staged, and purchased the props beforehand. Note, too, that there exists no evidence nor eyewitness of the attack — even though CNN, etal. ran with the hate crime story. We thus must ask:

(1) What narrative did this play into that CNN, etal. seemed wanting to promote?

And (2) Where else is the media rushing to judgment because it plays into their desired narrative?

Let’s go back to more of Smollett’s actual words with Robin Roberts — said after the incident but before the police and the public started to conclude that Smollett was once again acting…

Roberts: “Why do you think you were targeted?”

Smollett: “I can just assume [breaks into broad smile]… I mean, I come really, really hard against 45 [Trump]. I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue…”

Roberts: “And there is no doubt in your mind what motivated this attack?”

Smollett: “I can only go off of their words. I mean, who says ‘f*** Empire ***** — this MAGA country’, ties a noose around your neck, and pours bleach on you?…”

And one more line, when questioned about some of the initial doubt, before, of course, it was believed that Jussie Smollett concocted the entire scenario…

Smollett: “That says a lot about the place where we are in our country right now — the fact that we have these fear mongers. These people are trying to separate us, and it’s just not ok.”

That indeed says a lot. It indeed is not ok. It’s not ok for any hate crime to occur; it’s also not ok for any man or woman to make something up nor the media to irresponsibly run with it. 

Hence, no man nor woman should ever be assaulted. No man nor woman should have the whole truth not believed. But no man nor woman should also ever create, share, and promote a mistruth, believing divisively, that the end somehow justifies the means. 

Respectfully…

AR

I wish I didn’t care…

I wish I didn’t care…

I wish I didn’t care that Pres. Trump is circumventing Congress to finance the porous wall between the United States and Mexico.

I wish I didn’t care about the precedent it sets.

I wish I didn’t care that many immediately opposed him — but then mentioned their own national emergencies.

I wish I didn’t care that for both, it seems more about the 2020 election than about any actual, pressing emergency.

I wish I didn’t care that I wonder if Democrats and Republicans really know what an emergency is.

I wish I didn’t care that they change what they say depending on who’s in office.

I wish I didn’t care that it’s all so political.

I wish I didn’t care that they fight more about gun violence than respectfully discuss what works and what doesn’t.

I wish I didn’t care that it’s all so partisan.

I wish I didn’t care that they all spend too much money.

I wish I didn’t care about the anti-Semitic, anti-anyone things they keep saying.

I wish I didn’t care that the extremists in each party have such a loud voice.

I wish I didn’t care that representatives seem worse than senators — most likely because they serve 2-year terms instead of 6 — and thus seem in constant, running-for-office mode.

I wish I didn’t care that they treat one another so poorly.

I wish I didn’t care that they encourage us to treat each other poorly.

I wish I didn’t care how opinion-disguised-as-news fuels the poor treatment.

I wish I didn’t care that I don’t trust the news.

I wish I didn’t care about the abundant, disrespectful memes.

I wish I didn’t care about the “in-your-face-ness” of social media.

I wish I didn’t care that so many utilize another’s past disrespectful response to justify their own current disrespectful response.

I wish I didn’t care that so many can’t see their own justification of disrespect.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the profound wisdom of our historic, core values…

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the wisdom of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the wisdom of, in humility, considering others before yourself.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have dismissed the actual wisdom of humility.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have forgotten that the great big God of the universe is the only effective avenger of wrongs.

I wish I didn’t care that so many have forgotten about the great big God of the universe.

I wish I didn’t care that so many seem unaware of the unparalleled wisdom, insight and grace that only the great big God of the universe provides.

I wish I didn’t care that sometimes I have been unaware of the unparalleled wisdom, insight and grace that only the great big God of the universe provides.

I wish I didn’t care.

But I do.

And because I do, I commit to loving all mankind well, listening and learning from the unlike, engaging in respectful dialogue, seeking solution, and submitting to a God who will always be far wiser than we.

Respectfully…

AR