Kavanaugh questions

With the latest developments in the Supreme Court confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Senate leaders called for a public hearing next Monday. At the time of this posting, accuser Christine Blasey Ford has not accepted the Senate’s invitation; hence, the hearing may not happen.

But assuming it does, according to Senate rules, the question-asking of those testifying before a committee can be assigned to any individual. Recognizing that unpretentious, respectful, truth-seeking questions are most necessary, the Intramuralist has been assigned to the task before us. Under oath, I’d sincerely like to ask the following…

To the accuser…

  • Is this true?
  • Is any part of this exaggerated?
  • Why do you remember specifically what happened but do not remember where you where, when you were there, and why you were there?
  • Why did you edit your social media accounts to remove previously posted progressive ties?

To the accused…

  • Is this true?
  • Is there any angle or aspect which is partially true?
  • How well have you known your accuser?
  • Did any of your friends have a relationship with her?
  • How have you grown or changed emotionally and spiritually since high school?

To the Senate Judiciary Committee…

  • Who leaked this story?
  • Why?
  • Sen. Feinstein, why did you wait 7 weeks before sharing this information?
  • Why didn’t you ask Kavanaugh about it in committee or in a private, closed door session?
  • Did you intentionally withhold this information for political reasons?
  • Sen. Grassley, why did you immediately suggest the vote would go on as planned and not take time to listen to the accuser?
  • Do you not believe that every accuser has a right to be heard?
  • Are you intentionally rushing hearings for political reasons?
  • Democrats, since many of you admitted you would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh even before meeting him and hearing his testimony, how much of this is:
  1. an attempt to delay in hopes of getting closer or past the midterm elections, hoping to fan the flames of the #MeToo movement? Or…
  2. an attempt to damage Kavanaugh’s credibility as a future justice? 
  • Republicans, since many of you admitted you would vote to confirm Kavanaugh even before meeting him and hearing his testimony, how many of you are actually willing to sincerely listen to the accuser and consider her account as potentially true?
  • To all of you, what other motives are in play?
  • Do you recognize that your lack of objectivity is making many of us wish to support none of you?
  • And do you realize that your behavior is prompting many of us to lose respect for our government?

And to those of us watching…

  • Why do we allow our partisan leanings to sway our perception of truth?
  • Are tribal lines more important than truth?
  • Where have we not believed the accuser because we liked the person she accused?
  • Why do we respond differently to whether the accused is Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Keith Ellison or Kavanaugh?

And more…

  • In the #MeToo movement, should the accuser always be believed?
  • On whom rests the burden of proof?
  • Do we recognize that for the accuser who is telling the truth, it takes tremendous courage to speak up even after many years?
  • Is it possible that Ford is telling the truth, but got the person wrong?
  • Could Ford and Kavanaugh both be telling what they believe to be true?
  • Does evidence matter?
  • Do witnesses matter?
  • Does a non-criminal scenario this old matter?
  • And can we admit that the only two people in the entire world who have some semblance of the truth are Christine Ford and Brett Kavanaugh? … and that none of us… none of the rest of us… can specifically discern what happened?

We weren’t there.

(I’m not the question-asker either.)

Respectfully…

AR

race, in the airport…

“F- – – YOU!”

“F- – – YOU!” (…a little louder than the last…)

And as it was said at least three more times each, my African-American friend in-line and I looked at one another, grimacing, disheartened by what we had sadly just stood between.

My respite this summer included a variety of interactions and travels… some with family, some with the familiar, others still to a foreign land.

On one such venture, I was traveling alone, attempting to grab a quick bite before catching my next flight. I stopped in the airport at one of those make-your-own, fast-fire pizza joints, hoping to grab something quick and be distracted by nothing else. Unfortunately, I was distracted immediately.

The pizza place was packed. The lines were long, the pace was fast, and the workers were seemingly drowning, attempting to simply keep up. 

It’s tough when you’re drowning; you’re trying to keep up at a minimum, survive it seems, maybe do the best you can; but at the very least, the desire is simply to hold all things together. The staff here was trying, but it was challenging at best. Smiles were at a minimum. Scarce, in fact. Ok, nonexistent. The chaotic pace had zapped any otherwise present joy.

I met a young African-American male in line; our conversation was brief but solid — each in search of a brief respite before our connecting flight.

The pizza place staff was very ethnically mixed — black, white, Hispanic. The manager was a middle-aged white male, who by all accounts, was also in a pretty steely mood; in restaurant terminology, he was totally, completely “in the weeds.”

Prior to placing my order, there was a 30-something, African-American woman who placed her order. In addition to her pizza, she purchased an empty cup. She and what looked like maybe her mother took a seat a row behind my in-line friend and me, while her male counterpart stood at the counter awaiting her order… and yes, her cup.

So amid the crowd stood my newfound friend and me and the man who was retrieving the order for the African-American woman. We stood between the woman, the counter, and the store manager.

When the pizza was finally retrieved for the woman, the manager forgot to give her the cup. Her friend retrieved the pizza but failed to realize the importance of the cup. The woman started yelling — a semi-silent yell at this point. Her friend looked at her confusingly; he didn’t understand. She responded semi-loudly, “My cup! Don’t forget my cup!”

Her friend turned to the manager behind the counter, saying nothing, but politely gesturing and pointing to the cup. The manager — trying to manage at least 7 other orders simultaneously — was seemingly aware something was happening, but was unsure of exactly what it was…

“Get my damn cup! I paid for that damn cup!” the woman more loudly reiterated from a row away.

At this point, the manager seemed unaware of the specifics but very aware that one of his customers was annoyed with him and his marketplace. He looked up, seemingly stupefied at the perceived annoyance. He obviously didn’t care for the ratcheting up of emotion, and then started to get gruffer with those in his immediate presence, not realizing the cup was of chief importance. It mattered not… the woman continued…

“I paid for that cup! Check the frickin’ receipt!!” (Note: “frickin” is a substitute for the actual, so-called “French.”)

The manager proceeded to get hot. He grabbed a cup, gave it to the woman’s friend, but clearly, disrespectfully mumbled vulgarities under his breath. Meanwhile, the woman continued, dissatisfied at the lack of expedient service… 

“I am not a poor Nigger! I am not a poor Nigger! I can afford anything I want! Want to see my bank account?? I am not a poor Nigger!” 

She said it over and over again. My heart hurt for her.

The manager at this point was clearly, increasingly irked. He started shouting at her. Who said “f-you” first,” I do not know. They both just kept shouting at one another, focused most on their own circumstances, irritations and inconvenience.

My newfound African-American friend of mine… well, he and I just looked at each other, and sadly shook our heads. I was so thankful for him — for our bond amidst the discomfort. We both hated being there… being in the middle. If either of us could have made a significant difference, we would have done so. But here were two people who were clearly upset, and could see nothing other than their own circumstances. They could not see any other way.

I was thankful for my new friend. We shook our heads, nodding a sober goodbye, both wishing for something better and more.

We realized the absence of authentic communication — more so, the absence of any actual desire to communicate. We walked away, grimacing, disheartened by what we had sadly just stood between.

Respectfully…

AR

the Serena Williams experiment

So I ran a small, experiment this past weekend. Bear with me. It was a sincere, semi-intentional ploy, with no desire to manipulate, but to learn.

And learn I did.

Other than Intramuralist notifications, rarely do I post anything on my social media accounts other than an encouragement, expression of gratitude, or an especially clever comment by one of my kids. But as I was watching the U.S. Open women’s tennis final unfold, I decided to react.

Most are now aware of what happened Saturday night…

Tennis great Serena Williams had lost the first set to Naomi Osaka. Osaka was playing exceptional tennis. Early in the second set, Serena was beginning to rally, with the pro-Serena, New York crowd clearly rooting her on. Umpire Carlos Ramos then noticed a hand gesture from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, considered to be “coaching.” Under Grand Slam event rules, coaching is defined as “communication, advice or instruction of any kind by any means to a player.” It is not allowed. Hence, Williams was given a warning by the umpire. One of the controversies — as shared unanimously by the expert announcers — is that coaching violations are inconsistently applied.

Then after moving ahead in the second set, but dropping her serve to make it 3-2, Williams smashed her racket on the court in heated frustration. That is an automatic rules violation. Since it was Serena’s second code violation, she was penalized a point.

Not long thereafter, while sitting on the sidelines prior to the players changing ends, Williams continued to argue with the umpire. She passionately defended herself, saying she does not cheat, and that she was owed an apology. She was angry and loud. She accused Ramos of being a “thief,” having “stolen” the previously awarded point. Considered as verbal abuse, Ramos then assessed a third violation, resulting in an entire game penalty, putting Osaka up 5-3.

The arguing continued, with tournament officials even entering the court, with whom Williams would continue to plead her case. After an extended delay, play resumed with both players visibly shaken. Osaka would proceed to win, 6-2 6-4, but the umpire exited to a raucous chorus of boos, shared by fans obviously agitated with how Williams was treated. The boos continued during the award ceremony, silenced only when Serena asked the crowd to stop, wanting to ensure Osaka received her just acknowledgement and award.

Typically, when reacting to a controversial current event, I like to take some time and wrestle with all sorts of varied angles. I like to read and study and pray for discernment, seeking foremost to understand. I like to think things through… think who it affects… and think: “what am I missing?”

But in my small experiment, I did nothing of the sort. Instead… 

I reacted. I intentionally omitted context. I only posted the following: “I’ve never seen a US Open like this. Way to still handle it with class, Serena.”

The reality is that I never have seen an Open like Saturday night. The crowd’s reaction seemed unprecedented.

And handling it with “class”? That was in reference to Serena silencing the crowd in order to honor Osaka. I was — and still am — amazed at how in the moment, Serena felt called to console her opponent.

But in order to allow my only comment to focus on how Serena honored Osaka and handled the crowd, I had to ignore how Serena berated the umpire. Our culture isn’t very good at respecting authority, and if that was my kid out there, I would be disappointed and dismayed.

What is equally true is if I only focused on how Serena berated the umpire, I would have had to ignore the fact that on the men’s circuit, many are known to be significantly more emotional and vulgar — and not necessarily receive a code violation.

In other words, in order to make my point — in order to believe that only one perspective was correct — I had to ignore another angle.

And so I learned… when we react, when we omit context… when we fail to take the time to sort through varied angles, read, study, and pray for that discernment — we are most tempted to ignore something significant… something that might broaden our perspective… and something that might give us more grace for one who thinks differently. 

What are we missing, friends?

And how often should we be asking that question?

Respectfully…

AR

throwing the stone

“… They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, ‘The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.’”

Like many, this semi-humble current events observer listened to much of the Senate confirmation hearings for current Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Like many, also, this semi-humble current events observer eventually turned the hearings off.

While there did exist moments which were seemingly productive, insightful and indicative of both sincere praise and authentic concern, too many moments were partisan, disrespectful, and disappointing.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) seemed to sense something similar. While she is one who has expressed valid concern with Kavanaugh sitting on the high court, after multiple interruptions and disruptions, her opening statement on Wednesday included an actual apology to the nominee, saying, “I’m sorry for the circumstances, but we’ll get through it.” She was then immediately mocked by many on Twitter… for having the audacity to apologize.

How disappointing.

The confirmation process has become partisan.

Attack ads begin immediately. Senators make up their minds before meeting the nominee. Parties hold closed-door strategy sessions, hoping to derail the process. They focus on ensuring their tribe sticks together, as opposed to sincerely vetting and evaluating a potential, future judge. Maybe the tribe can disrupt the process; better yet, perhaps they can discredit the candidate going forward. It’s evident with some of the harsher opposition to Kavanaugh now, just as it was evident in 2016, when Pres. Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland was ignored.

That’s just it. Both parties do it.

And what’s sadly unfortunate, is that many of us suggest it’s ok. Wait…

It’s ok for one of them.

Why?

Because they threw the stone first.

Question: since when did any stone throwing become acceptable behavior?

As the summer of 2018 came to a close, one of the most bittersweet, beautiful occurrences was the gathering to celebrate the life and faith of Sen. John McCain. It was amazing on so many levels… hearing from his family… hearing from both political rivals and friends… being inspired by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

John McCain was a statesman. In fact, as I learned more from tuning into the multiple memorial services, few seemed as fierce as either friend or foe. But McCain still advocated for respect.

In some of the late Senator’s last words delivered on the Senate floor a year before his death, McCain shared the following:  [emphasis mine]

“… Our deliberations today — not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities — authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role — are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline — either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it…”

Who shot first?

Who threw the first stone?

It doesn’t matter… we’ve all played some role in it.

We, my friends, can do better. 

Respectfully…

AR

how great it is/was/is

WOW… how great it is to be back… I am eager and excited and pouncing to post as we get back in the swing of our weekly, respectful conversations.

But WOW… how great it was to feature our 10th annual Guest Writer Series… What a privilege it was to hear varied perspective from a diverse group of people! And how awesome it was to see the hundreds of you that read or participated in this year’s offering — including the many of you who privately reached out to say, “I can’t comment, but I’m reading and watching — and yes, learning from someone who thinks differently than me.”

Allow me to affirm and applaud that.

Since the origin of the Intramuralist, I have said that listening to me is not what’s most important. In fact (and listen closely, in case I’m never again quite so humble), sometimes what I write is wrong. Sometimes my perspective is off. And sometimes I don’t even know it. 

But in the world in which we now live, I never wish to insulate the echo chamber. Echo chamber residents only hear the sound of their own voice… their own opinion. And maybe an opinion is wise at one time… but if it never sharpens… if it’s never stretched… if it’s never challenged to say, “Look, there are other angles,” then I think we sacrifice the greatest wisdom.

I especially enjoyed the wisdom and other angles shared in this year’s series. This group of varied gender, ethnicity, faith, and political perspective had some poignant lines that made many of us think… i.e. 

“We have to allow ourselves to walk in the freedom of knowing that we are all on level ground; we are not so different from one another.”

“When five or more justices think they know better based on any reasoning whatsoever except for what the Constitution says, that is not democracy.”

“For many of us this ‘want-need’ struggle still affects our lives, especially if we are trying to follow the Biblical truths that address the acquisition of ‘getting’ and the teachings on ‘giving.’  But what if those truths mean we would really have more, not less?”

“When others have an offense against another, is it right for the offended person to hate the perceived hater?” 

“Many preach love, but discharge hate when the office holder is not in their camp. Many preach tolerance, but end relationships because of political views.”

“[Trump] could not have risen to power were it not for the toxic political environment that existed before he was elected. He knows how to take advantage of uncivil discourse, but it did not start with him, and it will not go away after his presidency unless we do something about it.”

“Hillary hears you and is intrigued by opposing viewpoints and tries to incorporate them into solutions. Voters rarely saw this side of Hillary.”

“To say we have not seen any change to race relations would not be truthful. To say there is not still much work to do would also would not be truthful. My advice is to acknowledge and embrace the positive changes that have occurred.”

“The bottom line is we all play a role in each other’s lives. We have to ask ourselves how we can be a part of the solution… Can we listen without judging?”

Great to ponder, no doubt. 

And so I return with much more to discuss… from Mollie Tibbetts to John McCain to a Bahamian grocery clerk who inadvertently taught me an eye-opening, humbling lesson… to witnessing the counter screaming encounter in the airport… to the excellent, diverse books I read… to attempting to discern where God’s compassion and sovereignty meet — and how many of us are better at embracing only one of those… to voting third party and the existence of the Electoral College… to Joe Biden, Lindsay Graham, the “three amigos,” and voting for the “nice guys”… to my young son’s profound lesson on racism — and what it taught me…

I love our Guest Writer Series for so many reasons — most of all, because it is the manifestation of welcoming diverse perspective, an excellent habit for us all. Note that I also love the intentional respite it provides, firing me up for a fruitful return.

“So let the games begin, friends!” Remember all are welcome to play.

We play sincerely, often seriously, but always, always, respectfully.

Respectfully Indeed…

AR

fixing the world

[Intramuralist Note: Today features Guest Writer #9 in our annual summer series; the opinions expressed may or may not be held by me, but I value the writer’s expression and their commitment to respect…]

My wife and I are very social. We love having friends and family over. We live in a tourist destination, so we have been fortunate and only once, unfortunately (it was the guest from hell – another blog post will detail that encounter), to host many of our family and friends in the 22+ years since we have lived here. Apparently, our adult girls have acquired or learned our social graces. Our house was always the home where apparently parents felt safe enough to leave their kids with us. We have watched our girls and their friends grow up to be mostly mature and productive young adults. Most have managed to get some college and vocational training. In fact a few not only have degrees, but advanced degrees. So I’m pleased where they seem to be headed. 

Each of my girls have their own places; in fact, my youngest is now a homeowner. My eldest is still working towards that. Somehow, however, our home is still a gathering place. Many Sundays, holidays or days off they seem to find a way to their old nest. My wife and I still refer to their rooms as “the girls’ rooms.” Even though they have not been in those rooms for at least 2 years, we still have memories that are mostly great for the 18 years or so they lived here. Some of those years had absences for both away schooling and a small military experience (another day’s article on that military experience, as well).

The interesting thing about their frequent drop-ins is that their friends seem to know when they are here and also drop in. So my food budget is seemingly ruined week after week. Most of them are pretty good eaters. They also don’t mind enjoying a few adult beverages. I still have some trouble handling that, as I am not a drinker, but they do drink responsibly, so I am comforted by that.

What my wife and I get from this obviously uneven exchange is we get to have a dialogue from 20 somethings. They are very vocal about likes, dislikes, social issues, politics, and entertainment. Thanks to them I can span the conversation from artists as diverse as Ed Sheeran and Elton John, from Beyonce to Kelly Clarkson to Drake. I have a playlist — thanks to my nephew — that rivals any top 40 station… did you know the groups Imagine Dragons and The Killers are both local Las Vegas bands? … did you also know the group Florida-Georgia Line actually originated in Nashville, Tennessee? … pretty cool, eh ? All these things I learned by listening or engaging in their dinner conversations.

So yes, we enjoy the dialogue, but what, do you ask, troubles this writer?

It seems this generation is looking to solve all the world’s problems in one swift stroke. They are concerned about climate change, political discord, racism, whether our food is from Non-GMO sources or not… we’ve discussed gun control, Black Lives Matter, the MeToo movement and other issues at our kitchen table’s version of the United Nations. All these issues are worthwhile causes to discuss. Every single issue represented here is worthy of its own blog piece. In fact, I wrote on climate change last year. AR, who is responsible for this space, must have also enjoyed it because she invited me to return this year.

The main difference that I explain to my children and their friends is that as mentioned, while these causes are worthwhile, their generation seems to want to solve every issue today. Today. In fact, it seems as if today is too late; these should have been solved yesterday. I have explained, for instance, that an issue like racism has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Using Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example, I have shared that in his iconic, 1963 “I have a dream” speech, he begins each stanza by saying, “I have a dream that one day…” In other words, MLK knew that to change minds and legislation, it would be an involved process. To say we have not seen any change to race relations would not be truthful. To say there is not still much work to do would also would not be truthful. My advice is to acknowledge and embrace the positive changes that have occurred. 

I still encourage them to continue to push for changes in racial equality and other issues they embrace, but to understand it will change only through smart, strategic methodologies. Shouting down people you disagree with politically or otherwise just makes a lot of noise and prompts sound bites on the evening news. Saying that, I don’t suggest people should be passive, but instead seek out likeminded people and organizations and craft ideas to truly help — not solely incite and inflame. 

In speaking with the younger folks, I see the passion in youth desiring change. What I don’t always see is full knowledge of the issues. Their understanding is often at an emotional level and not necessarily fact-filled, as a frequent response is “well, I heard this” or “saw this or that.” When pressed, superficiality is often apparent.

With no desire to embarrass for not grasping the depth of the subject matter, I usually say, “Let’s pick this conversation up another time.” Usually, the subject matter is not brought back up, but it seems a new norm to have multiple issues and causes that our young folks focus on. Or perhaps it is a lack of focus. 

My focus — my passion — is about hunger. Not only work in an industry that helps the situation, but my money and attention are focused on that cause. In my church, the food pantry ministry is the largest single, itemized contribution to which I give time and money. So while I realize there are a zillion-and-one causes in the world, I concentrate on one that not only can I speak about, but actually, also, do something to help.

While solving all the world’s issues by the younger generation seems noble, it is actually doing a disservice by not focusing the needed attention on something they can actually affect. I would love to see less shouting and name calling of those they disagree with. I would love to see smart action on their part. All those causes not being solved, can only lead to frustration and inevitably disillusion. I would rather see us work together on singular issues where we can get closer to the solution we seek. I, too, would love to push a button and fix everything, but this is not going to happen. The world is not a perfect place and never will be, but we can chip away at some of its problems one chip at a time. That is how we can all sculpt this world into the masterpiece we desire. 

Respectfully…

DG

Hillary was my choice

[Intramuralist Note: Today features Guest Writer #8 in our annual summer series; the opinions expressed may or may not be held by me, but I value the writer’s expression and their commitment to respect…]

Hillary was my choice for President…

She was my choice for President of the United States because she had a sense of duty, was articulate and thoughtful in her delivery and had weathered many storms both personally and professionally. Hillary had a long history of fighting for people outside the mainstream society who weren’t recognized as equals. Hillary had changed, mellowed and become more reflective through the years. She was a trailblazer in many ways as she had years of work on children’s, women’s and other issues for those without a voice. Yes, she had flaws and years of unfavorable press that were both justified and unjustified. Many people just didn’t like her.

Yet, it was her “lack of likability” that I respected the most in her. Hillary demonstrated to me she could distance herself from the emotion and separate the politics of situations, allowing her to not only analyze situations in isolation but to recreate multiple potential scenarios to find a creative solution. She understood complex relationships. She was criticized for staying with Bill, but she survived being humiliated beyond what anyone deserves and still raised a poised daughter. This spoke to me greatly. I have profound respect for her as the “comeback kid.” I especially admire the number of miles she logged internationally. The fact President Putin didn’t trust her or “like” her told me she was able to stand up to foreign powers. She was never given credit for her role of taking out Bin Laden.

It bothered me that many voters questioned her faith. To have survived the many positions she had that were not traditionally held by women, her husband’s indiscretions, and the amount of negative press she had, I found her resiliency to be a result of having great faith. How else would you continue to find the strength to go forward?

Admittedly, she was not an effective campaigner and didn’t have the likability factor that many voters need to feel a connection with a candidate. Voters want to feel as if they can sit down with a candidate over coffee to tell their story. They want to like the person. If they “like” the candidate, they turn a blind eye to the issues. Hillary could never get over this obstacle. Bill Clinton had to learn how to be personable with voters. He learned from his first loss as Governor. Hillary was always too academic in her approach for many voters. Simple sound bites resonate with voters; the bites allow people to make connections. Hillary always explained things beyond what was necessary. 

Ironically, knowing her, she is very personable and warm when you speak with her one-on-one.  She is probably one of the best listeners I have ever known. She has an uncanny ability listen to your words and translate them in the way you intended to be heard. Hillary hears you and is intrigued by opposing viewpoints and tries to incorporate them into solutions. Voters rarely saw this side of Hillary.

This last presidential election was very interesting. There seemed the perfect storm sociologically. It was reflective of many changes, fears and lack of hope in the American society.  As previously “dismissed” groups like those in the LBTBQ community, African-Americans, newer groups of immigrants and women became acknowledged as equals and “white privilege” became a discussion topic, the heightened amount of cognitive dissonance challenged many “norms” and values. Couple this with declining blue collar industrial opportunities due to increased technology impacting manufacturing jobs and the decline of the coal industry, the perfect storm was created. Whether you liked or disliked candidate Obama, he created “hope” for many voters. For many Americans, I think candidate Donald Trump did the same in his direct attacks and simple messaging. Hillary never found a way to “connect” with the very voters she could have helped through policy changes and administrative practices. She didn’t create a sense that “we can do this together” in areas where she needed the electoral vote.

She was hurt by Bush and Clinton fatigue and by the fact she was female.  Americans had many issues and wanted a “change,” for good or bad. I would argue that Hillary would have brought stability to the Presidency by having been one of the most experienced, qualified candidates who had ever run for the office of President. She had been First Lady, a U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of State, and a mom who had protected her child from cruel taunts; she was a survivor of an unfaithful husband who brought shame to the family and was as well-versed in policy as a person can be. To me she understood global issues and had the ability to make a difference in how the United States was viewed worldwide. 

Hillary understands policies and how they are translated into everyday life. I am disappointed that we will never know what type of President she would have been, but I do believe since she took so many “hits” that the next woman candidate for President will find that the Hillary blazed the trail for her. I also believe she gave many young women and girls the hope that they, too, could be the leader at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It just wasn’t her time.

Respectfully…

Eve

why I voted for Trump (shhh…)

[Intramuralist Note: Today features Guest Writer #7 in our annual summer series; the opinions expressed may or may not be held by me, but I value the writer’s expression and their commitment to respect…]

When people in the room begin talking about Pres. Trump, I immediately begin praying that the conversation does not make its way over to me. I am terrified to admit to another human being that I voted for Trump in 2016, but not because I think he is failing at his job. It is because the people who oppose him seem filled with such anger, spewing vitriol at him, that I honestly believe they might never look at me the same way again after discovering this newfound information.

I fear being judged as a human being because I cast a vote to put this man into the highest office in the land. I fear that informing another person that I voted for Trump will produce an automatic, superficial link between myself and the President in their mind, one in which they are convinced that I support every decision he makes, policy he enacts, and that I align myself, utterly, with his beliefs, morals, and ethics. In doing so, I am just like him and represent the very things that his opponents despise. After all, those who voted for Trump are “deplorables” and “toothless hicks” who “didn’t like black people getting rights” and “women getting jobs.” 

Psychologists and sociologists are performing experiments, evaluations, and psychoanalysis on Trump supporters as though their brains have never been seen by mankind. Recent research suggests that we (Trump voters) are driven by racial resentment, authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation. We are easily tricked into believing falsehoods because we suffer from a condition in which we believe we have surpassing knowledge about a particular topic, but, in fact, have little to none (Dunning-Kruger). Because of this overconfidence, we do not fact check what our fearless leader tells us and fall prey to his lies, leaving us forever uneducated as we do not believe there is anything new to learn. In polls released last year, nearly half of liberal Democrats admitted that if they found that a friend of theirs supported Trump, it would create a strain on the relationship, and nearly 70% of Democrats find it “stressful and frustrating” to talk to Trump voters.

Let me share some insight into the mind of a “deplorable.” I did not vote for him because I like him. I did not vote for him because of his impeccable moral character, his unquestionably ethical business dealings, or his incomparable integrity. I did not vote for him because of his race (as some did for Obama), gender (as some did for Clinton), sexual orientation, or education level. I did not vote for him because I thought he was faithful to his wife. I did not vote for him because I thought he would be fun to have a beer with. I did not vote for him because I thought he was a religious fellow, just like me. I voted for Trump because it is time for Washington politics to die. 

Politicians talk in circles, leverage people’s welfare for political gain, waste taxpayer’s money, and speak to us in political language about solving our problems as though they understand what our problems are. They do what they must in order to maintain power and influence. As I watched Trump offer unhinged, ill-advised, outlandish and seemingly nonsensical rhetoric at rallies, debates, and interviews during the his 2016 campaign, I realized that this might be the only way to light a fire under — not only under government — but people. Trump established that he was ready for a fight – for anyone ready to tag him in. Reasons for his fight be damned. I could care less if he is fighting for me. I could care less if he is doing it out of a less than developed sense of patriotism. I could care less if he honestly thought he would run just to see if he could win.  

He has gone to Washington and done what people expected. For his voters, it has taken less than two years of his presidency to fulfill numerous campaign promises (exiting the Paris climate accord, tax cuts, moving the Jerusalem embassy, reviving oil pipelines, withdrawing from TPP, enforcing aggressive action against illegal immigration, nominating a conservative Supreme Court justice, defeating ISIS, etc.) and many others have been addressed and are ongoing (renegotiating trade deals like NAFTA, dismantling Obamacare, eliminating funds to sanctuary cities, etc.). He even issued an executive order to fulfill his promise that for every new federal regulation delivered, an existing one must be removed. 

For his opponents, he has been their worst nightmare. For establishment Republicans, he has brought them to account for their apathy and forced them to make difficult decisions and answer to the people that put them into office. On the left, he has exposed multiple, ideological contradictions within the Democratic Party. Many preach love, but discharge hate when the office holder is not in their camp. Many preach tolerance, but end relationships because of political views. Even Trump’s own debacle of separating children from parents exposed the lunacy of immigration policy-making, as a significant number of Democrats now advocate for abolishing ICE, reinforcing sanctuary cities, and enabling illegal immigrants to vote in US elections. That disregards United States law for political gain. It is Trump that has brought it all to fruition.

This essay is not an argument for the purposes of convincing Trump opponents why they should get on board the Trump train. It is simply intended to demonstrate that just because I voted for Trump doesn’t mean I like him. It doesn’t mean I agree with every policy he puts forward. It doesn’t mean he has my unwavering support. I am, however, a satisfied voter, because he has done what I put him there to do. He entered office with nothing to gain and nothing to lose and put Washington, and the world, on its heels. Why? Because he could care less about what anyone thinks about him. And that is the single disposition that the Oval Office desperately needs. Hillary Clinton would not have gone to an international summit as president, chastised world leaders for not upholding their agreements as part of the NATO alliance, and demanded immediate change or the United States would leave the accord. Being president has nothing to do with likability and everything to do with results. I do not like the idea of separating families at the border, but immigration has now become too large an issue to be overlooked. This is what Trump is doing.

Is Trump the first president to lie to the American people? Obama lied about healthcare and Bush lied about WMD’s in Iraq. Is he the first president to have an extramarital affair? Clinton was impeached for perjury relating to his affairs and Warren G. Harding impregnated his mistress in a closet in the White House. The office of the President of the United States is not a radiant beacon of purity. It is a public position held by a human being who has as many faults as you and me. We do not elect someone for that office to be our philosopher-in-chief. We elect someone to that office that will make difficult decisions to help check and challenge an indecisive federal government, ensure that our country is not taken advantage of on the foreign platform, and enforce the execution of the laws of the United States. If we want a lesson on morals, let’s go to church next Sunday.  

Respectfully…

David

warring witches

[Intramuralist Note: Today features Guest Writer #6 in our annual summer series; the opinions expressed may or may not be held by me, but I value the writer’s expression and their commitment to respect…]

 

Warring Witches — casting curses on enemies. Will this be our demise?

I was talking with a friend about about conflicting political stances (… do we mention an example? … the lesbian group against the trans activists… freedom of religion vs. a person wanting service in a manner that infringes on the business owner’s values). 

If we desire a loving response, is that not grace and mercy on both sides? How do we honor both the choice and convictions, for instance, of the Muslim and Christian bakers, the Brazilian wax shops, and those who desire services which are in conflict with the server’s conscience? (A Muslim business woman who religiously cannot touch a man and a trans person demanding service.) 

On my mind are the historic Bible/Torah stories where the enemy troops would fall into confusion and end up routed, which always sounds so miraculous reading it — maybe it was! But I’m wondering now: could there be another reason?

Were they bumbling idiots, those confounded military strategists?

Even the smartest humans — as much as we think we’re working for any noble cause — we labor, limited by our own motives and understanding of what’s best. Our desires, even in our closest of social groups — such as even a marriage or family — inevitably come into conflict with others. So what is the standard?

We each want to be treated with love and mercy — yes? And we become offended when we see actions or attitudes contrary to our measure of love. So we want that to change! When others have an offense against another, is it right for the offended person to hate the perceived hater?

How much does that solve? How’s that working for us?! Hate against hate!

But what if there was a God that set a standard… of loving… even enemies? What would that look like?

We’ve heard the age-old question of “who is my neighbor” in response to the call to “love our neighbor.” But if we are to also “love our enemies,” have we asked the question, “Who is my enemy?”

And…

… what does it look like to love them? 

If we see that we are each other’s enemy, what is the standard that keeps us from fighting to the death? What do we do instead?

Friends, if our hearts are not submitted and surrendered to the Higher Source of truth and love, we might be working for a cause for a certain segment of society, but how do we labor in love and peace and hope and joy and self-control and gentleness to all?

Oh, so many questions! And more… where does mercy play in? … what is the standard for that? … if there is a Creator who generously offers love and mercy for all, how do we practice that in the midst of our disagreements? … are we listening for his instructions, or fighting amongst ourselves? … and… does that make us his people, or just prove we’re one of the enemy troops, confounded in fighting each other?

Oh, the profound words of Samuel from long ago: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”

What?! 

Rebellion means using our power, created and given by God, for some purpose outside his intent.

What is His intent? How good are we at loving our enemies? Have we ever needed God’s mercy? And am I displaying that mercy to my enemies? (Again, who are my enemies?)

Or do we instead fall into that bunch of warring witches… wishing evil and casting curses upon others?

Respectfully…

RH

you can do anything around here with 5 votes

[Intramuralist Note: Today features Guest Writer #5 in our annual summer series; the opinions expressed may or may not be held by me, but I value the writer’s expression and their commitment to respect…]

 

Every year on January 22, throngs of people march up Washington’s Constitution Ave., past the United States Capitol, and improperly demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court Building, yelling and screaming either their opposition or support for abortion rights and the Roe v. Wade decision that established them. This exemplifies everything that is horrifically wrong with the American judicial system.

SCOTUS, the Supreme Court of the United States, does not make laws. Congress makes laws. But these demonstrators stride right past Congress on their way to the Court Building. If they were doing their job properly, the Supreme Court justices would not pay any attention to what these people yell and scream. But they do.

Just look at the media. With the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, CNN, CNBC, The Huffington Post, Politico, and The Hill are each reporting that “64% of Americans support the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion” and  “they would not like to see it overturned.” NBC now claims it is 71%.

This is completely irrelevant. It is not the Court’s job to pass laws that people want. That is Congress’ job, which is why our Congressmen and women are elected by the people. It is the Court’s job to determine if those laws are Constitutional, or to interpret them if they come under dispute.

This is basic civics. According to Article I of the Constitution, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” Article III says, “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and…shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution.” Lastly, in the Tenth Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Though controversial, let us use the abortion issue as an objective example. Reasonable people can have different opinions about abortion, and it is not my intent here to argue for or against it. But there clearly is no right to an abortion in the Constitution. Harry Blackmun based his Roe opinion on the “right to privacy” in the Fourteen Amendment. Read the Fourteenth Amendment. The word “privacy” is not there. These are the words upon which the Court based their decision: “No state shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” At face value, those words would seem to support life more than choice.

Furthermore, Blackmun made up an admittedly arbitrary trimester framework where in the first three months, the decision lies completely between a mother and her doctor, the second three months laws can be passed only related to the mother’s health, and in the last three months, the state’s interest to protect the unborn becomes more compelling. While that may be the most brilliant compromise ever decreed since Solomon suggested cutting a baby in half, where in the world does the Constitution say anything about trimesters?

To have a staunch position on Roe, you have to read it. It is an opinion so devoid of solid foundation that it took Justice Blackmun 51 pages to explain it. There is not a single sentence in it that qualifies as a legal argument. He simply wrote his personal opinion about why he thought this would be the best way forward, then tried to justify it.

He may have been right. But that was not his job. Supreme Court justices are not wise old sages to be consulted for their wisdom on difficult issues. They are to determine whether laws passed by the legislative branch are Constitutional. Their personal opinions are irrelevant, even worse for them to be imposed upon us.

Justices quote other cases, which is appropriate, considering the importance of legal precedent. But sometimes they quote other writings of legislators who passed laws to help define what the laws mean. The problem with this is that the legislative process involves a countless number of compromises, and regardless if one side wrote about their personal opinion in some other context, only the words in the legislation that were agreed upon when the law was passed should be law. The infamous “separation of church and state” principle, for example, came from a personal letter of Thomas Jefferson’s. Thomas Jefferson’s personal letters should have no more force of law than Donald Trump’s tweets.

When justices are not bound by the words of The Constitution in their authority, they can do whatever they want. Sitting Justice Stephen Breyer is on record saying that the “Court cannot do its job without a careful understanding of foreign law and practice.” What do other countries’ laws have to do with the American Constitution? Do any of us want to be ruled by other countries’ laws? The late Justice William Brennan was even more transparent when he candidly remarked, “You can do anything around here with five votes.” That was a man who believed there were absolutely no limits to his authority.

Therein lies the problem. When SCOTUS issued its opinion on Roe, there were 32 states that banned abortion, 14 that restricted it, and 4 that had repealed bans that were previously in place. That’s how the democratic process works. Elected officials, accountable to the electorate, pass laws and sometimes repeal them. And the Tenth Amendment clearly says that all powers not given to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states. So when five or more justices think they know better based on any reasoning whatsoever except for what the Constitution says, that is not democracy. They are overruling the democratic process, throwing out democratically passed laws. That is dictatorship, or in this case, oligarchy, “a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons.”

As one legal scholar put it, “We are increasingly governed not by law or elected representatives but by an unelected, unrepresentative, unaccountable committee of lawyers applying no will but their own.”

Back to Justice Kennedy’s retirement. There are factions of society that would have you believe that this is the end of the world as we know it. Why? Because there is a long list of initiatives that in spite of not surviving the democratic process have been imposed by doing an end run around the legislative branch and getting five justices to dictate them upon us.

You may be happy with the results of the Court’s edicts thus far, but what if you were not? When Congress passes laws we do not like, we can vote them out. When SCOTUS dictates their personal opinions upon us, we have no recourse.

If Roe were overturned, that would not outlaw abortion in America. What it would do is properly return that decision back to the states. The issue could be debated, and rightly so. And officials who are elected by their people to represent them could make whatever decisions they want.

That is democracy. And that is what America is supposed to be.

Respectfully…

MPM