another school shooting

NASHVILLE, Tennessee, Monday, March 27 (Reuters) – A heavily armed 28-year-old fatally shot three children and three adult staffers on Monday at a private Christian school the suspect once attended in Tennessee’s capital city before police killed the assailant, authorities said.

The motive was not immediately known but the suspect had drawn detailed maps of the school, including entry points for the building, and left behind a “manifesto” and other writings that investigators were examining, Police Chief John Drake told reporters.

* * * * *

The victims were three nine year old children, a 61 year old custodian, substitute teacher, and the 60 year old headmaster.

The shooter, who was killed by police, was confirmed as Audrey Hale, a 28 year old, transgendered person and former student. 

There are all sorts of understandable reactions. There are all sorts of understandable emotions. Prayers are wise. Increased preventative action is wise, too. We can’t stop evil from happening on this planet, but we can proactively work to make various manifestations of evil less likely to happen.

Hence, what can we do? Solutions are necessary; answers aren’t easy. That shouldn’t stop us from trying to solve and minimize this evil. Our leaders, however, struggle with the simplest of conversations; they spend too much time claiming credit and dispensing blame. On the left. On the right. They let too many lobbyists and adulterated motivations get in the way. 

They are collectively, consistently inconsistent in pursuing what’s best for all people. They play politics. They juxtapose unrelated issues as emotional rallying cries. And arguably most irritating to the future voter’s eye, they loudly attempt to take the moral high ground when in all the time beforehand, zero high ground was faintly evident. 

Too much. Too impure of motives. Too much political dysfunction. Again, on the left. On the right. We crave solution and our country’s beloved, youngest generation to be fiercely protected. In all things.

Thus, we rawly ask today both what’s necessary and inconvenient. There is no intended disrespect. We just deeply love our kids.

So, sitting in the sobering wake, we ask…

Why kill the innocent? What iniquity or unrest resides within a person that makes them want to ever intentionally end the life of another?

What gun measures would have effectively prevented this shooting? What more can be done in our schools?

What already-in-play Tennessee gun control measures were not effective?

What mental health issues were in play?

What impact did Hale’s identity as a transgendered person play or not play in the shooting?

What impact did the killer’s parents and family of origin have on the shooter?

Why go after a Christian school? Is this a hate crime then, noting that hate crimes are motivated by prejudice on the basis of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or similar grounds?

What was in the shooter’s head?

What don’t we know yet?

And… what aspect in all of the above have we each either diminished or overlooked because it messes with our desired narrative?

Let’s be honest. When we craft a desired narrative in our head, we reject any objective data or inconvenient question that competes with said narrative.

No easy answers today, friends. No quick solutions either. Yet. But let’s keep searching. Let’s keep talking. Let’s figure it out. And let’s be respectful in the process, not taking the bait lured via the partisan games and political players. We want something better. We want what’s best for all people. Especially, now, for our kids.



a code that you can live by

“You, who are on the road

Must have a code that you can live by

And so, become yourself

Because the past is just a goodbye

Teach your children well…”

Before we address the iconic exhortation of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, let’s add a bit of recent context. First, from CBS News this week:

A Memphis basketball player has been charged by Bowling Green campus police with assault after punching a Falcons player in the handshake line following a Women’s NIT game, according to the Bowling Green athletic department. The confrontation followed Bowling Green’s win over Memphis on Thursday night.

As the teams walked toward center court following Bowling Green’s 73-60 win in the Round of 16 game, Memphis’ Jamirah Shutes stopped to talk with Falcons’ player Elissa Brett. After a short conversation, Shutes appears to throw a punch at Brett’s face. Brett fell toward the scorer’s table and onto the sideline.

Next, from News4 out of Jacksonville earlier in the month:

St. Johns County parents are raising concerns after a video clip circulated online showing a student attacking another at Switzerland Point Middle School. The violent exchange happened Wednesday in an SPMS classroom and then in a hallway, according to witness accounts and the attacked student’s parents, who asked to remain anonymous.

“He was just blindsided by the whole thing and didn’t even know it was coming,” said the mother of the student who appeared to be targeted in the video clip. “He couldn’t even defend himself if you wanted to.” The student who was attacked suffered a broken nose and multiple bruises, according to his parents.

What is happening to our young people?

Many across the country have reported a rise in school fights, threats and overall misconduct. Some are quick to point to the pandemic. Let me semi-humbly suggest we point somewhere else. 

What are we teaching our young people? Better yet: what are we modeling for them?

It is no secret that our leaders, legislators and us continue to justify the use of fighting words and hateful rhetoric. We don’t see it that way, of course; we only seem to always see the others as the enemy, ignorant of how our own words pave the way for incessant deterioration. And yet…

We promise to fight for what we believe to be noble…

We declare war on our political opposition…

We announce our undeterred efforts to combat any who oppose us…

And just like that we’ve upped the ante in utilizing a rhetoric that was never designed for use outside the armed forces.

We shouldn’t be surprised there’s a rise in fights in our school systems.

We shouldn’t be surprised there’s a sucker punch between female basketball players in a routine handshake line.

While there is no proven, direct line between violent rhetoric and actual violence, we shouldn’t be surprised at the deterioration of respectful behavior if what we accept in our leaders — and what we ourselves model — is too easily laced with rampant rhetorical violence and disrespect. 

The wiser goal, no doubt, is to teach our children well.



are you/am I healthy?

One of my most rewarding, challenging, humbling, inspiring, all-rolled-into-one responsibilities involves the training and development of a younger, very talented, professional team. We talk a lot about what it means to be emotionally healthy. We talk, too, of what it means to lead in that capacity.

It doesn’t take but minimal reflection to discern a lack of emotional health in prominent threads in our culture and in our leaders today. No wonder we witness such dysfunction in our entities and institutions. We can see it; we can feel it. In the boasts from the well known… in the arrogance… in the disrespect… in many of the protests… in the complete lack of humility… in the pain… in the shutting down of varied perspective… in the “mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-any-more” approach. Unhealthiness is active and unfortunately well.

But hear no judgment — none whatsoever. Emotional health isn’t a journey we can pursue for others. Suffice it to say, emotional health is a decision we make to work on self. 

Hence, I took a few semi-random notes from yesterday’s team training…

  • The emotionally healthy leader makes a decision to work on self.
  • An emotionally unhealthy leader is someone who operates in a continual emotional and spiritual deficit.
  • Many are self-conscious but not self-aware.
  • Many are unaware of their feelings, how the past affects them, and how others receive them.
  • In unhealthy leaders, we oft see seeds of insecurity and pockets of shame.
  • Many hide those issues in their emotional baggage.
  • Emotional baggage is typically the undoing of the unhealthy leader.
  • The unhealthy spins truth, blames others, and excuses self.
  • Blame is the quickest way to discharge our pain.
  • Some in their unhealthiness become spiritually evasive, trying to convince others that they’re open to God and all he has for them, but they’re really using God-talk, so-to-speak, to run from him.
  • Beware of people who are quick to spiritualize everything.
  • Many of us really don’t want to do the character work it takes to address why we feel the way we do; instead, we want relief… fast, soothing ways to not feel this way anymore.
  • Unhealthy persons struggle with jealousy, comparison and often envy.
  • Jealously distorts our vision of who we’re supposed to be fighting both for and with.
  • Healthy leaders — healthy people — are contagious. 
  • Back to those seeds of insecurity and pockets of shame, we create narratives from the unhealed things in our lives. They are often untrue.
  • How do we guard against that? We need accountability — through authentic relationship. Not relationship that will only agree and affirm. Authentic relationship gently but firmly identifies those pockets and seeds. Authentic relationship encourages growth and change.
  • Thinking of the iceberg metaphor; only 10% of the iceberg is visible from atop the water. That equates to our behaviors and actions — not the 90% underneath.
  • The 90% underneath consists of our emotions, then thoughts, then beliefs.
  • Remember: mental health isn’t so much about what happens to us as much as it is about how we interpret what’s happened to us.
  • From Dr. Albert Ellis, there are 3 steps: “A” – the Activating event, which is the objective truth. Then “B” – Belief, which is whatever running story we attach to the event. And finally “C” – Consequences, which is our reaction to A + B.
  • In response, we each have 3 lives: public, private and secret.
  • Public statements are what we want people to believe. Politicians and celebrities oft live in this space. They are more about creating an impression instead of communicating truth.
  • Private statements can seem to be true at the time but change with circumstances, making them seem hollow.
  • And our secret life — our core convictions — is where our feelings, thinking and longings meet.
  • Heart work is hard work.
  • Know, therefore, that false beliefs lead to inaccurate thinking, which leads to unhealthy emotions, which lead to destructive behaviors.
  • The logic of the heart trumps thinking.
  • The greatest sources of our suffering are in the lies we tell ourselves.
  • Hence, even the crazy, radical, most illogical beliefs don’t die out in our culture today because of all of the above.

Lots to ponder this day, friends. Lots to think about. Remember: to be emotionally healthy is a decision we make for ourselves — not others. But what is good and right and true — which is clearly what emotional healthiness is — is undoubtedly contagious.



life in proper perspective

Wow… that was hard. My team lost in the weekend Madness. My team was supposed to do great. They didn’t play that way.

I know it’s just a game. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But sometimes it feels like way more than just a game. 

Not every game feels that way, of course. Not every team. But this one — certainly this one. I can’t remember not ever being a fan. And when I went to college, they became mine. In the blood, sweat and tears, so-to-speak… when we obliterated the opponent and were ourselves obliterated… we experienced it together. I was there. I cheered my loudest. Hardest. No matter what. So many times my voice was hoarse thereafter. This was after all “my team.” I often feel like they are somehow a small extension of me.

And so this idea that “it’s just a game” rings a little hollow for me. As said, it feels like more.

So as the forty minutes of slow-drip misery on the hardwood finally ceased, my spouse and I went for a late night walk…

We took a few minutes first to commiserate, but we didn’t stay there long. No need — we had been doing that for much of both halves.

Then we playfully talked about what would be worse.

Next we took some extended time of intentional gratitude… what things are we grateful for? What are the blessings in disguise?

We then prayed for the coach in the locker room… may he have wise words, especially to those young men who are hurting… geesh… they’re only 18-21 years old… their brains are still developing…

And last we remembered that there were persons who felt differently than we. In fact, there were persons who were downright jubilant in the results. 

That process, even though it was painful, reminded me that there is always more to a scenario than how we feel. And while we may not like the way we feel and we may deeply dislike or even abhor the results, the wise one learns to respond in maturity. That goes for my deep disappointment. In far more than sports. When we were children, we reasoned like children. We’re not children any more, but sometimes we still fall prey… 

We get angry.

We lash out.

We conclude the people who feel differently are at the very least misguided but definitely wrong and maybe even evil.

We minimize dissenting feelings, thoughts and perspective.

We can see no other angle than our own.

Yesterday morning as I took yet another long walk, still wrestling with the lingering sting, I walked by a basketball court and noticed a friend with his maybe 6 year old son outside shooting baskets. My friend shares the same basketball loyalty as me. 

I greeted him with a mere, “Hey, are you okay today?”

To which he offered a slow grimace, uttering a simple “no.”

We shared a few thoughts, commiserated briefly more, and then acknowledged the conflicting reality that it felt like more than just a game.

Then he pointed to his son, who has also become a fierce fan of our team. He, too, had been incredibly disappointed the night before. Also true, his son was still proudly donning our beloved university’s garb, while shooting those baskets away.

“When he got up, I asked him what he wanted to do this morning,” my friend said. Enthusiastically, his son responded, “Let’s go shoot baskets, Dad.”

It always helps to put life in proper perspective. Even and especially in disappointment.



the misinformation watch… they hope we won’t notice

As persons in search of credible news, that means we maximize the credible and minimize the bias. AllSides, one of the Intramuralist’s fave sources (that is, when in search of the objective and thus accurate perspective), has a tool recently realized. It’s entitled the “Misinformation Watch.” Allow us to elaborate, courtesy of AllSides:

Misinformation — false or misleading information shared without explicit intent to deceive — is a concern on the left and right. Some believe misinformation is a grave threat, and the spreading of falsehoods is a danger to democracy. Others believe ‘misinformation’ is a propaganda term used to justify silencing certain people or those sharing dissenting perspectives. In a polarized political and media landscape, accusations of misinformation are often applied to any position or perspective that one group finds objectionable or concerning. What, then, constitutes ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation’ for one group may simply represent another group’s honest estimation of the truth.”

Hence comes the zillion dollar question: How can we tell misinformation from truth? (Key hint: it doesn’t depend on whether it’s from the left or the right.) Lest we think it’s only one side or another, let’s take a look. Notice last week’s response to Pres. Biden’s 2024 $6.8 trillion federal government budget proposal. As AllSides calmly noted, it didn’t take long to spark misinformation… [All emphasis is mine.]

“The Associated Press (Lean Left bias) reported that ‘Biden’s budget would reduce the debt.’

The Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias) reported that the plan ‘would result in a $1.8 trillion deficit, further adding to the country’s high debt,’ its headline stated that the proposal would not ‘stabilize the debt.’ Both reports spun data-based estimates to portray misleading conclusions. Estimates from budget watchdogs contain more context.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reported that under Biden’s proposed budget, ‘debt would rise at a slower rate than projected under current law but still reach a new record as a share of the economy by 2027.’ So debt would likely still rise, just at a slower pace. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the proposal was ‘doubling down on the same Far Left spending policies that have led to record inflation and our current debt crisis.’ It is not accurate to pin the debt crisis entirely on the left, as McCarthy does here. Since the last time the federal government recorded a budget surplus in 2001, two of four U.S. presidents have been Republicans. During those administrations, Republicans held majorities in both chambers of Congress for three congressional sessions. The two Democratic presidents held majorities in both chambers of Congress for one congressional session. 

In the proposal, Biden states that ‘we’ have cut the deficit ‘by more than $1.7 trillion in the first 2 years of my Administration—the largest reduction in American history.’ This is technically true, but lacks crucial context on the unique economic challenges faced in 2020 as the country responded to COVID-19. In 2019 for example, before the pandemic, the deficit was $0.98 trillion, lower than estimates state it would be under Biden’s proposed budget.

Another claim circulating among politicians is that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is responsible for blocking the proposal from turning into legislation.

Some Republican lawmakers are taking credit for blocking the proposal, citing Republican control of the House of Representatives as a stopgap on Biden’s agenda. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that ‘the American people can thank the Republican House’ for blocking the proposal.

While united Republican opposition to the proposal will certainly stop it, Democratic support is not guaranteed, either. Biden faced pushback on spending bills before the midterm elections, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. This plan includes spending proposals similar to Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan from earlier in his administration. ‘Build Back Better’ was opposed by Republicans in Congress, but it was Democratic defectors like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who doomed its chances of passing. It’s possible that this budget proposal would have the same opposition from centrist Democrats as ‘Build Back Better’ did. That’s true, but the proposal was not guaranteed to get full support from Democrats.” 

So note the conclusion of the “Misinformation Watch,” which is intriguing to say the least…

“Biden’s proposal neither eliminates the deficit nor stabilizes debt, according to estimates. Saying definitely that it would — as some outlets did — qualifies as misinformation. However, no President of any party has done this in 22 years. The federal deficit increased every year of the Trump Administration, and so far has decreased every year of the Biden Administration, largely due to the end of many pandemic-era spending programs. The plan does not get rid of the deficit, which is expected to grow over the next decade due to multiple Biden-era investments in infrastructure, climate tech, manufacturing, and more… The proposal would not stabilize or reduce the national debt, as critics on the right have noted. It estimates a reduction to the federal deficit by slowing down the accumulation of new debt, which budget watchdogs also believe it could do.”

This is what we call “misinformation.” On the left. On the right.

Let’s maximize the credible. Minimize the bias. And not allow “misleading media reports to dictate our feelings on a story.”



reactionary legislation

As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Complexity, however, gets in the way. Anyone can be complex; it takes little skill and even lesser discernment. Complexity, in fact, is reactionary. Instead of being wisely proactive, building simple, effective systems, we react to something that’s happened, wanting to ensure that specific instance never occurs again; we hear it often in the shouts for new laws. That’s complexity. That’s bureaucracy. It doesn’t necessarily solve the issue.

Note some of the complex legislation still on the books in various states and municipalities, crafted by both parties. (Thank you,, for your fun — and indeed quirky research!). Did you know, for example…

  1. In Alabama, you can’t dress up as a priest, nun, rabbi or other member of the clergy for Halloween.
  2. In Alaska, you can’t wake a sleeping bear to take a selfie.
  3. In Arizona, it’s illegal for donkeys to sleep in bathtubs.
  4. Sorry, new parents, but in Arkansas, you cannot name your child “Zabradacka.”
  5. In California, as conservative as they are, animals must not mate within close proximity of taverns, schools or places of worship.
  6. In Colorado in the city of Boulder, no upholstered chairs or couches are allowed on the front porch.
  7. In Connecticut, fascinatingly said this non-aficionado, when dropped from a height of one foot, a real pickle “should bounce.”
  8. In Delaware, you can’t use your car as a picnic facility.
  9. In my great state of Florida, in the town of Oakland (near Orlando), no gossiping, slander or rumor is allowed in the streets. Why? It may breach the peace… shocking).
  10. In Georgia — in their version of Gainesville — it’s illegal to eat fried chicken with anything other than your hands. Sounds odd indeed, but believe it or not, a 91-year old woman was arrested in for this in 2009. Gainesville does like to consider themselves as the poultry capital of the world.
  11. In Hawaii, coins aren’t allowed to be put in your ears.
  12. In Idaho, cannibalism is outlawed (… thank you…).
  13. In Illinois’ Galesburg, people cannot keep a dog in such a way that disturbs others because of their smell. (I know. I’m not one for controlling others, but I kind of like the non-smelly dog idea).
  14. In Indiana, horses have a speed limit on all city streets.
  15. In Iowa, in the city of Mount Vernon, you’re not allowed to throw a brick onto any street, highway, sidewalk, or even public building — that is, without written permission from the city council.
  16. In Kansas, in the city of Derby, you could land you in prison for a month or pay a fine of $500 or both for screeching your tires on the road.
  17. In Kentucky, the use of reptiles in any religious activity is prohibited.
  18. (Oh, my…) In Louisiana, ordering food for someone without their knowledge is considered harassment. Delivering that surprise late night pizza could result in a fine and or imprisonment.
  19. In Maine, at the Biddeford Municipal Airport, it’s illegal to gamble while waiting for your flight.
  20. In Maryland, in Baltimore, people are not allowed to operate a body studio. Nobody seems to know what a body studio is (but alas, the law still exists).
  21. In Massachusetts (in one of those “things that make you go ‘hmmmm’”), it is illegal to sell living fowl under two months of age. However, if you run a business that sells these animals for commercial breeding purposes, such ducklings may be sold or purchased only in quantities of 24 or more before May 1st.
  22. In Michigan, men should not seduce or corrupt unmarried women.
  23. In Minnesota, mosquitoes are declared a public nuisance (… wonder how effective enforcement is).
  24. In Mississippi, you’ll be fined $100 for cursing in public (I’m thinking of a few politicians who should probably never visit).
  25. In Missouri, you are not allowed to fight the bears (due to reports on animal cruelty violations).

Sorry, I know this is only the first 25 of our alphabetized semi-United states, but I had to pause. The complexity makes me shake my head. So does how reactionary our lawmakers can (and still) often be…



the poignant, powerful & profound

Last week we made a comment here that I sense is worthy of a little increased attention. But first, let’s peruse a few poignant events, some recent, some not, but all profoundly relevant…

As reported by NBC Today and Readers Digest: “Early one morning in Dacula, Ga., Matt Swatzell was driving home from a 24-hour shift as a firefighter and EMS and had only 30 minutes of sleep. He was less than four miles from his home on October 2, 2006 when he suddenly heard what he calls ‘the most God awful sound I’ve ever heard.’

Swatzell, then 20, realized he had fallen asleep at the wheel and crashed. When he got out of the car, he saw the car of 30-year old June Fitzgerald. She was pregnant and with her then 19-month-old daughter Faith. Faith survived the crash but her mother and unborn sibling passed away.” “Fitzgerald’s husband, a full-time pastor, asked for the man’s diminished sentence—and began meeting with Swatzell for coffee and conversation. Many years later, the two men remain close. ‘You forgive as you’ve been forgiven.’”

From 2019 in Dallas, Texas as reported by CNN: “Strangers now recognize Brandt Jean after he publicly forgave the former Dallas police officer who killed his older brother in his own apartment… Brandt Jean shocked many when he told Amber Guyger he forgave her and said he didn’t want her to go to prison after she received a 10-year sentence in October for killing Botham Jean, a 26-year-old accountant [Brandt’s brother]. With the judge’s permission, Brandt walked across a Dallas courtroom and hugged Guyger tightly for nearly a minute. Two months after that hug, Brandt has not dwelled on the moment. It was a show of forgiveness in the most public of places, an instance of him being the person he was raised to be.”

And from ABC News: “The New York mother of two who suffered a serious brain injury and lost the use of her left eye after two teenagers sent a shopping cart crashing down 50 feet onto her says she forgives the boys and is more concerned for the welfare of her own teenage son, who witnessed the accident.

Marion Hedges was briefly in a coma and now needs daily physical therapy after two teenage boys hoisted a shopping cart over the railing of a shopping mall parking garage last fall. In a video tape obtained by the New York Post, the two teens are seen hoisting a shopping cart at the East Harlem Target shopping center in New York City. At first it gets stuck, but then the teens push it over, sending it crashing 50 feet down and hitting Hedges, 47, as she is standing below. Hedges spent weeks fighting for her life. ‘I wish them well, I do,’ she said. ‘I feel very sorry for them. My son is 13 also, and he is a very good boy.’”

Each of the above is a profound story of forgiveness. Not only are they real life accounts of forgiveness, each of the above would no doubt be incredibly difficult to forgive. In Marion Hedges’ situation, for example, her father-in-law had a far different perspective. “What have these two young thugs learned? That you can get away with something like this with very little punishment, and that’s a very bad commentary on the state of justice.” He told an ABC News affiliate that he believes the boys should be “hung by their toe nails.”

Hedges’s father-in-law isn’t alone. There are multiple persons in each of the above instances who believed that not only was forgiveness unnecessary, but it was also wrong to extend.

In our most recent post examining the (what I believe very disrespectful) case for cancel culture, we made the statement that one of the unfortunate aspects of the intentionally ostracizing tool is that it circumvents the apology/forgiveness/repentance process — and that process is full of unparalleled power. But my sense is we live in a culture that doesn’t fully value the process. Why? Because we don’t understand what forgiveness actually is… or in reality, is not.

Forgiveness is not excusing, tolerating or diminishing what happened. Forgiveness is not a dismissal of justice. Forgiveness is, however, the decision to release the person who caused you pain. Forgiveness is thereby freeing to the one who chooses to extend it.

Brandt Jean would say that he originally wanted to kill the woman who hurt him and his family so much. “Pretty much this entire year, I pretty much … hated her.” That changed when he heard her apology. “That’s when like my heart kind of opened up.” 

He would say more. “Gradually, throughout this year, I worked on myself and I understood that this anger shouldn’t be kept inside me.” He also said that his willingness to forgive the woman will help him apply that spirit of forgiveness to other parts of his life. “If I could forgive her then, I could forgive anyone for anything.”

Not always supported by current culture. Often incredibly difficult. But always powerful and good.



ostracize, boycott & shun

Every now and then I read an editorial that soundly fits in that “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm” category. Last week, author Ernest Owens contributed one to Rolling Stone magazine. It’s an excerpt from his upcoming book. The title of the editorial? “Why Cancel Culture Is Good For Democracy.”

To be ensure we are all on the same page in regard to what cancel culture actually is, allow us to briefly identify cancel culture as “a phenomenon in which those who are deemed to have acted or spoken in an unacceptable manner are ostracized, boycotted or shunned.”

No doubt a key action word in the definition is to “deem,” which would mean to “regard or consider in a specified way.” That equates to a subjective analysis — thereby, not fact.

Owens premise is fairly simple, no less. He feels that cancel culture has gotten a bad rap. He acknowledges that our behavior and/or expressions may be met by “an angry mob instantly judging us,” but he suggests that the idea has been “misconstrued.” Rather than an act worthy of contempt, Owens argues that such is a necessary tool to curb unchecked free speech. 

He contends that cancel culture provides the accountability — specifically, the kind of accountability “bigots” desire to avoid. In fact, he insists those who are anti-this “democratic tool” are actually not attempting to ensure there is no suppression of speech, but rather, they are fearful of said accountability. Free speech absent attempts to cancel insulates the bigot, allowing him/her “to fuel disgusting rhetoric without state-sanctioned consequence.”

It’s an interesting thought. He feels someone must shut others down.

I do appreciate how Owens’ stated motive seems to be to look out for the “little guy,” so-to-speak. I thought that when initially reading through — that is, until he utilized Meghan Markle as his chosen example of someone whose vocal critics were justified in being shut down. With all due respect to the Duchess, my semi-keen sense is she isn’t exactly known for being the most exemplary example these days.

But Owens continues. He argues critics of the approach are wrong…

“… Despite how critics have tried to represent it, cancel culture is not cyberbullying or doxing. Cancel culture gives us the chance to engage in new and exciting ways—civically, culturally, and politically”… that is, even though cyberbullying and doxing are utilized devices.

Ok, I admit — I’m back to the things that make me go hmmmm. This so-called “tool” utilizes the following:

to ostracize – meaning “to exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc.; to banish (a person).”

to boycott – meaning “to combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion.”

to shun – meaning “to keep away from (a place, person, object, etc.), from motives of dislike, caution, etc.; take pains to avoid.”

In other words, let’s acknowledge what cancel culture does not utilize…

It does not utilize respect.

It does not embrace loving your neighbor as yourself.

And it certainly does not know or acknowledge the incredibly powerful, personal process of apology, forgiveness and repentance.

It, therefore, sadly, does not model what is good.

I indeed appreciate the stated desire that bigotry would cease. I also, though, will never believe that two wrongs will someday make things right.

So when Owens wonders aloud, “What could we change in the world if we used cancel culture as the tool that it is,” my thoughts go elsewhere. It makes me cringe, wondering in response what more damage will we justify? 

We can’t omit respect, loving our neighbor (no matter who they are), nor circumvent the repentance process. Any attempt to do so will indeed make far more than me go “hmmmm.”



gun violence, evil & doing your job

We’re a selective bunch.

Selective means we pay attention to some things but not to others. We’re also inconsistent in what we pay attention to.

We pay attention to the mass shootings because they are absolutely awful. The concept of what’s “mass” has differed through the years; there currently remains no consensus definition. Best we can tell, at this point “mass” seems to equate to mass advocacy, mass opposition, and mass politicians coming out of their partisan shells to scream and shout about opportune political priorities.

The challenge is that at the heart of the mass shooting is something no one can actually regulate. Tell me: how does one control the evil residing in a human heart? In all seriousness, the motive that would make one man kill an innocent other, outside of mental illness, is evil.

But when it’s not the masses, we pay a little less attention. Why? Because again, outside of mental illness, maybe we know it’s evil. Maybe we know we can’t control it. And no maybe about it, it’s just wrong. So what do we do?

A little west of Orlando proper last week, there was a gut-wrenching shooting. This comes via Spectrum News 13, which covers the latest local news for Orlando, Daytona Beach, Melbourne and Sanford. 

There was an initial shooting Wednesday morning…

“Deputies had been at the scene earlier in the day to investigate the 11:17 a.m. discovery of a woman, later identified as 38-year-old Nathacha Augustin, who had been found shot to death in the 6100 block of Hialeah Street.

After collecting evidence, [Keith Melvin] Moses [19] was quickly identified as a suspect in the shooting, [Orange County Sheriff John] Mina said.”

Later in the afternoon, just after 4pm, there was another incident at the same scene with the same suspect involved. This time, the Spectrum News 13 crew, and a woman and child in a nearby home, were attacked. 24-year old, Spectrum News 13 reporter, Dylan Lyons, and a 9-year old girl, T’yonna Major, lost their lives. Another photojournalist was critically injured.

There are multiple angles upon which to focus, but for purposes of this piece, I want to focus on Dylan Lyons. The reporter at the scene. 24. And here’s the thing: he was just doing his job.

From one in the actual business… 

“At 4:00pm on a normal day as reporter, you’re in a station car working to finish up your story. You’re getting ready for a live shot at 5:00. You’re making some last minute changes to your script and editing the video. You’re writing a story for the website. Maybe you’re starting to plan dinner or what you might be covering the next day. 

The scene you’re at is a public space. It’s sunny out. Law enforcement cleared it earlier. You weren’t trespassing or putting yourself at risk. It should be as safe as possible. You should be going home safely soon. Simply put: You’re just doing your job.”

And yet here, in the innocence of one man’s work day, the utmost iniquity occurs. Not just the utmost — but the unthinkable.

My heart hurts. So does a trusted friend, who works in TV news. “We have targets on our backs.”

But there’s more, she poignantly shares…

“As journalists, we have a job. A job to inform the public. A job that many of us, if not all, take seriously and do our job with pride. We attack each day with new energy and a sense of who knows what. But, every time we step outside, every time I set up my camera, every new day brings a new sense of fear and danger. Danger? Yes, danger. TV news crews face danger every day…”

Friends, let’s talk about the inconvenient. Let’s talk about what can and can’t be done to curb gun violence. Let’s talk, too, about the evil that exists in some hearts… and the resulting heartbreak that consequently resides in others.

As for Dylan, he was just doing his job.



defining social justice

One of the things each of my parents instilled in me at a young age was the importance of being a clear communicator. It’s hard to problem solve when we aren’t talking about the same thing.

We witnessed that in the aftermath of the George Floyd trauma. As our country engaged in increased, courageous conversation about ethnicity and race, people oft, unknowingly talked past each other, failing to recognize that two very different definitions of “racism” were in play. While embedded in the two is the idea that one race is inherently superior to another, one definition sees it as an individual belief; the other sees it as systemic. If individual, then we each have something to work on. If systemic, then only the people who hold the power, so-to-speak, have something to work on, as it would by definition, thereby be impossible for those with perceived lesser power to be racist. Hence, it’s difficult to make progress when our definitions are different — and when we refuse to listen sincerely or long enough to actually realize the definitions are different. We just shout louder, as if for some reason, turning up the volume would decrease the dissent.

I’ve noticed, no less, other concepts with similar, ingrained miscommunication.

Think “wicked,” for example. For some, that’s a direct correlation to evil. To others, it’s another word for “awesome,” something being “wickedly good”! (For me, in fact, it refers to my favorite Broadway musical.)

“Dressing” is another one. Is that something on top of salad or something stuffed inside our favorite Thanksgiving fowl?

There are obviously more (i.e. Does “pop” refer to our father, soft drink, or some explosive sound? And is “dope” really good or really bad?). 

Definitions matter, friends. And if we are going to be persons making positive societal contributions, one healthy next step would to be to ensure we are all on the same page, that we are communicating clearly, and we are utilizing the same definitions.

One area in which we thus struggle in our communication is with the frequently articulated concept of social justice; there is no single definition. Allow us to highlight a few:

From the United Nations: “Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.”

From the National Association of Social Workers: “Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.”

And from the John Lewis Institute for Social Justice: “Social justice is a communal effort dedicated to creating and sustaining a fair and equal society in which each person and all groups are valued and affirmed.”

Key to comprehend in every definition — and necessary in order to avoid persons again unknowingly talking past each other — is the embedded distinction of opportunity vs. outcome — or as also stated, equality vs. equity.

Equality means everyone is treated the same, given the same resources or opportunities. Outcomes may vary, pending how resources and opportunities are used.

Equity means resources are allocated however perceived necessary to produce the exact same outcome for all. 

While it’s a significant distinction, let me suggest no one be quick to assume one is all right and one is all wrong. Let us recognize that many things are in play.

Circumstances matter; some life circumstances are most obviously, significantly harder than others. 

Personal responsibility also matters; some persons demonstrate significantly more initiative, responsibility, and ethicality in managing their own life.

So what’s compassionate? What’s responsible? What’s effective? What’s enabling? What works and takes all of the above into account?

Hence, both the individual and circumstantial angles are in play. It’s not so black-and-white. We would thus be wise not to ignore either. That is, if we really want to communicate…