who is dividing us? (see below)

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

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

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

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

Smollett: [teary] “I’m pissed off.”

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

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

[emphasis mine]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully…

AR

I wish I didn’t care…

I wish I didn’t care…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish I didn’t care.

But I do.

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

Respectfully…

AR

the camel’s nose (and culture going too far)

Consistent with our current conversation, years ago we pondered the following…

One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a camel gently thrust his nose under the flap and looked in. “Master,” he said, “let me put my nose in your tent. It’s cold and stormy out here.” “By all means,” said the Arab, “and welcome” as he turned over and went to sleep.

A little later the Arab awoke to find that the camel had not only put his nose in the tent but his head and neck also. The camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said, “I will take but little more room if I place my forelegs within the tent. It is difficult standing out here.” “Yes, you may put your forelegs within,” said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was small.

Finally, the camel said, “May I not stand wholly inside? I keep the tent open by standing as I do.” “Yes, yes,” said the Arab. “Come wholly inside. Perhaps it will be better for both of us.” So the camel crowded in. The Arab with difficulty in the crowded quarters again went to sleep. When he woke up the next time, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.

[Special thanks to CamelStories.com for “The Camel’s Nose in the Tent”]

The metaphorical camel’s nose illustrates the potential worsening of a situation when small, questionable scenarios are initially permitted. The allowance of the nose in the tent creates the potential for a scenario never imagined, but possibly dire.

Where — albeit by gradual steps — have we possibly witnessed the protrusion of the “camel’s nose”? Help me here. This is sincere, respectful wrestling. 

Where have we permitted scenarios to exist that may potentially evolve into the camel taking over the tent? Where have we promoted an initial, specific desire, policy, or behavior that as it progresses, manifests itself as a progression of wrongful thinking?

Like many I have watched the spiraling situation of Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam. He’s attempting to find a way forward to govern, keep his seat, etc. because 30 years ago he dressed up in a “black face,” universally considered an insult now — an act many have also done — including celebrities such as Joy Behar, Jimmy Kimmel, and Spike Lee. (Side note: his would-be successor, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, is also in trouble, as he stands accused of assault, while the parties and public ponder whether or not to employ the same standards as they did last summer.)

But the controversy surrounding Northam’s costume seems nothing short of a smokescreen for his previous comments (shared here last week) in which he seemingly equated late term abortion with infanticide.

“If the camel…”

This concerns me, friends.

“… gets his nose…”

What else? Where else have we gone too far and the animal’s nose has begun to reek?

Pick your social issue. Pick your fiscal practice. Pick your societal evolution. Where has the practice gone too far?  Where has the initial acceptance been possibly ethical, but the potential progression is now imprudent?

“… in the tent…”

Borrowing billions? Increasing the debt? Accepting or rejecting immigrants? Detaining immigrants? Negative campaigning? A two-party-only system? A refusal to work together? Fighting for “my party” only?… Or the acceptance of adultery? The omission of God? Acceptance of socialism … even Communism? … or some of the crud on TV? What about the idea that due process is not necessary? A belief that one party or gender is always telling the truth or always lying? That only one party got us to this place? What about a complete lack of respect and even denigration of those who feel differently?…

Where are the camels, friends? I don’t claim to know all of the above. I only ask the question in order to avoid the slippery slope of potential foolish and unethical activity.  Otherwise…

“… his body will soon follow.”

Respectfully,

AR

who is boiling the frog?

We’ve heard the legend of the boiled frog. Put a frog in hot water; it will jump right out. Start it in a body of water that’s cooler; it will soothe itself and stay.

As condensed by Lessons4Living.com… [all emphasis mine]…

“Put a pot of cool water on the stove and then add the frog. Not sensing danger the frog will stay. Next, turn the burner on low to slowly heat the water. As the water warms, the frog relaxes. The warmth feels good. As the water gets hotter it acts like a steam bath draining away energy and deepening the frog’s relaxation. The frog becomes sleepy and has less and less energy while the water is getting hotter and hotter. By the time the frog realizes its danger, the water is beginning to boil, and it is too late to take action. There is neither time nor energy left to do anything. The frog perishes in the boiling water.”

I often ask myself multiple, related questions…

Where are we unable to sense the danger?

Where are we relaxing that we should not?

Where does something feel good that isn’t good at all?

Where is our energy being drained?

Where is it too late to take action?

And…

How long before we perish?

My mind wanders as I ponder the potential boiling water… 

… when we’re ok with incivility…

… when we’re ok with denigrating tweets…

… when we’re silent on the put down of any race…

… when we’re silent on sexual misconduct dependent on party…

… when we question infanticide in any arena…

… when we wonder if socialism (which often leads to communism) is actually, somehow good…

… when we’re ok with hypocrisy… (Note: see the elect on border security, immigration, and the immediate acceptance/rejection of Brett Kavanaugh’s vs. Justin Fairfax’s accusers)

Ugh. My heart hurts… I’m not sure I can wrap my brain around it all… on all sides… from both parties… on all we put up with or are silent to…

We don’t recognize the danger.

My strong sense is that it’s not one party that’s making this happen.

I thus have a few questions… for each of us…

What are we accepting — convincing ourselves that it’s healthy, wise, and good — that is not healthy wise and good? 

What are we actually entertaining as ok that is not?

What are we putting up with?

But perhaps the biggest question remains, if we continue in this unhealthy pattern that trips up even the most intelligent among us…

What if something huge is at stake?

Will we be able to see?

… before it’s too late?

Respectfully…

AR

state of the government ’19

In conjunction with the President’s State of the Union Address, we have annually, semi-humbly offered our annual “State of the Government” analysis. Consistently in that analysis, we’ve opined the following…


Our government is:

  1. Too partisan 
  2. Too influenced by money
  3. Too big
  4. Too financially imbalanced
  5. And too far removed from the Constitution. 

And this was all true prior to the 2016 elections.

So let me insert an additional “too”:

We are too divided. 

My sense is we are too divided because we look at socio-political issues from a singular perspective — thus from a limited perspective… from the left/right, black/white, rich/poor, etc. We aren’t good at looking through the perspective of someone who thinks/looks/acts/votes differently than we.

Remember one of my favorite singular perspectives, creatively expressed six years ago?

Let’s say I’m a peanut farmer. I love peanuts. I love peanuts so much, I grow them in my backyard. (I’ve got a big backyard.) I start my own business and it takes off — so much so, it’s hard to keep up; it becomes a massive business, and we are providing ample nutrition to many across the country. It’s a good thing, but nuts are all I think about!

But in order to advance my cause, I need specific legislation to be enacted — or refrained from.  Remember:  all I’m focused on is nuts. I need to thus ensure the Food & Drug Administration doesn’t become too sensitive regarding nut nutrition. I need to ensure my state doesn’t limit the land I till. I need to also ensure that no new taxes are tacked on to our cultivating equipment, so I can keep my costs low. In fact, I’m hoping they raise the speed limit so I can deliver more peanuts more quickly.

So many decisions affect my ability to produce peanuts — economically and socially. I’m concerned. Hence, I form N.U.T.S. — the “National Union for Tilling Soil” — in order to mobilize more people who share my singular focus; this way we can affect political change. We don’t care about almonds or pecans or even those high-calorie cashews. Our special interest is peanuts. Nuts it is.

Since the lobbyist laws were eased in the late ’70’s, we have more access to lawmakers. I don’t mean to be mean, but I will let them know we will only contribute to their individual campaigns if they support our nuts. We will speak out against their legislation regarding pickles and potatoes unless they support nuts. We will be wholeheartedly supportive of them, however, as long as they advance economic and social policy favorable to our cause. Our focus is on one thing and one thing only. Our money will back that up… millions… yes, millions… oh, nuts.

It’s not that the passion of the peanut farmer is right or wrong; the problem is that they are not concerned about the totality of effective, responsible government. A healthy state of the union is reflected in the totality of an effective, responsible government.

In order to achieve that healthy state, we must surrender the binary, divisive, partisan choices. We need to quit advocating for singular, limited perspectives. Especially when they’re nuts.

Respectfully…

AR

a binary world and a governor’s words

One of the most challenging aspects of current culture (even among the intelligent) is that we continue to craft our world as one full of binary choices…

You must be this or that… for or against… black or white… as if there are only two possible ways to react to every issue… as if there existed a simple two answers.

In this current events blogger’s semi-humble opinion (emphasis on the “semi”), we have significantly over-employed the “if-you’re-not-for-us-you’re-against-us mentality.” We have lost our awareness and even respect for the existent middle ground, a perspective that fits not into the “one or the other” division.

For example, it is possible to want secure borders and have great compassion for immigrants.

It is possible to want to ensure everyone has affordable health care and be concerned that the government is financially insolvent and operationally inefficient.

It is possible to support the #MeToo movement and believe that some women have prevaricated the truth.

It is therefore possible for a “middle” perspective to exist, even in the midst of a tribal culture passionately attempting to sway us otherwise. The sides/tribes benefit when they can add another to their team.

As we wrestle with the folly of a binary society, there are times it’s harder — harder to find what a “middle” perspective may be. Understand that we aren’t having this conversation simply due to the desire to compromise; we are having the conversation because the middle actually exists.

We find the middle murkier when discussing abortion. Such became clear once more last week when New York passed their state Reproductive Health Act on the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.

I’ll be honest… finding a completely factual synopsis of what this bill says and what it does not was incredibly difficult; too much opinion continuously obstructs the news.

New York’s previous abortion law was passed three years before Roe v. Wade. It “allowed women to seek abortions up to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and at any point if it was deemed medically necessary to protect the mother’s life.”

Their newly passed legislation “maintains the 24-week limit under which women can seek abortions but adds a provision for abortions at any time if the baby would not survive the birth. Additionally, the act permits abortions at any point if it is necessary to protect the mother’s life or health. It also decriminalizes abortion by regulating it under the public health law, not penal law.” [Source: “AM New York”]

The reaction has been raucous. Any middle is hard to find.

One of the most, perceived radical, public reactions was found in the words of Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam. He said this: “When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of the mother, with the consent of physicians, more than one physician by the way, and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus which is non-viable. So in this particular example, if the mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if this is what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”

With a raucous reaction to Northam’s reaction, the Governor has circled back and attempted to clarify that he was not talking about infanticide. His clarifications don’t seem to be gaining significant traction in the court of public opinion, as many people across all political affiliations are deeply disturbed by the Governor’s words — now finding fault in other words and behaviors of his, even though they previously existed.

I, too, am disturbed. I’m disturbed by the Governor’s words… disturbed by the condemnation… and disturbed by the cheers.

No doubt this isn’t a simple, binary answer. I wish we knew how to talk about it.

Respectfully…

AR

let’s talk about race – part II

We ended Part I with the following: 

“As Dr. King repeatedly, boldly shared, we are all equally created by God.

That was the message from Dr. King. However — and this is key — some people miss the ‘created equal’ part — others people miss the ‘by God’ part. People too often omit one or the other. Therein lies one of the biggest challenges to the issue of racial reconciliation…”

If we want to follow the encouragement of Dr. King, we must seek the way of God; we must recognize that God is the Creator of the equal status.

Too many of us, too often, think we can resolve and reconcile absent any seeking of the way of God.

I get it. Huge topic. But my desire is healing and solution — what will actually work. So how can God help us? Where do we start?

The reality is that God’s wisdom and good news is available for any who seek him. With him is the only place where each of us is fully accepted and truly belong. We don’t have to be perfect; we just have to be us. But let’s face it; this is indeed a pretty huge topic; many of us have inactive relationships with God; some of us may not be sure how we even feel about him. And we’ve seen some who’ve gone before us behave in harsh, unattractive ways. So how can the Creator of the universe — the Creator of us — help us move forward in a positive way?

Let’s start by asking some relevant questions…

First, who do you spend time with? Do your friends all think/look/act/vote like you?

In fact, did you know that 75% of white Americans have no non-white friends — and 67% of black Americans have no non-black friends?

That seems way more divided than God ever intended or designed, especially when the historic scriptures speak of future huge crowds “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” That kingdom diversity is beautiful.

Yet it makes me wonder how the way we view the world would change if we interacted more with those who were different than us. My sense is that each of us would see racism differently.

Secondly — and sincerely — when we see injustice, are we willing to speak up?

I’m not suggesting we scream and shout or hastily tweet, type some denigrating Facebook post. But one of the things I’ve poignantly learned from my friends of color is that silence is noticed. Could we each encourage one another to respectfully speak up? Be prudent — not rash — no slander, as targeted toward the young men standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last week. But let’s ensure our voices are heard.

And thirdly, what specifically more can we do?

Allow me to humbly share the keen encouragement of a wise friend…

  1. Stop with the binaries… this is not a choice between one or another — for or againstblack or white. It’s ok to say “black lives matter” and “blue lives matter” both at the same time, as both are true.
  2. Stop with the blindness… the color and historical. Realize what might offend the person who looks differently than you; be empathetic. Also, study history; history has not been consistently kind to persons of color. Let’s teach our kids that.
  3. Stop with the blame… while it’s wise to recognize where persons of specific ethnicity have gained favor, that does not require they feel guilty. Be humbly aware. Interact. Converse. If we interacted more respectfully with one another instead of just shouting louder and pointing fingers, we could make progress. And…
  4. Start seeking God’s wisdom… (there’s that huge topic again)…

Maybe seeking more about God is not a priority for you. Maybe it’s hard — hard to trust or recognize how good he is. I get it. Life’s a journey and not always easy; we can be pretty self-dependent, and it takes time to build a relationship. But here’s the thing… in order to bridge any gap in need of deep-rooted reconciliation, we need something bigger than we; we need copious love, grace, forgiveness, selflessness, humility, hospitality, respect, patience, and awareness that all are indeed created equal and belong. God’s gospel message is the only teaching that provides such wisdom, as no human way of thinking comes consistently close. It doesn’t last. It doesn’t work. Remember: we are seeking what actually works.

Seemingly over the last several decades, no less, we have lost our awe of God. We have forgotten how much we need him. We have forgotten his greatness and grandeur… and we have thus neglected to tap into his wisdom, especially places like here when we need it most.

With all due respect, isn’t it time to latch onto that which could actually heal us? … that which we need most?

That was the message of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Let us each humbly start there.

Respectfully… always…

AR

let’s talk about race – part I

Several years ago, I walked into a slightly-populated, small hospital waiting room in need of a break and a bite. I was the only woman. I was also the only white person. Already gathered were five or six, African-American men.

The men were engaged in conversation. I sat by myself at the only table in the room, eating my dinner. On the wall most prominent in the room, hung a TV tuned in to ESPN. The men actively bantered about the sports news of the day… that is, until a particular story came on…

A white basketball coach made a racially-insensitive comment — a comment that could easily be construed as offensive to all others in the room. The men stopped talking; they became immediately sullen and silent. I realized in that moment that if I was silent, too, it would be noticed. And not only would it be noticed, but no one would know how I felt about the incident — that I found it foolish and insensitive, too. Hence, it was not them that needed to speak up; it was me.

Breaking the awkward silence, I spoke my first words to these then strangers. Pretty much out of nowhere, I strongly offered, “You know why a coach says something like that?”

Each man turned straight to me, gazing intently, no doubt waiting and wanting to hear how the only person present who was not a person of color would chime in.

I boldly asserted, “Because his team’s not winning. What an awful thing to say!”

The “amens” and high-fives were immediate… “Exactly!”… “No doubt!”… We all spent the next 30 minutes or so interacting, sharing our preferences and perspectives, talking about our mutual love for the Lakers, but mostly sharing true fellowship. Before my exit, we each shook hands and acknowledged a sweet time together.

I’ve thought of that moment many days… What if I had remained quiet? What would the men in the room have believed about me? What would they have projected on all persons of majority color? That I/we supported such an offense? That this was acceptable and ok? That racism is ok?

Let’s be clear. “Racism” and “race” are two different things. Race is a system society has long used to categorize people. “Racism” is a system that prioritizes and benefits only certain groups of people.

I had a fantastic conversation about this with my wise and witty friend, Collin, last week. While reminding me of the above definitions, he also inspired me in the week we honored Dr. King, challenging me as to what we can each do next.

Hence, allow me to ponder further in this, “Part I” on the Intramuralist — as no doubt racial reconciliation is one of the most challenging issues of our time.

We remember Martin Luther King Jr. with sincere reverence. It was he, no doubt, who dramatically changed the trajectory of our country’s conversation, exhorting the resolute truth that people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Dr. King consistently and loudly proclaimed that all men are created equal. Remember the end of his iconic “I Have a Dream” address… 

“… when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

Yes. We are all equal. As Dr. King repeatedly, boldly shared, we are all equally created by God.

That was the message from Dr. King. However — and this is key — some people miss the “created equal” part — other people miss the “by God” part. People too often omit one or the other. Therein lies one of the biggest challenges to the issue of racial reconciliation — and such leads to the primary point of Part I.

God created all men, women, children, black, white, Latino, etc. as equal. It is man who has divided them. But too often we omit God from the conversation, even though he is the Creator of the equal status.

We instead allow others to craft the conversation — other news outlets, media, etc. which have political and profit agendas that cloud the objectivity and accuracy of their reporting. They often intentionally omit God’s role and the need to seek his way and wisdom first — as Dr. King consistently encouraged. Precisely because of their agenda and omission — and because they then present opinion as news — they have become one of the biggest fuelers of division plaguing the planet today. 

If we are going to make progress in the area of racial reconciliation — and encourage each of us to take the next step — it’s time we stop letting political agendas, social media, and news outlets divide us.

Respectfully… but only Part I…

AR

America’s judgment

By now many have heard of the weekend encounter between a group of predominantly white teenage boys attending the annual March for Life and an older Native American man attending the inaugural Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C.

Here’s how the New York Times led with Saturday’s story: “Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Mob Native Elder at Indigenous Peoples March.”

CNN reported the story as follows: “Video shows a crowd of teenagers wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats taunting a Native American elder after Friday’s Indigenous Peoples March at the Lincoln Memorial.”

NPR described the incident the next morning as this: “Video Of Kentucky Students Mocking Native American Man Draws Outcry.”

And the Washington Post followed with their extended Sunday editorial, entitled: “The Catholic Church’s shameful history of Native American abuses.”

Other news outlets, organizations, lawmakers, and outspoken celebrities quickly chimed in — even the teens’ school — each condemning the teenagers. Their chorus of public rebuke included various angles… “blatant racism”… the boys being the product of a “hate factory”… how conservative persons are “fearful now”… “bigotry”… how this was “one of the most horrific displays of ignorance, racism and disrespect”… and how Pres. Trump deserves the blame.

No doubt we live in an agitated, reactive culture. We also live in a culture in which for too long, too many have been silent about blatant racism and bigotry.

There’s only one problem: the angles shared by the New York Times, CNN, NPR, the Washington Post, etal. were wrong.

As video would prove less than 24 hours later, the teenage boys did not do what the above news outlets reported. They did not block the man; the mocking claim is questionable (especially since such is a subjective assessment); and the boys, themselves, were the target of some odd sect, who were yelling incessant slurs at the boys, when the Native American man approached the group. The video shows that the New York Times, CNN, NPR, the Washington Post, etal. each ran stories completely out of context. The video contradicted their reporting.

To be clear, bigotry is a significant issue in this country. Horrific displays of ignorance, racism and disrespect do exist. I thus crave each of us consider our next step in being part of the healing process of racial reconciliation, a conversation we will next entertain on the Intramuralist. As for the weekend’s events, let’s wrestle with what actually happened as opposed to simply sharing and shouting our own passion.

Let us thus state that we cannot conclude the motive of the news outlets with certainty. Did they have an agenda? Did they simply want to be among the first to report? Did they not care if journalistic standards were met?

Thankfully, many of those outlets/outspoken persons have apologized for their rush to judgment. Many others, however — perhaps precisely because of their passion — have ignored either their own error or the facts, which at this time seems to be allowing and promoting continued chastisement and even threats directed at a group of teenage boys.

Friends, allow me to humbly yet boldly submit that raw, respectful, honest, interactive, God-honoring, and solution-oriented conversations about ethnicity and race are conversations this country needs to have. But to make these boys the face and focus of that conversation is to ignore what actually happened.

As for what actually happened, Saturday’s incident begs two questions going into the week ahead on the Intramuralist:

(1) What else are news outlets reporting that is wrong?

And…

(2) Where else are the rest of us rushing to judgment — because no evidence exists to prove the media (or us) wrong?

In our next two posts, we’re going to focus on racial reconciliation — no doubt one of the most important cultural challenges of our time. Join me. Be a part of the conversation. Be a part of the solution. My earnest desire is to handle the topic well and in a way that all persons feel deeply valued.

But Part I (coming Sunday) will include a key focus on the role of today’s news outlets, social media, political agendas, etc. As witnessed this weekend, they are a serious part of the problem.

Keep Saturday’s incident in mind, recognizing the sequence: the media publicized an inaccurate account, they presented opinion as if it was news, others re-published, re-tweeted, or re-something’ed the opinion, which then prompted millions more to rush to judgment.

Again, it was untrue.

Let such poor reporting not take away from our need to wrestle well with our current and historical racial challenges. But let it also cause us to pause — recognizing and admitting that news outlets and social media are one of the biggest fuelers of division plaguing the planet today. On the left. On the right. They are indeed part of the problem.

Hence, stay tuned for Sunday. This may be uncomfortable for some. Maybe more. But the conversation is necessary and good.

Respectfully…

AR

solving the conflict…

This week I had an unfortunate conflict with a client. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of conflict; however, learning to work through conflict in a healthy way is a necessary life skill.

Allow me to first share some brief background, which will aid in reaching the main point of today’s further-reaching post…

I work with a highly respected counseling group. While not a licensed professional counselor, my role is to connect an excellent, counseling team with organizations which desire to offer increased professional care for the mental health of persons in their purview. It is a sweet, privileged process to be able to help persons get the care they need.

Last week I had a man call who was very angry. Through a series of steps and conversations with others, he had come to believe something about a friend’s care that was untrue. Let me be respectfully clear: the man passionately believed that his perspective was completely accurate. As the one who administers the program, I can tell you his perspective was incorrect. But by this time, the conflict had brewed for a bit, and the man was mad. He was loud. He believed absolutely everything he was saying.

I’ve had some time since to reflect upon the conflict, and because I desire to grow in what is good, I’ve also asked myself: where else does this apply?

I look at our country and culture, seeing them attempt to work through conflict. With all due respect, our country stinks at it.

I look at the current shutdown. We stink at solving that, too.

I hear you. “If Trump would only quit demanding he get his way, demanding he get the money to build his campaign-promised wall…” Or… “If Pelosi and Schumer would only recognize how hypocritical they are, as when Obama was in office, they wholeheartedly supported such a barrier…”

Yes, please don’t attempt to tell me how one side is more moral or consistent. They are arguing about 0.0998% of the total federal budget; both sides seem most about political posturing. My personal hope is that the President’s stab at compromise over the weekend is sincere and will be fruitful — leading to a solution to the shutdown and to more bipartisan talks as to how we can efficiently, effectively and compassionately overhaul the current broken immigration system going forward.

But the problem with conflict is we get stuck in this unhealthy pattern, thinking that there exist only two ways to solve a problem… You/me. Black/white. Republican/Democrat. Yada/Yada. Then we only fight for and listen to a singular side.

Friends, there are far more ways than two to solve almost every problem.

When the loud, angry man called me last week, I can’t say I was thrilled. In fact, I immediately said an extra prayer for patience in hopes that I could listen well.

I listened to the man who shared his story. I asked questions about what I didn’t understand. I didn’t point out any perceived wrongful thinking. The purpose of my question asking was to understand why he felt the way he did.

Fascinating what happened next…

The angry man felt heard by my listening. He softened. Giving him space, grace, and time to communicate as he desired, he then was willing to hear my perspective, too. I shared with him some things he didn’t know. And by me listening to him first, he was willing to wrestle with what he previously misunderstood. He even offered that maybe he was part of the miscommunication.

 So after our initial, mutual respectful round of listening, I asked, “Sir, can I share with you my end game? My priority is the person gets the care they need. With that in mind, let’s work back from there.”

If our branches of government would first listen to one another — then recognize that they want the same thing — effective border security, which minimizes crime but allows responsible others to enter — and if they would work back from there — perhaps they would realize there exist more than solely two approaches.

Perhaps they would also realize our government would serve us better, too.

Did I mention that learning to work through conflict in a healthy way is a necessary life skill?

Respectfully…
AR