incorrect ‘correctness’

On the Wednesday afternoon after the 2016 presidential election, a shoplifting attempt occurred at Gibson’s Bakery in the small town of Oberlin, Ohio. The bakery is adjacent to Oberlin College, a small private school considered “the second oldest continuously operating coeducational institute of higher learning in the world.”

In 5 years time, this was the 41st shoplifting incident at the family-owned, campus entity, with 40 adults arrested previously, 6 of whom were African-American. Jonathan Aladin, the student who was caught stealing in 2016, was also African-American. He was also underage. According to court records, Aladin was “attempting to steal wine from Gibson’s while purchasing other wine with fake identification.”

When the incident occurred, the store owner’s grandson, Allyn Gibson, who was working at the time, confronted Aladin and his attempted theft while still inside the store; the conflict continued as the suspect exited the store, at which time Gibson attempted to take pictures of Aladin on his phone, also at which time a physical altercation ensued between Gibson and Aladin — and now two of Aladin’s friends. According to the police who first arrived at the scene, “They [found] Gibson on his back, with [the three undergraduates] punching and kicking him. All three were charged, [the thief] with robbery and his friends with assault.” 

In the evening of the same day, again according to court documents, “Efforts were made to organize a protest outside Gibson’s Food Market and Bakery the following [next] day. Members of Oberlin College Staff and Administration were made aware of these efforts, and Dean of Students named Defendant, Meredith Raimondo, communicated with other faculty and staff members about having a meeting on November 10, 2016 in advance of the scheduled protests. Some of the individuals included in that communication were present at the protests…”

The protests began on the 10th, and Raimondo was present. Key to the two days of protests was a distributed flyer handed to many, which included the statement that Gibson’s is “a racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination.” Legal testimony was provided that college staff — including Raimondo — distributed copies of the flyer and college copy machines were utilized in their creation.

Oberlin’s student senate would then pass a resolution, comparable to the language of the flyer. With affirmation from several among the college faculty, students were strongly urged to boycott the bakery for a significant time. Reports are that flyers promoting the boycott remained posted on Obelin’s property for over one year. 

Why would the case of a college, college bakery, and some unlawfully-behaving students become today’s topic?

Jonathan Aladin and his two friends later pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanor charges. Not only did Aladin admit the theft and underage drinking, he also signed a sworn statement that Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated.

Friends, there was no discrimination. Oberlin’s protests promoted mistruth.

So let’s wrestle with a few significant observations, comments, and questions…

First, let this discussion not numb us to the reality that discrimination still happens today. Let the untrue not distract us from the true.

Let us also admit that not everything we think is discrimination actually is discrimination. 

Why is that so? Is it because our perspectives are limited? Is it because we hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see, and believe what we want to believe? Do we believe only what fits into our already engrained and established narratives?

Why the instant not only over-reaction by the college, but the incorrect reaction by the college?  Why the extreme, immediate slander of another?   

What are these colleges teaching our kids? Were they honestly attempting to teach what is good and right and true?

And why is it that one of the seemingly most conflicting tensions of current culture — our efforts of political correctness — too often go too far? How can we lessen incorrect “correctness” — ensuring that the marginalized have a voice — but in our efforts to provide that voice, we are discerning and not promoting mistruth? Every incident is not the same.

Unfortunately for Oberlin, the college is now wrestling with the $44 million judgment levied against them last week — a judgment concluding their behavior caused significant lost revenue for the bakery and cost several employees their jobs. 

Hence, I continue to think that first pausing in these situations is prudent — for all of us. Our initial reactions are often more based on how we actually, already feel. When we instead pause, we allow for the grace and space for self and others to consider other angles and time to gather more of the facts. When we pause, we can potentially lessen the incorrect correctness.

Respectfully…

AR

revving it down the road…

As previously noted, the Intramuralist took so-called “the show on the road” for most of the past two weeks. There were people to see, graduations to celebrate, meetings and more to attend to.

Over the course of those two weeks, my son and I expected to journey an approximate 3,000 miles. Knowing, therefore, that significant time would be spent in the car, we wanted to delight in that time — thus renting a pretty sweet car. Let me just say, a brand new, V6 Camaro convertible rides very, very well.

Save for some friendly smiles, a few thumbs up, and some teenage heads turned, our automotive splurge was mostly a treat enjoyed by me and my son. Granted, there was one moment that slightly strayed from said narrative…

We were in a midwest suburb, on a four lane, 45 m.p.h. road, slowing to red light. Prior to our stop, a lime green, Kia Soul sedan whizzed right in, in front of us, seemingly needing to be first to go when the light turned green.

I was still making my way toward the stop when my passenger teased me about taking advantage of the power of a V6 engine. Not one to resist a friendly dare that is perceived harmful to no one, instead of coming to a stop behind the Kia, I decided to have some fun with the situation and moved into the adjacent lane, coming side-by-side to the car which had just pulled in front of me.

Sitting at the red light, we could see that the two lanes would merge maybe 100 yards in front of us. Hence, after thoroughly checking the surroundings, when the light turned green, I hit the gas and gave my car an immediate go. It was awesome!

Now let me just say, that my car never reached any majorly significant speed; it was simply that my vehicle was able to accelerate faster than all those around me. We endangered no one nor any other vehicle.

But that seemed lost to those in the Kia car. After we safely pulled in front of them with far more than ample space, the driver honked long and loud, offering obscene gestures, and her passenger actually stuck his head out the window, screaming a few choice profanities. They then tailed me extremely closely, obviously irritated by my intended-to-be playful act.

So let me pause there for a moment… making a few, basic observations…

I truly intended to be playful. I realize several would not approve of my behavior, which is completely valid. It is also true that my choice endangered no one.

What’s additionally true is that the only difference now for those in the Kia Soul was that they had to be behind me; they weren’t first. They were not delayed. They were not in danger. They were not even slightly detoured in the way in which they wanted to go. They simply were no longer first in line.

That’s what prompted me to ponder further…

What is it about current culture that compels one to scream and shout simply because they are no longer “first”? … that the situation is no longer proceeding the way they wanted it? Is there an entitlement factor here?

… If it’s not my way, I’m going to let you have it…

If it’s not my way, you must be in the wrong…

Not only are you wrong, but you deserve to be scolded!

… flipped off!

… told offf!

… punished…

… because it must be my way

It must be mine.

There is an element embedded here that seems vastly unhealthy (… yes, way beyond any small semblance of drag racing…).

The unhealthy element is this need to tell people off when we don’t like their behavior… this need to put down others because we don’t like how their actions affect us. It’s not about being in danger; it’s about what we don’t like in another.

That’s just it. We magnify what we dislike. The behavior of another may or may not be a big deal, but we are justifying our over-reaction.

That doesn’t sound good and healthy and wise…

Respectfully…

AR

the last 2 weeks in questions…

So for the last two weeks, the Intramuralist has been on the road. It’s been great — great to interact and visit and listen and celebrate and invest in those I see less often. In order, no less to keep up on the news — and ensure I’m not following too much of a biased, therefore misleading site — I’ve written down the questions I’ve seen published while away. Hence, the last two weeks in 100 questions…

  1. Why Won’t Socialism Die?
  2. Does Intolerance Dampen Dissent?
  3. Hello, Boris?
  4. Is British Politics on the Brink of a Historic Realignment?
  5. Is the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process Dead?
  6. Why Do People Tear Down Architectural Landmarks?
  7. Will Venezuela Force Foreign Policy Reckoning For Progressives?
  8. What Is ‘Single Payer’ Health Care?
  9. Who is blocking Medicare-for-All?
  10. Would Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-All Save Money?
  11. Will Bipartisan ‘Lower Health Care Costs Act’ Help?
  12. High Drug Prices: Who’s Really to Blame?
  13. Who’s going to Win the Stanley Cup?
  14. Can the Boston Bruins win the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals?
  15. Can the Blues Break their Stanley Cup drought?
  16. Can Warren Overtake Sanders?
  17. How the Sanders Revolution Ends?
  18. Did Bernie Just Inadvertently Admit That Actually There Is A Crisis At Our Border?
  19. What’s So Funny, Joe?
  20. Is Biden the New Hillary Clinton?
  21. Can Joe Biden Be the Future and the Past?
  22. What is the Point of His [Biden’s] Candidacy?
  23. What is the Hyde Amendment?
  24. Did Leonardo da Vinci Have ADHD?
  25. What Would Leonardo da Vinci Think of the Future?
  26. What was Leonardo da Vinci Doing at Your Age?
  27. Why Is Mueller Fighting a Public Hearing on Capitol Hill?
  28. Did Mueller Lie to the Attorney General on March 5th?
  29. How much did the FBI rely on a discredited Trump-Russia dossier?
  30. Why Is the Info Behind Russia Probe All Linked to Clinton?
  31. Is Bill Barr a Bad Man?
  32. Another Year of Investigations?
  33. Is Common Ground on Abortion Possible?
  34. What Do the New State Abortion Laws Really Mean for Women?
  35. Who to Blame For America’s Iran Policy?
  36. School Choice: Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?
  37. Why Are Dems Still Foot-Dragging on Impeachment?
  38. Are Democrats Choosing to Lose?
  39. Have Democrats Given Up on Beating Trump in an Election?
  40. Do Dems Have to Impeach Trump to Have a Chance in 2020?
  41. Does the Dem Media Need Impeachment to Boost Ratings?
  42. Where’s the Media’s Explanation for Avenatti?
  43. Was President Trump Actually ‘Nasty’ to Meghan Markle?
  44. Are Meghan Markle & Prince Harry Really Moving to America with Baby Archie?
  45. Why Does Queen Elizabeth Have Two Birthdays?
  46. What’s Next for “Jeopardy” Phenom James Holzhauer?
  47. How Did the Warriors Get Here?
  48. This Can’t Be It for the Warriors, Can It?
  49. The Hottest Destination for NBA Free Agents Is … Brooklyn?
  50. Lakers? Knicks? Suns? Who’s Willing to Trade for CP3 and His Monster Contract?
  51. Why Is Spirituality Correlated With Life Satisfaction?
  52. Will Woke Progressives Allow Celebrities to Be Christian?
  53. Meryl Streep: What About Toxic Feminimity?
  54. Is there a Barack Obama-Steven Spielberg collaboration coming?
  55. What If Appalling FBI Texts Were Written About Obama in ’08?
  56. Why Did Obama Ignore Reports of Russian Meddling?
  57. Are We at Risk of a Chinese Dollar Dump?
  58. Why Is China So Afraid of the Memory of Tiananmen Square?
  59. Across China, Who Remembers Tiananmen?
  60. Is Russia Rethinking Its Relationship With China?
  61. How Would Reagan Approach Iran?
  62. Is U.S. Pressure Really Uniting Iran’s Rival Political Camps?
  63. Why Do College Commencement Speeches Ignore Economic Reality?
  64. Will Trump Really Pull the Trigger on Mexico Tariffs?
  65. Why Is Congress Incentivizing Illegal Immigration?
  66. Can We Blame Climate Change for the Tornado Outbreak?
  67. Can Soil Solve the Climate Crisis?
  68. Why Does Al Gore Keep Denying Science?
  69. Who’s in Danger of Missing the Third Dem Debate?
  70. Are “Children of Divorce” Doomed in Their Own Marriages?
  71. Why Does US Allow Food Additives Europe Says Are Unsafe?
  72. What Comes First? The Home or the Retirement Account?
  73. What Is A Safe Withdrawal Rate In Retirement?
  74. Is It 1998 All Over Again for Markets?
  75. Can Big Pharma Be Held Accountable for Opioid Epidemic?
  76. Did Cellphones Bring Down Crime Rates in the 90s?
  77. Is ‘Gaming Disorder’ an Illness?
  78. Where are the floods?
  79. What if We Hired for Skills, Not Degrees?
  80. What Inspired Orwell’s Masterpiece?
  81. Claire McCaskill and a MeToo Double Standard?
  82. Why Are Unions Joining Conservatives to Protect Pipelines?
  83. Why Do We Worry About Recession So Much?
  84. How Long Will My Money Last?
  85. D-Day, A Year Too Late? 
  86. Could Tolerating Disease Be Better Than Fighting It?
  87. Who Can Adopt a Native American Child?
  88. Should Conservatives Abandon the University?
  89. Modern Diversity Training: Reconciliation, or Grievance?
  90. What is Pride Month?
  91. Will Elon Musk Ruin Astronomy?
  92. To Vape or Not To Vape?
  93. What’s Next for Stocks As Recession Probabilities Increase?
  94. Did Ilhan Omar commit federal tax fraud?
  95. What Makes U.S. Military Interventions Successful?
  96. 2020 Census: Will Your Children Get the Support They Need?
  97. ISIS Using Mex Border in Terror Smuggle?
  98. Who is the best player at the Women’s World Cup?
  99. Who will rule the Women’s World Cup?
  100. Can We All Just Get Along?

Just asking questions, friends. Any reliable new source should allow each and all of us to ask them.

Respectfully…

AR

super-sized, once more…

Ten years ago, in the early days of the Intramuralist, we penned the beginning of this post. I’m fascinated by its continued relevance…

“Everything’s bigger in America. We’ve got the biggest cars. The biggest houses. The biggest companies. The biggest food. And finally, the biggest people. America has now become the fattest nation in the world.”  (From Morgan, in “Super Size Me”)

The fattest nation in the world. I wonder: is bigger always better?

In the wake of prodigious deficit spending, we continue to hear the government convening in order to decipher what new legislation to enact. They speak of which programs to add and where to increase spending. Let me be the first to say, much legislation supports what many consider to be a good program. But question: when do we employ our discernment skills? In other words, when do Democrats and Republicans examine which programs are no longer effective or which do we simply have no resources to fund — even if it’s good? Once a program is funded, does that mean it is subsidized (or super-sized) for life?

The size of our government has increased exponentially under most all current and recent executive and legislative branches. Few laws are rescinded. Hence, our “fat” nation now controls how we park, how we drive, what we drive, what we eat, what we drink, how we behave in public, the level of noise we can make, what drugs are available, what words can be said on television, our guns, our banks, the car manufacturers, interest rates, dairy standards, the animal population, what others can say in regard to our health, what they can say in regard to our character, what must be taught, what must be preserved, what is extinct, how to vote, how to marry, how to own, how to rent, how to buy, how to sell, how to operate a boat, what insurance to obtain, the toll roads, parks, how many can sleep in a hotel room, when and where you can buy alcohol, how much income tax to pay, sales tax, gas tax, real estate tax, personal property tax, estate tax, excise tax, utilities tax, payroll tax, dividends tax, motor oil tax, gift tax, amusements tax, consumption tax, yada yada yada. That looks on the plus size to me. Let us say it differently: our government is big! And that is due to both Democrat and Republican-led efforts. That is due to multiple administrations.

Is this what the Constitution intended?  Big government? Control and influence in as many aspects as elected officials deem necessary? Where will they stop? 

Now ten years later, government continues to be super-sized. 

Such prompts me increased concern as heading into 2020, we witness the public flirtation with socialism. Why? Because Socialism would make government even bigger; hence, we ask: have we forgotten the historic dangers of super-sizing?

Wrote author Robert Tracinski two years ago in response to the younger generations’ belief that socialism is positive as a whole:

“What have they missed that they can believe that? Here’s what they’ve missed: the artificial famine in Ukraine, the Soviet Gulags, the forced deportation of Lithuanians, the persecution of Christians, China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, North Korea’s horrific prison camps and famines, the systematic impoverishment of Cuba, and now Venezuela’s collapse into starvation and mass-murder…

There’s always someone who insists that it isn’t fair to pin all of these crimes on ‘socialism’ because those examples weren’t really socialism. The only ‘real’ socialism is the warm, fuzzy welfare-statism of a handful of innocuous Western European countries. This is a pretty obvious version of the No True Scotsman fallacy…” 

[“No true Scotsman or appeal to purity is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample… (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group.”)

In Pres. Bill Clinton’s 1996 State of the Union address, encouraging a bipartisan approach, he said the following: 

“We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there’s not a program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means. The era of big government is over.” 

With the size and debt of the federal government recently articulated as a significant problem plaguing our country today, I wonder if we’ve forgotten the wisdom in Clinton’s words… and the danger of being so big.

Respectfully…

AR

note to the graduate ’19

[Originally penned 4 years ago, when my oldest was graduating from high school… still one of our most popular, timeless posts…]

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

As we pen a final post to those now formally entering adulthood, allow us to address a few more brief truths as you take these next few, albeit humongous steps…

First, there is a time for everything — every activity under heaven, every season under the sun. Hear me now: you will not enjoy nor desire each of these times. Every activity will not be wonderful nor every season incredibly joyous and fun. Don’t let me discourage you; that’s not my intent. My intent is to wrestle with reality.

Remember that enjoying and embracing are not the same thing. As you face life’s next chapters, the truth is that there will be seasons and chapters that stretch you beyond your wildest imagination — beyond where you ever thought you’d go or perhaps ever wanted. You have a choice in how to respond. When the time comes to tear down or turn away, embrace the time; when the time comes to speak, speak — or be quiet, be quiet. Enjoying the season is less important than learning from the experience. The wise man learns and grows from the seasons that are hard.

Second — and don’t let me shock you — but contrary to perhaps your long-held belief (or any fictional, parenting mantra) — you cannot be whatever you want to be. I’m sorry; remember… we are wrestling with reality. Similar to the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and that jolly old St. Nick, there are a few things we’ve told you that aren’t actually true.

It is true that you cannot be whatever or whoever you want to be (… just ask all those who’ve thought they should be President). You can, however, be all that God created you to be. 

Embrace your gifts. Utilize the unique wiring within you — the wiring that makes you distinctly and beautifully, uniquely you! Don’t compare yourself to another, falling prey to society’s hollow teaching that another person’s wiring or set up is somehow better or worse than yours. Simply embrace your own strengths and grow from your own weaknesses. Seek God first; seek his intention for your life. Then be who he created you to be, and do what he created you to do. Don’t compare your calling to any other.

And third (because this proud, reflective parent always has seemingly much to say), let me offer a brief rapid fire of final encouragement…

Love deeply. Offer grace generously. Never view grace and truth as opposites, as each should be applied in ample measure. Wash your sheets. Don’t be selfish. Resist being quick to anger. Be fast to forgive. Be humble. Forgive again. And again. Pursue wisdom. Consider coffee. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Separate the reds from the whites. Be charitable. Save some; spend some; and give some away. Don’t be afraid of sorrow. Turn off the XBOX. Put the iPhone down sometimes. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t think of equality with God as something to be grasped. Listen to the elderly; invest in the young. Bow and curtsy when appropriate. Show respect — in what you say and how you think. Remember that respect does not mean accepting as equally good and true. Remember that all things are not equally good and true. Know when to say that; know when to not. Open doors for other people. Look another in the eye. Use your napkin. Be discerning. Be aware that just because something feels good, it might not be wise. Be prayerful. Figure the faith thing out. And embrace each and every season shared above… embracing the time to laugh… the time to cry… the time to grieve… and yes, the time to dance.

There is a time for everything. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. Graduates, without a doubt, now is your time to dance. Enjoy… how beautiful…

With a special salute to this year’s grads…

AR

so what’s the issue?

Last week we asked the following:

Naming no specific persons or parties, why do you believe America is headed on the wrong track?

Your responses — publicly and privately — were fascinating and insightful. I always appreciate even the most private conversation. I admire the one who asks more questions. And I sincerely respect the one who knows they don’t know it all. 

Duly noted, this topic is huge. So let’s dive deeper. Let’s be a little more particular. Let’s get to what’s maybe more tangible and wise to wrestle with.

Let me first again state the added ground rule of omitting references to a specific person or party. Note that the reason for said ground rule is to minimize the tension and emotion often sparked in the specifics, so that we can actually dialogue. When we dialogue, we make progress. When we make progress, solution becomes possible. 

I want to wrestle with specific issues. No judgment. No blame. Just the issue itself.

Without naming a specific person, party, or a political position, what is the greatest issue facing our country today?

It’s a slight tweak on our most recent question in regard to right track/wrong track; that’s a little broader. My desire is to become more distinct.

What one issue, from your perspective, currently plagues our country most?

Climate change?

Government size?

Gun control?

Mental health?

Religious freedom?

Don’t allow me to suggest one issue or another. We each hail from varied perspectives; hence, our perception of what plagues us most will undoubtedly be different. There are so many possible answers.

Please feel free then to suggest any issue. If possible, try to avoid simply stating a political position. For example, believing that foreign threats or terrorism currently plagues our country, I might identify the specific issue as: “Too many terrorists are currently plotting to destroy us.” 

Then, if possible to answer, here’s a tempting sub-question:

Concisely as possible, what needs to be done to solve the issue?

Again, resist the urge to blame another. The goal is progress — not continued finger pointing.

The means, my friends, is respectful dialogue.

Since so often respect is absent and dialogue shuts down — and since so often even the intelligent justify insult — and since so often so much impedes actual solution — let’s focus on the “it” and not the “who.” Let’s focus on the actual issue. When we target the “who,” we often impede progress.

So what’s the issue? What’s the greatest issue facing our country today?

Respectfully…

AR

pausing for Decoration Day

Prior to our next post following up on soliciting right track/wrong track/tough topic feedback, allow us to pause for a moment for Memorial Day. I’ll be honest; sometimes our federal holidays don’t prompt in me the reflection and forethought they deserve. For example… 

On the 4th of July, I don’t always find myself pondering and giving thanks for our nation’s Declaration of Independence from British rule…

Labor Day signifies more to me the official end to summer than any thought of the working people who have added to the strength and well-being of our country…

And Columbus Day? Yes, I’ve seen the appeal by some to change its name to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” And while I wish for all heritage to be honored, with truly all due respect, I’m pretty sure that floating Monday in October will remain a day where my primary awareness is having an extra day off in an otherwise busy week.

Not so, no less, with today. Well, tomorrow actually…

Observed every year on the last Monday of May is Memorial Day, a day in which we honor and remember those who have died serving in the United States Armed Forces. The day is less commonly called “Decoration Day,” denoting the practice of adorning the grave of a fallen soldier.

151 years ago — a wild thought to even imagine — then Ohio congressman, former general, and future President James Garfield addressed a crowd of 5,000 at Arlington National Cemetery for the first Decoration Day exercises. I love how he starts with how any actual speech on this day far pales in comparison to who we honor on the day…

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept; plighted faith may be broken; and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot…

I love to believe that no heroic sacrifice is ever lost; that the characters of men are molded and inspired by what their fathers have done… Each for himself gathered up the cherished purposes of life — its aims and ambitions, its dearest affections — and flung all, with life itself, into the scale of battle.

… If each grave had a voice to tell us what its silent tenant last saw and heard on earth, we might stand, with uncovered heads, and hear the whole story of the war. We should hear that one perished when the first great drops of the crimson shower began to fall, when the darkness of that first disaster at Manassas fell like an eclipse on the Nation; that another died of disease while wearily waiting for winter to end; that this one fell on the field… The voices of these dead will forever fill the land like holy benedictions…”

As with other national holidays, it is easy to transform the meaning of a holiday into something seemingly lesser. In fact, I love the thought that Memorial Day is simultaneous with the start of summer — the fun, frolic, rest and relaxation that comes with the season.

But let us not forget those who “flung all, with life itself, into the scale of battle.” Let us not forget the silent tenants of those graves.

Let us first pause and give thanks before any summer festivity, ensuring those heroic sacrifices are never lost. Those men and women, who died while serving, did what they did then so you and I could do what we do now. 

That is worth always remembering.

Respectfully…

AR

wrong track?

So on the heels of our most recent discussion, allow me first a brief shout out…

On Sunday we talked about America’s abortion debate. That’s not a subject in which our country consistently dialogues respectfully, and yet, hearing from many of you publicly and privately, I witnessed numerous dialogues laced with significant diversity, courteous communication, with varied conviction. Yes, there is hope (and need) for respectful dialogue.

With such a backdrop, allow me another challenging, but worthwhile subject to ponder. However, for participation in this conversation, I’d like to humbly request one additional ground rule…

One ground rule. Two questions. 

Question #1 comes today. Question #2 comes Sunday. Allow me first to set the backdrop…

For years pollsters have asked respondents where they think we’re heading. Are we going in the “right direction” or are we on the “wrong track”?

Currently (merging the data of the Economist, Harvard-Harris, Investor’s Business Daily, Politico, Rasmussen, and Reuters), only 39% of us believe the country is going in the right direction. 56.3% of us believe we are on the wrong track.

Prior to any “told-you-so’s” or fist bumps in the current, volatile, socio-political climate, let me add some relevant historical data…

At the beginning of January 2016, the differential was somewhat greater. 24% of us believed the country was going in the right direction; 65.7% perceived us on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January 2014, those numbers were 30.1% in the right direction and 63.3% on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January of 2012, the numbers were 24.5% in the right direction — 70% on the wrong track.

And at the beginning of January of 2010, 35.9% of the country believed we were going in the right direction — 56.7% in the wrong. Note: those numbers are almost identical to today.

So here’s my observation…

Noting that the numbers 9 years ago are almost identical to today, the perception that our country is going in the wrong direction is not based on any singular party or personality. In fact, data shows a solid wrong direction perception for well over two decades. Americans get that something is deeply wrong. We know this isn’t working.

Hence, first the ground rule — in addition to being respectful, of course: 

Please name no names and no parties. Make no references to specific people.

Then, the first of two questions…

Why do you believe America is headed on the wrong track? In other words, what’s wrong?

(Or if you don’t believe such, why do you not?)

Be respectful. Be semi-brief. But be sincere; what do you think? Feel free to reach out to me publicly or privately — private message, email, comment or text. Let’s see what one another thinks. 

Next post will pose Question #2. It’s a little more targeted, asking for feedback on specific issues, utilizing similar ground rules.

But this process makes me ponder…

If we adhere to the ground rules, could we actually ease the tension? And if we could actually ease the tension, could we make more progress on the issues?

Ah, more great questions…

Respectfully…

AR

America’s abortion debate

So how do we navigate through an issue that’s laced with passion, emotion and conviction? How do we talk about a topic that is nothing short of a rhetorical, ticking time bomb?

The so-called “sides” aren’t talking; they don’t seem to know how to any more. Hence, they only insult and scream. 

But geesh… we can’t even agree on who the “sides” are…

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice

Pro-Choice vs. Anti-Choice

Pro-Abortion vs. Pro-Life

Pro-Women vs. Pro-Birth

We even fight about what to call each other. We then judge the other side, exonerating self in our decision to stop listening to, learn from, and sadly, respect.

Friends, walk with me here for a minute, through the ticking time bomb. I pray my gentleness and respect will be evident to all.

Throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. I have grieved with those who have made the choice — and grieved with those who did not. I have grieved the stoppage of a beating heart — and I have grieved the lack of compassion offered to one who has stopped it.

I am troubled, too, by the extremes. As with most issues, there are extensive middle perspectives. Adherers of these convictions are typically more silent than the rest, as the extremes are always louder. But on abortion, especially, that middle is incredibly messy. 

According to Pew Research, about 20% of America believes abortion should be illegal in every and all circumstances and about 30% of America believes it should be legal in every and all circumstances. That means the 20% would not allow abortion in cases of rape and incest, and the 30% would allow abortion any time in those nine months. That leaves 50% of us somewhere in the messy in-between.

I mentioned that throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. The primary reason I have had trouble discerning what I believe and having peace with my own conviction is because I have been deeply disturbed by the behavior of those 20 and 30 percent.

There are all sorts of angles to consider here… the angle of the mother… the father… the baby, fetus (or whatever name one considers most expedient to support their perspective)… not only those three, but also the angle of the great big God of the universe. What does he require of us?

My sense is the reason for the screaming is the tendency to accentuate solely one of the above angles. So let me humbly ask the obvious: aren’t all angles in play?

What would happen if each of us learned to consider the other three angles?

Would we learn more? Would we grow? Would we come to a solution?

We don’t have to necessarily change our conviction or opinion, but wouldn’t it be wiser if we actually had compassion for all?

I get it. It’s a tough issue; it’s hard to talk about. It’d be far easier to ignore and insult instead of wade through the ticking time bombs.

But I believe in respect and compassion for all. That’s not the same as compromise, as it remains true; we can’t “split the baby in half,” so-to-speak.

But we can learn to listen better.

We can learn to have more compassion.

And we can learn in making our gentleness and respect evident to all.

Respectfully…

AR

Harvard. Smart?

So let’s start today with the end in mind. Let’s “reverse engineer” — noting the solid engineering schools across the country — including Harvard — as we start where we typically end… with ten questions already in mind…

  • What are we doing?
  • Can we no longer tolerate moral difference?
  • If one person engages in a legal activity that is perceived as “trauma-inducing” to another, must the first person be stopped?
  • Is what’s trauma-inducing for one therefore trauma-inducing for all?
  • Can you or I decide what’s right for everyone else?
  • Is everyone deserving of due process?
  • Does the “unpopular defendant” deserve legal representation?
  • Are collegiate administrations exuding wisdom on the college campus?
  • Are we teaching twenty-somethings how to grow up?
  • And what’s the right response to a protest?

On Saturday Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana removed spouses Ron Sullivan and Stephanie Robinson from their respective dean positions on campus. They were co-faculty dean of Winthrop House. They were also the first African-Americans to serve in this position.

Sullivan has an extensive, admirable, professional resume — including roles as an advisor to then Sen. Barack Obama on criminal justice issues and representation of Michael Brown’s family in their suit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri. Sullivan’s past clients have included accused murderers and terrorists, consistent with the constitutional right that any accused of a crime deserves legal representation.

In the past year, no less, Sullivan also signed on to serve as part of the legal team representing Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood producer who now stands accused of multiple rape and sexual assault charges. Note that for many, Weinstein is the face behind the commencement of the #MeToo movement. What he is accused of doing is vicious and vile.

Some students then proceeded to launch a protest, demanding Sullivan’s removal from Harvard’s Winthrop House. One called his presence “deeply trauma-inducing.” As the New York Times wrote, “Many students expressed dismay, saying that his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women disqualified Mr. Sullivan from serving in a role of support and mentorship to students.” The point was that Sullivan’s credibility was not only damaged, but he was now deemed incapable of supporting or serving. He should thus not be allowed to oversee the Harvard house since he chose to represent the accused.

Note the following two, editorial responses. First, from Reason, which leans moderately right: 

“… This is a disaster. The administration has endorsed the ridiculous notion that serving as legal counsel for a person accused of sexual misconduct is itself a form of sexual misconduct, or at the very least contributes to sexual harassment on campus. It is no exaggeration to say that Khurana has undermined one of the most important principles of modern, enlightened justice. He should be ashamed of himself.

By caving to the mob, Harvard has shown student-activists that it takes seriously their demands for a kind of broadly-defined safety that includes protection from ideas they don’t like. This outcome will undoubtedly embolden them.”

And second from The Atlantic, which leans moderately left: 

“… Harvard administrators were warned about the unavoidable conflict between upholding an important civic normthat legal representation for even the most reviled is a service to the community, not a transgression against it — and giving in to the demands of the undergraduates most aggrieved by their faculty dean’s choice of clients. And rather than infer a responsibility of the extremely privileged to uphold civic norms for the benefit of those in society who most need them, this institution, which purports to educate future leaders, chose to prioritize transient discomfort felt by its most aggrieved students…

… Protecting the norms around the right to counsel is orders of magnitude more important than the ‘unenlightened or misplaced’ discomfort of some Harvard undergraduatesdiscomfort rooted in difficulty tolerating moral difference…”

The moderate right and left seem to agree. So let’s revisit the question…

What are we doing?

Respectfully…

AR