last week’s amazing moments

There are times to be silent and still… to be intentional in observance… taking it all in. Last week was one of those times.

Honoring the life, character, and service of former President George H.W. Bush, persons of influence — varying in politics and profession — gathered to pay their respects to Bush 41…

… Collin Powell and Condoleezza Rice… Peyton Manning, Nolan Ryan, Yao Ming, and J.J. Watt… Prince Charles, Reba McIntire, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger (… have you seen the picture of 41 and Gov. Schwarzenegger actually sledding together at Camp David in 1991??)…

In the second row of the funeral in Washington, D.C. sat all living current or former vice presidents and their spouses. In the first row, sat all living current or former presidents and their spouses.

It was time to be still, to take it all in… time for the raucous responses to stop.

While the day was full of an impressive plethora of pomp and circumstance, two moments stood out in my observance…

One, when former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson spoke…

Known for the rapidity of his wit, Simpson did not disappoint. How wonderful it was to see actual moments when the entire front-row-eight were seemingly belly-laughing in response to Sen. Simpson. 

But Simpson’s wit should not overshadow his wisdom, which was nothing short of both poignant and profound. While he spoke of Bush’s loyalty and friendship and his willingness to take a political hit if another path was perceived wiser, Simpson’s most perspicacious statement was in his succinct description of 41’s character:

“… He was a man of such great humility; those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.”

Oh, how wise… how we all need to hear… the recognition that humility is the high road.

Yet there was another moment that stood out more to me — in that time to be silent and still…

When the entire front-row-eight, bowed their heads together…

… were they praying? … were they meditating? … were they talking or listening to God?…

None of us know. We aren’t in the heads and hearts of another and thus need to resist the imprudent lure to judge the exact motivation of another.

But regardless of what we know, there was something in the collective, quiet bow that was incredibly beautiful, rare as such may be. It was the intentional act of deference — the humble submission to someone or something greater than self… an act we don’t often see. What a powerful moment, witnessing those men and women lead us not in any partisan effort or in the fueling of division, arrogance and thus some form of hatred… but rather, pausing… being intentionally silent and still… recognizing there is something bigger and more.

Calling George H.W. Bush “the most decent and honorable person I ever met,” Simpson seemed acutely aware of the gravitas of both his audience and moment. He said of Bush, “He never hated anyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew: hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

In a day where too many struggle to see that hate only hurts the holder, humility is the high road, and too many refuse to bow to anyone other than self, last week was an excellent time to be silent and still.

Beautifully refreshing, too…

Respectfully…

AR

30 things

I’m one of those persons who believes gratitude can be endless; there is always something to be thankful for… on good days, bad days, all days in between. In fact, even in sadness and sorrow, we can still be thankful to the great big God of the universe. It’s profoundly amazing — even  in those times of sadness and sorrow  how the intentional expression of thanks positively impacts our entire health and well-being.

What are you thankful for? (… a small compilation of your gratitude — edited for the purposes of conciseness…)

  • I’m thankful for my family and friends.
  • I’m thankful that there is breath in my body for another day.
  • I’m thankful for my my job.
  • I’m thankful for a few days off work.
  • I’m thankful for the Hallmark channel and all the sappy movies.
  • I’m thankful the election is over and there are no more political ads! (At least for a while.)
  • I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve others in disaster recovery!  
  • I’m thankful for our veterans.
  • I’m thankful to be cool. (Thanks, Josh.)
  • I’m thankful for trees that are green in the summer, with red, orange, and yellow in the fall, and snow covered or icy in the winter and beautiful flowers in the spring. I love how God uses his creativity to make the world we live in so beautiful!
  • I’m thankful for my church.
  • I’m thankful for my ‘hood.
  • I’m thankful for coffee and wine. Sometimes more wine.
  • I’m thankful for a good book.
  • I’m thankful my cancer is gone!
  • I’m thankful for snow.
  • I’m thankful for no snow.
  • I’m thankful that God knew we would need a plan of redemption that Jesus was willing to fulfill.   
  • I’m thankful for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs!
  • I’m thankful to be getting married in less than 2 weeks!
  • I’m thankful the Halloween candy is gone!
  • I’m thankful my kids are home.
  • I’m thankful for the Ronald McDonald House.
  • I’m thankful for my animals.
  • I’m thankful for planes, trains, and automobiles that help us get where we need to go.
  • I’m thankful for a renewed understanding of community.
  • I’m thankful for Game Day!
  • I’m thankful that even through the hard stuff, God showed me things. I’m ok.
  • I’m thankful for “The Office,” “Friends,” and Netflix.
  • I’m thankful I only have to cook once this week, even if it is a really big once.

So again I ask: what are you thankful for?

Shall we practice gratitude?

As our nation pauses this week, may we practice gratitude —  being always aware of the blessing and benefit from the intentional expression of thanks. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends… always…

AR

a market for grace in today’s politics

Rarely do I post a piece straight from any clearly left or right leaning publication; they aren’t always helpful in encouraging respectful dialogue with those who think differently, as we learn to listen well and sharpen one another.

Today is different. The following is an excellent piece… thanks to an apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation. There are few things more beautiful than an apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation. 

Written by senior writer David French in National Review, with all emphasis mine…

“There’s a market for grace in American politics.

Given the spirit of our times, things could have gone so differently. On November 3, when Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson mocked Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch, saying he looked like a “hit man in a porno movie” — then adding, “I know he lost his eye in war or whatever” — it was a gift from the partisan gods.

A liberal comic had gone too far. He had mocked a man who was maimed in a horrific IED attack, an attack that had taken the life of his interpreter and nearly blinded him for life. He mocked a courageous man’s pain. And thus Crenshaw had attained the rarest position for a Republican politician: aggrieved-victim status. He was free to swing away.

Instead, he refused to be offended. He noted that the joke was bad, but his handling of the whole affair was — as the Washington Post described him — ‘cool as a cucumber.’ Then ‘Saturday Night Live’ called. The show wanted to apologize, and they wanted Crenshaw on-air. He said yes, and this happened…

[Davidson apologized. Crenshaw appeared and accepted his apology.]

It was the act of grace heard ’round the nation. Davidson came on the ‘Weekend Update’ set and offered his apology, and then Crenshaw joined. He took some good-natured shots at Davidson — Crenshaw’s phone had an Ariana Grande ringtone (Grande recently broke her engagement with Davidson), and he mocked Davidson’s appearance — but then things took a more serious turn.

Crenshaw briefly spoke of the meaning of the words ‘never forget’ to a veteran, saying that ‘when you say ‘never forget’ to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them.’ Then he addressed his next words to Davidson: ‘And never forget those we lost on 9/11 — heroes like Pete’s father. So I’ll just say, Pete, never forget.’

Davidson’s father was a firefighter. He died trying to save others when Davidson was a young boy. In one moment, Crenshaw not only honored a true hero, but also softened American hearts towards Davidson, casting him in a new light. He’s a man who carries his own pain.

It turns out that there’s a market for grace in American politics. Within minutes, clips of the apology and Crenshaw’s tribute to Davidson’s dad rocketed across Twitter. As of this morning, the YouTube clip of the moment — not even 48 hours old — already had more than 5 million views. And it seems as if this is no act. This act of grace was an expression of who Crenshaw is…

There are those who argued before the election that, to punish the GOP for Trump, even conservatives should vote against Crenshaw. Vote against a good man for the sake of beating a bad man not on the ballot. That would ‘send a message,’ they said.

But it turns out that one of the messages we needed to hear came from Crenshaw himself… that grace isn’t weakness and that reconciliation can sometimes be more compelling than division…

[Crenshaw’s] future is not yet known. But when faced with a clear political temptation — to indulge in a period of partisan pugilism — he chose a different path. He (and Davidson) gave Americans a moment they needed. It turns out it was also a moment they wanted.”

Thanks to Dan Crenshaw, Pete Davidson, and SNL. There is a market for grace.

Did I mention there are few things more beautiful than an apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation?

Respectfully…

AR

the eradication of the middle

Two years ago, I did the unthinkable. As a currents events observer and an encourager of respectful dialogue, I typically tune into significant cultural events, including watching returns, for example, from even the most random elections.

But on Election Night 2016, I did the unthinkable. I never turned on the laptop nor TV; I turned off the lights, said my prayers, and went to bed exceptionally early. I did not watch a single return. While elections are important, my faith is not in an election nor in any of the elect. I thus slept very well that night.

I guess that’s it. I don’t see government as our moral authority. In fact, I don’t find it even capable of such; we are no one’s convictor of truth. In fact, when we started this blog 10 years ago (Happy Birthday, Intramuralist), our first post shared the top ten things learned from the election cycle. These included:

  • Jesus would not be a Democrat OR a Republican.
  • And most people don’t know how to respect those with whom they disagree.

10 years later, I would reiterate those same words.

We continue to find persons — in God’s name or in intentional omission of him — who attempt to morph government into the moral authority of the land… acting as if there’s only one right perspective… dismissing entire people groups… no longer seeing the wisdom in another point of view. Note these words from an editorial in Time Magazine last week:

“… We are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we ‘meet in the middle,’ as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse… What is halfway between moral and immoral?”

And just like that we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s ok — maybe even good — to wholly describe an entire other people group as immoral, elevating our perspective as the only moral approach. With all due respect, when we claim that our political position is the only moral perspective possible, we have usurped the role that only the divine is capable of assuming.

This is bothersome — and much of why my faith remains not in a person or party. There is a lack of integrity/morality/ethics hailing from both political parties… 

… like the conservative supporter who shamed one of my friends in the LGBTQ community last week… like the liberal protestor my friend watched mock the veteran… or like the Kavanaugh accuser who only now admits that she lied…

Friends, no party is completely moral.

Last week two highly respected friends of mine attended the same partisan function. Both are emotionally healthy, intelligent and sincere in their desire to live and love well. And yet, one walked away impressed — the other, disturbed. How is it possible that two wise people would walk away with polarized perspectives?

I wish there was an uncomplicated answer; it’d be easier. It’d be easier to label all of one party or one party’s leaders or loyalists as all bad, evil, immoral, etc. Then we’d never have to wrestle as to why a person thinks differently than “we.” But there is no easy answer; different perspectives exist from healthy, intelligent, compassionate people. So allow me to humbly offer what I believe to be true…

To conclude that the entire political perspective of the other party is immoral is a limited conclusion.

Friends, as an entire party, conservatives aren’t bigots; liberals aren’t liars. But when we take our individual experience and interactions —  with the bigots and liars in both parties — and project them onto all others as their character, we fall prey to limited, judgmental conclusions.

Rep. Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania moderate, said it well recently:

“I think the far left and the far right look at people like me, and they say we’re the problem. And I actually think, No, we’re the answer. But what you hear and what you get is just ugliness toward you…

If you’re in the hot 10% on the left or the hot 10% on the right, you have a national audience. If you’re in the middle and can see both sides, you know what? You used to get called thoughtful — now you get called weak. And that’s messed up, man.” 

It’s messed up when we look down upon the different or attempt to eradicate the middle. It’s messed up when we thrust limited, judgmental conclusions upon entire parties or people groups. There truly are good people on all sides. Wisdom calls us to get to know them… interact with them… and be humble enough to listen as to why they think differently than “we.”

Respectfully…

AR

voting guide

In light of Tuesday’s coming election day, we thought it wise to offer a concise resource in regard to our decision-making for the day.

Oh. Wait. If by chance, you are expecting the Intramuralist to tell you how to vote this day, you may have been misdirected. We will willingly offer opinion, with a desire to entertain and encourage respectful dialogue. However, we will tell no one how they should vote; in fact, we believe no one is capable of such. Hence, instead…

“THE DO’S & DON’TS OF VOTING”

D&D #1

No one can nor should tell you how to vote. 

Contrary to unfortunately popular belief, there is not one right way to vote. We are each divinely wired and uniquely gifted, with varied experience and expertise. This results in varied passion and perspective. Let the variance refrain from fostering judgment.

D&D #2

Voting is your right.

Multiple constitutional amendments have established suffrage (specifically, the 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 24th, and 26th). We encourage you to take advantage of it.

D&D #3

Your vote matters.

How many times have we heard this defeated retort? Granted, there are many old wives’ tales that exist, seemingly to create a false sense of urgency (i.e. one vote bringing Texas into the Union, making English the official U.S. language, or giving Hitler control of Nazi Germany). There do exist times in which a single vote has been significant, but they are far less dramatic. The bottom line is that voting helps your voice be heard, and all voices are valuable even when not in the majority.

D&D #4

Consider voting for members of more than one party.

No party has cornered the market on integrity. In fact, perhaps one of the most disturbing trends is that partisan loyalists often overlook or minimize unscrupulous behavior in their own party, perceiving it as the necessary means to an end or the “lesser” of two evils. Last I looked, “evil” still meant “evil.” 

D&D #5 

Study the issues.

In addition to the people we elect, at the state level, there are actually 155 ballot measures that will be voted on in 37 states this Tuesday. For example, 7 measures in 5 states with wrestle with the legalization of medical and/or recreational marijuana. 8 measures in 6 states are considering some kind of limitation on taxes. Need more info? Go to www.ballotpedia.org. Find your state. Look up the issue. Look, too, at who supports, opposes, and is funding the initiative. As best as possible, attempt to discern what multiple motives may be in play.

D&D #6

Beware of bandwagons.

Let’s quote “Urban Dictionary.” The definition of a bandwagon: “when someone adopts a popular point of view for the primary purpose of recognition and/or acceptance by others.” Popularity has never been equated with wisdom. Beware of those attempting to rile you up, emotionally luring you into joining their “tribe,” not recognizing the sharpening available via varied perspective.

D&D #7

Know that voting is incapable of legislating morality.

If there was one “Do & Don’t” we continually find the masses falling prey to, it is perhaps this. Well-intentioned persons hailing from both the left and right seem to desire to dictate the behavior of another. Call me naïve, but whether we attempt to impose a moral authority upon another in the name of God or omitting his omniscient name, none of us are capable of being the convictor of truth in another.

D&D #8

Engage the different.

Want to learn? Want to grow? Want to learn to love your neighbor well and not just the tribal likeminded? Get to know them. Ask them how they think. Take the time to say, “You don’t have to share with me your vote, but it sounds like you and I don’t think always alike. Help me. Can you share why you feel that way?” Then listen more than speak. Always.

D&D #9

Respect the results.

Each election cycle this seems to get worse… “He’s not my _______.” Fill in the blank. The reality is that whether we voted for a person or not, if we live in his/her jurisdiction, that person represents us. Do they represent our individual beliefs well? Maybe not. But be active. Let your voice be reverently heard. And again, engage with the different. Respectfully.

D&D #10

Be prepared for the next election cycle.

The reality is on Wednesday, the day after, in our fast-paced society, the next election cycle will begin. Be ready for the immediate formation of exploratory committees. Be ready for partisan calls to obstruct, resist or blindly follow. Be ready. For years I’ve wished we all had a little more respect for who’s in office when they’re there.

As for me, I’ll, too, be ready… to observe… contemplate and converse … also off to buy some Advil.

Respectfully…

AR

incomprehensible

On Saturday morning, a man entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and shot and killed 11 innocent people. The single suspect reportedly targeted the victims solely because they were Jewish.

A former FBI agent who leads Pittsburgh’s department of public safety described the crime scene as “horrific.” Said Wendell Hissrich, “It’s one of the worst that I’ve seen, and I’ve been on some plane crashes. It’s — it’s very bad.”

The U.S. District Attorney involved has since stated that he is working toward soliciting approval to pursue the death penalty in this case.

(Deep breath…)

This is hard, friends… 

As is often the case, I find myself sitting with silence… shocked… with more questions than answers, and somehow, simultaneously, feeling both abhorred and appalled… 

How could someone do such a thing?

I ask more questions…

First, in regard to the victims’ families… so hard to grasp… I cannot imagine the gut-wrenching grief…

How will the families’ faith change in response?

Will it prompt them to rely on God even more?

How do you forgive for such a heinous act?

Is forgiveness healthy? 

What does it change within us?

Then, in regard to the shooter… what an awful thing to do…

What’s the appropriate consequence? 

Is the death penalty ever ok?

Is it ok to take a life because someone else took a life?

Does the horror of the crime scene matter?

Do we treat consequence differently because of the who’s involved and why they did it?

And lastly, questions perhaps to all of us, living amidst a society that struggles to love all people well…

Why do some hate the religious faithful?

Why do some hate others simply because they’re different?

How do we contribute to the hate?

Do we recognize when we fuel hatred?

And do we ever attempt to dress up our own anger, rage, or hatred as something more virtuous than it really is?

I wish this was an easy post today; it is not. I keep coming back to the historic psalmist who wrote “such knowledge is too wonderful for me” — with “wonderful” equating to “incomprehensible”… meaning simply unable to be understood.

Hate is incomprehensible; it’s awful. Sadly, there seem to exist pockets of hate all over the place. May it never be celebrated. May we never fuel it. May we each have more respect for what others believe.

Sadly this day…

AR

the current immigrant caravan

Sometimes, friends, I don’t know the right answer. Wait. Let me correct that. Many times I don’t know the right answer. Sure, we each have opinions, and those opinions are based on info, insight, experience, research and more. But that doesn’t make us right. I’m thinking we need to remember that a little more, as it might affect the way we interact with one another. (Maybe…)

As I wrestle with not knowing what’s right, no less, the Intramuralist, like many, is watching the immigrants move toward America. 

First, what we know…

Thousands of Central American immigrants are walking toward the southern U.S. border. We cannot tell who exactly makes up the crowd. Were they organized by someone intentionally? … three weeks before the election? Are there criminals in the crowd? None of this we know with certainty, although pundits and media seem to suggest an “all or nothing” approach, pending partisan leaning.

The group originated in Honduras and is now growing in Mexico. According to Time Magazine, the immigrants said they “gave up trying to enter Mexico legally because the asylum application process was too slow.” So they entered illegally.

Pres. Trump is tweeting about the situation (shocking).

According to State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert, “The Mexican Government is fully engaged in finding a solution that encourages safe, secure, and orderly migration, and both the United States and Mexico continue to work with Central American governments to address the economic, security, and governance drivers of illegal immigration.”

Assuming, therefore, that the immigrants’ intent is to flood the border with masses — gaining access to the United States and making it more difficult to send back to their home country —  this immigration approach is illegal.

So what’s the right thing to do?

Friends, I wish I could hide behind some easy answer, but frankly, I find the political talking points too extreme, interfering, and too intentionally crafted in order to divide us more. Too many are utilize ways and words with the upcoming election in mind, and too many of us adopt those divisive answers. Let’s get rid of those. Instead, let’s ask…

What’s the right thing to do?

Where do compassion and illegality meet?

Open borders doesn’t seem the answer, as that ignores the very real threat of terrorists and drug cartels.

Abolishing ICE doesn’t seem the answer, as dismantling the border enforcement agency also ignores those with the intent to destroy us.

Rejecting all immigrants seems not the answer either, as such is inconsistent with our admired, historical acceptance of the tired and poor, yearning to be free.

And so we ask…

How can we craft an approach that is efficient, compassionate, and wise? 

I wonder…

Do we need to first note the difference between migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers? Are they the same? And truly, who are those in the current crowd?

While the words are often used interchangeably in regard to the current crisis, the three terms have distinct meanings, albeit with some overlap  — overlap that may influence both our compassion and approach.

A “migrant” is simply one who moves from one place to another in order to live in another country for more than a year. Often termed an “economic migrant,” this is typically one who seeks work or a “better life,” but this could also be an international student. It could be a mixture of many factors.

A “refugee” is one who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster, and is considered in need of international protection because circumstances in their home country are considered too dangerous to return at this time.

An “asylum seeker” is one who crosses into another country due to fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group, or political opinion, hoping to be granted refugee status.

So who are those that are currently caravanning north? Is it a mixed group? Are they fearing for their lives? Those answers matter.

As I said at the onset of this post, the Intramuralist does not know the exact right thing to do. But it would seem both logical and compassionate — and let’s be clear — compassion means to consider both those who wish to enter and those who already live here — to incorporate the following:

Recognize the reality of terrorists and drug cartels and thus the dangers of a porous border.

Evaluate the economic affects and who can and should pay for what — corporately and individually. What is appropriate and possible? Both questions are priority.

Discern the difference between a migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker, and thus how compassion is made manifest with each.

And to the media, pundits, politicians, any current caravan organizers, and political side pickers, know that each life matters — immigrants and American citizens. Hence, let’s not use any life as an election tool, but instead respectfully work to solve both the short term problem and long term issue.

Respectfully…

AR

the post about nothing

There is no subject the Intramuralist feels a need to steer clear of. I believe that any issue, hard as it is, can be discussed well (meaning solution kept in mind) as long as we are always respectful of those who disagree with our assessment or approach. We need to listen. We need to consider and sincerely weigh what another is saying — as opposed to merely utilizing the time in which another is speaking to think of what we will say next.

Truth is, no less, there are times when such is still exhausting. There’s too much pouncing on opinion. And one person’s commitment to respectful dialogue may not be matched by another. Also unfortunately, social media has only magnified the disrespect. In a forum that otherwise looks like opportunity for a respectful give-and-take, sometimes the respect is severely lacking.

There’s too much “I’m-mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-any-more” combined with “so-if-you-are-really-my-friend-you-can-handle-it”… combine that with the “don’t-wait—you’ll-soon-realize-I’m-the-right-one”… and then we begin questioning who our friends actually are. It’s a sad reality some days. Too many days.

So yes, while I am a full, firm believer in respectful dialogue, sometimes it’s challenging when witnessing all the disrespectful communication otherwise intelligent people justify.

Sometimes, some things are more fun to discuss… like “Seinfeld,” for example. Loyal viewers will never forget “The Pitch” episode, which first aired in September of 1992, delivering an infamous exchange between comedian Jerry Seinfeld and the slow-witted, often neurotic George Costanza. Pitching a sit-com to NBC, part of the exchange went as follows:

Jerry: “You want to go with me to NBC?”

George: “Yeah. I think we really go something here.”

Jerry: “What do we got?”

George: “An idea.”

Jerry: “What idea?”

George: “An idea for the show.”

Jerry: “I still don’t know what the idea is.”

George: “It’s about nothing.”

Jerry: “Right.”

George: “Everybody’s doing something; we’ll do nothing.”

Jerry: “So, we go into NBC, we tell them we’ve got an idea for a show about nothing.”

George: “Exactly.”

Jerry: “They say, ‘What’s your show about?’ I say, ‘Nothing.’ “

George: “There you go.”

Hence, with all the infighting, arrogance, and social media disgraces — sometimes actually talking about so-called “nothing” prompts a grin previously absent from my day.

Respectfully… with still a little tongue in that cheek…
AR

tough but true

I’m really unsure of how the following is relevant. Maybe it’s not. Please know it is not meant to be disrespectful of anyone  — nor is my experience meant to equate to anyone else’s truth. We have that problem these days… equating individual experience with everyone else’s truth.

Nonetheless, I’ve remembered this often. It is true…

As longtime readers of the Intramuralist will attest, throughout my life I’ve been a pretty good athlete. My knees are a little slower now… perhaps also my eye in striking the ball as forcefully… but as close friends will acknowledge, one may still have met their match in me on the Top Golf, Wii bowling, or backyard-any-sport circuit. Thank God for the smaller backyard-any-sport circuit. Those competitive juices remain.

In college, arguably, I hit my prime. In fact, as inspired the mantra for this blog, you’ll note I used to enter pretty much each and every intramural competition. And I’d do great! … that is, until I met the one who had played that particular sport their entire (doggone it) life…

Weightlifting, racquetball, tennis…

Ping pong or a semi-friendly game of H-O-R-S-E…

And badminton. Yes, badminton.

I was an excellent badminton player.

I know, I know… some still think it’s the backyard game of birdies, barbecue, and those tiny little shuttlecocks. But to me it was so much more. I kid you not…

In my distinguished D1 school, I took one P.E. class each semester; it was a physical outlet — my relief — often in the midst of a demanding academic course load. One semester I took badminton. Friends, I was really, really good.

One of my dear friends at the time was a young man who grew up in Southeast Asia. The son of a prominent politician, Erwin was afforded multiple, far-reaching opportunities. One of those was growing up playing the equivalent of AAU (the Amateur Athletic Union) on the select, badminton, Asia-Pacific circuit. Erwin was excellent at what he did.

Thus, as close and competitive as we were, in between classes and conversations and doing life together, he mandated I meet him on the badminton court.

Timelessly, he would say, “Ann, hit it here!” … and we would not leave the court until twenty times in a row, I could hit that frickin’, feeble little shuttlecock into a 0.76m x 0.46m space in the midst of a competitive match. Twenty times in a row.

Erwin drove me crazy.

He also made me good.

During our actual class, the course cumulated in an end-of-semester tournament. It was a co-ed, single elimination, best of 3 games tournament. Per the official rules, “Each game is played to 21 points, with players scoring a point whenever they win a rally regardless of whether they served. A match is the best of three games.” The tournament was a series of those three games.

I sailed through my side of the bracket. On the other side, there was a young man named “Brent,” who equally sailed through his. Brent was on scholarship; he played on our university tennis team — playing men’s singles #1 or #2. So the showdown was set… the finals… Brent vs. me.

Oh, my… what a wonderful match that it was… back and forth… back and forth. The more we played, the more the crowd paid attention. It was a fierce, well-played, competitive match. I was giving everything I had. So was he!

I won game 1. He won game 2. I won…

Well, therein lies the problem… well, sort of a problem.

This badminton match was one of the best sporting events I have ever been involved in — certainly the best individually. I played great. He played great. It was back-and-forth and totally competitive… 

For years I have sincerely shared this story, telling of one of my most awesome wins.

But here’s the God-honest truth…

I actually can’t remember if I won or not. I know I played great. I know he played great. I remember the looks on the faces of those around us, astonished by what transpired… here this scholarshipped tennis player… and me, this seemingly athletic nobody.

I can’t actually recount this story and scenario in all accuracy. I can only, authentically share how I felt. I remember how I felt. 

For me, it was awesome.  

This was 30 years ago. It was a wonderful, incredible day. My point is that sometimes feelings are more prominent than details. Tough story. I get it. But true.

Respectfully…

AR

a sobering but important read…

On August 5, 2010, Elena Kagan was confirmed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. She was nominated by Pres. Obama, after previously serving in both his and Pres. Clinton’s administrations. Kagan was the first nominee with no experience as a judge since William Rehnquist in 1972. Ideologically, she is considered to be liberal. (She also hired current nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh when dean of Harvard Law School.)

In her confirmation process, a letter from Miguel Estrada was shared. Estrada commended Kagan for possessing a “formidable intellect” and “exemplary temperament.” Ideologically, Estrada is considered to be conservative. Estrada still believed a President has the prerogative to nominate judges who share his/her governing philosophies. Hence, different as they are, Estrada felt Kagan was “an impeccably qualified nominee.”

Move to today’s Supreme Court squabble, where many have referenced the former controversy surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas. Allow me to humbly suggest we should also look at what happened to Miguel Estrada — and to his family. He, too, was once nominated…

Having received a unanimous “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, Estrada was nominated in 2001 by Pres. George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. [According to Wikipedia] “Senate Democrats, claiming Estrada was a conservative ideologue with no experience as a judge, and unable to block his nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Republican Party took control of the Senate in 2002, used a filibuster to prevent his nomination from being given a final confirmation vote by the full Senate.”

More from Wikipedia:

“… Leaked internal memos to Democratic Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin mention liberal interest groups’ desire to keep Estrada off the court partially because ‘he is Latino,’ and because of his potential to be a future Supreme Court nominee. A spokesman for Durbin said that ‘no one intended racist remarks against Estrada’ and that the memo only meant to highlight that Estrada was ‘politically dangerous’ because Democrats knew he would be an ‘attractive candidate’ that would be difficult to contest since he didn’t have any record…”

Estrada was nominated in May of 2001. After 28 months in political limbo — including seven failed cloture votes, six months of filibuster use, and continuous political posturing — Estrada withdrew his name from further consideration on September 4, 2003.

Summarizing the account… “Numerous judicial nominees prior to Estrada had been kept off the courts, when the Senate refused to let the nomination out of committee for a floor vote… but the Estrada filibuster was different in multiple ways. Estrada’s was the first filibuster ever to be successfully used against a judicial nominee who had clear support of the majority in the Senate. Estrada’s was the first filibuster of any court of appeals nominee. It was also the first filibuster that prevented a judicial nominee from joining a court.”

Oh, how sobering this is. Can we not admit that political motivations are in play? … from all sides? 

… with the Democrats on Estrada… the Republicans on Merrick Garland… 

And now — regardless of whether or not Dr. Christine Ford is telling the truth — can we not admit that both the Democrats and Republicans are still playing political games?

This is disturbing. 

But sadly, it gets worse.

During the confirmation process of Miguel Estrada, his wife, Laury, suffered a miscarriage. Then, a year after her husband’s name was both damaged and withdrawn, Laury passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. Persons on all sides of the proverbial political aisle could not help but wonder how much the unprecedented stress of those 28 months painfully impacted their family.

What are we doing? Who will be maligned next?

Can we stop for a moment, recognizing that both sides are playing games, and as the watching public, we are fueling the fight when we justify the game playing by one??

At the onset of the Trump administration, Miguel Estrada was rumored to be a candidate for the nation’s next solicitor general. Estrada released a statement: “I have only respect and best wishes for those who agree to serve despite the deterioration of the confirmation process over the years, but everyone who knows me in this town knows that I would never accept a job that requires Senate confirmation…”

The deterioration of the process… that’s it.

Regardless of what happens this week and next with Ford, Kavanaugh, and seemingly, “As the Senate Turns,” I pray no one finds cause to celebrate. The process remains deteriorated… that is, until we quit taking sides, tolerating solely the games of one.

Respectfully…

AR