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

who are we making excuses for?

Years ago I used to coach select, adolescent/young teen baseball. I could no longer hit nor throw as far as those talented young men, but I know the game and know it well. Recent events have reminded me of a relevant incident — not my best moment — in which my boys were playing an accomplished rival, having multiple men on base, primed to score.

My strong, number five hitter was up to bat, and immediately, he smacked a hard line drive to right center. Coaching first and psyched to beat this particular team, I demonstrably signaled for my guy to head to second, attempting to stretch his single to a double.

Now as anyone who knows their baseball will share with you — including me — if you’re going to send a runner to second with the ball hit to right center, that ball better be way past the fielders and the runner exceptionally fast. Neither here was true. My guy was quickly called out, killing any rally.

My head coach wasn’t happy. The kid wasn’t happy. And the kid’s dad was worse, screaming at his son across the infield.

I had a choice: do I acknowledge my role in the tension?

Loud enough for all to hear — my team, their team, the forty-some fans in the stands and all passersby — I yelled, “It was my fault! I told him to go!”

It was my fault.

My words didn’t extinguish the frustration on the field nor all anger elsewhere. But when I took responsibility for that which I was responsible, the intensity of others’ reactions subdued.

It makes me often wonder if the hardest thing to do is to own that for which we are responsible. It is far easier to point fingers at another — focusing on what they are doing wrong — than acknowledging how we have contributed to the tension.

We often look at others’ behavior as awful… “Look at what they are doing!” Maybe we look at them as having started it first. But the reality is that many intelligent, even goodhearted people among us are more focused on someone else.

With this week’s reprehensible mail bomb activity, much of the country began talking about civility. As an advocate for respectful dialogue, solution, and loving all people well (as opposed to just those who agree with me), I’m thankful we have at least gotten the nation’s attention… for now. But will we make the most of the opportunity? Or will we continue to focus on someone else?

Friends, who will we make excuses for?

Will we make excuses for the mail bombs?

Will we make excuses for those who harass public officials when out to eat?

Will we make excuses for the incivility in many of Pres. Trump’s tweets?

Will we make excuses for the incivility encouraged by Hillary Clinton?

Will we make excuses for the Sen. Sanders supporter who shot at congressional Republicans playing softball?

Will we make excuses for Rep. Maxine Waters (and all others) who have called to disrupt others and tell them “they’re not welcome”?

Or… 

Will we make excuses for ourself? … responding with an angry insult, thinking lesser of, or an actual refusal to listen? … dismissing, denigrating, or simply waiting for solely them to come around?

My humble sense is that we spend so much time focusing on the misdeeds of others that we inadvertently excuse the imprudence and maliciousness in ourselves. In fact, we can be so deeply passionate — understandably — that we are blinded to our own misdeeds. Our passion, emotion, and intelligence too often pave the way for the excusal of awful behavior.

Friends, if we want America to be the opportune, sweet land of liberty, where all huddled masses are valued and respected from wherever they hail, however they hail, and whatever marks them as divinely created and uniquely, beautifully gifted — if we are going to be a united state of America — we must recognize that civility starts with us. It starts by individually examining how we are encouraging someone to not love and respect some other. 

Who are you looking down upon? Who are you considering less significant than yourself? Who are you marginalizing?

In other words, are we unknowingly excusing our own bad behavior, believing it is something more moral than it actually is?

Let us gently but mercifully acknowledge that this applies to each of us… left, right, black, white, male, female, you-name-it, you and me. I’d like to take back a few moments — moments in which I reacted instead of contemplated, preached instead of practiced, encouraged resistance instead of listening, and offered judgment instead of grace. I am very imperfect; we all are. Perhaps to keep us humble, God made each of us that way, prompting the pursuit of and a reliance upon a wisdom far superior than our own.

So what do we do, imperfect as we are, to capitalize on “the fierce urgency of Now”? Let me suggest we begin by stopping the excuses… for any disrespectful, damaging behavior.

Let us not begin with ensuring Trump stops tweeting. Let us not begin with making sure “we” win more elections first. Let us also not begin by tuning into only one biased, agenda-driven news source, thinking they are somehow helping. If leaders, loyalists, politicians, pundits, news anchors and activists refuse to be respectful, let us model the behavior which is wiser. Better. And good.

Let there be peace in our country.

And let it begin with “me.”

Respectfully…

AR

think different?

In 1997, what was then known as Apple Computer, Inc., — a company that was reportedly “hemorrhaging” at the time, according to co-founder Steve Jobs — rolled out a new advertising slogan.

The legendary campaign featured a rainbow-colored Apple insignia on a black background, with the simple white text below it, encouraging viewers to: “Think different.” The contrasting logo, background, and text, as discussed by Rob Siltanen, who was the creative director for the marketing firm making the pitch, “seemed to make the ‘Think Different’ statement all the more bold.

Something within that slogan resonates loudly within me… the boldness… the encouragement… and the freedom… the freedom that acknowledges, “No, we don’t all have to think the same way.” In fact, it doesn’t make sense to me that we all must think the same way; it doesn’t even seem wise. Repeatedly, we have witnessed how we are strengthened and sharpened by the different.

But that message seems increasingly counter-cultural, as in recent weeks, many have asserted that all “identities” must think alike… all of one gender to one ethnicity, all of one religion to one political party, even from all celebrities to all assault victims…

… that for some reason, we must think exactly alike, sharing the same perspective.

And if we don’t, unfortunately, two conclusions seem to be made, perpetuated by these so-called, humanly crafted tribes:

One, you are wrong.

And two, you are not really one of us. 

You do not — cannot — belong to my “tribe.”

Just like that we judge another, dismiss perspective, and kill the bold encouragement to “think different.”

Last week I walked with a trusted friend. We do so weekly and always look forward to the next week; this was no different. Strolling around the neighborhood, we shared and discussed our perspectives on recent current events. As we walked, we uncovered a significant area where our reactions were strikingly different; we did not agree. But instead of either of us walking away or refusing to listen or even concluding that we were totally in the right and the other was totally in the wrong, we walked longer, talked longer, asked more questions, and listened more intently. I don’t know that in the end either of us significantly altered our perspective, but I can say that there was no conclusion that one of us was totally right, the other was totally wrong, and that we are no longer similar to the other… that we are no longer capable of being trusted friends. There was instead a keen awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement of the bold freedom — and inherent wisdom — to “think different.”

Note that for Apple, the “Think different” campaign was considered wildly successful. In addition to receiving numerous advertising accolades and awards, the campaign was said to have transformed the company and “marked the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as a marketing powerhouse.”

Said, too, by Siltanen, “It was the exact kind of attention-getting and thought-provoking advertising Apple desperately needed.”

Think different.

Attention-getting…

Thought-provoking…

Desperately needed.

Maybe that’s what the rest of us need, too… an awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement of the bold freedom — and inherent wisdom — to actually “think different.”

Respectfully…

AR

no reasonable person could ever… right?

“I don’t know how anyone could ever ___________!”

Fill in the blank with whatever you wish, friends.

In the last week, I’ve heard everything put in that blank from believing her, believing him, being ok with dirty politics, to being an Ohio State football fan.

My fear is we’re collectively making a most grievous, blinding error.

Note the subject of that first sentence: I… me… my… myself…

Because I don’t know” — because I don’t think that way I project my perspective onto all others as the only wise perspective they could or should possess.

I assume I am right and that no reasonable person — certainly not an intelligent nor mature one — could come to any different conclusion.

So allow me to humbly ask… since when did it become wise to believe that there is only one right perspective?

Since when did it become wise to believe that there is only one right way to proceed? 

And since when did it become wise to project our own experience and our learnings from that experience onto everyone else?

It’s ok to see things different ways.

Really.

A year ago, we published a post entitled “Death to Our Relationships.” Substantive to the primary point were the words written by Washington Post columnist Christine Emba, discussing the deteriorating communication in our country. Said Emba, “Both right and left have engaged in the breakdown-inducing behaviors that have put our democracy on the edge of divorce.”

Is that not the truth? 

Said Senators Collins and Murkowski respectively on Friday… 

“We live in a time of such great disunity, as the bitter fight over this nomination both in the Senate and among the public clearly demonstrates. It is not merely a case of different groups having different opinions. It is a case of people bearing extreme ill will toward those who disagree with them…”

“I’m worried. I am really worried that this becomes the new normal, where we find new and even more creative ways to tear one another down.”

Let’s examine the bigger picture. Intelligent people are warring against one another; they are assuming another to actually be lesser because of their intense disagreement. Allow me to then also suggest that such intensity combined with intelligence is impairing not only our individual perspectives — but also how we treat all of mankind.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a Special Olympics bowling competition for high schoolers in our county. It was a humbling, amazing event, seeing 5-6 Olympians fill well over 50 lanes. And then it dawned on me… did anyone notice the shirt that many of the very special athletes wore?

Read from the back of my son’s shirt:

“Play unified. Live unified.”

Live unified. 

I couldn’t help but think that here in an arena not necessarily known for its intelligence or cognitive astuteness, there is so much the rest of us could learn.

Respectfully…

AR

a letter to my sons

Dear Sons,

Oh, how I love and respect you. What an incredible privilege it is to be your parent. You are older now — on your own in many ways. I wanted to take a few moments to briefly revisit some important things your father and I have long attempted to instill in you. Granted, you are fairly independent now… it’s up to you…

Seek God first.

There is so much available to you on this planet… so much to strive for, seek and find. Embrace, enjoy, but don’t let the fleeting distract you, as this planet is not perfect, paradise, nor anything even close. It is not heaven and should never be confused as such. That means you will encounter sin and struggles in both others and yourself. Give others and yourself generous grace; pick yourself up when you fall and continue to grow. Welcome godly conviction but not human condemnation. And don’t point fingers — again, not at others nor at self. Finger pointing too often evinces hypocrisy.

Love your neighbor well.

Seeking God first means you attempt to follow what he asks of us. He asks us to love both what and who he created. It’s why we take care of both his people and his planet. Unfortunately, you will be tempted to love well only those who think, look, act and even vote like you. Don’t fall prey to that limited thinking; it takes even the intelligent down. Love the neighbor and the stranger. Respect them. Interact with them. Ask them questions and listen to their response. Ask them more. Know, too, they are always welcome at our table. 

Prioritize what is good and right and true.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Grace. Faithfulness. Forgiveness. Family. Friendship. Gentleness. Laughter. Humility. Service. Selflessness. And self-control. Never allow anything lesser to pierce what is good.

Pursue the truth.

Discerning what is true is a centuries-old challenge; it’s not always clear. Understand that what you feel doesn’t always line up with what is true. Your feelings are valid, but they are not necessarily indicative of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Also, your experience does not equate to everyone else’s reality. Know that. Be humble. And never let these learnings halt your pursuit.

Eat your vegetables.

Yes, ok… that’s not really the best way to say this, and I haven’t always modeled this well. I have much to learn. The bottom line is for each of us to be healthy — to intentionally care for our body — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. If you are off in any of the three, you are most likely off in all. But again, give yourself great grace. It’s ok to not be ok.

Treat a girl like a queen.

I’ll be honest; this is a tough one these days, but I will not stray from what your father and I have always taught you. Girls long to be cherished; boys long to be respected. Never withhold your love and respect. From either. But be careful. Not everyone holds the same values as you, especially in regard to all of the above; some have not yet found that guiding moral compass. That doesn’t make another bad, but it does mean you must be careful about any potentially compromising situation. Don’t go too far with someone you don’t love, especially in regard to time, topic, and touch. Build friendship first. Be kind always.

And lastly, when panned or praised, criticized or commended, accused or absolved, always remember the first three above…

Seek God first…

Love your neighbor well…

Prioritize what is good and right and true.

All will not always go well for you. But if you follow the above, you should sleep very well at night. You will have peace.

Love you, sons… always and all the time…

AR

so now what?

This last week has been a political soap opera. With all due respect to both the bold and the beautiful, this week has been awful. 

Not awful because a woman was finally given an opportunity to speak. Not awful because a man was finally given an opportunity to clear his name.

Awful because of how we have behaved.

Flip from one news source to the other… from FOX to CNN… MSNBC to the Weekly Standard… HuffPo to WaPo… the New York Times to the New York Post. You’ll read what you want to hear… “There is no way she is lying!” … “There is no way he is lying!” … “The gaps in her story don’t matter!”… “A 35 year old accusation doesn’t matter!”… “How dare you don’t believe her!”… “How dare you slander him!”… “How dare you!!”

In other words… how dare you think differently than me.

Sadly, we have been encouraged to believe only one perspective is right.

Sadly, we have been encouraged that because only one perspective is right, all other angles are either evil, ignorant or idiotic.

And sadly, we like to say so. Sometimes meanly.

No wonder many of us have chosen simply to tune it out. No wonder many of us just want to say our peace absent of any dialogue. No wonder many of us, too, find comfort in social media’s partisan echo chambers.

Friends, I, too, have not handled all things well. I can get riled up sometimes; this has been awful. But let me humbly share with you what I sincerely believe…

I believe that last week we witnessed two honorable people share what they believe to be true.

I also believe that the media has egged us on…

… and our politicians are playing politics. There is zero doubt in my mind that political motivations drove much of the tense conversation in last week’s Senate chambers.

There gathered what a wise friend termed “the layout of the representation of America. We had the Texan, the Southerner, the New Englanders, the Hawaiian, the West Coast, East Coast. It didn’t matter if they were Republicans or Democrats; they collectively showed the divide, the anger, the incivility, the circus that is our country.”

That’s what’s awful. Do we even want to be civil again?

When Sen. John McCain passed away last month, some said at times he was “the conscience of the nation.” He encouraged civility. He encouraged respect. He did not want to fuel the divide. In his final statement, in fact, he wrote: “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.” Those tribal rivalries aren’t just across the globe; last week they were on display in the U.S. Senate.

So now what?

Will we humble ourselves?

By that I mean… will we quit acting as if there is only one right perspective?… will we quit disparaging the person who holds a different perspective? … will we quit hanging out with the one who thinks differently? … will we quit learning from them? … will we quit telling them that they need to think like us? … will we quit judging and insulting them if they don’t think like us?… will we quit thinking that one party is a beacon of purity and the other is evil? … will we quit dwelling in partisan echo chambers? … will we quit thinking that we are so moral and the other party is so not? … will we quit turning a blind eye to the obvious political ploys in the party with which we most identify? … will we quit ignoring that they are manipulating both citizens and situations for their benefit? … will we quit engaging in personal attacks? … will we quit relying on those biased news sources for accurate news? … will we quit?

Will we quit throwing stones at one another?

Sadly, too many believe we must keep throwing stones. One month, it’s one party — the next, the other. And we justify the throwing by our tribal likeminded because “those guys did it first.” Do we not realize by continuing to justify the throwing of stones, we are doing damage? We are not being humble; we are instead contributing to the circus; and we are making things worse.

So again… now what?

Humbling ourselves, each of us — meaning respecting and loving our brothers and sisters, neighbors and strangers, no matter how different they look, act, vote, and think like us — such is the only honorable way. 

Sure, that sentence is a little klunky. But I want to be clear. Respecting, loving, and interacting with the one who is different than us is the only honorable way.

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

race, in the airport…

“F- – – YOU!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully…

AR

fixing the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully…

DG

Hillary was my choice

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

Hillary was my choice for President…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully…

Eve