questions from an old(er) woman

Like most adults my age, I have adopted social media along with the rest of the world as an efficient way to reconnect and stay in touch with my distant family and friends. This time of year is the best time of year to be on social media, in my opinion. The pictures! Wonderful, happy, pictures of end-of the school year events, summer fun, and WEDDINGS (honestly, my favorite!). I think it was around the end of May, as I was gazing upon all these posts that questions started popping up in my head.

As a more, ahem, mature woman, I can’t help but think about how things have changed from when my children were growing up to now. My questions here are sincere because it seems growing up in the U.S. has changed quite a bit in the last 20+ years, probably as it changed in the 20 years prior to that and so on. I wonder if growing up in the U.S. right now is better than it used to be?

Take into account while you’re reading that most of my social media “friends” have enough food in their bellies, a roof over their heads, and clothes on their back. They earn the means to raise their children and thus, I think there are less basic worries and perhaps a greater desire to celebrate the joys in life. I totally get that. My husband and I struggle to keep the balance. Should we go on vacation or sock that money into retirement? The answer is not always clear to us. Too often, we see friends and family “waiting” for retirement to enjoy their life and something devastating happens before they get there.

Back to my question: is it a better experience growing up in the U.S. right now than it was 20+ years ago? I’ll tell you why I have that question. Pre-schoolers are wearing caps and gowns in order to graduate from being 4 to being 5. Pinterest-inspired (and definitely Pinterest-worthy) birthday parties are being given, starting with gender reveals during pregnancy and continuing until children say “stop, I’m too old for that.” Children receive cell phones, video games, and other traditionally “adolescent” privileges at younger and younger ages. Kids today have experiences! Activities! Travel! One friend took her elementary-age child to Disney’s Art Institute because he likes to draw. Fifth grade proms. High school prom-posals. Oh my. The prom-posals. Kids are traveling internationally and experiencing other cultures and ways of doing things. Truth be told, I didn’t even travel outside the U.S. until I was 45.

It also seems to me — and I stress the “seems” part because I am beyond the active childrearing years — that teenagers are not working at jobs outside of schoolwork and chores at home. I read an article the other day that addressed the joblessness issue among teens today and it surprised me to read that the findings revealed that teens aren’t working at part-time jobs because they are using summers to continue to prepare academically and experientially for college applications. Wow. That’s some added stress to families.

So. These are my observations from social media. Downright objective, I know, but question-generating for me nonetheless. Part of me thinks this is a natural process of growing older. Comparing generations. Another part of me, though, sincerely questions the differences. I know now how important it is to travel and experience other cultures, environments, and situations. Do today’s young parents already get that? It seems that more have than when I was growing up. A trip to the beach was downright glamorous and highly anticipated once a year (or less) when I was young(er). Do today’s parents realize how fleeting our time is here on earth and work to make as many special memories as possible before their kids move away and begin lives without mom and dad? I can get behind those ideas. Honestly, I wish I had had some of those realizations 20 years ago when my kids were small.

Let’s also look at the other side of the coin. May I insert here that the element of competition might be at play? Mommy wars is a real thing. Women striving to outdo other women through their children. It happens in the workplace. Isn’t it logical that it also happens in the family and childrearing context? Is that what is driving the “uber-childhood experiences”?

That leads me to my next question. Are today’s children programmed to be disappointed adults? There has been research done in this area. Some note that today’s young adults experience anxiety and depression at greater rates than previous generations. How do young adults continue to experience life events when parents aren’t around anymore? Don’t you suppose that there is a bit of shock and letdown when they realize that there won’t be a parade for them when they start their first job? Is there a transition of the responsibility to create joy? To whom? Spouses? What does that expectation do to young marriages? I would imagine that it takes a while for people to figure all this out. How long does it take for young adults to find their own, sometimes less sensational, ways of celebrating or simply experiencing life? I rarely see pictures of “twenty-somethings” throwing Pinterest-inspired parties for themselves.

As with most interesting life situations, there isn’t a black and white answer. Is this trend good or bad? I don’t think it’s that simple. It’s a shade of gray (no, I haven’t read the books). It’s one of those things where it’s up to moms, dads, and kids to make sense of it all and pull the good out of it and use it to lead fulfilling lives. Likewise, the not-so-good should be weeded out and discarded along the way. Easier said than done, eh?

As noted at the beginning, this old(er) woman has a lot of questions. I’m still not sure of the answers, but I have confidence that all will work out for the good of American families. In the meantime, I’m considering asking some of these families to consider me for adoption! I’d LOVE to go to a Disney Art Camp.

Respectfully…
SLL

 

[Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash]

growing up with depression: a note to parents from a millennial

Every parent hates hearing the words “You just don’t understand” from their children. Because 99% of the time, of course they understand. Parents have been through more than their children generally give them credit for. Just because they’re technically from a different generation doesn’t make them clueless on the challenges of growing up in the modern world. Especially when those challenges include various struggles due to mental illness inherited through birth, such as depression. Sometimes, our parents know better than anyone else the battle of being handed a certain collection of genes that we may not be too fond of, because they share the same genes.

However, social media has drastically changed today’s culture, and for some of the older generations, it is hard for them to comprehend the acceptance and understanding of mental illnesses amongst today’s youth. The internet has created a whole virtual world of “support” for young adults who feel they are struggling with anything from questioning their sexuality to dealing with an eating disorder. Anyone with internet access can log into chat rooms, connect with social media groups, and so much more, with people all over the world who are being faced with similar road bumps on the journey of life. While this can be a helpful benefit of today’s technology, nothing beats the one on one support of a child that a parent can provide.

Unlike in the past, when people would get embarrassed and clam up with the mere mention of mental illness, today’s youth is much more outspoken and straightforward when it comes to the said topic. So, parents today should not be afraid to call their kid out if they feel something is wrong but their child won’t come to them for help, because it is likely that their friends at school/ sports/ clubs/ etc. are already talking freely about their own problems. Therefore, taking a blunt and straightforward approach, which may have been frowned upon in the past and viewed as “inappropriate” or “invasive,” is very fitting for helping a growing child in a world that is rapidly adapting to helping those with mental illnesses.

Coming from someone who has struggled with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more since the age of 14, it is extremely scary, but mostly confusing. Growing up, I was never sure of my feelings, my thoughts, and my actions. I had so many questions throughout my daily routine and I would obsess over little moments every day, wondering if I had said or done the right thing. I wish my mom had sat me down, related to me the best she could, and welcomed my problems with open arms, ready to hear whatever I had to say. She tried the best she knew how, and would ask me daily how I was doing, checking in to make sure I was okay. But, to say the least, I was stubborn and of course wanted none of the help and support my mom was offering. Because I was young.

I didn’t know up from down in my life, no matter how much I thought I had figured out, I may as well have been going through every day blind and deaf. My hormones were way off, not only due to going through puberty but also due to a chemical imbalance within my brain. What may have seemed like just a moody teenager who thinks she knows everything, was really just a confused, sick young girl, needing an outlet for all her questions and concerns. Looking back now, I can see that my mom had tried the best she knew how to help me at the time by just trying to be there for me whenever I needed her. But, like I said, I was young and unable to comprehend her potential to truly help me conquer whatever battles I was fighting. At the time, I needed her to sit me down and basically force me to talk to her. That might sound aggressive but it’s truly not; it’s strong guidance from a person of importance in a young one’s life.

Today, I can talk freely with both of my parents about my ups and downs, how I’m working on balancing medications, and how I’m getting through my day to day life. It took a lot of growing up but I am finally reaching an age where I am mature enough to come to my parents when I need help, on my own. I’ve talked with my parents about the past and explained to them what I was missing from them in my teenage years. I’ve even given them some tips to help keep an eye on my younger siblings as they grow through their young adult years as well.

If there is one conclusive piece of advice I would’ve given my parents years ago to help my younger self, it would be this: don’t be afraid and don’t give up. Kids are hard to raise, especially teenagers, but parents, don’t let a moody teenager that claims they “hate” you scare you off or make you question your parenting. Give undying love and support and make it clear to your kids that you get it; you were there too once. Tell them stories, relate and connect with your kids on a more personal level so that they aren’t constantly faced with answering the questions “how are you?/how was your day?” because a lot of the time kids/teenagers truly don’t know their answers to such broad questions. For someone young, trying to figure out themselves, their growing bodies, and where they fit into the world, a question like “how was your day?” can instantly shut them down because their day was full of so much, that they don’t even know where to begin answering that question. A teenager’s day may be going great all the way until the last 5 minutes of school when something put them in a bad mood, but those 5 minutes can dictate how they feel about their whole day.

So, don’t be afraid to dig deep and get personal with your kids, parents; just keep trying and give them time. I promise, we’ll thank you someday.

Respectfully…
Kaylyn Brooke

 

[Photo by www.IAmSethCharles.com.]

who will speak up?

One of my favorite fairy tales is “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” You remember, I’m sure…

… the vain, egotistical emperor who is duped by a traveling salesman to buy this fabulous fabric for some new apparel… fabulous for its color, its feel, oh yes, but even more so because the fabric can only be seen by those who are wise. It would remain invisible to all those who were too ignorant to see it.

Now the salesman, knowing the character of the king… his pride, his conceit… his vanity… knew he would make the sale and that the emperor would wear his new clothes in all his assumed dignity and love of showmanship. After all, how could he admit that he could not see the fabric… to admit to himself, to the salesman, to any others that this was a hoax?

So indeed, he purchased the fabric and ordered his seamstress to make his lavish garment. And then to herald his first appearance in his new garb, he ordered a parade for all to “see” him in his new finery.

Of course, all the subjects came to see the strutting emperor. Imagine their reaction. What a sight to behold! But all remained silent. Why, who would acknowledge the fakery… to themselves, to others, to the emperor?

EXCEPT… a child… an innocent child not yet contaminated by pride or the opinions of others… proclaimed loudly for all to hear…” WHY THE EMPEROR ISN’T WEARING ANYTHING!”

Now I am not suggesting that we are surrounded by nude “emperors.” But I do wonder about all the “blindness” in our culture…

… our unwillingness to advocate for truth in the face of rampant relativism…
… our “anything goes” mentality…
… our no boundaries in what is acceptable or appropriate.

Who will raise a voice and say, “Really?”

“Stop!”

“That’s wrong!”

“No more!”

“It’s called sin!”?

Is it only the innocent not yet tainted by our cultural climate, those not yet intimidated by a what-will-others-think mentality, those not fearful of rejection for the advocacy of truth?

Where are the voices of wisdom?

Where are the grown-ups who really know that the “emperor” really isn’t wearing anything?

The question for us all is, “Who will speak up for truth?”

Respectfully…
DDL

 

[Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash]

the body

Sometimes we think too small. Sometimes we get stuck in the details. We lose sight of the big picture. Our bodies are composed of matter as is everything around us. Sometimes we forget that just like our body has many parts, we are part of a larger body. Many days I feel we are focused on our separateness rather than the whole we are a part of.

Author and pastor, Rob Bell suggests that in the modern age, we have become fixated on the individual. Our culture idolizes the “rugged individualist.” The TV show “Survivor” celebrates the winning individual. The Miss America pageant searches for the ideal individual female to represent American beauty. “American Idol” pits talented individuals against each other in an effort to determine the most talented.

Many in America have been frustrated with the inability of Congress to work together to function in a way that best serves our country. Unfortunately, our political system is based on competition rather than cooperation. Competition does not encourage unity. Our forefathers wisely noted that unified power can often be destructive so when they designed our government, they built in checks and balances to prevent consolidated power from running amok.

We have become focused on our differences, and instead of respecting those differences, we have built walls around ourselves to protect ourselves from the other. We have become contemptuous of those who think and act differently than we do. We have allowed partisan politics to divide and separate us into groups focused solely on survival of the group. We have ceased to see others as members of the whole body, and instead, we view them as threats to our well being.

Imagine if our body systems began to fight against each other? How long would we survive if our nervous system was at war against our circulatory system or our digestive system was at war with our immune system? Those suffering from auto immune disorders are painfully aware of what the war between systems does to their body. We have bodies composed of systems, and we are a part of a larger body. We are members of a family, a neighborhood, a city, a state, a country, a world. If we stay stuck at an individual or group level we may make the mistake that we can and should survive apart from the whole instead of as part of the whole.

I think we have forgotten our membership in a body much bigger than political parties. We have forgotten we are American citizens with rights and responsibilities to the whole system. Our country also operates as part of a world body. Some leaders think that we should adopt a policy of isolation and focus solely on the needs and wants of Americans. I can see where there might be times when that strategy is wise and makes sense. When you get sick, your body has a way of slowing you down and forcing you to pay attention to the system which is out of order and needs healing. But staying at home in bed permanently would be a path to death, not life. Sometimes we need to focus solely on our own families to ensure that the individuals in it are healthy and thriving. Sometimes we need to band together to solve community issues. When this happens, we are more concerned with our own community than the one down the road. I think America has a well deserved reputation for helping out countries in need. And sometimes we help to the detriment of our own citizens.

What I am suggesting is that for systems to work well, there needs to be balance. Instead of focusing on the destruction and elimination of a system within a body, we need a thorough examination of what is working and what is not working within our systems. We cannot afford to isolate ourselves and focus solely on how we are affected. We must recognize the whole. We must not insist on our own way. We must realize that different members of our system require different things in order to function properly. If our country is to move forward, we must change our focus and shift our viewpoint to adjust for a much wider range than the needs of only ourselves, only our neighborhood, only our community, only our state, only our country. We are members of a much larger body. We need to think bigger, not smaller.

Now let’s refocus a little closer to home. Change begins with us. We cannot expect our country’s leaders to cooperate and get along when we cannot get along with our family members or our neighbors. We have to stop pointing our fingers at each other insisting that the other is what is wrong with America. We are a country of others. We have to begin working with individuals before we can work with groups. And we must work with other groups before we can fix systems. Ignoring each other or bashing each other keeps our focus small and leads nowhere. We can choose to be gracious toward one another or we can choose self-righteousness. But the choice is ours. We have to stop assigning blame and start working together. Or we can keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll keep getting the same result wondering what’s wrong with people. If we want true change, we must be willing to change ourselves.

Respectfully…
AT

 

[Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash]

death to our relationships

On the recent holiday, columnist Christine Emba wrote an insightful piece for The Washington Post. She shared that “in between the flags and fireworks, such a major milestone is as good a moment as any to take stock of how our relationship is doing.” And then she spoke of the deteriorating communication in our country. Utilizing the research and wisdom of The Gottman Institute, co-founded by married doctors John and Julie Gottman, and respected for years by the Intramuralist, I thought her application of the Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” — communication styles that can predict the end of a connection — was excellent. Said Emba, “These four — criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt — spell death when it comes to interpersonal relationships.”

Death to our relationships. What a sad state of society.

Emba continues in her analysis… (Note: please remove all partisan hats… know, too, that the added emphasis is mine…)

“… Unfortunately, today’s United States has all four in spades.

Start with criticism: Making ad hominem attacks on a partner’s character, rather than discussing specific behaviors. C’mon, #Resistance: It can’t possibly be true that every Republican who supports stronger border vetting hates Muslims, or that anyone who opposes federal funding for Planned Parenthood is a creepy misogynist bent on instituting a ‘Handmaid’s Tale’-style forced-reproduction regime. Yet moral disparagement is too often the go-to stance. We’ve all but abandoned the harder path of seeking to understand the real reasoning behind an opponent’s views.

Then there’s defensiveness — self-protection in the form of performed victimhood or righteous indignation. ‘The media is lying about us,’ cries the right. ‘The news is fake, the papers are frauds, and all of them are conspiring to undermine us. And how dare reporters attack our president this way — have they no respect for the office?’ But Russia might have interfered in the election; the president might be profiteering from the Oval Office. Instead of addressing the real problems at hand, we seek out someone to blame.

Stonewalling, when one listener simply withdraws from the conversation, is one horseman that has been at a full gallop for years. In 2009, even before Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, Republicans resolved that, in the words of one former senator, ‘If he was for it, we had to be against it.’ The policy held through two full terms. In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked confirmation hearings for Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland for an unheard-of eight months. A recipe for productive give-and-take? Not so much.

The most destructive of all is contempt: true meanness, statements handed down from a position of superiority and meant to disrespect. In marital relationships, contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce. In our national debate, it’s become all too common. Hillary Clinton famously lamented the ‘basket of deplorables’ opposing her during the election; as the new administration moved forward on its agenda, one New York magazine analysis was headlined ‘No Sympathy for the Hillbilly.’ To many on the left, Trump voters are fools. A loss of dignity, autonomy and health care is exactly what they deserve.

It’s an equal-opportunity problem, and, no, it isn’t all about President Trump: Both right and left have engaged in the breakdown-inducing behaviors that have put our democracy on the edge of divorce. While the right has been the source of some of the more obvious offenses in recent years, these aren’t new phenomena — and the fixes aren’t, either.

Though the Gottmans were speaking to unhappy couples, their advice suggests a way forward. The antidote to criticism is to offer a critique of the specific problem at hand, rather than resorting to attack. To end defensiveness, take responsibility. Building a culture of respect can end contempt. Boorishness has an equal and opposite reaction, but breaking the cycle of anger requires that someone — from either party! — step up and take responsibility for change, even if the results aren’t immediately apparent.

While a national political system isn’t quite the same as a marriage, it’s built on the same foundation: a commitment to shared values, a positive approach to conflict, strong communication.

Perhaps for our 242nd anniversary, we can trade a few horsemen for an attempt at harmony. Our relationship may be on the rocks, but it’s still worth saving.”

Amen and well said.

Take off the partisan hats, friends… as neither side is anywhere close to cornering the market on wisdom, integrity, and especially, communicating consistent respect to all.

Respectfully…
AR

amazing (judgment &) grace

What grace do we give to other people?
What grace do we give them, especially when they think differently?
Have we — maybe just you, maybe just me, maybe only the likeminded — have we cornered the market on wisdom?

I read a fascinating editorial this week, written by an online news contributor who consistently advocates for solely one side of the political aisle. I admire her eloquence. I admire the respect in her tone. I also admire her passion and compassion. She was sweetly advocating for loving our neighbor well.

As a person for whom loving our neighbor well is one of my top two priorities in life, I still found myself pausing at one point, troubled by her conclusion. To those who disagree with her chosen political approach, she wrote the following:

“There is a divide between our worldviews that can never be bridged… our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters… I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings.”

If one does not believe what the author believes, the author has concluded that the other person does not care about “what happens to their fellow human beings.”

The author has convinced herself that the other so-called side doesn’t care as much about other people as she does; she has found fault in their thinking. Finding fault only in another’s thinking, she no longer needs to wrestle with any fault in her own. She also then fails to wrestle with any validity in the opinion of another. While perhaps unknowingly done, that seems potentially judgmental and lacking in grace.

I wish we did a better job as a society of recognizing that we don’t know how each of us cares for other people. We don’t know how each of us uses our time, talents, and money as a means of loving God and our neighbor well… however perceived little or much time, talent, and money we’ve been given… how do we each use it well?

Who among us supports the building of an orphanage in Romania? … who among us gives annually to the Down Syndrome Association? … who among us uses our vacation to build a water system in Kenya, where there is no clean water for a remote, unpublicized village? And who among us volunteers for Hospice, visits a prisoner, or personally packs backpacks of food for the homeless?

And if others don’t do what we do, does that mean that they don’t care? … does that mean that only the person who gives their time, talents, or money is caring? … only they are empathetic? … that only the giver of that particular time, talent, or money — or holder of a specific political approach — loves their neighbor well?

We don’t know what each other does. Isn’t it therefore possible that we care for others differently but still well?

There’s no need to compare what we each do; there’s also no need to judge. Judgment is merely another form of comparison. Judgment also too often justifies the ending of respectful dialogue. I was sadly struck, in fact, how this editorial’s author added that she’s “done trying to convince these hordes of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.”

… hordes of selfish people … cruel…

Is that us? … because we care differently?

My point is that while I appreciate the compassion behind various approaches — from government paying for healthcare to wanting government to be solvent to building that orphanage in Romania — it’s inaccurate to assume that a different approach equates to caring lesser. It’s inaccurate to assume that only those who want to give their time, talents, and money as we do, are empathetic. And to then suggest that there’s no need to talk to another any more… well, that seems to say more about a person’s impatience and unwillingness to listen than it says about the holder of a seemingly opposite approach. It’s not just a singular set of people that need to “look beyond themselves.”

I’m reminded of an incredible book I read years ago, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. In it, Yancey shares tale after tale of generous grace offerings, extensions of practical love that are so much broader and extensive than I have ever done, much less even considered. Each instance was an intentional choice of grace over judgment, when truthfully, judgment is most always the easier path.

Seeing how hard it is for us to give grace to one another consistently — especially to those holding varied opinion — grace is amazing indeed.

Respectfully…
AR

healthcare

How can we best care for all people?
How can we best care for all people without spending money government doesn’t have?

I’d like to write about healthcare today. But truthfully, the Intramuralist is a little leery. I want to talk about the ins and outs, facts and effects, good things and bad. I want to wrestle with what’s good and true and right — and what’s not. I want to navigate through the varied opinions and approaches. I want to analyze and assess what could be effective. But I’m hesitant. I’m hesitant due to the current rhetorical climate and the potential onslaught of masses telling me there’s only one right way to think about this. I’m hesitant due to the vocal number who no longer see value in objective analysis… or… who are convinced they are objective. It’s far quicker to point fingers, denigrate and demean than it is to sift through the wisdom on all sides of this important debate.

Let me be clear… 

I don’t believe our legislators as a whole, on either side, are evil. I don’t believe they are motivated by evil. And I don’t believe the motives of either party are entirely impure nor solely designed to assure re-election, financially reward their supporters, or are a part of some grander, nefarious conspiracy to take over the world and put Lex Luther in charge.

What I do believe is that there exist varied approaches to maintain and improve the mental and physical care of the American people. I also believe there exists sincere disagreement with those approaches. Consistent with the mantra of this blog, it’s ok and often healthy for disagreement to exist.

But currently, it’s incredibly difficult to even wrestle through the disagreement and objections because the rhetoric is getting in our way.

I wish people would quit obstructing us… Stop proclaiming why one side is more honorable. Stop proclaiming why one side has handled this so wisely…

 Besides both parties being less than transparent in the development of their approach, representatives from both have also either lied or said some untrue things (… “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”… “Nobody on Medicaid is going to be taken away…”). Both have said some awful things (… the establishing of the Democrats’ “death panels”… the Republicans paying with “blood money”…). This sensational rhetoric skews objectivity and keeps far too many from impartially sifting through what is wise and what is not. Let’s be clear: no party these days seems to have cornered the market on wisdom.

The Intramuralist believes in the healthcare debate, both of the above-offered objectives should be pursued:

1. How to care best for all people.
And 2. How to care best for all people without spending money government doesn’t have.

I will admit, no less, to again being leery of the numbers of people who will attempt to exclaim that only one of the above motives is compassionate…

To care for all people — such as the teen in my community, tragically struck by lightning four years ago, who now has hundreds of thousands of medical bills annually — that is a compassionate motive.

To care without bankrupting government — preserving and planning for the other thousands of programs that aid and abet American workers, farmers, students, etc. that need financial support — that is a compassionate motive. Different approaches can be compassionate. Different does not equate to “mean” nor “cruel.”

But when partisans utilize such false or inflaming rhetoric, they no longer aid and abet the American people. They do not trust us to sort through what’s wise, discern effective solution, nor make our own conclusions.

Recently someone asked me what I’d most like to see happen in this whole healthcare debate. My response was that I’d like to see persons from all sides gather, have some coffee/a beer/whatever together, roll up their sleeves, and work together in crafting a bipartisan approach. Respect each other. Respect the compassion in another’s different approach. Find a way to care for all people without continuing to overspend. I believe we’d be better served if our leaders worked better together.

But I also desire our leaders and legislators to quit attacking the other party as so less honorable than they are. I’d like for the rest of us, too, to quit being seduced by their rhetorical lure. Yes, I desire more respect for one another… and more objectivity in the analysis.

Respectfully…
AR

using words wisely

The following sad story caught my attention — for its unique, potential legal precedent — and — for its broader application…

A young Massachusetts woman, Michelle Carter, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was found guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the suicidal death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Both struggled with depression, and Roy had prior suicide attempts. And when Roy was set to attempt it again, he had stepped out of his truck filled with carbon monoxide, but was in touch with Carter, who encouraged him to get back in.

The case, as noted by observing legal experts, hinged primarily on hundreds of text messages between the two. For example:

Carter: “If you want it as bad as you say you do, it’s time to do it today.”

Roy: “Yup. No more waiting.”

Carter: “Okay. I’m serious. Like you can’t even wait ‘till tonight. You have to do it when you get back from your walk.”

In a trial where the 6th Amendment’s right to a jury was waived, the judge held those words against Michelle Carter. Said the judge, “She admits in … texts that she did nothing; she did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family. And, finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: get out of the truck.”

Her words were viewed as a weapon.

As I ponder the tragedy of the families involved above, I can’t help but focus on that perspective: her words were used as a weapon. The court saw it as such. Said Massachusetts ACLU lawyer, Matthew Segal: “This is saying that what she did is killing him, that her words literally killed him, that the murder weapon here was her words.”

Pause here for a moment.

Think not simply of our teens and tweens.

Think of us.

How many times have we seen on social media especially (where it’s easier to boldly rant without looking your audience in the eye) where we use our words as a weapon? Where we rant, rave, insult, judge, assert how evil or idiotic another is, or tell someone to go [expletive-inserted-here] themselves?

 We — not just our teens — are using our words as a weapon.

Friends, using words as a weapon doesn’t make another want to be like us. Beating another up with a vicious, rhetorical two-by-four is not an effective means of winning friends and influencing people. Beating them up only injures further.

Said international speaker and author Yehuda Berg:

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”

In other words, whether on Facebook or face-to-face, we have a choice in how to use our words. We can use them to build up or tear down. We can use them to affirm or insult. We can use them to reflect upon self or point fingers at another. The wisdom in our words depends on how we use them.

As Michelle Carter awaits an August sentencing, there is no doubt her situation is a sad story with no easy answers. It’s heartbreaking. Unfortunately, what’s currently playing out on social media and elsewhere — between adults not necessarily suffering from depression — is also, often, equally sad.

May we use our words wisely… always.

Respectfully…
AR

deserving to be shot?

Over the weekend, Democratic pollster and former Bill Clinton consultant, Doug Schoen, wrote an insightful, analytical piece about Democrats and Republicans increasingly “loathing” one another. Can it be fixed? “Can anyone lead us to compromise?” Or do too many no longer associate any kind of compromise with wisdom?

Schoen began by detailing last week’s intentional gunfire directed at Republicans only. What was scary about the shooter is that he was not an “extremist.” Like many of us, he did “make a habit of criticizing [in this case] conservative viewpoints and projecting his own militantly liberal ideas across social media. His spiral downward into violence is a blatant depiction of the extreme rage that now permeates both extremes of the American political spectrum.”

Schoen asserts that even though America’s history has not always been peaceful, “we are approaching uncharted waters in terms of the stark ideological polarization in our country. Wednesday morning’s tragedy was a manifestation of the aggressive hatred that is fueling the schism between the left and the right.” The middle ground is gone.

Schoen then shares the data over the past two decades, sharing how increasingly more engrained partisan loyalty has become… how significantly fewer identify as “moderate”… how many would be deeply unhappy if their son/daughter married someone from the other party. We even think less of the other party. As the NY Times summarized last week, “Americans in 1960 were more likely to allow that members of the other party were intelligent, and they were less likely to describe opposing partisans as selfish.’”

No more. We are so judgmental now. Writes Schoen: “What these people fail to realize is that their own accusation towards the opposing party is, in itself, a threat to the well-being of our nation. The alienation of fellow Americans and their ideology discourages discourse, it discourages understanding, and it discourages unity. Disagreement is perfectly healthy. The two parties, with different philosophies, are bound to present different plans for health care reform, and to have different tax priorities, and to approach paying for infrastructure differently. But the idea that these differences are unbridgeable, that the two sets of ideals are so alien to one another that it is simply impossible to negotiate with our fellow Americans, is absurd. We have a common philosophical foundation. We are not Sunnis and Shiites, or Fascists and Communists.

Or are we? As we saw on Wednesday, incessant, dehumanizing intolerance shown towards opposing ideologies breeds something closer to blind hate. [Shooter James] Hodgkinson made a target of the Republican baseball practice, acting on his expressions of displeasure regarding the current administration’s values. An unspeakable act of violence stemmed from a simple difference of opinion.”

Can we no longer handle differences of opinion? Are those opinion holders stupid? Are they evil? Do they deserve to be shot?

The Intramuralist, for one, has been pleased with the pleas for unity and bipartisanship after the shooting, but let me be clear: I want it to happen for more than one week. I want it to happen consistently. I want change from our leaders — change from us. I want us to listen to one another. As Schoen advocates, “We will not move forward as a country if we cannot find a middle ground. I say this not as a political analyst offering advice, but as an angered citizen, hopeful about everything that this nation could do and be.”

Both parties/partisans take turns resisting and refusing, with adults even resurrecting the old playground mantra that because “they did it first,” it must be ok.

Presidents, leaders, and legislators from both parties have contributed to this political divide. Many have also called to heal it. Again, as said by Schoen: “[Trump’s] response to Wednesday’s shooting, however, was a step in the right direction. Trump made a powerful statement that demonstrated that he has the capability of leading a united coalition against partisan hostility. He said that ‘We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, we love our country.’

And it wasn’t just the President that suggested a message of unity. Politicians from both sides of the aisle corroborated the importance of reduced polarization. Speaker Paul Ryan urged his colleagues ‘to show the country — show the world — that we are one House. The people’s House — united in our humanity.’ Soon after, Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, echoed the words of Ryan, her political opponent, calling his statement ‘beautiful’ and exclaiming that the shooting was ‘an injury in the family.’”

But Schoen’s final point is perhaps his strongest. While last week’s bipartisan pleas were healthy, the current election process for presidents and House representatives specifically magnifies the division; the divisions are growing. Hence, Schoen’s point is that we must stop blaming those who represent us and look first to ourselves…

“If the American people continue to drift further and further apart, it will be impossible for our elected officials to genuinely represent the extremism of those constituent opinions while also compromising to the extent necessary to enact bipartisan policy.

When a democratic government loses touch with its constituents to the extent that the United States government has, a sense of public betrayal is inevitable. Party leaders need to take more responsibility to represent their electorate in a way that moves the country forward…

Without popular support and some degree of trust, government faces a tragic crisis of legitimacy. As we saw on Wednesday, this can manifest itself in inexcusable ways. It is absolutely imperative that our country disrupt our current trajectory towards further polarization, division, and hate. We must come together as the United States; our country depends on it, our well-being depends on it, and our children’s future depends on it.”

We can no longer excuse the inexcusable. The rhetoric. The disrespect. The judgment. It starts with us.

Respectfully…
AR

what are we doing?

On Wednesday, as most know, a man who belonged to multiple anti-Republican groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party,” opened fire on Republican lawmakers, who were practicing for a charity softball game.

Let’s start here. Let’s start by omitting the words “Republican” and “Democrat,” for if any believe that only the Republicans or only the Democrats are contributing to the reckless rhetorical climate, than they — we — are more part of the problem than we think. What are we doing?

The Intramuralist believes we need to be clear in how we speak of this. It is not the rhetoric or a Facebook group or another association that is responsible for the violent acts; the people who choose the violent acts are the people responsible for the violent acts. However, we are contributing to a climate which makes the violent acts more likely; we are feeding a culture that encourages the equating of ideological difference holders to enemies; sometimes our elected leaders have even referred to political others as the “enemy.” That is the basis for today’s question. By definition, an “enemy” is seen as bad. Wrong. And sometimes even necessary to shoot and kill. We are contributing to an unhealthy, morally-digressing climate that encourages some to shoot and kill.

One of the things I appreciate after the resulting shock and pause of horrific events, is the positive use of “we”… “We are all Americans” after 9/11… “We are Orlando” after the Pulse night club shootings…. And “we are all sons and daughters of God” — a frequent, articulated truth that is perhaps the only “we,” we actually always are. In the wake of tragedy, no less, we turn the “me” into a “we” — focusing most on what we have in common. There is no assertion that the “other” is the “enemy.”

But with all due respect, save for in the wake of those horrific events, my sense is we currently, collectively stink at that. We stink at including others in our “we.” We tend to focus most on what we don’t have in common, as opposed to what we do. We pit our values, belief systems, identities, etc. against someone or something else. We pick teams, separate groups, and create intentional division. We utilize terms such as “resistance,” “war” and “destroy” — terms each partisan group takes turns embracing… sometimes shouting.

As former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) said this week, “Angry, divisive words are setting the stage for the unhinged to act out.” The reality is that our leaders and “we” are the ones using those angry, divisive words.

How many call now — or called before — for either Donald Trump or Barack Obama to be destroyed?

And how many justify it? … maybe, most likely, only for one?

Again, this week’s shooter is responsible for this week’s shooting. But we have created a climate in which a person lacking in wisdom or discernment feels like “destroy” actually means “to destroy.” The softball field shooter went to do exactly that.

While there is nothing wrong with respectful, passionate opposition, we have been seduced as a society into believing that it’s ok for policy attacks to become personal. We have been fooled into believing that another’s policy differences equate that person with idiocy or evil.

And then we fight.
The man at the softball field went to fight.

Will we come together to recognize that we really are all Americans?

Will we stop this reckless rhetoric that encourages hate towards someone?

Will our leaders courageously lead, stopping the call to resist and destroy, even though the firm stance tends to rile up the people (and secure more future votes)? 

Will we stop attacking the person — especially, referring to them as the “enemy”?

And — perhaps the bottom line question for today — will we embrace wisdom first and foremost — or will we continue to be seduced into something lesser?

Back to Sen. Bayh… “Let’s hear more reconciliation in our political debate. Let’s rethink our propensity to make every disagreement apocalyptic. Let’s resist the temptation to infer the worst motives to our adversaries. In the end, the American values that unite us are much stronger than those tearing us apart. Let’s remember that.”

Yes… let’s remember.

What are we doing, friends?

Respectfully…
AR