pivoting to 2021

As we say goodbye to “this thing we keep calling 2020,” it’s time — in the words of the infamous Ross Geller — to “pivot!” … time to pivot toward 2021, turning our attention to the new year and fresh slate before us. 

Let us briefly review context. As said before, context always matters. Here’s the context — the backdrop, if you will — as we turn the proverbial page on the calendar. Last year, we walked through and weathered:

  • Impeachment proceedings
  • The COVID-19 pandemic
  • The great mask debate
  • Increased racial tension and awareness
  • Ongoing protest and recurrent violence
  • Sports without fans
  • Two royals actually “quitting”
  • A fractured political state
  • A Supreme Court fight
  • A contentious, national election 

Suffice it to say: that’s a lot.

So as we consider our annual pivot, my processing centered around what we most need to address. I mean, I’m not a rocket scientist, but I don’t think we’re going out on too much of a limb here by suggesting collectively, we didn’t handle any of the above incredibly well…

… many of us talked more than we listened… sometimes we jabbed another (not even subtly) on social media… we called out those we disagree with… we refused to believe anything other than our established opinion… we tuned solely into CNN, MSNBC or FOX, which is never helpful… we broke relationships, lost friends, and made some things more important than people… 

Nope, together we didn’t handle the events of 2020 all that well.

So what would have made it different? And what would be useful to employ generously in the year ahead?

Allow me a simple word; in fact, it may be deemed too simple. I contend it might be exactly right. What would have made 2020 different and be most necessary in 2021?

Rest. Individual rest.

I’m not talking about simply ceasing physical movement. I’m not talking either about a lazy Saturday or Sunday plopped on the couch with a good book, game or even predictable, thoroughly-enjoyable Hallmark movie. A real rest is a ceasing of our mental movement. 

If I’m lounging in front of my TV but have one of those news sources listed above on, getting irritated at some other — as the station’s bias is made fully manifest — that’s not resting. If I’m quarantining, not leaving my house, but focused on and still reeling from the relationship that remains hard for me, that’s not resting. If I’m sitting there, even seemingly totally still, but crafting all my to-do lists, that’s not resting.

Resting is a mental rest. It’s different for each of us. What activities do you do that help you clear your head and gain perspective?

I’ve long found the ancient teaching to be profoundly fascinating — to be still and know God is God. Note the relationship between knowing him and stillness — resting, if you will. A mental rest means nothing else is competing for my thought and attention.

When a real rest is a regular, consistent discipline, we reflect instead of react. We think before we speak and typically listen more than talk. We also give more grace and space and ask questions about what’s hard or what we don’t understand. 

In other words, if we would have individually rested more through the great mask debate, racial tension, and contentious election, etc., for example, we would have been less reactionary. There would have been fewer jabs, less calling out, more willingness to consider other opinion, and fewer broken relationships, recognizing things are not more important than people.

Hence, as we pivot toward 2021, let me advocate we each learn a little bit more what it means to be intentional in our rest. It may be vital. It also may be what we most need to address.



lives & deaths from 2020 — & what we learned

As we navigate these sweet days of celebration and reflection — bookended by the birth of the Christ child and the clean slate opportunity accompanying every new year  — and how cool that those two events are tied together — let’s first take a look back. We lost several persons of significance. Knowing no life is worth more or less than another, we’ll focus on four, whose lives and deaths especially stood out to me in “this thing we keep calling 2020”…

Kobe Bryant. In a shock to the start of the year, on a Sunday morning in January, the helicopter Kobe, his talented daughter, Gianna, and seven others were riding in, crashed in the California fog. Shock may be an understatement. Here one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball, who had only retired four years prior, showed us there is no such thing as invincible. 

But Kobe’s death wasn’t shocking simply because of the invincibility factor. Here was a person who actually fit the oft-used idiom of being “larger than life.” He was someone we always noticed — both on and oft the hardwood. In wins and losses and even in personal struggle and very public defeat, there was a sense that Kobe was always real with us. He was passionate, fierce, and fun. As Michael Jordan eulogized, with tears streaming down his face, “Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing. After basketball, he showed a creative side to himself that I didn’t think any of us knew he had. In retirement, he seemed so happy. He found new passions. And he continued to give back, as a coach, in his community. More importantly, he was an amazing dad, amazing husband, who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart. Kobe never left anything on the court. And I think that’s what he would want for us to do.”

What a person. What a shock. That day the tears streamed down my face, too.

Chadwick Boseman. Oh, how talented Chadwick Boseman was! Boseman passed away in August from colon cancer, a condition he kept fairly private, even continuing to act while struggling with the disease since 2016. Long time friend Denzel Washington said of Boseman, “He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career. God bless Chadwick Boseman.”

Boseman’s most notable performance was playing the Black Panther superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise. The character had enhanced speed and strength and was even able to absorb kinetic energy and release it as a shockwave. Yet here is a character that millions across the globe paid attention to, rooted on, and heartily cheered for. He is black. Skin color didn’t matter. In a summer when as a nation we were reeling in the pain of the racial tension that crisscrossed our country, Boseman’s death reminded us that persons of all skin colors deserve to be paid attention to, rooted on, and heartily cheered for.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This death was painful — but not so much because RGB hadn’t lived a long, fruitful, and successful life. She graduated from the top of her class at Cornell; she was one of only nine women at Harvard Law School (out of 500); and during her 27 year tenure on the Supreme Court, she became a celebrated icon for some of her noteworthy majority opinions in addition to her sharp wit and dissent. 

Yet when “The Notorious R.B.G.” passed in September, the first words out of the Intramuralist’s mouth were “oh, no.” With all due respect to the Ginsburg family, my “oh no” was not to be callous to their personal grief; my dismay was more directed at the fractured state of our country, where political passions have sadly become equated with tribal dividing lines. In the weeks before the election, this would simply be one more thing to fight about. And fight is what many did. Friends, few look their best when fighting.

When Ginsburg passed away, if we were willing to forgo the fight, we had opportunity to remember the wise words of her good friend, Justice Antonin Scalia. Passing away four years prior, he was considered as conservative as Justice Ginsburg was liberal. When questioned once why then he would give his perceived political adversary a generous gift for her birthday, asked if in any five-four case he ever received Justice Ginsburg’s vote, Scalia answered, “Some things are more important than votes.” RGB’s death reminded us that some things are more important than votes… more important than politics.

And lastly… 

Alex Trebek. There must be something special about a person we allowed to enter so many households on a nightly basis for so many years. As host of the syndicated game show Jeopardy! for 37 seasons, he was beloved by many for far more than his game show hosting ability. As current executive producer, Mike Richards, stated: “… [Alex] loved this show and everything it stood for. In fact, he taped his final episodes less than two weeks ago. He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness, and for the love of his family.”

When Trebek passed away six days after a tumultuous election day and even more uproarious season, it felt like his death provided us pause to put life in perspective. Here was Trebek, dying from pancreatic cancer, and yet, he was always aware of others; he would oft emphasize that he was not the only person suffering from this disease. Asked then if he was afraid of dying, he said “no.” “… I’ve lived a good life, a full life, and I’m nearing the end of that life… if it happens, why should I be afraid [of] that?… One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral, as a part of a eulogy, is ‘He was taken from us too soon.’” Trebek’s reminder of the beauty of humility, kindness, and gratitude came at the exact right time.

And so we close out “this thing we keep calling 2020,” shocked at the start of the year, aware that all people deserve to be respected and cheered for, recognizing there exists much which is far more important than politics, and encouraged to keep life in perspective. Maybe this year provided some sweet, necessary lessons after all.



the Christmas collision

One of the innumerable aspects I deeply appreciate about Christmas is how the holiday is clearly a contemporary collision course.

Collisions get our attention. They demand we stop where we are, shred our schedules and to-do lists, and deal with the immediate. In “this thing we keep calling 2020,” such couldn’t be any more clear.

Christmas is where the sacred and secular collide.

As Tim Keller poignantly points out in Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ, “The background music in stores is moving from ‘Joy to the World’ to ‘Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.’” We tend to sing along with both.

And while no doubt both songs have meaning and value, there is a difference in depth between “Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing” — and — “I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer.”

Fascinatingly, when Christmas occurred, there existed rampant poverty, oppression, racial tension and political strife on this planet.

People weren’t always merry and they didn’t all get along. That was over 2,000 years ago.

Hence, in the sacred and secular, we often hear a collective crying out. They heard it 2,000 years ago; we hear it still today; we hear cries to “fix it” — fix all this tension and strife!… Some of those voices are gentle and respectful. Others are harsh and demanding. But the plea is often the same: fix it. There are many significant, dark challenges in our world.

Back to Keller…

“Years ago, I read an ad in the New York Times that said, ‘The meaning of Christmas is that love will triumph and that we will be able to put together a world of unity and peace.’ In other words, we have the light within us, and so we are the ones who can dispel the darkness of the world. We can overcome poverty, injustice, violence, and evil. If we work together, we can create a ‘world of unity and peace.’ 

Can we? 

One of the most thoughtful world leaders of the late twentieth century was Václav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic. He had a unique vantage point from which to peer deeply into both socialism and capitalism, and he was not optimistic that either would, by itself, solve the greatest human problems. He knew that science unguided by moral principles had given us the Holocaust. He concluded that neither technology nor the state nor the market alone could save us from nuclear conflict, ethnic violence, or environmental degradation. ‘Pursuit of the good life will not help humanity save itself, nor is democracy alone enough,’ [Havel] said. ‘A turning to and seeking of . . . God, is needed.’ The human race constantly forgets, he added, that ‘he is not God.’ 

Despite the sincerity of the Times advertiser, the message of Christmas is not that ‘we will be able to put together a world of unity and peace.’”

In other words, we need more than we. Christmas reminds us of that. Note the collisions, the contrasts…

Contrast the unadorned visual of the birth of a baby boy in a stable full of hay, prophesied multiple times in centuries prior. Contrast the dirt and the hay and the zero fanfare with the majesty of a king. 

Contrast the babe’s later, adult call to love God and love his people with all the reasons we justify not loving and respecting at least someone today.

The collision is clear. 

Maybe it’s what the Grinch realized — or what Dr. Seuss realized, when he wrote: “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

Thankfully, the collision of Christmas provides the opportunity to see that “little bit more”… that we need more than we… that “pursuit of the good life” is not enough…

So I sit and reflect these days before the holiday… dealing with the immediate, wishing my family and friends unparalleled peace and tremendous goodwill, knowing this year is different, but still, daily, singing “repeat the sounding joy”… 

Over and over again.

Merry Christmas, friends… to you and yours… always…


listen to what I say!

It’s that time of year — that time when the music pipes into far more than the elevators. The following song is actually, incredibly fascinating…

One of my guiding principles is never to let life become rote. I don’t want the daily rhythms of life to become so mechanical or habitual that I miss the meaning and joy that accompany those rhythms. Such is true in the above classic, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” While the carol is beloved because of its sweet, musical articulation of what the angels told the shepherds and how the shepherds may have reacted on Christmas night, I was moved even more when I learned the song’s origin…

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written in 1962 by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker.

But it wasn’t written so that we’d eventually have one more song in our Christmas collection for all the celebrities to remake and sing. In fact, Regney had resisted writing a Christmas song, as he was not attracted to the plethora of commercialism that has accompanied a season that means far, incredibly more.

They wrote the song in October, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This historical event — in which the Soviet Union had installed missiles only 90 miles away from the U.S. mainland — is considered the closest the Cold War ever came to escalating into nuclear war.

Regney had experienced war firsthand; he fought in World War II. He knew the danger. The death. The heartache and fear. This song, therefore, was a prayer and a dire plea for peace.

There’s a reason, no less, we’ve heard this song sung by Bing Crosby, Carrie Underwood, and Whitney Houston. There’s a reason Bob Dylan, Alicia Keys, and Johnny Cash have recorded it, as well. That doesn’t even count Mannheim Steamroller, Pentatonix, and the countless others.

This song has deep meaning; there’s nothing rote about it.

There’s a reason to be singing it now.



ripping off the Band-Aid

Recently stated was that I don’t believe “‘this thing we keep calling 2020’ has inserted all sorts of newness and new perspective into our lives. Rather, I believe it’s revealed — more like ‘ripped the Band-Aid off’ — of what was already there.”

Perhaps our most significant gaping wound in which the bandage has been ripped off is our lack of allowance for another to be where they are. Many feel increasingly, gratuitously empowered to be the one who declares what’s acceptable, debatable, or even allowed to be uttered and discussed.

This past week I’ve read two fantastic pieces that seem to have uncovered more of this wound.

First, from Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine…

Alberta began writing a poignant, year long series last January, attempting to connect ordinary Americans to one another, helping us see those who are alike — and those who are not. He wanted us to hear the voices of others, the voices of our “fellow citizens far removed from stations of influence and power, who actually hold in their hands the fate of this democratic experiment.”

“From the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania to the desert wilderness of New Mexico, while sitting in the backseats of Uber vehicles and standing outside of voting precincts and touring shuttered restaurants,” Alberta aimed to help us “know what was on their minds and in their hearts.”

Alberta’s unscientific study is fascinating. In his final piece entitled “Letter to Washington: 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election,” he shares from some most articulate individuals… persons of varied age, ethnicity, faith, gender, preference, etc… persons who voted for Biden and who voted for Trump… persons who were enthusiastic about their vote, “held their nose” during their vote, or were disappointed in the choice for whom to vote. This, my friends, is diversity.

In that cross-section, Alberta came to a final conclusion — and potentially the reason a wound can hurt so much…

“I detected one common feeling that binds together this deeply fractured nation: fear. Fear of violence. Fear for their livelihoods. Fear of far-left socialism or far-right authoritarianism. Fear that our best days are behind us. Fear that America is no longer capable of conquering its great challenges. Above all, fear that we are too alienated, too angry with each other, too fundamentally misunderstood by the other half of society to ever truly heal.”

How profound that what Alberta asserts we may most have in common is our fear. 

The second piece was an interview by the British Internet magazine Spiked of Chris Arnade, a liberal American photographer and the author of Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America, in which he shares his experience, traveling across the country, speaking to people in poor and working-class communities. Arnade talks about the gap between us… 

“The gap is not about how you vote – it is about how you think about the world. The elites – what I call the front row – are not really defined by class, although there is overlap. They are more defined by education and a very materialistic worldview: they generally see themselves as mobile, global, secular and morally right. And they view the back row as being lesser, stuck in provincial and outdated views about the world and themselves.

The front row is detached and completely clueless about the people it rules. Its members run the political system and business and define our cultural and economic capital. Therefore, they have an obligation to understand the people they lord over…”

Both reads are both poignant and profound. Both show the divide and the common. Each also shows where the bandage is ripped off. But what if we could stop the bleeding?

Notes Alberta in regard to those he met: “They are not a statistically perfect sample of the electorate. They will not check every box or speak to every possible viewpoint of the roughly 160 million Americans who voted this year. What they will do, both individually and collectively, is provide a depth of perspective that cannot be captured in infographic maps or exit polls or social media posts. With half of this country bewildered by the motivations and rationales of the other half, these 20 citizens can help us understand this moment in America—and maybe, just maybe, understand each other.”

Ah, a depth of perspective… a way to understand each other… Maybe there’s a way to put the Band-Aid back on…



an excellent news thread

As oft advocated, the Intramuralist believes in an intentional, careful, news source selection. It’s not that we shouldn’t be subject to bias; however, we can’t claim to possess an accurate, objective perspective if we rely on a singular side, voice or source.

Hence, today’s post was originally set to share a short sampling of my recent reading — written by respectful authors who made me think… for example… 

From Richard Wolf in USA TODAY, in an editorial entitled “Donald Trump stood no chance in front of a conservative Supreme Court. Here’s why”:

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to help Donald Trump change the result of the 2020 election should come as no surprise for the very reason the president hoped to win the case: The court is conservative… ‘The hallmark of conservative jurisprudence is respect for established law. No one should be surprised that the justices, like the Trump-appointed lower court judges in all these election cases, followed the law.’”

From Aaron Tang, professor of law at UC Davis and a former law clerk to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in the Los Angeles Times, in an editorial entitled “The new Supreme Court is sending surprisingly centrist signals”:

“How far will the Supreme Court’s new conservative supermajority go? …Surprisingly, comments in three major oral arguments held since Justice Amy Coney Barrett took her seat offer significant clues. Across these cases, several conservative justices asked questions revealing a desire to find compromises that, to some degree, could satisfy both sides of the partisan divide…”

From Jonathan Chait in NY Magazine, in an editorial entitled “How Michael Anton’s ‘Flight 93 Election’ Essay Defined the Trump Era”:

“That is the power of Anton’s chosen analogy, which urges his audience to overlook all of Trump’s complete unfitness to handle the job (‘You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane,’ he concedes) on the grounds that the alternative means imminent national death…”

From David French in The French Press, in an editorial entitled “The Case Against Xavier Becerra”:

“If I had to sum up my objection to Becerra in a single sentence, it would be this: He’s a punitive progressive culture warrior. I realize that Biden is pro-choice and will pick a pro-choice HHS secretary. But the man he picked has a pattern and practice of pushing progressive cultural causes beyond the constitutional red line…”

And then I found The Thread. Follow me here.

With 13 federal prisoners scheduled to be executed by the end of Pres. Trump’s term, debate on the death penalty has increased. I knew, therefore, I needed to find a source that’s better… better than CNN, FOX, or pretty much the Daily anything. There are legitimate arguments for and against its use. I don’t want anyone’s bias to be the basis for my thinking. 

Directed by AllSides, I found an article on The Thread entitled “Should We Resume Capital Punishment Federally?”

And fascinatingly, they didn’t try to talk me into anything. 

First, they state the context. They then ask, “Why does this question matter?” Next is a factual account of the differences between state and federal application. Trends were concisely shared. And then they actually wrote the words that the CNN’s, FOX’s, etal.’s rarely seem to utter: “What do you think?”

To quote Jim Carey in the iconic “Bruce Almighty,” “B-E-A-Utiful!!”

The Thread then took a respectful look at both sides.

With all the quieted, affirmed accounts of who was allowed to talk about what in the weeks leading up to the election, note the contrasting approach of TheThreadWeekly.com

“Welcome to a fresh take on news built by researchers who were feeling frayed. We’re frayed from 24/7 sensational headlines, biased reporting, and an endless drone of opinions that either make you want to cry out in despair or punch someone. We call it, ‘living in the fray.’”

“The fray doesn’t feel good.” 

They’re right. And so The Thread boldly aims to “be the first thread of change” — “the go-to resource for factual and politically diverse commentary on some of the most important issues we face. We represent the independent thinkers and the politically exhausted. We believe that research and data empower us to face our most pressing challenges. That arming people with knowledge will help us to look beyond political silos and form our own opinions.”

Wow… one more word…

“Our goal is simple: We want to get factual information into the hands of thoughtful people, so that they can shape our future. It all starts with a thread.”

Oh, this is good, thoughtful people.

No, it’s not just good. It’s better.



credible, viable and valid

Many days we’ve asserted the fact that people experience life differently. As written here before the pandemic ever began, for example…

“My Hispanic neighbors across the street are consistently engaged in managing their business and chasing after their adorable, young children.

My gay friends on the corner take some glorious, fantastic vacations.

The married professionals next door are gone a lot; we don’t talk as much as any of us would like.

And the single, black mom down the block has an incredibly full plate.

Each of us experience the world differently. And that’s just on my small street.”

Friends, my sense is we can say this until we’re rhetorically blue in the face. But I’m not sure we really believe it. We might agree we experience life differently. But I’m not sure we agree that the experience of another is equally valid.

We experience life differently.

We are affected by life differently.

Not every aspect of life affects all people the same way.

Let’s play with some continued, respectful, more challenging examples…

I know multiple people who unfortunately have Covid-19 right now. For some it is life-threatening. For others it’s just a cough.

I know multiple people significantly affected by the Affordable Care Act. For some it has provided a less expensive means to healthcare. For others it has cost them thousands.

I know multiple people who have been mistreated because of their gender. For some they were grossly abused. For others they have a history of prevarication.

I mean zero disrespect, friends. What I reject is the notion that we are this monolith culture — fueled by an identity embedded in the erroneous idea that all who share a circumstance, demographic, or distinguishing characteristic are affected in exactly the same way. And because we’ve concluded that we are affected the same way, we should also think, feel, and vote the same way.

When we are lured into such thinking, we are oft lured further into concluding that if another actually does not think like me, the way they experience life is less credible, viable or valid. To be clear…

credible | ˈkredəb(ə)l | adjective – able to be believed; convincing.

viable | ˈvīəb(ə)l | adjective – capable of working successfully; feasible.

valid | ˈvaləd | adjective – having a sound basis in logic or fact; reasonable.

So let’s ask the bigger question…

Why do we fall prey to the notion of a monolith way?

And — bigger still — what is the danger of such thinking?

No doubt B.Brown, Carnegie, Covey, etal. would each have far more substantiated answers than here, but let’s humbly attempt a simplistic stab…

Why do we fall prey? 

It’s easier. It’s easier to come to conclusions that fit in my already established, current world view. We are not fond of the outlier.

So what’s the danger of adhering to such?

When we forget that we experience life differently, we fail to honor the life that is different than our own.

We honor not because another is deemed deserving; we honor because it’s a wise way to live.



P.S. An added note… I’ve never known a person generous with their honor who lived with much regret… fascinating, indeed…

conflict — circa 2020

To be two-dimensional means to “appear to have length and breadth but no depth.” In other words, there only exists what we see from a singular stance, what’s on the surface — nothing behind the object, nothing backing it up.

To be three-dimensional adds the depth; there exists more than what we see. In fact, there may be far more than what we see. We know that. We recognize the existence of a third dimension; it’s not in question. We also accept and affirm our inability to see all dimensions from a singular stance. 

We live in a three-dimensional world.

As this year nears its hopefully auspicious end, I’ve been playing with how we collectively see the world. Note that I don’t believe “this thing we keep calling 2020” has inserted all sorts of newness and new perspective into our lives. Rather, I believe it’s revealed — more like “ripped the BandAid off” — of what was already there.

With all due respect, 2020 has made clear that we stink at handling conflict.

Consider what sage conflict resolution experts advocate…

From Steven Covey: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

From Brené Brown: “I believe one of the most courageous things to say in an uncomfortable conversation is, ‘Tell me more.’”

From Dale Carnegie: “You need to understand the other side’s concerns and motivation.”

Hear the experts… understand another… tell me more… work at it… work some more.

But the ripping off of the figurative bandage has allowed us to fuel this faulty notion that we really don’t have to work to understand another; there’s no need to listen well… Why? Because we think we already, completely understand another. 100%… “What else could their reason be?” we ask. Note the said question is not evidence of curiosity; it’s instead justification of a minimal at best stab at discernment.

That’s what happens when we wrestle with conflict in a two-dimensional world.

A two-dimensional world encourages the fallacy that it’s me against you… us against them… black vs. white. If a person articulates an opinion, we think we completely get them — and get why they adhere to that perspective, because we’ve concluded there exists only two possible ways to think.

A two-dimensional world — a two-dimensional approach to conflict — ignores depth. Hence, it’s grossly incomplete.

Regardless of whether a person articulates a perspective via Twitter’s allowed 280 characters, Snapchat’s 250, or even the 2,200 allowed on Instagram — it’s not enough to substantiate another’s perceived all-knowing; it’s not enough to form a full perspective. That’s true in person, too. To understand another in the midst of conflict, especially when emotions may run high, it takes work… hard, ongoing work. It takes more than one, two, maybe even more than 17 conversations. The work is not for purposes of determining which so-called “side” another has adopted; the work is for purposes of actually understanding all the nuances that have shaped the way the other feels the way they do.

Name your topic… the election, choice of candidates, the vaccine, whether to get it or not, media bias, “Me Too,” inequality, immigration, healthcare, looting, critical race theory, the Supreme Court, the coming announcement of Time’s “Person of the Year”, “Hillbilly Elegy,” or even the great mask debate of 2020… there are far more than two dimensions shaping a person’s perspective.  

A two-dimensional approach is oversimplified. 

A two-dimensional approach ignores the reality of nuance.

A two-dimensional approach puts others in an unfair, inaccurate box.

“Pick a side, any side!” we’ve heard people say.

But in a three-dimensional world, that simply doesn’t make sense.



our window of intolerance?

Lately I’ve been pondering the prudence of the Overton Window — not necessarily its existence, but rather, how the boundaries and framing are established. Follow me here.

The Overton Window is the span of public policy that is considered acceptable at any given moment in time. It was a model established by the late Joseph P. Overton, former senior VP of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Writes the Center:

“Ever wonder how politicians choose which policies they’ll support? Or have you ever noticed that a politician championing one policy idea can win an election in one country, but at the same time no politician in your country will support that same policy? The Overton Window of Political Possibility can help explain these phenomena…

The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window…

The Overton Window doesn’t describe everything about how politics works, but it does describe one key thing: Politicians will not support whatever policy they choose whenever they choose; rather, they will only espouse policies that they believe do not hurt their electoral chances. And the range of policy options available to a politician are shaped by ideas, social movements and shared norms and values within society.

All of this suggests that politicians are more followers than they are leaders — it’s the rest of us who ultimately determine the types of policies they’ll get behind. It also implies that our social institutions — families, workplaces, friends, media, churches, voluntary associations, think tanks, schools, charities, and many other phenomena that establish and reinforce societal norms — are more important to shaping our politics than we typically credit them for.”

It’s a fascinating concept — probably one the political science enthusiasts eat up. It explains why a concept perceived to be radical or ludicrous years ago can be boldly advocated for now, especially when those radical voices are very loud.

But I’ve landed here today more because of a phenomenon extracted from those voices that I can’t quite comprehend. And if I’m honest, I also don’t believe it’s wise, healthy, and good.

In multiple avenues and arenas, seemingly intelligent persons are attempting to determine the types of policies the politicians will get behind by encouraging the cutting off, rooting out, and extinction of relationship with anyone who thinks differently.

They are encouraging increased ideological isolation. And thus, increased intolerance.

Fast and furious, fueled by partisan news, we are witnessing the argument for intolerance, “cancel culture,” and how the Overton Window should be framed.

Writes Julie Mastrine, the Director of Marketing for Intramuralist fave, AllSides, in an editorial last week:

“The problem is that people are increasingly rationalizing targeting those they disagree with… Many fervently believe that the people who oppose them are on the side of evil, and they are on the side of good. This is the danger of not understanding the other side.”

So much of our intolerance (the cutting off, rooting out, and extinction of relationship based on disagreement) is based on a lack of working intently to understand another. It is radical and ludicrous to suggest, for example, that absolutely everyone who voted for one presidential candidate or the other is _________ (insert choice negative adjective here). That’s not evidence of logic nor good sense. That’s more evidence of intolerance.

Back to Mastrine… 

“Examining the other side’s views requires honestly examining our own, and admitting when we ourselves may be wrong. Most would rather not do this. The other side — those they seek to ‘hold accountable’ via extreme measures — might actually have some valid points, or a more complex worldview than is being presented by one-sided media outlets. But instead of conducting an honest inquiry into the other side, some in our modern society shun them, ‘name and shame’ them, fire them, or put them on lists for targeting when their party gets into power.”  

Examining the other side… honestly examining our own… admitting where we may wrong… acknowledging where we may be intolerant.

Now that sounds wise, healthy, and good… and a step toward respectful dialogue.