the exhausted American

The Intramuralist wrote about respected economist David French’s eye-opening book, “Divided We Fall,” addressing potential secession… two years ago. Note what the author so poignantly shares now, as written recently in The Dispatch:

“… I’m growing increasingly wary of the binary analysis of American life. The more I travel this country post-pandemic, the more I encounter the third faction—the ‘exhausted majority’ first identified by More in Common’s ’Hidden Tribes’ survey all the way back in 2018. Under this analysis, America isn’t just red and blue. It’s red and blue and just plain tired.

Who are these tired Americans? The polling answer from the survey is the two-thirds of our neighbors and citizens (from across the political spectrum) who are fed up with polarization, forgotten in public discourse, flexible in their views, and still believe we can find common ground

The exhausted American is in my email inbox, writing personal, anguished letters about lost relationships. The radicalized American is in my Twitter feed, furious at any deviation from the party line. The radicalized American is capturing institutions, making life miserable for dissenters left or right. The exhausted American doesn’t know where to go. Who speaks for them?

The exhausted American does not make a religion out of politics, and is thus at a disadvantage when confronting the ferocity and zeal of the true political believer. 

The exhausted American is hungry for simple decency, and will seek out friendships on the left and the right, so long as respect trumps differences. Even the most extreme disagreements are manageable so long as a friend is willing to listen and learn, and you’re willing to listen and learn in return. 

The exhausted majority is also the hope for America. 

Make no mistake, the answer is not found in the polarized wings. Each side has too much animosity to reach any kind of accommodation and too little power to achieve any kind of permanent triumph. In my book, I posited that federalism could be an answer to our political divide, but partisan animosity has grown so great that state governments are wielding local power in the service of national fights. 

State legislation has become both performative and punitive, with a focus on rewarding friends and punishing enemies. California, for example, currently bans state-funded and state-sponsored travel to 20 American states, a form of economic sanction designed to punish states that California deems insufficiently protective of LGBT rights. Florida has enacted a broad range of laws that purport to crack down on ‘wokeness’ and punish expression with which the state disagrees. 

But what happens when the exhausted majority gets just a little bit energetic? It can check the excesses of left and right. In San Francisco an exhausted progressive majority recalled radical school board members and a radical district attorney. In the Southern Baptist Convention, an exhausted conservative majority has now twice turned back a politically radicalized and vocal fundamentalist wing that would transform the SBC into a MAGA denomination. 

I know and have met people who both organized and voted for the San Francisco recall. I know and have met people who resisted the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. And the two groups share something important in common. While they’re both political in the sense that they have political values, politics is ultimately less important to their day-to-day lives than it is to their most motivated opponents. 

Invariably this means that the exhausted majority’s political engagement is more occasional or episodic than it is constant or relentless. The polarized wings never rest. The exhausted majority stirs itself when the situation is dire, exerts its will, and then returns to its true passions—whether that’s family, work, or faith. 

There was a time when I lived my life on the polarized wings. I spent more time worried about ‘the left’ than I spent thinking through what part my partisanship played in fraying the American social fabric. I saw the triumph of my political foes as a greater threat to the nation than the partisan conflict itself. 

I now hold a different view, one that’s closer to the view of America’s wisest founders at their most prescient moments. George Washington, in his farewell address, warned his countrymen against the dangers of factionalism and regionalism. James Madison, in Federalist 10, warned against the ‘violence of faction.’

Abraham Lincoln, the indispensable architect of America’s second founding, told the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, ‘At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.’

I’m concerned about our national union. I’m more concerned than I was when I wrote my book warning about the possibility of secession. But I also know that the solution to our challenge is hiding in plain sight. It’s the great bulk of the American people—the fed up, forgotten, flexible Americans who span the ideological spectrum yet don’t completely identify as red or blue. 

This July Fourth, I’m both proud to be an American and convinced that our best days can still lie ahead of us. But not if we’re too tired to engage. The exhausted majority has to get energetic, even if only for a time, to rescue America from the friends, families, and neighbors who are tearing it apart.”

Respectfully…

AR

why I love her…

As written by John Mitchum in 1973 — and shared here several years ago — my sense is it may be wise to pause, re-read and remember, especially now…

You ask me why I love her? Well, give me time, and I’ll explain…

Have you seen a Kansas sunset or an Arizona rain?

Have you drifted on a bayou down Louisiana way?

Have you watched the cold fog drifting over San Francisco Bay?

Have you heard a Bobwhite calling in the Carolina pines?

Or heard the bellow of a diesel in the Appalachia mines?

Does the call of Niagara thrill you when you hear her waters roar?

Do you look with awe and wonder at a Massachusetts shore…

Where men who braved a hard new world, first stepped on Plymouth Rock?

And do you think of them when you stroll along a New York City dock?

Have you seen a snowflake drifting in the Rockies… way up high?

Have you seen the sun come blazing down from a bright Nevada sky?

Do you hail to the Columbia as she rushes to the sea…

Or bow your head at Gettysburg… in our struggle to be free?

Have you seen the mighty Tetons? …Have you watched an eagle soar?

Have you seen the Mississippi roll along Missouri’s shore?

Have you felt a chill at Michigan, when on a winters day,

Her waters rage along the shore in a thunderous display?

Does the word “Aloha”… make you warm?

Do you stare in disbelief when you see the surf come roaring in at Waimea reef?

From Alaska’s gold to the Everglades… from the Rio Grande to Maine…

My heart cries out… my pulse runs fast at the might of her domain.

You ask me why I love her?… I’ve a million reasons why.

My beautiful America… beneath Gods’ wide, wide sky. 

My prayer is that in all this festering, polarizing crud that surrounds us, we never miss the beauty embedded in the Kansas sunset, Arizona rain, Missouri shore, Michigan chill, Alaskan cold, or in the Rockies, way up high. May we never miss the beauty in all the diverse people groups — with varied passions and preferences, convictions and commitments — from Nevada to New York City… from Massachusetts to Mississippi… May we never be numb to God’s beauty. May it always move and delightfully surprise us.

Respectfully…

AR

wading through the memes and the muck

To be clear before we begin…

meme | mēm | n. — an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations.

muck | mək | n. — dirt, rubbish, or waste matter; mire, mud; manure.

I don’t believe it takes any bit of rocket science to suggest there’s quite a bit of memes and muck out there right now — and most of it, incredibly disrespectful.

The memes are oft insulting mic drops; thus, contrary to its definition, memes aren’t all that funny… or rather, they are only funny to the ones who wish to rebuke or bully one who adheres to a different belief system or opinion.

The muck is all that gets in the way… what gets in the way of truth… what gets in the way of objectivity. All the misinformation filling the media (Note: I will resist the rather enticing impulse to utilize muck’s last listed definition above.).

So allow us to be coherent and clear. Know, too, we are not expressing any advocacy or opposition today. Our goal is simply to wade through the memes and the muck, so that the mockery and mean-spiritedness would be minimized and respectful dialogue can continue.

The Supreme Court’s recent, notable decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization does not ban nor back abortion. As stated in the majority opinion, the decision today “returns the Court to a position of neutrality.” That means not for it or against it. Not making it legal nor illegal.

Attorneys (not activists) on all sides of this issue objectively share that the bottom line in the high court’s decision has zero to do with the morality of abortion; it wrestles instead with where the authority to make said decision rests. Hence, both accusations of evil and proclamations of victory are misguided. No doubt clouded by the muck, abortion will still be legal in all stages in some states — limited in others.

Herein lies a point that the memes and muck also pollute…

As shared previously, public polling has told us that the majority of the public is in favor of Roe v. Wade but not in favor of Planned Parenthood v. Casey — two legal decisions that were rescinded in the recent decision. This is significant.

The Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973 stated that Texas statutes criminalizing abortion violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy in most cases. While ruling that government could not prohibit abortions during the first trimester for any reason, it permitted state regulation thereafter. 

The Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling of 1992 removed the first trimester requirement, allowing state legislatures to legalize abortion up to the moment of birth. 

Also in 1992, then Pres. Bill Clinton worked to find common ground language, stating he wished for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.” Ten years ago, the Democratic Party removed those words from their platform.

Hence, with respect to all parties but to again be factually clear, the majority of the public is in favor of what the Democratic Party supported ten years ago — not what they purport to support now.

Let me not suggest public polling is a judicious barometer of wisdom; we are solely noting what the public supports — and what it doesn’t.

Let me also assert once more that I am sharing neither advocacy or opposition. I am simply attempting to wade through the memes and the muck so that we can have better conversation. As one who did not articulate advocacy or opposition last weekend, I was personally on the receiving end of over eighty insults and questions of integrity and/or character. No need to fight back; it’s not about me; I intentionally work to understand diverse conviction and passionate expression. It does reveal, however, the lack of wisdom in our collective, cultural conversation. It reveals a lack of listening — an unwillingness — and is indeed a societal weakness.

Too many memes. Too much muck.

Let’s resist what therefore hurts us all… knowingly or not.

Respectfully…

AR

Roe, Casey & real, raw conversation

Welcome. Sit down if you aren’t sitting already. Whether reading on your phone, computer, iPad, etc., try to rest a little. Take a deep breath. We’re glad to talk about all issues here — indeed we will. Respectfully. Always. So if you’re looking for a place to fight or seeking any sense of an echo chamber that only amens what you already believe, with all due respect, this prob isn’t the place for you. Friends, even in the areas I claim to know exceptionally well — whether it be the poetry of Alfred Tennyson, the history of baseball, or the wisdom embedded in the love chapter of 1st Corinthians — without a doubt, I still have much to learn.

That’s kind of our country’s quagmire. We’re passionate and diverse. We feel things strongly. So just like that we demonize and damn. It’s easy to do. Especially outside the confines of relationship.

One of the veiled consequences of the hours we each spend isolated in our screen-lit worlds is that we have come to equate texts with talking, comments with conversation, and social media with an arena rich in transparency and truth. Since talking, conversation, transparency and truth are each keynotes of relationship, we have been lured into believing we are experiencing real relationship. When we aren’t. We think we’ve found “my people.” When we haven’t. This isn’t relationship; this is something lesser.

The challenge then is that it’s easy to denigrate outside of relationship. It’s easy to conclude that Nancy Pelosi or Samuel Alito or whoever else is evil or awful or a despicable human being because you have no relationship with them. It’s easy to say all white people or all black people or all persons of color, men or women, young, old, gay, straight, etc. because those are demographic groups — not persons with whom we have authentic, actual relationship.

How would it change the way you demonize or damn if the person who held a perspective seemingly opposite of you — but equally, fiercely passionate — was your daughter? … your son? … your sister, brother, mom, dad or BFF? Someone with whom you actually have an authentic relationship?

Let’s acknowledge the obvious, friends; it’s easy to omit understanding, compassion, empathy, mercy and/or grace when we don’t share the depth of real relationship. It’s easy to fall prey to the idea that there really aren’t any good, wise people on a side opposite of “me.” Hear that; it’s easy.

When the Supreme Court’s ruling was announced, sending regulation of abortion back to the states, I grieved. I didn’t grieve in opposition nor advocacy. I grieved because of our country’s increasing inability to handle disagreement well, especially because we haven’t realized the depth of relationship we have sacrificed.

In relationship — with my daughter, son, sister, brother, mom, dad, BFF, even neighbor or stranger in the room — here is what would be wise to process together…

So what now? First, it’s wise to read the ruling; some of the immediate reactions (on all sides) demonstrate a lack of awareness of what the decision actually says. The ruling does not prohibit abortion; it sends any abortion legislation decision to the states. Some will keep as is; some will restrict it more. So honest, reasonable question: is there something wrong if the people in California want the procedure to be totally legal and the people of Kentucky totally don’t? A person could then choose to live where they wish.

Next, I believe it to be wise to understand public sentiment. The high court’s ruling overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The majority of the public supports Roe. But the majority of the public does not support Casey. Roe made abortion legal up until the 2nd trimester. Casey made abortion legal up until birth. What do we learn from that? Public opinion — which isn’t necessarily a proven determiner of prudence — suggests that the majority of the public wants legal access to abortion but does not want abortion on demand nor so late in the pregnancy.

Also, what could we learn within the confines of relationship in regard to how we express our oft passionate agreement or disagreement? Is shaming ok? Is it wise? Who looks better afterwards? And what about protesting? Does it need to be peaceful? I’m thinking each of us would be wise to at least privately examine when we make excuses for the wrongdoing and destruction by protestors. Sometimes we’re ok with it; sometimes we’re not. My desire is for us to be both consistent and wise.

And lastly, allow me a hard, but sincere, final acknowledgment that I wish we could actually talk about. Many of us have been on all sides of this issue. We’ve been in different places in different seasons of life. So let me be a little more personal… There are people I love, respect and trust deeply on all sides of this issue. That includes people who have chosen to abort and chosen not to — for reasons of heartache, bad timing, bad relationship and more… One, in fact, made their choice because the baby had Down syndrome. I’ll be honest; that last one was especially hard for me. 

But my reality is that in each of the those relationships — with each of the choices — none of the above changed our mutual love, respect and trust. That’s because we experience and are committed to authentic relationship. In relationship, even and especially when we passionately disagree, we don’t demonize or damn; we don’t change our thinking to consider the other now despicable. In fact, if anything, we work harder… we lean in… sit down, take a deep breath… and intentionally ensure we are extra generous in our offering of understanding, compassion, empathy, mercy and grace.

That’s the depth of real relationship. That’s what it takes to work through the hard.

Respectfully…

AR

me

Sometimes it’s been me… 

Sometimes it’s been me who wouldn’t listen. Sometimes it’s been me who said I was listening but really wasn’t — I was just thinking of what I’d say next.

Sometimes it’s been me who was utterly convinced I was totally right… that I had the only right perspective… that only I had all the facts and there was little more to learn… and if another presented some other angle or contradicting fact, I simply assumed mine meant more.

Sometimes it’s been me who intentionally ignored the perspective of another.

Sometimes it’s been me who found comfort in the echo chamber. Sometimes it was me who felt more justified, better about myself, you-name-it because my likeminded friends all emphatically agreed and made the one who was courageous enough to share a minority opinion feel like it was only a minority opinion.

Sometimes it’s been me who had to have the last word. Sometimes it’s been me who justified the mic drop… feeling my words needed to be the ones that resonate longest. 

Sometimes it’s been me who got my entire story from CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC and then represented such as the complete truth. Sometimes it’s been me who was manipulated by the biased news. Sometimes I even knew it.

Sometimes it’s been me who’s criticized another. Sometimes harshly.

Sometimes it’s been me who didn’t actually cast the insult on social media, but was silent when the one I disagreed with was insulted. Sometimes it’s been me who justified the insult — maybe only in my head, but justified just the same.

Sometimes it’s been me who again didn’t say it, but liked the insult of another. Sometimes it’s been me who thought the word “idiot,” “stupid” or “bitch” at the end of someone else’s sentence was funny. 

Sometimes it’s been me who ignored the obvious dishonesty or exaggeration from the person I like where they stand politically. Sometimes even a president or press secretary.

Sometimes it’s been me who took the conversation too far. 

Sometimes it’s been me who has forgotten that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. 

Sometimes it’s been me who put boundaries on a relationship because of them, unwilling to examine my own behavior first. Sometimes it’s been me who actually ignored my own behavior. My wrongdoing, too.

Sometimes it’s been me who ignored the lack of integrity in the pundit or politician — especially when they made the point I wanted them to. Sometimes it’s been me who ignored the obvious playing of politics and political theater.

Sometimes it’s been me who assumed the radical fringe of the party stood most for the party… allowing a few to represent the many because the few were so seemingly outrageous. One can demonize the party faster that way.

Sometimes it’s been me who raised the intensity and drama — i.e. “This means war!”… “We must save our country!… It’s the end of the world as we know it!” — not realizing my emotions had again gotten the best of me.

Sadly, sometimes it’s been me who ignored the lack of integrity in myself. I ignored the hypocrisy, too, convincing myself I’m incapable of such.

Sometimes it’s been me who refused to say I’m sorry… or who embraced humility. Sometimes I’ve determined that that humility was more for another than for self. 

Sometimes it’s been me who failed to love another well… allowing politics to be more important than people. 

Sometimes it’s been me who felt the end justifies the means, ignoring the lack of uprightness in the means… also ignoring who it hurts.

Sometimes it’s been me who refused to empathize… who failed to love… who justified something lesser.

Sometimes, in all honesty, it’s been me.

Respectfully… and learning still…

AR

celebrating dads

One of the things I wish we were better at as a society is learning to celebrate “A” without feeling the need to oppress “B.” We fail to recognize they aren’t two sides of the same coin, so-to-speak. We don’t have to put down one in order to elevate another. We do it in all sorts of categories, every demographic, even all the way down to whether my kid or your kid is named the starting shortstop. (As one who does not believe in finite opportunity, believe me, I will always celebrate if your kid is named to the priority infield position. It’s no knock on my kid; it’s high praise of yours.)

We do this with age, income, ethnicity and more. We do this with gender. Friends, we don’t have to put down men or women to elevate women or men. They aren’t in competition with one another. It’s ok to celebrate one, both, or one at a time. 

So today, for the one-hundred and twelfth time, our country celebrates our dads on the third Sunday in June. So I decided to ask the kids of the dads in my life: What makes someone a good dad? Or what character attributes help them be good at that?

My siblings, sons, nieces and nephews had a few things to say…

“A good dad provides both affection and authority.”

“A good dad challenges you in a compassionate way. He pushes you to become a better version of yourself because he wants what’s best for you.”

“I’ve always thought of my dad as the one I’d make my first phone call to. If it was great news, I wanted to tell him; I knew he’d be proud of me. If it was bad news — a wreck, jail, etc. — well, I knew he’d come help me — no judgment — but would also remind me lovingly but firmly of the need to grow.”

“Dads model our heavenly Father, who provides what we need. Sometimes it’s grace and understanding. Sometimes it’s tough love. Sometimes it’s nothing at all, not substituting their experience for their child’s.”

“I’ve never appreciated those who say, ‘My dad was tough’ or any other attribute. That forces the child to adjust to the dad rather than the other way around.”

“Most of all, loving. We all need our father’s approval.”

“It’s a simultaneous strength/compassion trait amidst dire family-related situations. Knowing when and where to use each is only something you really learn on the fly. I can’t speak on it because of my lack of experience, but my cultural interpretation of this is that oftentimes, this two-sided parameter is skewed far too much in one direction, leading to non-optimal mental/physical development of their children.”

“Love, support and adaptation. Most dads show love by acts of service without accepting any kind of thanks. Support can mean anything from checking in to helping out with your car maintenance or by going to games, shows, etc. An adaptive dad accepts their child when they grow in ways they didn’t necessarily expect and loves them just the same.”

“Discipline. Love is not affirming what they do simply to provide encouragement, but correcting their actions so they learn. Without a willingness to do so, they will not grow or mature, and neglecting discipline is thus akin to abandonment. Patience is an important attribute.”

“Kindness. Compassion. I can come to him with anything and he doesn’t pass judgment. He listens and works to understand. I know he will always be there for me, no matter what.”

“Caring. Supportive. Even through the hard times, my dad never stopped supporting whatever I was looking to do.”

“An involved dad. Someone who teaches right from wrong with patience and perseverance and is part of that learning process. He loves unconditionally and corrects wrongs out of love and care, which creates respect from the child and helps them understand they may have messed up, but they are still loved and not defeated.”

“My dad has always been there for me and accepted me for me. He was never much of a grill master or very car-savvy, but I have a lot of fond memories with us all being goofy and having fun.” 

“Being a father is somewhat sacrificial. It’s easy to raise your kids according to your own passions. However, as seems to be true with everything, it’s harder to adapt. A good father sacrifices the nature of what he has known for many years to promote the happiness of his children. Easy? Unsurprisingly, no. Hard? Not for the father that cares.”

And one more shout out, from my youngest son, who as he often does, says much with little…

“My dad is my super hero. Very smart, incredible, talented man. When I am down, he helps me. I’m thankful and honored that I am his son.” 

Respectfully…

AR

it all comes down to this

There are certain songs when they come on Spotify or SiriusXM, they prompt the majority of us to totally freeze and sing along; it matters little what we’re doing. We just must. Sing along.

Such as…

“Woah, we’re half way there

Woah, livin’ on a prayer

Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear

Woah, livin’ on a prayer…”

… or… 

“Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache

Tell me why

Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake

Tell me why

I never wanna hear you say

I want it that way…”

… and last but not least…

“Oh no, not I, I will survive

Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive

I’ve got all my life to live

And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive

I will survive…”

In recent years there’s another lyrical set which personally makes me freeze. I admit: it’s not quite as popular. Maybe the lyrics are harder. But no doubt the lyrics make me think.

It’s a creative tune penned by Danny Gokey three years ago. It begins by talking about “running in circles” and “jumping the hurdles”…  checking boxes and feeling “kinda worn out” — words that no doubt sometimes apply to each of us.

And then it gets to the chorus — which is probably the part that challenges me most. Gokey writes it like this:

“Gotta keep it real simple, keep it real simple

Bring everything right back to ground zero

‘Cause it all comes down to this

Love God and love people

We’re living in a world that keeps breakin’

But if we wanna find the way to change it

It all comes down to this

Love God and love people…”

My thoughts are two-fold…

Where else do I complicate things? Where do I make things harder than they are?

And secondly — and maybe one of the most important questions each of us would be wise to ask — where are the places and what are the things I allow to get in the way of me loving (1) God and (2) other people? Where are those pockets and places that I choose something lesser?

I’ll be honest. I think of this a lot more than when the lyrical gem comes on the radio. And I think of how we as a society fail to do this. Sometimes knowingly. Sometimes not. I mean, there are so many wonderful people on this planet. So many seemingly wise. But yet there are also so many who encourage loving all people except ______________.

Fill in the blank however you wish. But that’s the challenge Gokey poignantly pens in his song. There is nothing that deserves resting in that blank.

Nothing.

I get it. We get irritated. We get annoyed. We face both real and perceived opposition. 

Still nothing… belongs in that blank.

Respectfully…

AR

weird week. wrong track.

What a weird week. But first, the most recent data…

According to Reuters, 68% of us think the country is on the wrong track.

According to NBC News, 75% of us think the country is on the wrong track. 

According to Monmouth, that number rises to 80%.

The RealClearPolitics national average is that 71% of us believe we are on the wrong track; only 22% of us believe the country is headed in a positive direction.

Recognizing that with such a clear majority believing the same thing — which means, therefore, that both Democrats and Republicans and everything in between share like thinking — why do we feel the way we do?

Allow me to go back to the weird week…

We had a popular, liberal newspaper keep the assassination plot of a perceived conservative Supreme Court justice off the front page, making an approximate ½ inch reference in its national news blips, referring the reader to “page A20.”

We had a House committee run an atypical primetime hearing regarding the awful, Jan. 6th, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, but also hire a Hollywood television producer to attempt to make it look like a “blockbuster investigative special.”

We had a popular, conservative TV news station choose not to show the congressional hearing and then run their regular primetime programming commercial free, with no breaks when one might be tempted to change channels.

We had a President who seemingly avoids one-on-one interviews with journalists go on late night comedy television and an articulate actor instead speak to the press in the White House briefing room.

And we were reminded of how both the most recent former President and the current Senate Majority Leader each utilized temperature-raising rhetoric that is perceived to have contributed to the first two scenarios above. (Note: I am grateful for the Majority Leader’s later walking back of his initial magniloquence.)

It’s the clear manifestation of bias, and as the oft snarky HBO host, Bill Maher, said Friday night in regard to one of the news sources — which could be applied to each of them — “They just wear their bias on their sleeves, and if it’s not part of something that feeds our narrative, $#*&@! it, we bury it.” 

I’ll repeat what one friend thoughtfully shared with me: it feels manipulative.

Let’s go back to the backdrop that 71% of us believe the country is on the wrong track. That’s such a large majority, it no doubt includes people who are ok with some of the above scenarios.

So why would such a politically diverse majority believe the same thing?

Is it the classic phrase by liberal strategist James Carville in 1992? … that it’s “the economy stupid!”

Is it the soaring inflation, probability of recession, or crazy gas prices that seem to rise significantly more by the week?

Maybe.

But allow me to paint this picture with a broader brush.

When I examine the weirdness of last week, it’s not that all of the above was all wrong (… although for the record once more, while we should not equate the two events, let’s be clear that what happened at the Capitol and what happened outside one justice’s home were each indeed criminal). 

But the challenge I see embedded in the weirdness of the week is that there is a lack of authenticity in our approach. Left, right… you-name-it. There’s something in the approach that feels manipulative.

In order to be a country in which the clear majority believes we’re on a track headed in the right direction, we need to lead with integrity and communicate with authenticity. The state of both our union and unity depends upon it.

Respectfully…

AR

how old should one be?

There is current talk of whether an effective gun violence deterrent would be to raise the minimum age to 21 to purchase a firearm. Such is existing law in California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, and Vermont. 17 more states make 21 the minimum age for handguns, but have set 18 as the age for rifle and shotgun purchases.

The thought is that at 21 we become adults, capable of making independent decisions, with an increased likelihood of being mentally solid and stable. It thus made me ask what we’re able to do when we aren’t thought to be adults, make independent decisions, nor be mentally solid and stable. Consider that you must be…

  • 10 to hunt alone in Alaska
  • 10 to hunt big game in Arizona
  • 12 to consent to immunization against sexually transmitted infections if in California or Washington, D.C. (In D.C., this is with all CDC-approved vaccines, even over parental objections.)
  • 13 to create a Facebook account
  • 14 to be employed for most non-agricultural work
  • 14 to get a learner’s permit in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa and North and South Dakota
  • 14 to pilot a glider or balloon
  • 14 to operate a personal watercraft in Florida
  • 14 to go to Disney World parks alone
  • 14 to fish in Idaho
  • 14 to work at Starbucks in Montana (It’s 16 for the other 49 states.)
  • 15 to fly alone on Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, and United (Southwest is good with 12.)
  • 16 to work more than 3 hours on a school day
  • 16 to vote in school board elections if a resident of Oakland, California
  • 16 to get an abortion without parental consent in Delaware and Massachusetts
  • 16 to fly a plane
  • 16 to take puberty blockers, hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery in South Dakota
  • 16-18 depending on the state to be able to legally consent to sexual contact
  • 17 to vote in the primary elections and caucuses of 17 states if 18 by election day 
  • 17 to skate in the 2026 Winter Olympics
  • 17 to enlist in the military
  • 17 to buy tickets to R-rated movies
  • 17 to stay out after 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday in Illinois
  • 17  to adopt a child in Florida if married (18 is the threshold for an unmarried adult, although many adoption agencies add older requirements.)
  • 18 to work in an occupation considered “hazardous” by the Dept. of Labor
  • 18 to join Planet Fitness without a parental waiver
  • 18 to be considered the “age of majority” in which one is granted by law the rights and responsibilities of an adult, in all but 3 states (It’s 19 in Alabama and Nebraska — 21 in Mississippi.)
  • 18 to work in mining or manufacturing, even if employed by family
  • 18 to vote
  • 18 to get a tattoo without permission from parents
  • 18 to play in Major League Baseball if from the U.S. (International players need only be 17)
  • 18 to buy Sudafed, Robitussin-DM and more in most states
  • 18 to drive a taxi in New York City
  • 18 to become a substitute teacher in most states
  • 19 to get married in Nebraska
  • 21 to purchase alcohol (This does not apply to the minimum age for consumption, which varies by state.)
  • 21 to purchase tobacco (The current age to purchase tobacco in North Carolina is still 18; however, stores that sell under 21 may be subject to federal enforcement.)
  • 21 to gamble in Vegas
  • 25 to rent a Hertz cargo van
  • 25 to be a Representative
  • 30 to be a Senator
  • 35 to be President
  • 50 to play on the Senior PGA Tour
  • 62 to receive Social Security benefits
  • 65 to qualify for Medicare

It’s certainly interesting where we advocate to increase or decrease minimum age requirements. Perspective matters.

Respectfully…

AR

the beauty of ‘Maverick’ in today’s culture

2 hours and 11 minutes… sitting on the edge of our seats… fully engaged in the plot and developing storyline… clearly sensing the tension, emotion, relational challenges and joys… not to mention the bonus drama, humor, and real-life Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets! The critics are right, friends. Top Gun: Maverick is fantastic!

But lest one begins to believe this semi-humble current events blogger has any aspirations to evolve into an incredibly witty movie critic, allow us to talk about why the summer’s so-far biggest hit is just so fantastic… besides the Super Hornets… besides the drama… besides Tom Cruise once again solidifying his reputation as a bonafide movie star…

While the movie is fantastic, how it makes us feel is even better. 

Let’s begin by setting the scene…

We each have passions, preferences, and convictions that are near and dear to us. How sweet that in this land of the free and home of the brave we can believe in something, invest and advocate — and we can believe in different things.

But somewhere increasingly along the line in recent years, we’ve added a step to the belief, investment and advocacy. Now we also feel need to fight.

To “fight” assumes opposition. To be even more blunt, to “fight” assumes an enemy. Friends, with all due respect, we’ve lost sight of who the enemy actually is.

Pick your passion. Pick your preference and conviction, too.

Think of the trending question of increased gun control, for example… Those people are in my way. We need to fight them. We need to elect no more of them. We need to make them pay! They don’t care about children!

I said this before and I’ll say it again. It’s pure rhetoric when any attempt to convince us that one party cares more about children than the other. All we have to do is compare the inconsistent arguments on the issues of gun control and abortion legislation at the same time. Hear me, friends. I’m not advocating for any specific perspective today. I’m simply highlighting the inconsistency of partisan argument.

The more then that we adopt the plurality of partisan argument, the more we lose sight of who the enemy actually is.  

That’s a problem, because if we’ve fallen prey to the mistaken presumption that he who not believes, prefers or advocates as I is actually my enemy, what am I to do? What are we inherently set to do with our enemies? What have we been taught?

Not only does the mindset exist that we have to fight our enemies, but we also have to defeat them — annihilate and eliminate. And in military, movie and most popular video game scenarios, we are even taught to shoot and kill. I’ll add a tangent pondering… with the mere existence of that last option… one must wonder if any amount of legislation has the potential to cease such a violent, oft promoted mindset.

Just like that, no less, our once understandable, individual passions, preferences and convictions have arguably unknowingly begun to contribute more to the deterioration of current culture than to its benefit. 

The reason, therefore, that Top Gun: Maverick is fantastic is because it gives us a reprieve from what our current culture has become. In the movie, they know who the enemy actually is. They work together to eradicate the evil.

Let me not spoil any of this legacy sequel, but note then what’s embedded in its feel-good storyline…

There is ample perspective; it is varied perspective.

There is disagreement; it is passionate disagreement.

There is competition; it is fierce competition.

Yet nowhere in the perspective, disagreement or competition of the movie do they confuse one another for the enemy. They differ, debate and compete. But they never get lost. They experience authentic emotion, but their emotion never becomes everyone’s reality. Again, they know who the enemy is even with all of the above.

Thanks, Maverick. I may have to see it again.

Respectfully…

AR