the right to (not) vaccinate

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet Zack, Guest Writer #6 (of 12). A proud parent, trusted friend, and one always willing to dialogue… even about the uncomfortable…]

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On May 3, 2019, Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson introduced HR 2527 “Vaccinate All Children Act of 2019” to the 116th Congress. If passed, this bill would eliminate all non-medical exemptions (philosophical or religious) for immunizations and require all children who attend public schools to receive every vaccination approved by the CDC. Any state that fails to comply would have federal education funding withheld from their budgets. 

Serving as the Congresswoman’s deputy chief of staff and senior health policy advisor until 2015, when Wilson began attempts to legislate vaccine mandates, was a woman named Keenan Austin. Her previous job, prior to her role as a policy spearhead for the Florida legislator, was as a senior pharmaceutical sales representative for GlaxoSmithKline, who as of 2015, was the sixth largest pharmaceutical company in the world.  In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline plead guilty to the largest health care fraud in United States history, that included the “unlawful promotion of certain prescription drugs, its failure to report certain safety data, and its civil liability for alleged false price reporting practices,” resulting in a $3 billion settlement.  International authorities have also discovered that, since 2013, GlaxoSmithKline has spent $4-$5 billion dollars on financial kickbacks, gifts, and prostitutes to provide sexual favors to doctors who would prescribe the company’s drugs to their patients, crimes for which they were fined $489 million in China alone.  As of February 2018, the company had been under further investigations by British and American authorities regarding third party adviser connections with China’s bribery scandals. Forbes has labeled this company, quite astutely, a “leader in pharma fraud.” 

I am not ordinarily a conspiracy theorist, but can you be surprised if I question the motivations of my government officials?

Recently, I saw a picture of a child advertising a shirt that read, “I am vaccinated – because my parents aren’t morons.” Not that I have never been guilty of name-calling, but it might not get you very far in persuading an anti-vaxxer of the reasons to vaccinate. But, despite the news and social media’s claims that the anti-vaccination movement is misled and ignorant , research done by the Institute for Vaccine Safety demonstrates that anti-vaxxers are, in fact, often well-educated and simply more informed on alternative means of medicine (though such means are not universally approved by most American medical associations).    

The United States government classifies vaccines as “unavoidably unsafe,” a term which essentially means that a product cannot be made completely safe for its intended purpose. This is common in the prescription drug market as evidenced by lengthy commercials that advertise for medications that will change one’s life for the better but could have an unlimited number of side effects on one’s body, up to, and including, death. Examining risk vs. utility is standard for government approval of any product and in the case of vaccines, the benefits outweigh the dangers.

Are vaccines going to hurt more people than they help? No. Can they hurt somebody? Yes. As with any medication, everyone’s body reacts differently, and the responses can vary. Vaccines are not 100% safe.

Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund has paid out $121 million per year in awards over the last three decades to American families that have suffered from sickness, injury, and death resulting from vaccines. A meaningful admission that vaccines can produce adverse effects on the human body, this legislation was created specifically to protect vaccine manufacturers from litigation by people who have suffered from these induced injuries. Likewise, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is operated by the CDC and the FDA, was originally developed to determine safety issues with U.S. linked vaccines and receives systematic reports regarding their harmful effects.  Stories about children who suffer life changing effects upon receiving vaccinations at the recommendation of a regulatory authority are not difficult to locate. Additionally, multiple studies, including one conducted by the Institute of Medicine, sanctioned by the United States Department of Health and Human services, and research demonstrated by the Journal of Developing Drugs, have also concluded that many of the ingredients in vaccines, either animal based (chicken, soy, etc) or adjuvants (aluminum, cytokine proteins, etc) undeniably contribute to the development of food allergies in those that receive them. In the United States, food allergies have increased by 50% in the last twenty years — as have the number of recommended vaccines. In 1983, the CDC recommended 23 doses of 7 different vaccines be given to children from age two months to six years. Today, the recommendation is 50 doses of 14 different vaccines.  

Those who do not vaccinate are not stupid. They are cautious about questionable products.  

And so, the foundational question about vaccines in American society is not about their effectiveness. It is this: who has the right to make the final decision of risk vs. utility in one’s life?  And in this case – one’s children.

I will not make the decision to vaccinate based on the advice of my government, who will assume parental responsibilities for my children over my literal dead body. Go read about the parents who lost custody of their child in Florida, in May, because they desired to pursue alternative treatments to chemotherapy for their three-year-old’s leukemia. I will not make the decision based on the opinions of other parents, who feel it is my responsibility to protect their child. If I want the polio vaccine for myself, or my child, because I believe that the utility outweighs the risk, then I will consent to the vaccine. If I believe that the risks of the chickenpox vaccine outweigh the utility, then I will not get the vaccine for myself or my child. My decisions regarding mine or my child’s health is not up to you or government. And simply because I choose not to does not make me ill-informed or uneducated.

All Americans consider their civil rights as precious. Just ask an abortion activist about the importance of personal autonomy over one’s body. The day that we allow the United States government to legally mandate what we put into our bodies, well… I hope I’m gone.

Respectfully…

Zack

weighing in on myself

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet Sally, Guest Writer #6 (of 12). Few people have I laughed with more consistently on this planet… granted, joint karaoke with our spouses makes it always especially fun…]

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“I’m not afraid of heights. I’m afraid of widths.” – Steven Wright

I cannot remember a time in my life when weight wasn’t an issue for me. As a child I was not truly overweight, but I was not a skinny Minnie either; and I had been trained that skinny was good. In fact, the skinnier the better.  

Back then it seemed like everyone but me was skinny. Everyone on TV was skinny except Schultz, the lovable, rotund guard who loved forbidden Strudel on Hogan’s Heroes (still one of the best shows on television IMHO.)  Women were seldom overweight, unless their character was the butt of everyone’s jokes. My best friend was short and skinny, and my dad constantly compared my girth to hers (yes, I know, that’s another blog post entirely.) I hit an emotional low point in 5th grade when the grade school nurse weighed us as she did every year. She read my weight aloud to be recorded, and I heard the petite curly-headed girl behind me in line say, “Geez, that’s more than my mom weighs!” Too bad the nurse didn’t provide self-esteem counseling. I was going to need that for decades to come.  

In my never-ending quest to be skinny I started dieting at too-young an age. Dieting became my go-to way of life. Back then, no one talked Keto or Glycemic Index or anything remotely scientific. Dieting was all about starvation, restriction, deprivation and good old-fashioned “will power.” In other words, losing weight required months of choking down Melba Toast, timbers of celery and other tasteless veggies such as Bok Choy (Veggie? Cylindrical Styrofoam? Communist Dictator? No one knows for sure).

As one can imagine, I had a love/hate relationship with The Scale. The Scale and I shared an on-again, off-again friendship, kind of like the fickle affection offered by the popular girl at school. One day you are best friends, and the next day you’re not speaking. On the days when you are  “good,” all is well with the world. However, if you’re “bad,” suddenly you are the subject of ridicule and you find yourself sitting alone in the cafeteria wondering what you could have done to earn the world’s affection. Even though you hate yourself for trying so hard to impress everyone around you, you can’t seem to help it. It’s like Mean Girls, only with pounds and numbers on The Scale.  

By the time I went got married I had weighed in at more than my share of diet clubs. The weigh-in line at The Scale resembles something of a strip club for the pound-averse. Shoes go first. It doesn’t matter that typical shoes rarely weigh more than a pound or two; they are jettisoned in line like lead weights on a sinking ship. After that, dieters shed every last item of clothing allowable by law, as well as jewelry that is normally weighed in grams. All of this is done in hope of making The Scale love you just a teensy bit more. 

In my younger years I could literally be paralyzed by ideas surrounding food and clothing; what did or didn’t fit, what I should or shouldn’t eat. There were days when I would have chopped off my head to lose 10 pounds. I was jealous of people who were ill and had “unexplained” weight loss. That never happened to me. Every ounce I lost could easily be explained; hours of sweaty exercise, a steady diet of rice cakes, and mountains of cottage cheese. (I hate cottage cheese to this day.) Figuring out what to wear caused daily panic. I had every size in my closet from prepubescent to Sleeps 6, yet I had “nothing to wear” because I felt ugly and fat in all of it. 

While I would love to say this ridiculous self-banter is no longer part of my mental dialogue, I would be lying. However, I have come a long way in the struggle against allowing The Scale to dictate whether I seize the day and enjoy my life, or size myself up each day, wasting precious moments by thinking negatively about my body, and ultimately, my life. Yes, one can lead to the other. Ask anyone who’s ever dealt with this issue, or loves someone who has. 

I am happy to say that in my mid 50’s I have come to a beautiful, peaceful relationship with The Scale. Does it always say what I want it to say? Heck no! But I am finally at a place where I refuse to be stopped from seizing the day because of my size that day.  

How did that happen? It was not an overnight transition. In fact, getting healthy about getting healthy has been a long road, but so worth the trip. I had to give up the futility of pleasing everyone. That is much harder than it sounds but oh, what a change it makes. Now the only One I aim to please is the One who wove me together in my mother’s womb. The Bible says I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” and while I knew that verse in my head, it took decades to make its way into my heart for real. I know God wants me to be healthy, but now I desire that not for the approval of others, but to honor God by taking care of myself. That’s the first step. 

Secondly, my attitude was changed while on a couple of mission trips to the poorest parts of Nicaragua. Wow. Besides experiencing the needs of a developing country, I also found it to be a refreshing break from the mental bombardment of American advertising. In the midst of intense poverty, I felt the profound lack of television, magazine and billboard ads aimed at urging us to be prettier, look sexier, and smile whiter. Nicaraguans don’t care about all of that. How could they? They have bigger fish to fry such as securing their next meal or providing clean water for their children. Even in the pouring rain no one in Nicaragua (except wealthy American missionaries) pop an umbrella over their head to keep their $50 blowouts selfie-perfect (embarrassingly guilty!). My perspective was changed forever, and the most important things in life became clearer. 

Now, the need to impress comes more in the acts of kindness I can offer than the ability to make The Scale proud. I am happier to offer a helping hand than worry about whether I had a second helping or not. And I am more delighted with delivering a hot meal to a friend in need than being told I am a hot dish by people I could care less about. I can honestly say that after a lifetime of waisted energy (pun definitely intended), my waistline is not the measurement that seizes me, but rather it is the size of my heart. 

Respectfully…

Sally

[Be joyfully inspired from Sally even more by visiting FunnyGalSal.com or see “Funny Gal Sal” on Facebook!]

the salesman, the girl from the cruise, and the grandma

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet JT, Guest Writer #4 (of 12). I have to say, I’m especially proud of this fast-maturing college kid… even with his not-so-humble, admirable passion during Ohio State’s football season…]

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Ever slammed the door on a door-to-door salesman? He comes yapping about some product that is the best thing since sliced bread, and you can’t wait to escape that conversation. Well, I’ve been one of those salesmen. In fact, I did similar work for 7 months, and it was one of my favorite experiences to date. It certainly wasn’t the constant no’s or getting rejected over and over that I enjoyed, but the lessons I learned. I could probably spend hours talking about how I grew as a person, but I want to focus on one thing today: understanding how to create a relationship with any one person, despite their background, story, and traits.

I always wondered growing up why most people only had 5 or so friends. I mean, adults had been living for much longer than I had and met so many more people. Why was it that they only tended to put their trust and grow close with a few others? It’s pretty naive reasoning, but the complex question still remains. What does a person offer that makes us want to make them more than just an acquaintance, someone that is worth our time when time almost always seems to be lacking. At 20 years old, I certainly do not know the answer. I am young and have plenty to learn. However, I think selling telecommunication products may just have taught me a little about it.

The best salesperson was never the smooth-talking, charismatic man you may think of. Nor was it the person who was aggressive and cunning in conversation, as I often thought. Instead, it was the person who did the least talking. The salesperson who stopped talking and got the customer talking about themselves always seemed to sell the product. This person actually did very little talking about the product they were selling. They simply listened to the customer, replied when necessary, and asked questions to learn who the customer was beyond someone they were selling. In two words, they adapted. The best salesperson adapted to whom they were talking to and made conversation. It did not matter who the customer was.

The problem with this salesperson example is that the salesperson has an agenda. This is not always the case in everyday conversation, as sometimes two people are just trying to get to know each other. Yet, how do we usually do that? I always liked to talk about my own story, how I was special because I was a lefty in baseball and taller than my entire family. I loved talking about myself, as it seems everyone does. All I would look for is someone who matched my interests and background and then make those people my friends whom I spent my time with. It seems most people are no different. There is something called the confirmation bias in psychology, partially defined as the tendency to search for information that confirms one’s existing beliefs. As far as I have found, this is how people usually make friends. Friends are created through mutual interests, stories, and backgrounds. Going back to the best salesperson example, this is not what they would do. The best salesperson talked about the customer’s interests first and foremost. Strip away the agenda, imagine if this were how a majority of people approached conversation. Would we be able to connect with just about anyone, even if they were not similar to us? My experience on a cruise a few years back sure makes me think so.

I look back on our vacation on a cruise as one of the best our family has ever taken. There are simply no obligations on a cruise, nothing you have to do, and you achieve true rest and relaxation. I loved not only spending time with my family, but meeting new people on the boat. My older brother and I ran into a group of teenagers on one of the last days at the pool. Since the cruise was nearing its end, my brother and I did not spend much time with these people, but I got to know one of the girls in the group very well. By the time we got off the boat, I could tell you why The Notebook was this girl’s favorite movie, why she decided to take a gap year before college, and the reasons behind her political opinions. Her thoughts on politics, along with taking a gap year and her favorite movie, were not in any way similar to me. In fact, I would argue this girl is someone very unlike myself. Nonetheless, after the cruise was over, she messaged me saying the following: “I’ve never connected so well with someone. I’m so happy we got the chance to be friends.” This is not something I heard everyday, so why did this girl think this? Most likely because I did not approach talking to her with my background and my interests. I tried to get to know her through intent listening and questions. Now, maybe this only worked because people are nicer on a cruise, since everyone feels the need to meet other people. That is what I thought initially, so I tested my theory again 2 weeks ago.

This summer I am staying with some family friends as I intern in Atlanta, GA. A couple weeks ago they all went to the pool with some friends, and I was fortunate enough to get an invite. I showed up a little later than everyone else and quickly realized I was not with my typical crowd. There were probably around ten kids there, all 10 years old or younger, accompanied by their mothers, which numbered 3, and one grandma, probably around the age of 70. Each mom was talking to the others, while all the kids were in the pool, but the one grandma sat all by herself. I only spent about an hour at the pool, but the entire time I sat talking with this grandma. When I left, she stood up and said, “Jarrett, I can’t wait to see what you do in life. I can tell you are very smart and will do big things. You are just a wonderful kid.” Honestly, I think this statement has no real basis. That entire hour I did not say a word about my life or background. Instead, we spent the entire time talking about the grandma, about how her daughters live in Denver, Atlanta, and Baltimore, about how her eldest grandchild will try out for the Junior Olympics of swimming next year, how she is concerned that her family is becoming smarter than she as she ages, and much more. I truly could go on and on about this grandma, because we really only talked about her and her life. She really appreciated that. No, this grandma was not the same age as me, from the same place as me, or very similar to me in general. That simply does not matter. Taking the other person’s interests and story into account first results in a potential friendship with anyone we meet. That is probably why I still stay in touch with the salesman, the girl from the cruise, and the grandma today.

Respectfully…

JT

a chance to get my vote

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet CAZ, Guest Writer #3 (of 12). CAZ is thoughtful and honest. Never one to shy from tough topics — albeit respectfully — here we go again…]

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I admit it. I am not particularly proud of President Trump.

I’m happy about the Supreme Court. I’m glad the economy is doing reasonably well. And I’m pleased that we have not waived the white flag in the so-called culture wars.

But the guy is a narcissist. Everything he does is the best. Just ask him. Even though he speaks at about a fourth-grade level, he still claims, “I know the best words.” I can’t decide if he is a bald-faced liar or just doesn’t know any better, but he’s pretty loose with facts. The claim that George Washington took over the airports in the Revolutionary War might have been the last straw. How embarrassing.

Given my lack of enthusiasm — and I’m as conservative as anyone I know — the Democrats have every opportunity to recapture the White House in 2020. Except their nomination process is not about choosing the person for whom most Americans would vote. Their process requires getting the most votes from people who vote in the Democratic primaries.

So their presidential debates have devolved into a sort of sophomoric prank — who can offer the most outlandish proposal and keep a straight face? You said that? Well, watch this. Some examples….

Free Healthcare — They differ on how many people’s private insurance they would take away and how to pay for it, if at all, but almost all of the candidates want the government to take over our healthcare system. There are various estimates of how much this would cost, but they hover around $3 trillion a year. That’s trillion with a “t.” Total tax revenue is about $3.3 trillion annually. So get ready for your taxes to double.

Open Borders — All but one of the recent debate participants raised their hand agreeing that it should no longer be a crime to cross the U.S. border. And they all raised their hand that once here, those immigrants should receive free health care. Remember that $3 trillion price tag? Not even close….

Slavery Reparations — I abhor discrimination, which clearly still exists, but at least it is now illegal. This notwithstanding, about half the Democratic field thinks people who never owned slaves ought to pay people who never were slaves as some way of making up for slavery. You think this is going to help race relations? This is nothing short of political bribery, “Vote for me, and I will give you money.” In fact, that would be more honest.

Free College — Why? I suppose to be more inclusive with the vote purchasing. This is one of the less expensive proposals, only about $70 billion a year. Though it neglects the dynamic that people will always look to differentiate themselves, so if college becomes the new high school, graduate school will become the new college.

Student Loan Forgiveness — Another $1.5 trillion. Why? See above.

Green New Deal— We can debate global warming or climate change all you want, and I’m all for taking care of the environment, but every American could give up their planes, trains, and automobiles, and it’s not going to make one hill of beans difference in the earth’s temperature. This one would cost more than everything listed above, and it would contract if not cripple our economy. Do you really want to go back to wood-burning stoves and horse-drawn carriages?

I know that The Intramuralist is all about respectful dialogue, and it truly is in that spirit that I offer the following question. I also know there are lots of readers who have been drawn by the political appeal of these proposals — and that is exactly what they are, political appeals, with little chance of becoming law and even less of being paid for.

But I share my reaction to these proposals to try to help you understand the mindset of the disenfranchised Trump voter: Are these people crazy?

You have a chance to get my vote. But I don’t care one bit about the Mueller Report, no matter how much you yell and scream about it. You’ve got to nominate someone who makes legitimate policy proposals.

Otherwise I’m going to end up voting for Trump again.

Respectfully…

CAZ

a senator, some birds, & the art of adulting

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet DL, Guest Writer #2 (of 12). Over the course of my lifetime, I have learned much from GW#2… many nuggets of wisdom, such as… “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” DL has always encouraged me to love and learn from both the like and the different.…]

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Books have been a passion of mine ever since I learned to read. As a child I pulled the covers over my head and used a flashlight so my mother could not see light under my door.  (Apparently that did not work because later she claimed that’s why I wear glasses.) I like many genres… Kent Krueger mysteries… especially Ordinary Grace, anything by Charles Martin, books worth re-reading…A Man Called Ove, bios like Hillbilly Elegy, or books written to identify/educate about societal issues. 

A recent read on that topic still resonates: The Vanishing American Adult by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Now before you quit reading because of a “Oh, no, not a politician,” wait a minute. Sasse is not a raving, blinder-wearing partisan yeller; he is a common-sense former Midwest university president who shares his observations on how to rear self-reliant kids to become mature, responsible adults instead of youth who prefer the Peter Pan syndrome. But more later.

Recently for several weeks I was privileged to observe a nature lesson. Our front porch is a covered recessed area protected from the elements. On one wall I have hung an all-season wreath. One day I discovered that a dove had chosen this as an ideal place to build her nest and lay her eggs where she and they would be sheltered and protected. Daily I observed her faithful dedication to parenting. I never saw her leave the nest, even when I stepped out to check out the situation. She just gazed at me as if sensing that I was an interested party, not an intruder, she being a grateful leaser of the porch. Then one day I saw two tiny heads peeking out from under her breast. Her faithful care continued until I saw what must have been a “now-is-the-time” moment. She flew from the nest, but perched herself on the porch so she could watch her babies peek over the nest with what must have been their “Now what?” curiosity. I imagined the faithful mama encouraging them: “It’s okay. You can do it. It is time to leave the nest, to step out and fly out into the world, to accept what nature has planned… yes, to FLY!” It seemed as if they needed that encouragement, and then one morning one of them launched out of the nest to land awkwardly on the porch. Soon the second tried the same floundering mechanics of flight, with both Mama and now Papa perched nearby, not to take over but to help them in the next phase of their maturity. They knew their role as parents.

Back to Senator Sasse…

Are you familiar with the “helicopter” parents who feel obligated to intrude in any issue of growth or the parents who sit on the bleachers to berate the coaches if their child is not a starter? I recall my own experience with a parent who demanded that her gifted high school junior not be forced to use an American history text because it depicted some less admirable aspects of our history or parents who asked me not to count a missed assignment or to excuse plagiarism. How about the parents who have bribed universities to admit their darlings regardless of merit, hence denying a qualified applicant that place in the admission process? Or how about the world of academia that refuses to have speakers whose messages may upset the apparent virgin ears of students, or youth who feel called to violent dissent because they disagree with the message? I thought college was to create opportunities for critical thinking, not coddling. 

It is not just education, but government programs and society also seem to encourage enabling, not emancipation. As a result, we have entered a new word in out vocabulary: “adulting”… a temporary role, and certainly not a permanent choice. The road to Neverland becomes the destination, instead of the road to responsible, self-discipled, achievement and work ethic that contributes to the well-being of both the individual and society. Senator Sasse not only describes this phenomenon but also suggests with a voice of reason what can negate this refusal to become a mature adult.

Mama and Papa Bird knew how to do this. Maybe we could learn from them.

P.S. You might also appreciate his newest book: Them: Why we Hate Each Other & How to Heal

Respectfully…

DL

socialism makes a comeback

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet PJM, Guest Writer #1 (of 12). GW#1 has spent significant time in both the public and private sector. He has also been someone I have long learned from…]

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Throughout his political career, Ronald Reagan would say some variant of the following:  “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

I remember Reagan saying this in the 1980’s and thinking, “Don’t worry, Ronnie, Americans aren’t going to give up their freedoms anytime soon.” Yet here we are, a little more than a generation later and a recent survey from the Pew Research Center shows that 42% of American adults have a positive impression of socialism. Of those age 18 to 29, the figure was 50%.

I found these statistics alarming, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Reagan was right.  Despite socialism as an economic system being thoroughly debunked with the fall of the Berlin Wall and break-up of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, we have to proactively convey those lessons to the young. It doesn’t happen automatically.

So what is socialism? The textbook definition says it is where there is “collective ownership of the means of production.” In other words, the government decides how much to make of what and how to distribute it. This is in contrast to market capitalism where there are private owners who voluntarily determine the quantities and prices of what they make and sell.

A driving force behind socialism is a desire for equality. Even within a single American city, one can find those living in large opulent homes not far from those with no home at all. The disparity does not seem fair. When Bill de Blasio says, “There’s plenty of money in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands,” he is expressing a sentiment held by many.

Setting aside the question of whether it is moral to confiscate that which legally belongs to someone else, the primary case against socialism is that it simply doesn’t work. There is not a fixed amount of wealth that can be divvied up like a pie. Wealth is expanded as producers add value by creatively generating new goods and services, incentivized by the opportunity to retain that increased wealth. Conversely, the amount of wealth contracts if producers are not able to keep the fruits of their labors. The only way to full equality is for everyone to have nothing.

Socialists ignore this trade-off when advocating for redistribution. Clearly it is better for some to have more than for everyone for have less. Arguments for socialism are always couched as choosing between Joe having two and Fred having zero, or Joe and Fred each having one. In reality, the choice is between Joe having two and Fred having zero, or Joe and Fred each having zero.

We don’t have to look back 30 years for an example of a failed socialist state. Venezuela is a modern day illustration. Prior to the election of dictator Hugo Chavez in 1998, Venezuela was a prosperous country, albeit with uneven wealth. Under Chavez’s and his successor Nicolas Maduro’s socialist policies, the country is now an economic disaster with basic necessities running in short supply for rich and poor alike. (American socialists will suggest other factors are to blame, but are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?)

On the other hand, in the 21st century alone market capitalism has lifted nearly a billion people out of extreme poverty worldwide. Those situations in which capitalism is criticized for suboptimal outcomes are often places where the free market is not at play, in industries that are either monopolies (telecommunications), heavily regulated (education), or both (health care).  Do we have societal issues that need addressing? Of course we do, but market capitalism is the engine that provides the resources to tackle those challenges. Turning toward socialism would be like killing the goose to get to the golden eggs inside.

I am encouraged by one facet of the Pew survey mentioned above. Most (about five-eighths) of the 42% who view socialism favorably had a positive impression of capitalism as well. What this tells me is that these respondents don’t understand what socialism is. Socialism and capitalism can’t co-exist. They are polar opposites. You can only have one or the other, and only one of them works. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Respectfully…

PJM

introducing our fave summer series…

In Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together, author William Isaacs pens the following:

“Dialogue… is a conversation with a center, not sides. It is a way of taking the energy of our differences and channeling it toward something that has never been created before. It lifts us out of polarization and into a greater common sense, and is thereby a means for accessing the intelligence and coordinated power of groups of people.

The roots of the word ‘dialogue’ come from the Greek words ‘dia’ and ‘logos.’ Dia means ‘through’; logos translates to ‘word’ or ‘meaning.’ In essence, a dialogue is a flow of meaning. But it is more than this, too. In the most ancient meaning of the word, logos meant ‘to gather together,’ and suggested an intimate awareness of the relationships among things in the natural world. In that sense, logos may be best rendered in English as ‘relationship’…

To take it one step further, dialogue is a conversation in which people think together in relationship. Thinking together implies that you no longer take your own position as final. You relax your grip on certainty and listen to possibilities that result simply from being in relationship with others…

To listen respectfully to others, to cultivate and speak your own voice, to suspend your opinions about others — these bring out the intelligence that lives at the very center of ourselves — the intelligence that exists when we are alert of possibilities around us and thinking freshly…”

It is, no less, my absolute privilege to be the author of the Intramuralist. Eleven years ago, I never imagined the thousands who would share in this journey… the many who would consider, contemplate, read, react… agree, disagree… encourage, inform, add to the conversation.

From day one, we’ve attempted to adhere to our mantra as a “respectful dialogue of current events,” striving relentlessly, no matter how inconsistent that societal aim may be.

Remember that “dialogue” means we cede the sides. We think together and no longer take our own position as final. We never forget relationship.

I can thus think of no better manifestation of this practice than our annual Guest Writer Series. For the 11th consecutive year, it is time to hear here from someone other than me. 

Over the course of the next 6 weeks, you will hear from a dozen different people — people I admire, respect, and enjoy learning from. They are diverse in age, ethnicity, gender, religion, and more. They come from all corners of the country. You will hear from two students in college and one recent graduate. You will hear from an articulate set of grandparents. The collective group will talk about all sorts of stuff…

They will talk about maturity and vaccination.

They will talk about anger and pride.

They will talk about losing weight.

They will discuss the 2020 Presidential election.

They will vocalize both support and skepticism for climate change.

They will examine topics both big and small, from plaguing issues to practical pursuits.

But they each are committed to discuss respectfully.

Do I agree with every angle to be posted?

Of course not. But agreement is secondary to relationship. We learn much when we are willing to enter into relationship with persons who share varied perspective. We learn much when we are willing to engage in respectful dialogue.

So while I embrace my annual, much appreciated respite, I encourage you to engage with this year’s guest writers; they are expressive and articulate; they’ve got some fascinating points to consider. Feel free to agree. Disagree. Ask them questions. But most of all, let’s dialogue.

Guest writer #1 kicks us off on Sunday, starting with…

“Socialism Makes a Comeback.”

Time to listen well.

Respectfully…

AR

are you a racist?

It pains me to see the country’s current dialogue regarding race. Actually, “dialogue” is not an accurate characterization; it seems more a finger pointing match, accompanied by increasingly surging screaming. Yes, screaming ensures a voice is heard; however, respect and heart change are simultaneously minimized.

Wanting to do my part, so-to-speak, to contribute positively to the conversation and avoid the societal lure to join in any accusatory fray, I found myself immersed in Miles McPherson’s The Third Option…

The Third Option… 

Or subtitled: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation. 

Isn’t that the problem? The combination of finger pointing and screaming doesn’t lead to hope. It simply encourages extended blame. Who, when the target of blame, desires to change, grow, or consider any other perspective?

Miles McPherson is a biracial man born in Brooklyn, New York in 1960. He played for four years in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers. During this time of greatest perceived, professional success, McPherson developed a cocaine addiction that admittedly sent him into a critical, destructive decline. After a weekend binge in his second year as a pro, McPherson made the decision to turn his life around, figure the faith thing out, and he stopped doing drugs in a single day. McPherson has a powerful story to share.

In The Third Option — written by one who grew up not feeling he fit well into any ethnic grouping, as “a mixed-race kid in a segregated era of our nation’s history” —  McPherson emphatically urges resistance to the country’s current, enticing call. Society keeps trying to get us to choose “us” or “them” — as if there exist only two choices. 

There is a third. Honor. 

Writes McPherson:

“You may despise racism, but it affects us all, whether we know it or not. It is a corrupter of the soul that degrades and devalues those who look different from us. When we allow racism into our hearts and society, we minimize the priceless value of God’s image in others, which limits our ability to honor, love, and serve them the way God calls us to.

Culture plays a big role in perpetuating racism by wrongly insisting that there are only two options you can choose from: us or them. Culture pits one group of people against another by promoting a zero-sum game mentality that says, ‘You must lose in order for me to win.’ 

God, however, offers us a Third Option that stands in stark contrast to the two offered by culture. God’s Third Option invites us to honor that which we have in common, the presence of His image in every person we meet.”

The misleading, dichotomous choice that culture instead offers, attempts to lure us into what is none other than an “oversimplified” question. Simply put:

Are you a racist?

Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Arab or other…

Are you a racist?

Who would say “yes” to that?

The question is not that easy. It’s also not helpful. It only seems to divide us more.

The Third Option is an “elevated level of honor.” It’s a refraining from the “us vs. them” mentality and from any pointing of fingers. It’s looking inside another… acknowledging that they, too — just like me and you — were created in the image of God. 

But it starts with self… with each one of us…

Who do you need to see differently?

Who are you devaluing?

… because you don’t look like them? … think like them? … or maybe you don’t even like them?

If we could instead focus on the image of God within absolute, every other…

What a far more honorable and profitable pursuit.

Respectfully…

AR

equal pay

As the President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) walked off the 2019 World Cup finals field, the supportive American crowd erupted in dueling cheers…

“USA!” “Equal pay!” “USA!” “Equal pay!”

The cheers manifested themselves in various media forms as the victorious U.S. women’s soccer team arrived home last week, as three months before the Cup, all 28 members of the women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation. Their legal complaint is described as follows: 

“The United States Soccer Federation, Inc. (“USSF”) is the single, common employer of female and male professional soccer players who play on the United States Senior Women’s National Soccer Team (“WNT”) and the United States Senior Men’s National Soccer Team (“MNT”). Despite the fact that these female and male players are called upon to perform the same job responsibilities on their teams and participate in international competitions for their single common employer, the USSF, the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts. This is true even though their performance has been superior to that of the male players – with the female players, in contrast to male players, becoming world champions.”

According to the lawsuit, from 2013-2016 the women each earned a maximum of $4,950 per friendly, non-tournament victory compared to an average of $13,166 for the men. The fact that the women are paid less in sum is not in dispute. 

This happens not only in World Cup soccer. Note the example of professional basketball; the players’ median salaries in the WNBA are $71,635, which pales in comparison to a minimum salary of $582,180 for those in the NBA.

The unique challenge in soccer, no less, is how much this women’s team is beloved. As The Los Angeles Times recently wrote, “The U.S. women’s soccer team outperforms the men’s team when it comes to victories, domestic viewership, name recognition and general awesomeness.”

Yes. Awesomeness. 

The Times goes on to ask the question behind the cheer. “U.S. women’s soccer outperforms the men in every way possible. Why are they paid less?” 

Gender discrimination has been illegal in this country since 1963. So the more insightful question is whether the pay difference is due to discrimination. 

This year’s prize money for the women’s World Cup was $30 million across all 24 teams. That equates to 7.5% of the $400 million distributed for the 2018 men’s World Cup. In 2022 in Qatar, that number will rise to $440 million. The revenue generated globally for men’s soccer is strikingly greater than for women. The pay disparity, therefore, is directly related to the revenue disparity.

In order then to be compensated comparably, the women are arguing they should receive more, even if that money comes from the men’s play.

So is it a matter of unequal pay?

Or is it a matter of merging ethics and economics?

Perhaps the issue is best summed up in a 2016 headline from The New York Times:

“Pay Disparity in U.S. Soccer? It’s Complicated”

Not only is it complicated; it’s far more than a supportive crowd’s cheer.

Respectfully…

AR

the citizenship Q

I’ll admit it. Before the Supreme Court intervened, the recent wrangling regarding the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census got me thinking… I’m thinking it’s the wrong question…

[Note: The U.S. Census Bureau and Wikipedia are utilized significantly below…]

Mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, the U.S. government “counts each resident of the country, where they live on April 1, every ten years ending in zero… The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” The process originated 229 years ago.

“Many federal, state, local and tribal governments use census data to:

  • Decide the location of new housing and public facilities
  • Examine the demographic characteristics of communities, states, and the US
  • Plan transportation systems and roadways
  • Determine quotas and creation of police and fire precincts
  • Create localized areas for elections, schools, utilities, etc.
  • Gather population information every 10 years”

Additionally — and importantly — the data is used to apportion seats for the U.S. House of Representatives. As the population shifts, so does congressional voting power.

In specific regard to the citizenship question, its history is as follows:

  • It was standard from through 1950.
  • It was omitted for everyone but residents of NYC and Puerto Rico in 1960 for some reason.
  • In 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 — when the Census Bureau utilized both a long and short form — it was included on the long form only. 
  • In 2010, only the short form was used, so there was no question about citizenship.
  • In between the decennial counts, the Bureau utilizes the American Community Survey (ACS) — which includes a citizenship question; it’s sent to only, approximately 3% of residents.

So why the wrangling?

Opponents of the question’s inclusion argue that it will deter undocumented immigrants/illegal aliens from filling out the form; the count would then be inaccurate. Since the results are used to allocate resources for the building of schools, hospitals, roads, etc., an accurate count is necessary to receive a perceived a fair or necessary share of federal funding.

The Dept. of Justice maintains they need this question to get an accurate count of the citizen-voting-age population to enforce the Voting Rights Act; the citizen-voting-age population is a necessary metric in drawing appropriate, legal, district maps.

What this means is that in addition to the allocated federal funding, congressional redistricting — determined by the U.S. Census — is based on citizens and non-citizens combined. Remember that non-citizens cannot vote in federal elections. (“Federal law does not prohibit non-citizens from voting in state or local elections, but no state has allowed non-citizens to vote in state elections since Arkansas became the last state to outlaw non-citizen voting in 1926.”)

As for how the country feels about adding the question, in a recent Hill-HarrisX survey, 60% of registered voters said that the citizenship question should be included “even if it means fewer people might fill out the questionnaire.” 21% said the question should not. 19% were “unsure.”

So the better question that got me thinking, as expressed by a wise mentor of mine — and I’m not certain what the answer is — but…

“Should Congressional representation be determined using all population or just citizens?

It is currently all population, and the attempt to add the question would have undermined that. 

But should a state with more non-citizens get more representation in Congress, funding, etc.?

Should the state get more funding for roads, etc., but not more representation?

Not sure there is a right or wrong answer, and given the current tone of our political discourse, the side one is on is simply that which will benefit themselves.”

And therein lies the problem…

While there exist legitimate reasons for both opposition or advocacy, the current tone of our political discourse impedes our ability to ask and answer the better questions.

Respectfully…

AR