happy birthday, son…

One of the things that puzzles me is how we react to life…

We can be so flippant, so callous. We can behave or believe as if some lives are better or worth more than others. Every time I fall or see someone seemingly fall into that shallow societal trap, I sense we are clearly missing out on some beauty or blessing specifically designed for us. There is so much to learn when we see no life as different.

One of those nothing-short-of-profound blessings happened eighteen years ago today; please oblige a more personal  —  albeit meaningful  —  post. One of my absolute, most favorite people was born on this day in 2001.

There wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare at the time; in fact, I remember significant worry, as we awaited word of how extensive a life-threatening heart defect would be. I now kind of wonder if the heavenly realms were cheering mightily that day. I couldn’t see it right then. I see more clearly now.

It did take some work to shed some of the initial shock and sting; take the geneticist’s words, for example. I don’t doubt he meant well.

He walked into labor and delivery, no more than an hour after birth, and began with zero salutation. He simply said, “This must be the saddest day of your whole life.”

The blank stare on my face was neither horror nor offense; it simply was a “wow… you don’t get it…” His words made no sense. A chromosomal condition may not be something one prays for, but every child comes with a few unwished for hurdles. Some hurdles are just a little more obvious.

Every birth is a miracle. Every life is a gift. My son is no lesser.

So on birthday number eighteen (a day in which his exuberance cannot come close to being contained — I exaggerate not), allow me to share a little more about my amazing young son…

  • He is witty and funny and bright.
  • He is engaging and inspiring and is better with people than most.
  • He is humble and kind.
  • He isn’t judgmental; he doesn’t let crap get in the way of people.
  • He likes pizza… and nachos and pretty much anything associated with queso. 
  • He finds food to be a bridge to community and connection… (yes, bright, I said).
  • He is brave.
  • He is inspiring.
  • He is adventurous; in fact, he wants to ride pretty much everything at Disney, which is a wee bit more than maybe one or two of his parents.
  • He can be stubborn — “determined” is the nicer word.
  • He is quick to ask for forgiveness. 
  • He loves music, motorcycles, and all things Batman.
  • He proudly calls his gold jewelry “ice.”
  • He wants to be a pop star.
  • He can sing most every song by the up-and-coming boy band “Why Don’t We” and also by Eben, our long-time, adopted family member.
  • He loves Zipper, our cat, and Yogi, our dog — but he will quickly admit he loves Zipper more.
  • He is good at making videos — especially on Mac’s iMovie; he’s been working on his grad video for 3 years!
  • He is also good at XBOX — especially NBA2K and WWE.
  • He’s becoming a Buccaneers fan (easier than the Bengals this year).
  • He has posters of Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, and Tim Tebow on his wall; much to his “funcle’s” delight, he prob still likes LeBron more.
  • He adores and admires his two older brothers.
  • He is cherished by them.
  • He has a special relationship with his older brothers’ best friends.
  • He is treasured, too, by our extended family, who have always been “for” him since the day he was born. 
  • He has great friends ranging in age and stage across the country — from New York to Arizona. Of course, his love of the land in Ohio is included along the way.
  • He has the gift of encouragement.
  • He has the gift of the rap.
  • He sings at the bus stop more mornings than not. Loudly.
  • His faith is solid and contagious; he likes to sit in the front row at church.
  • He has great joy, lots of patience, and one very special extra chromosome. 

In Josh I have learned much. The reality is that because of Josh, I have grown in ways I otherwise would have not…

… through the beauty… through the blessing…

Every life is a gift.

Respectfully…

AR

promoting the positive (thanks, Brené…)

In search of authentic promotions of what’s most important and unity — noting that the two are often encouraged by the same people — allow us today to focus on the words of author, speaker, inspirer, and research professor, Brené Brown. Noting that Brown’s TED talk – “The Power of Vulnerability” – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, Brown has much to say that would be wise for us to hear… that is, if we’re going to promote the positive. Here are just a few of her words…

“We’re a nation hungry for more joy: Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.” 

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”

“Trust is earned in the smallest of moments.”

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.” 

“To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” 

“It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.”

“I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.” 

“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”

“We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend.”

“I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort,’ but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.’”

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” 

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”

“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.”

“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”

18, 19… oh, wait… there’s one more. Granted, this one might be harder for us; ignoring it really would be easier. But no one said promoting the positive is easy. It does, though, seem to be wise…

“Here’s what I believe: 1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May. 2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.” 3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman. 4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?” 5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

Respectfully…

AR

bias

Let’s provide an epilogue of sorts to one of our recent postings, which you’ll note respectfully asserted that there’s a difference between news and opinion, with “news” sources often presenting information with a left or right bias as opposed to somewhere in between; the truth is secondary to the bias. The goal is to get us to rage — to keep our tribal fears and hatreds aligned — whether that be (as several noted) about the latest economic legislation or the long term effects of the local school levy.

To be clear, everyone has bias. As one of my fave new websites, AllSides.com, acknowledges, “It is part of human nature to have perspectives, preferences, prejudices, leanings, and partialities.” The challenge, though, as they continue, is that “sometimes, bias — especially media bias — can become invisible to us.”

How does that happen? How can even the most gifted intellectual be so obviously fooled? And… dare we admit… not even know it?

“We are all biased toward things that show us in the right. We are biased toward information that confirms our existing beliefs. We are biased toward the people or information that supports us, makes us look good, and affirms our judgments and virtues. And we are biased toward the more moral choice of action — at least, that which seems moral to us.” 

And so while so-called “news” sites/resources cover the same issues, they will insert their bias in a way which often goes undetectable.

AllSides.com identifies 11 types of media bias:

1. Spin

2. Unsubstantiated Claims

3. Opinion Statements Presented as Facts

4. Sensationalism/Emotionalism

5. Mudslinging/Ad Hominem

6. Mind Reading

7. Slant

8. Flawed Logic

9. Bias by Omission

10. Omission of Source Attribution

11. Bias by Placement

We won’t wrestle with all 11 this day (feel free to join me in thoroughly checking out the site),  but the point is that bias takes multiple — often creative — forms.

Spin, for example, is the use of “vague, dramatic or sensational language.” It is the manifestation of a journalist’s straying from objectivity and thus may prevent an audience from getting an accurate perspective; note that the audience will not even know they don’t have an accurate perspective. Words such as “tirade,” “crucial,” or “latest in a string of” may be inserted… or words that imply bad behavior — “finally,” “conceded,” or “dodged,” for example… also, words that stir something emotional inside of us, such as: “mocked,” “fumed,” or “gloated.” The words are typically not objective. 

Look, too, though, at unsubstantiated claims, statements that sound like fact, appear to be fact, but don’t include specific evidence. Note one example from our current campaign season (which I can’t believe extends for another 13 months… aye yai yai), this as reported by the Washington Post:

“First, [Sen. Bernie] Sanders complaint isn’t that billionaires exist per se. After all, if America’s household wealth were distributed evenly across the population, then every family of four would have a net worth of $1.2 million. Sanders’s critique is that the United States’ super-rich are symptomatic of a system that churns out a small class of extremely wealthy people who rule over the vast remainder.”

Looks like fact. Sounds like fact. And it’s in the much read Washington Post. But note there includes zero notation as to where the so-called “facts” came from. Friends, I’m no fan of the “fake news” chants, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that here is where the chants find their fuel. 

My desire is to wrestle with the facts. My desire, as you know, is to have respectful dialogue in which we can sort through those facts. But one of the most prodigious problems we face as a country and culture today is the existence of this bias. Again, as said by AllSides: 

“Bias can manipulate and blind us. It can put important information and perspectives in the shadows and prevent us from getting the whole view.”

Let’s commit to getting the whole view. Let’s acknowledge the bias and our own, individual ability to be both blinded and fooled — without even knowing it. How refreshing to start the conversation there.

Respectfully… as always.

ARA 

my struggle with politics

I have to be honest. As a Christian, sometimes I really struggle with the current political state. I see friends of shared and unshared belief throw many of the morals they typically live by right out the nearest window.

I get it. As writer, Christian, and avid Texas Rangers fan, Bryan Roberts, wrote: “Political discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity — the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.”

Sadly, for Christians and non-Christians alike — for those sincerely attempting to honor both their Creator and all of mankind — many of us seem to have concluded that some morals matter less. But we forget that the political process is dirty and broken.

Think one party is always honest?

Think one party is more moral?

Allow me to humbly ask the pervasive elephant in the room: what are you overlooking in that party in order to conclude such?

I am thus attracted to more words Roberts wrote. Let me gently caution you now, as they will be hard to hear based on what each of us may currently be overlooking. Seven years ago Roberts suggested seven things to remember about politics:

  1. Both political parties go to church. There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right…
  2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings.
    When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners…
  3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others.
    They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to keep gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics and gun ownership; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.
  4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake.
    The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them…
  5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders and to respect those in authority.
    Translation: if you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them. This doesn’t mean praying the President will be impeached; it doesn’t mean praying your candidate will win. God commands us to pray for our leaders — for their wisdom, for their hearts and for them to be led by Him.
  6. Don’t be paranoid.
    The country is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses… America has functioned—albeit, at varying levels of success — for years under the direction of alternating Democrat and Republican control, and at every flip, the other side thought it was the end of the world. It’s not. And if we’re a Church that believes God is in control, we have to believe that He is the one in control of the end times — not whoever’s in office now, and not whoever succeeds them.
  7. Stop saying, “This is the most important election in the history of our nation.”
    It’s not. The most important election in the history of our nation was when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Before that, we thought it was OK to own people. Every generation thinks it’s living in the most important moment in history. We’re not, our parents were not and our children probably won’t be. And that’s OK.

Again, I get it… this is hard to hear for Christians and non-Christians alike. So as one who sincerely struggles with today’s political state, I humbly ask again what I must ask myself: what are we currently overlooking?

Respectfully…
AR

let’s talk impeachment… maybe more.

We talk about all things here — albeit, always respectfully.

Yesterday Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry of Pres. Donald Trump. Understand that it was not a vote nor an initiation of official impeachment proceedings. It is an investigation, with many commentators divided whether grounds for an impeachable offense exist.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter went wild… and not in a good way in the opinion of this craver of respectful conversation. I believe one could safely say that Twitter fosters very little healthy dialogue, consistent with most of social media. When I then searched what was trending with the anticipated inquiry, I found social media accompanied by multiple unfortunate calls that denigrated (and far worse) any who disagreed, any who didn’t believe it should have been done sooner, and actual calls for civil war. Hear that. Civil war.

I thus found myself not pleased nor displeased, neither thrilled or upset. My heart simply broke a little more for our fractured state of the Union.

As the Libertarian Party tweeted…

“News headlines will be dominated tonight about impeachment proceedings pertaining to Donald Trump. Some will accuse the President of being a criminal, undermining the Oval Office, and defying the rule of law. Others will say that the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi have gone off the deep end, and are setting a dangerous precedent with little evidence moving forward. 

One thing is certain: we’re all losing either way. The reality is that this should never have gotten to the point where it mattered so much to so many Americans. Presidential activity should be remembered as footnotes in American history, not as grandiose epics. The Oval Office should be respected as a place for bill signing and vetoing, of implementation of checks and balances, not constant controversy. This isn’t limited to Donald Trump. It extends back dozens of Presidencies, from Obama to Nixon, Reagan to FDR.

The Government should never have gotten so large, and so powerful, that the actions of one person in one role could dominate the news day-in-day-out for years. It’s time we started reeling the monster of big government back in. It’s time we took back our rights. It’s time we started electing leaders that want to make these offices function how they were intended, not how they are run…”

I suppose that’s it in a nutshell. From a civilian’s stone throw away, government feels way too big, and politics feels way too important. It concerns me when politicians on all sides of these issues make themselves or their singular party most important, arguably forgetting the humility of their elected oath and the book on which they swore.

I’m reminded of the words widely-respected columnist Peggy Noonan penned on the 20th anniversary of the impeachment of Pres. Bill Clinton — an occurrence of which I was also not pleased nor displeased, thrilled or upset.

Noonan wrote: “I see it all now more as a tragedy than a scandal.”

Why a tragedy?

Had Pres. Clinton told the truth, Noonan opines that: “even accompanied by a moving public apology, the toll would have been enormous. He would have taken a hellacious political beating, with a steep slide in public approval and in stature. He would have been an object of loathing and ridicule — the goat in the White House, a laughingstock. Members of his party would have come down on him like a ton of bricks. Newt Gingrich and the Republicans would have gleefully rubbed his face in it every day. There would have been calls for impeachment.

It would have lasted many months. And he would have survived and his presidency continued.”

But she profoundly proceeds…

“Much more important — here is why it is a tragedy — it wouldn’t have dragged America through the mud.”

And that is why my heart breaks a little more, friends…

Regardless of any outcome of the current inquiry, when the truth becomes secondary to the politics — in the actual investigation or in defense of the investigated — the reality is that way too many are willing and wanting to drag the rest of us through the mud.

God help us. You surely know better than we.

Respectfully…

AR

do you know last week’s news?

As a blog which attempts to identify the difference between news and opinion — which are not the same — allow us to present last week’s news from three different perspectives: the left, the right, and somewhere in between the two.

From the left:

“Lamar Jackson and the NFL’s Quarterback Double Standard”  

“Opioid-maker Purdue Pharma Is Allowed Bonus Payout in Bankruptcy Case”

“Rudy Giuliani Melts Down On Live TV In Bizarre Chris Cuomo Interview” 

“‘Urgent Concern’ About the President”

“New Allegations Against Brett Kavanaugh Mean Congress Must Finish What the FBI Started”

From the right:

“A California Court Dealt a Blow to Religious Liberty. It’s Time for SCOTUS to Act.”

“Meghan McCain Leaves ‘View’ Stage after Clashing with Ana Navarro over Whistleblower Reports”

“Betsy DeVos Busts Colleges Misusing Federal Dollars for Anti-Semitic Social Justice Curriculum”

“Ilhan Omar Deletes 2013 Tweet About Her Father”

“Awkward: Colbert Corners Warren on Middle Tax Class Increases, Calls Her Out When She Dodges”

And now from somewhere in between:

“GM Workers On Strike”

“Attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Sites”

“Colt to End Production of AR-15 Rifles for Personal Use”

“Three Questions: Antonio Brown, the Latest NFL Morality Test”

“For Clues about 2020 Campaign, Look Back to 2004”

[Note: the above headlines are taken from multiple sites, including CNN, FOX News, and NBC — albeit none of the three are quoted in the “somewhere in between.”]

No doubt precisely because of the above glaring disparity, many of us have stopped tuning into the news. The bottom line is that much of what is advertised as news is not. It’s opinion. Opinion and news are not the same. And opinion is not reliable.

What’s the potential motive for the intentional slant? I think it may be misidentified; it may be deeper than a partisan agenda.

Allow me to quote Senator and bestselling author Ben Sasse in Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal (an excellent read, by the way). While openly sharing that he is a Christian, conservative man, Sasse is also not a fan of division and partisanship. [Noting all emphasis is mine] Sasse writes:

“Sean Hannity is good at what he does. So good, in fact, that his daily cable news show is number one nationally, and his daily talk radio show is number two. TV and radio are very different media, but Hannity has mastered both. There’s a reason he reportedly earns a ballpark $40 million annually. You might not like what he’s doing, but it’s definitely on purpose.

So what’s he doing?

He explained the core objective of his two different programs to the New York Times. It’s not to promote a particular conservative agenda, or to encourage American patriotism, or even to offer coherent arguments against liberalism. His core cause is to rage…

Most cable news and talk radio shows today — on both the right and the left — operate this way. The leading programs are orchestrated by executives and personalities who understand well that there’s real money to be made in helping people keep their fears and hatreds aligned.”

So understand what the above headlines are doing. Understand what Sean Hannity, Don Lemon, and Rachel Maddow are doing. Understand what the Drudge Report, Palmer Report, and other biased reports are doing. Their goal is to make you rage — to make you mad and keep your fears and hatreds aligned.

So do you think you know the news?

Each of the above headlines is linked from www.allsides.com. They clearly identify the left, right, and in between. I like www.realclearpolitics.com, too.

Respectfully…

AR

look where it starts…

  • It starts with language.
  • We create categories to distinguish people into “us and them.”
  • We then give names or other symbols to the classifications.
  • We attempt to use law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups — perhaps maybe silence them.
  • Then we dehumanize. One group denies the humanity of the other group, by equating its members to something lesser — often with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Maybe we suggest they are evil, incapable, or simply not of sound mind.
  • Social media is used to vilify the other group. 
  • Hate on television, in print, and radio is utilized.
  • The majority group is taught to regard the other group as less than human and even alien to their society. They are indoctrinated to believe that “we are better off without them.”  
  • The other group is often equated with filth, impurity, and immorality. Something is wrong with them. 
  • We hear speeches decrying the other group as lesser. As worse. Their leaders, supporters — all of them — worse. Amoral. Immoral.

So, friends, let’s ask a couple of key questions before our one big, brave one today…

Are we hearing the above in our culture today?

Are we reading about such classifications? … seeing such content?

Is this happening on television, in print, on radio and social media?

And… hard to ask this… but are we being encouraged to think of another group as lesser? … less enlightened? … or less something?

Allow me to humbly reference Prof. Gregory Stanton, a former law professor at Yale, George Mason, and multiple other established institutions of higher education. In the late 90’s, when serving in the U.S. State Dept., Stanton drafted the U.N. Security Council resolutions responsible for creating the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and more. He is best known for his work on genocide studies — the intentional destroying of people.

In 1999, Staton left academia to establish Genocide Watch, an organization which exists to predict and prevent genocide. We would know genocide when we see it — right? 

… the Holocaust… the Holodomor… the Armenian Genocide… the Assyrian genocide… the Cambodian genocide… the Kurdish genocide… the Rwandan genocide… the Guatemalan genocide… the Bangladesh genocide… and so heartbreakingly more…

So in regard to what’s relevant today, remember our first sentence: “It starts with language.”

The 10 bulleted statements above are taken from Stanton’s well known The Ten Stages of Genocide. “The process is not linear. Stages may occur simultaneously.” Here are the stages:

  1. Classification
  2. Symbolization
  3. Discrimination
  4. Dehumanization
  5. Organization
  6. Polarization
  7. Preparation
  8. Persecution
  9. Extermination
  10. Denial

Let us not overreact. Let us not confuse now with Nazi Germany; this is not.

But let us be brave enough to ask one big question:

Where are we unknowingly supporting one of the above?

The reality is that if we can “dehumanize” another group  —  because of how they look, where they live, what they believe, or even who they vote for  —  then we can justify all sorts of arrogance, judgment and otherwise known-to-be-awful behavior.

Remember: it starts with language.

Respectfully…

AR

shooting each other

Each known for their frequent fervor, the two surprised me this past week. In a good way.

The conversation began on Twitter — and consistent with said venue, that was neither the surprise nor the good. (Twitter is also not a “conversation.”)

Unsurprisingly, it began with a passionate topic. And isn’t that the reality? The more passionate we are about an issue — the deeper our conviction — the more likely we are to succumb to the societal lure that respect is not only no longer necessary, but not even wise to employ. This conversation, friends, began with gun control.

Let’s face it. It’s a tough topic. Proponents of more gun control legislation believe the 2nd Amendment was intended for militias and that gun violence would be reduced. Opponents believe the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns and that gun ownership deters crime rather than causes more.*

The interaction began when actress/activist/active-tweeter Alyssa Milano posed a question regarding the existence of any Biblical passage stating that gun ownership is a “God-given right.”

Attorney/Senator/equally-active-tweeter Ted Cruz responded with a lengthy series of tweets.

After Cruz’s response, Milano challenged him specifically: “I’d love to come in and meet with you on the gun issue and many other issues that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, @tedcruz and also, 1 Peter 4:8. I’ll be in DC next week. We can live-stream the meeting so the American people can hear your bullshit 1st hand.”

Fascinatingly, Cruz then welcomed the idea. The two sat down on Tuesday.

Afterward, Milano shared about her experience through a CNN op-ed [Note: all emphasis mine]:

“… Cruz and I agree on very little. He is a stalwart conservative; I am a committed progressive… On issue after issue we have fundamentally different views on freedom and humanity and our government. 

So why did I agree to meet with him? What could we possibly accomplish when we have such diametrically opposed views on, well, everything?

… I met with the senator because we can’t fix the problems that face this nation unless we talk with people who disagree with us. The truth is that no matter what happens in the 2020 election, there will always be two parties in the Senate which will be close to evenly divided. If we keep living solely in our echo chambers, we will only hear what we ourselves say. And our nation will continue to suffer.

I know we didn’t change his mind on how we fix gun violence in America. And he didn’t change ours. But maybe we understand one another a little better. Here’s what I came away with that I wasn’t so sure of before the meeting: Ted Cruz is a human being. He is a real person. He isn’t a villain in a movie. He cares when these shootings happen. When people on my side of this fight say he doesn’t, they’re wrong.

I hope he came away with the fact that we are caring people, and supporters of the Second Amendment, just not unlimited gun rights. I hope he recognizes a little bit more the fear parents have throughout the country…

Ninety percent of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, agree that we need a fix to the problem of gun violence in this country. Maybe by talking to each other as humans, with open hearts and listening to each other with open ears, we can inspire our leaders to do the same.

Isn’t it worth a try? For your children. For my children. For us all.”

Here are two people who truthfully, have not been known for their consistent expressions of respect. Here are two people who could have remained hidden behind their keyboards, where — let’s face it — disrespect is always easier. And here are two people — representative of most of the rest of us — who probably felt like the other person was worse, lesser, bad, evil, amoral, you-name-it primarily because they disagree.

Then they met face-to-face; they listened to one another; and things changed.

Want to make progress on this issue and more?

Perhaps we surprise ourselves by stopping the judgment, stopping the disrespect, and quit hiding behind our keyboards. As Milano said, “We can’t fix the problems that face this nation unless we talk with people who disagree with us.” They are real people, too.

Respectfully…

AR

[* For a non-partisan perspective on the gun control debate, check HERE.]

18 years later…

I wonder what they woke up thinking…

When they grabbed their cup of coffee, threw last minute items in their briefcase or purse, headed out the door… I wonder if they felt any different…

I wonder if they said the same words parting with their families that morning… kissed their spouse or their kids once more before they arose…

I wonder if they knew anything different… if they felt anything different… if they had any sense somehow that this day would be different…

I wonder…

As survivor Michael Wright wrote, one year after, “UP TO THAT DAY, I’d had a Brady Bunch, cookie-cutter, beautiful life. I now know what it’s like to have a 110-story building that’s been hit by a 767 come down on my head. For better or for worse, it’s part of my life. There are things I never thought I’d know that I now know.

It was as mundane a morning as you can imagine. Tuesdays are usually the days I go out to see clients and make sales calls. I get to my office at a quarter to eight, eat a bran muffin, drink a cup of coffee, and get my head straight for the day.

I was actually in a good mood. A couple of us were yukking it up in the men’s room. We’d just started sharing the eighty-first floor of 1 World Trade Center with Bank of America, and they’d put up a sign telling everyone to keep the bathroom clean. ‘Look at this,’ one of us said. ‘They move in and now they’re giving us sh*t.’ It was about quarter to nine…”

Then… “All of a sudden, there was the shift of an earthquake…”

The first plane — American Airlines Flight 11 — hit the northern facade of the North Tower of the World Trade Center at precisely 8:46 a.m… 81 passengers… 11 crew members… Captain John Ogonowski… First Officer Thomas McGuinness…

As we soberly pause to remember, it strikes me that all those people — from on the planes to in the buildings to the brave, brave first responders — that when the day began, they didn’t know it would be any different. There were no warning signs that their earthly life was coming to an abrupt end.

And so 18 years later, as I think about how maybe to honor the 2,996 persons who died that day, a few varied thoughts run through my head and heart…

… to simply remember… to pause long enough to acknowledge that the September 11th attacks are not just some distant memory… this isn’t just any other day…

… to pray for their families… no matter the 18 passing years, their emotion may be less prominent, but the grief remains. Indeed, one of life’s most prudent practices as we grow older is learning how to cope with grief and joy, often felt at the exact same time… 

… to never take evil lightly or to act as if it doesn’t exist on this planet… men motivated by evil is who/what killed the near 3,000 that day. An awareness of such seems wise…

… to teach our children well… let me add that I laid in bed with my youngest son last night, attempting to concisely explain the tragedy, trying to share the account in a way appropriate for his level of comprehension. Interestingly, I found the retelling and remembering to be moving for me, too…

… and lastly, to live our days with contagious delight but also to live with an awareness that any day could be different… any day could be our last… any day our lives could change.

Then, going one step further, let us ask… if we truly realized that any day could be our last, what would we do differently today? What would we change?

What would we be sure to say? What would we be sure to not?

What relationship would we finally work out?

What would instantly become unimportant?

I wonder… 

Respectfully…

AR

we are back!

And just like that, we are back!!

Greetings, friends! What a treat it’s been to sit back, read and digest the opinions of our excellent Guest Writers! It is always insightful to sincerely listen to someone other than self. (Did I mention it is wise, too??)

But thank you, too, for the respite. I find myself returning to the pen and the post with a renewed energy and commitment to do this well. By “this” I mean to discuss all things respectfully… to recognize that none of us have life all figured out… and to articulate with a raw humility, well aware that there is always more to learn.

I was affirming one of my bright young nephews recently — one who shared that he was approaching a select topic with an open mind, knowing that the great big God of the universe could always teach him more — and I said, “How wonderful! If only we adults could be more like that.” 

Yes… to realize that we can always learn more… that we don’t have life all figured out…

I’m struck by the inherent humility such a realization would bring to our every conversation.

So on that note, what should we converse about?

Much has happened in my absence…

… Andrew Luck left the NFL… Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been invited back… A hurricane kind of came and went; granted, it decided to be really, really slow… oh, the Bahamas… my heart breaks for the Bahamas… what can we do?

… the Pan Am games concluded; they were held in Lima, Peru this year with 41 nations included… U.S. led the medal count, with Brazil and Mexico following… bodybuilding made its debut (with El Salvadoran athletes dominating), and also, the daughter of Apple’s Steve Jobs came in fifth in an individual equestrian competition…

… cable news maintained its not-so-quiet deference to a lack of objectivity. As has become my routine, in my multiple weekly trips to the gym, while on one of the machines equipped with TV capabilities (oh, the beauty of technology), I devoted 10-15 minutes circling back-to-back-to-back-to-back between Bloomberg, CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. Allow me a quite crude (but accurate) analysis… CNN and MSNBC hate the President… FOX likes the President… and Bloomberg tries to focus less on the President… Once again on respite, my concerns were renewed that so many actually think this is “news”… just imagine… if every story is influenced by said angle…

… Pres. Trump did something with a marker — or maybe not… Joe made something else up — or maybe not… is it a gaffe? Is it a lie? Is it misspeak? Does it matter who says it?…

… more presidential promises were made, some spending billions and trillions, especially on climate change… climate conversations brought talk of bans, too — from straws to meat to even people, thanks to Bernie… Beto also seemed to decide utilization of the “F bomb” may infuse new life into his campaign…

… gun control… ah, yes, call me naive; call me an optimist… I believe our leaders (and us) are capable of crafting a sensible approach. It seems Democrats and Republicans are actually — at least somewhat — meeting together on this… what can be done… what can’t… what’s actually effective… and what’s more emotional speak… I pray they can make some progress — and resist, too, the temptation to denigrate the other — or — to fall prey to the (in my opinion) arrogant ideology that they are the ones that have it all figured out (see above recognition, please)

… the squad came back… trying to decide do they play overseas, not play overseas, and/or whether they will wear the appropriate attire. What? Ah, yes, I’m speaking football, friends… New/now-ex/Oakland/LA/Las Vegas/whatever-for-now Raider Antonio Brown was arguing about his helmet (and more) as both the Saturday and Sunday squads are back on the college and profession gridiron… how exciting!… are you ready for some football?!

And just like that, we are back… ready to converse, ready to play, ready to learn, talk, and even embrace a little tongue-in-cheek.

What a joy and privilege to share this journey with you. As our country too often divides and conquers, we will not. We will always converse… always respectfully so.

Respectfully…

AR