what’s it going to take?

What’s it going to take to get our attention?

We have Democrats and Republicans, continually casting the whole other side as evil.

We have genders and ethnicities and all sorts of demographics who continually boost self and the identity in their politics by means of denigrating and denouncing the different.

We loudly declare our wisdom and rightness, acting as if only the other has an area where they need to be humble, kind, and grow up.

Don’t tell me only one side, one group, one something is solely guilty of denouncing. The slams… the vulgarity… the awful tweets… the derogatory memes… from the left… the right… you are tearing us apart.

Two days ago I sat by my TV and cried. I watched the Notre Dame cathedral burn. I remember walking those halls years ago and the deep, deep sense of serenity… I remember the worship… the wisdom… the wonder that was so awe-inspiringly displayed.

What’s it going to take?

The cathedral of Notre Dame stands for unparalleled wisdom… for wise teaching…

Believe in God; he’s the Creator of the universe.

He created you and me.

Find a way to follow him.

Love him back.

Don’t equate yourself and your finite mind/heart with him… as if the potter were thought to be like the clay.

Love your fellow man, woman, child, whatever. No matter what. (Did I say “no matter what”? Does that fit with arguing, not listening, unfriending, un-something? Where am I, personally, doing that? Where are each of us doing that?)

Treat others better than yourselves. Agreement is not a prerequisite.

Embrace humility.

Recognize it as good. Always.

Don’t walk away from another.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. (No doubt I can be incredibly selfish sometimes. Each of us can.)

Acknowledge God. 

Why do we have so many obstacles in acknowledging the great big God of the universe? We don’t have to have life all figured out. We don’t have to be perfect or have everything so together. He only asks us to acknowledge him. Get to know him. Turn in his direction.

What’s it going to take?

What else needs to burn to the ground before we realize we are pretty messed up as a culture?

Don’t tell me the Democrats have it all figured out. Don’t tell me the Republicans have it all figured out. I see two parties who are too inflated about self. I see a Tea Party-right and an Ocasio-Cortez-left alongside two Trump-loving/Trump-hating blocs who are often blinded to the wisdom in reasonableness and the virtue in offering abundant compassion to all… people who are blinded to the wisdom in treating all people right. It grieves me. You are hurting the rest of us.

What’s it going to take?

What’s it going to take for us to quit adhering to any partisan or other kind of side, realizing we are hurting and disrespecting others in the process? What’s it going to take for us to realize any allowed, intentional disrespect is foolish? What’s it going to take for us to realize we are allowing wise principles and institutions to be burnt to the ground?

What’s it going to take?

Respectfully… always…  

AR

pop culture prayers

So many good lines… all from the same movie…

Perhaps you remember. Perhaps you do not. 

Bruce Nolan, a fed-up reporter, cries out to God, demonstrably sharing that God isn’t doing his job; in fact, if God is somehow doing it, he certainly isn’t doing a very good job.

Hence, the One and Only Divine decides to bestow all such powers onto this one man. He graciously lets Bruce take a turn. Hence, come the following poignant (and often witty) interactions — including Bruce, his girlfriend Grace, and the great big God of the universe…

_____

GOD: “You have the ability to make people laugh. I know. I created you.”

_____

GOD: “You can’t kneel in the middle of the highway and live to tell the tale.”

_____

BRUCE: “Where are you going?”

GOD: “Vacation.”

BRUCE: “God doesn’t go on vacation. Does He? …do Ye?”

GOD: “Ever hear of the Dark Ages?”

_____

GOD: “Parting soup is not a miracle, Bruce… Now a single mom who works two full-time jobs and still finds time to pick up her kid at soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager that says ‘no’ to drugs and ‘yes’ to education, that’s a miracle. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.”

_____

BRUCE: “Feed the hungry, and give peace on all mankind. Is that good?”

GOD: “Yes, if you’re Miss America.”

_____

But perhaps my favorite quote — and one that speaks volumes to the rest of us — comes near the movie’s climax, after Bruce finds abundant success and is humbled and awed by both compassionate and ostentatious uses of power — but remains deeply torn up by the conflict within him; he is unable to change the heart of the one he loves. He can’t make Grace love him…

BRUCE: “How can you make someone love you without changing free will?”

GOD: “Welcome to my world.”

_____

I find myself sitting with that this week… a week known ‘round the world as Holy Week, the week before Easter, celebrated by a few billion across all continents, acknowledging the life of Jesus Christ and applying the meaning of his death and resurrection. God doesn’t make us love him; he doesn’t make us believe. He provides such timeless freedom. He lets us look around; look at how he’s at work — look at his marvelous creation. He lets us observe and marvel at all he has done — in us and through us and in the world and people around us. He then gives us free will, allowing us to actually choose to move nearer to him. And when we are nearer… wow… the peace, love… the hope and the confidence… available amidst this so often baffling, bitter, and challenging world…

_____

GOD: “Grace. You want her back?”

BRUCE: “No. I want her to be happy no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who will see her always as I do now, through your eyes.”

GOD: “Now that’s a prayer.”

_____

Pondering my prayers for the week ahead… recognizing that faith has the potential to grow and change us all… 

Respectfully…

AR

one more ‘gift’ from the hardwood

The madness of March has once again ceded itself to the serenity of spring. While multiple games on the hardwood were highly entertaining (insert major shout out to the Elite 8 here), there were (as always) greater lessons to be learned… both on and off the court.

Allow me to foreshadow today’s discussion with a reference to the 2018 tournament, repeating a few words written here a little more than one year ago…

“No [upset] was as unlikely or historic as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s win over Virginia. Virginia was considered the strongest team in the tournament; UMBC was considered the weakest. With the upset being the first time a #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament, history was made; it was an iconic moment in sports.

Let that sink in for a mere moment. An iconic moment in sports occurred at the hands of a small group of 18-22 year old, most likely not-totally-emotionally-mature-yet, young men. So as the clock wound down and the upset evolved from the impossible to the unlikely to the seriously-are-you-kidding-me, jubilation was everywhere… except in the hearts of the players and fans from the University of Virginia. As fun as it was to watch the unprecedented glee from UMBC’s Retrievers… it was hard to watch the poignant pain of those who cheered on the Cavaliers…” 

Through each round of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament — with game after game suggesting Virginia’s ouster could again come earlier than expected — commentators continued to reference Virginia’s  “painful” loss a year ago.

When that pain was posed as a question to Tony Bennett, the articulate Cavaliers’ coach, Bennett corrected the question.

It wasn’t solely “painful.” It was a “painful gift.”

Said Bennett:

“I’m so thankful. I don’t deserve the credit. I don’t care about the critics. I don’t even pay attention to that. I really don’t.

I just know it was really hard to lose in the first round. It stung. It was, as I said, a ‘painful gift.’

It was so humbling. It drew me and drew our team closer in a way that we couldn’t have gone. 

Again, the quote we use — and I guess I’m full of quotes — is from that ‘Ted Talk’ I showed them at the beginning of the year. And I said, the quote is this, ‘If you learn to use it right — the adversity — it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.’ 

And I didn’t know if that meant we’d get to a Final Four or do that. I just knew it would deepen us in ways on the court, off the court, in what we believe, and mark us for the right stuff. And that is what I think took place.”

Amazing. 

Here in a game — a game played by those not-totally-emotionally-mature-yet, young men — the rest of us witnessed a bigger lesson… 

It’s not about winning and losing. 

It’s about reacting to winning and losing in wise ways… 

It’s about reacting to life in wise ways…

… learning to use adversity right.

Well done, Coach Bennett and your young, accomplished Cavaliers.

Thanks for teaching the rest of us so well.

Respectfully…

AR

what? creepy uncles?

Last week we watched multiple women speak out in regard to their discomfort with former VP Joe Biden’s touching. Eight women in total, I believe, spoke up — nine, if you count his wife, Jill, who in excerpts released from her upcoming memoir shares that when marrying into the family, she sometimes found all the affection “strange,” “uncomfortable,” and  “draining.”

Note that Biden has not been accused of any assault or harassment. He has been accused of touching people in an “awkward,” “creepy,” “demeaning,” “disrespectful,” “embarrassing,” “inappropriate,” “strange,” “unnerving,” and “weird” ways and making them feel “angry,” “resentful,” and “uncomfortable.” 

And so, since the Intramuralist typically finds it wiser to utilize question marks instead of exclamation points, allow me to pose a few challenging but respectful and reflective queries that wrestle with more than Biden’s behavior… 

How much does our own, individual experience affect what we believe from an accuser?

When we say “we believe” an accuser, what’s that based upon? Does it matter if it’s based on evidence or emotion?

How much does likemindedness play into our perception of truth?

If someone’s actions make us uncomfortable, with all sincerity and respect, does that always make them wrong?

Particular to Biden, since the accusations are multiple years old, why did we not hear of this complaint when he was the sitting Vice President of the United States?

In reference to Lucy Flores — the Democrat from Nevada, who wrote the initial, uncomfortable account this week — who is she supporting for President? 

What’s the motivation behind the continued publicizing of Biden’s behavior? Is anyone intentionally promoting it?

Are we turning a blind eye if we don’t believe the focus is politically motivated?

And does Biden’s touchy-feely-ness disqualify him from holding higher office?

Again, since reports suggest Biden has long been very affectionate, why was it previously not a factor?

Does this have more to do with Biden’s record — which hasn’t always toed the far left, liberal line? … recognizing, for example, that he believes life begins at conception, is personally against abortion, and supports voluntary prayer in schools? 

Speaking to the bigger picture, is this an extension of the #MeToo movement? Since the #MeToo movement focuses on sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace, does this still fit?

With all due respect, is it possible for a movement to ever go too far? … even unintentionally?

Is there any double-standard in the way we handle the extent of accusations, depending who they are against?

Do we agree with both parts of actress/activist Alyssa Milano’s recent statement that “just as we must believe women that decide to come forward, we cannot assume all women’s experiences are the same”? Has she/
we been consistent in those assumptions?

Does gender dictate truth?

And, as former ESPN VP Roxanne Jones wrote in a CNN op-ed this week: “Attitudes of race, gender and power have shifted since the Obama White House — we are more suspicious and less forgiving when it comes to accepting excuses and soft apologies for past racial biases and sexual misconduct…” Question: is that good?

Allow me a few final thoughts… I have a lot of respect for Joe Biden. That’s not saying I’d vote for or against him nor that I always agree or disagree. But my sense is he appeals more to the moderate middle than to the partisan fringe. No doubt, the fringe in both parties desire to divide us more, which means they possess significant motive to ensure Joe doesn’t succeed, as each party seems challenged to maneuver through their individual “Tea Party moments.”

More so, though, I find myself wondering if we are erring as a culture by intentionally, increasingly pitting men and women against one another. Friends, neither gender is better; each is uniquely and wonderfully made! Can we not celebrate that?

Let’s be sure to deal with truth. Let’s be sure victims are heard, honored, and respected. But let’s also remember that there are good men and women on all sides of these issues and incidents. I tend to think Joe is one of them.

Respectfully…

AR

what I love about this game

One of the many things I deeply admire is when all eyes are upon a person, they are still able to maintain a wise perspective.

Too many times when the cameras, mics, etc. are rolling, what a person says/how a person behaves changes, seemingly due to an awareness of the cameras and mics. Perhaps it’s why a person’s proverbial “15 minutes of fame” is only 15 minutes; we don’t always handle the moment well.

Last weekend we witnessed a little more than 15 minutes in the midst of the madness of March…

The scene was the wildly popular, single-elimination, men’s NCAA basketball championship. The scenario was Purdue vs. Virginia — two large, D1 universities, each with an excellent academic reputation and athletic tradition. They faced one another in the round of the “Elite 8,” with a “Final 4” placement at stake.

To be clear, the Final 4 is a prestigious position. It’s a status teams covet — to be recognized as one of the best in the land, knowing it takes toughness, perseverance, and more than a few lucky bounces to get there. It is not easy to get there; prognosticators typically plot odds at little more than 15% for the top seeds, 3% for second and third seeds, and less than 1% for everyone else. Making the Final 4 is rare.

So then comes the battle between the Boilermakers and Cavaliers. It was fierce. It was tight. It was back and forth. It was actually (admitting my beloved Boiler bias) an absolutely fantastic game. So much so, forty minutes was not long enough to dictate the outcome. Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite hit an improbable shot at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

This was tense. This, though, was the time.

Leaving their respective huddles after regulation, the teams took the floor, prepared for the ensuing five minutes more. They had been coached and encouraged, prepped and poured into, with each bench no doubt sharing the best means for their team to eke out a win. They each wanted their team to win.

The young men lined up once more, ready to tip off, when Diakite and Purdue superstar Carsen Edwards made direct eye contact with one another. They did a double take… Edwards shaking his head… Diakite tapping Edwards on the chest… each breaking into a bold, wide, spontaneous smile.

Notice…

Even though only one team could win… even though something so rare each desperately wanted was finally within their reach — those incredibly low odds… even though they recognized that each stood in the way of the other… that did not change their ability to discern what was happening in the moment…

They knew it was a great game… they knew they were blessed to be a part of it… and they knew, regardless of outcome, a wise perspective meant still respecting all those around them.

That night — and for most of the season — Carsen Edwards had a few select, motivational reminders written on the tape around his wrist:

“Thank God.”

“Help Mama Out.”

“The Man in the Arena.”

“The Man in the Arena” is attributed to a Theodore Roosevelt quote which speaks to the beauty of competition. Greater context of the quote reveals the following:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” 

Daring greatly…

What I love about this game was that the formidableness of the opponent did not provide cause for disrespect.

What I love about this game was that the disappointment of the outcome did not provide cause for a total absence of joy.

And what I love about this game was that the strength of the competition did not provide cause for a loss of wise perspective.

Respectfully…

AR

how I get in the way

I’m sorry.

I’ve got to confess.

Sometimes I’ve been judgmental.

Sometimes I’ve been indignant.

Sometimes I’ve convinced myself that I am totally right, forgetting how limited my perspective may be.

Sometimes I’ve forgotten that of course, my perspective is limited; I am incapable of seeing absolutely all things.

Many times I have allowed my emotion to dictate my truth. And because I feel this way, I knowI know — my gut is right on. And then I allow the fact that I think I know to justify my entire behavior.

How do I actually behave?

Ah, yes… there comes the judgment… the indignation… the “yes, we can talk about it, but inside, I am right, and you will be the only one of us that needs to change. I know that…”

Wow… what a conversation killer.

What a mind block.

What an obstacle for even the most intelligent.

I pause here. Sighing. Thinking about how I get in the way. 

Why?

Because there is a realization that too many times we suggest all-of-the-above only applies to someone other than self. Someone other than “me.”

And just like that once more we miss the point.

Once more we play God.

We play God by acting as if we don’t have more to learn… that we do have life all figured out… that we really can see all sides of something… all 360° of perspective… 

We play God by thinking we are so wise… we are so good… we have so much to teach the world around us…

We play God when we fail to be humble. That’s it.

We play God when we treat any one person or people group as lesser. Any one.

Hence, as God advocates for treating no one lesser, we play God when we forget about Him.

Let it never be said of us that we have forgotten God.

Let it never be said of us that we have failed to remember the great big, awesomely creative, Creator of the universe.

That realization should profoundly affect the way we treat all people… and not just those that agree with us or we consider likeminded. 

That realization should profoundly affect how we funnel the information we hear and consider what is true.

That realization should profoundly affect you and me.

Respectfully… still thinking, too…

AR

do you know the news?

We talk about what people are talking about — albeit always respectfully. And so… 

There will be no current charges.

Before speaking — or semi-civilly sharing “there’s still time!” — note that I have not identified of whom we speak…

If in regard to Pres. Trump, we know the special investigation under Robert Mueller has concluded that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The report has been given to the U.S. Attorney General, who will decide what is legal for the public to know.

If in regard to actor Jussie Smollett, we know the charges were dropped yesterday in an unscheduled hearing. Smollett then declared he has been “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.” Note that a judge has granted a motion to seal all details of the cases, meaning the public will not know more.

Reactions…

Do we wish what happened was different?

Do we wish for more consequences for each?

Do we wish for more consequences for only one?

Why would we treat the situations differently?

And why do we sit here thinking we know better and we know what really happened and we know what exact consequences should be administered? 

With all due respect, I find myself a bit uncomfortable with all we claim to know.

Let me not suggest that one must react the same; my question is more as to why — and if we are aware of what other motivations — our own and the media’s — have been in play. Unfortunately, we have accepted a developing societal ambiguity that strongly influences our reaction, as we seem to have muddied the middle between politics and the rule of law; we no longer consistently recognize — and sometimes not even value — the distinct difference.

Take a glance at the media’s reaction less than 24 hours after the announced completion of Robert Mueller’s investigation. Look solely at the headlines from two of New York’s most popular papers…

From the NY Post: “The Collapse of the Democrats’ Big Lie”

From the NY Times: “Trump’s Shamelessness Was Outside Mueller’s Jurisdiction”

Here are two of the most subscribed-to newspapers in the country; each headline is evident of a more politically-motivated mantra than of a factual account of the rule of law. 

Friends, no doubt this is a frequent, Intramuralist refrain; it is also a sincere refrain. If your news is coming solely or primarily from left or right leaning sites, you are not getting an accurate representation of the news. That means CNN, HuffPo, WaPo, Palmer Report, MSNBC and more are manipulating your emotion from the left; Breibart, The Blaze, Drudge Report, FOX News, the Washington Examiner and more are manipulating your emotion from the right. 

Want a more trusted news source? Try the Associated Press, C-SPAN, The Economist, Reuters, and USA Today. None are perfect, but each is believed to be far less biased than those listed above. The bias of the others is blurring the distinction between politics and the rule of law.

Also amidst those above headlines, the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal (CJ) ran the following editorial, entitled “Journalism Dies When Reporters Choose Sides.” They shared the insight of one of journalism’s most recognized, twentieth-century voices, Ted Koppel. Koppel spoke of what the news has now become: “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were.” 

CJ continues… 

“… The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He [Koppel] singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates. ‘We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,’ Koppel said. ‘We’re talking about organizations that… have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States’…

When journalists don’t consider themselves bound to old norms of objectivity, there comes an absence of restraint that is inherently corrupting…

Koppel made clear that he does not disagree with the verdict that Trump is ‘bad for the United States.’ He means only that the Post and Times abandon their journalistic responsibility when they take sides so blatantly…”

Hence, the quandary and the questions for each of us: 

Are we recognizing the difference between politics and rule of law?

And do both we and the media even care?

Respectfully…

AR

keyboard cowardice

Four years ago, we introduced the concept of the “keystroke mentality.” I was reminded, watching a plethora of college sports the past 48 hours…

_____

“I fear we might be close to teetering on total, civility failure. The idiots are getting far too big a voice nowadays,” said Joe Tessitore of ESPN… Yes, of ESPN.

Tessitore spoke this weekend in regard to the college gridiron. He was speaking of how fans reacted to a student on the University of Michigan football team, whose error led directly to a win by the opponent in the closing seconds of the game. I wonder… where else are his words applicable?

“Fueled by irrational hate, and numb by a far too easy to kill by keystroke mentality,” continued Tessitore.

So many of us sit behind the cowardice of our keyboards — as opposed to meeting and dealing with people face-to-face, and we make all sorts of bold statements… except… the statements are not always factual and true — and while they may be factual, they may also be pointedly disrespectful of other people.

Our society continues to too often assert opinion in such a bold way, believing that what we say is good and true and right — and then justify insult if they feel differently. Friends, if our opinion evolves into the justification for insult, there is no such thing as equating to, at least the “good” or “right” part. We must quit using our perspective as a weapon. Such is the harm of keystroke mentality.

Just because… I can type it… say it… post it on a placard… doesn’t make it true nor necessarily wise to post or say. Ah, yes… the cowardice of our keyboards. I’m reminded of the insight from one of our summer guest writers a few years back…

“… Turns out Facebook confrontation are the same thing as real confrontations-go figure? Those arguments I was typing with the distant relatives of my best friend from nursery school? Turns out they were actual people and not just dialog boxes and the ‘discussions’ we were having were being read and judged by all of our friends. And you know what else? The only opinions any of that critical closed-minded dialog changed were of me and the others who participated in it. No one suddenly changed their entire belief system based on a Facebook argument. Shocker right?”

Shocker. Joe Tessitore made his statements this past weekend in regard to a college player who is only 22 years old. It matters not; the young man has been verbally eviscerated on Facebook and elsewhere…   

“I fear we might be close to teetering on total, civility failure. The idiots are getting far too big a voice nowadays.”

The reality is that the words said about the youthful player are the same words being said about those in office or lining up to run for office. With the 2020 Presidential election still over a year away, the thought of this keyboard cowardice continuing is exhausting!

Said again by my trusted friend… “Another Presidential election is upon us… Editorials are being printed in our newspapers and opinions, lots and lots of opinions. And slowly but surely, those one sided political posts are starting to make their way into my newsfeed. I shudder to think how this one will go. After all, we’ve had years to sharpen our blades and our social media skills. How many of us will let our passion trump our reason?”

I share in the shuddering — allowing our passion to trump our reason. When did we become a country that justifies such disrespect? When did we become a country where so many of us began either intentionally or unintentionally fueling this culture of irrational hate? When did we become a country where we couldn’t see the big picture? … where we couldn’t recognize that a game is just a game? … that political opponents are not enemies? … that we are called to love our neighbor? … and when we justify such disrespect?

I close with the recognition that the Intramuralist, for one, is thankful for the many fancy-dancy techno gadgets of this information age; I love my iPad, MacBook, and all things Apple. But when any of these impersonal keyboards provide the place for us to hide behind and the impetus for disrespect, something is wrong not with the gadgets — but with us.

Respectfully…

AR

diversity training

One of the best parts of the annual NCAA basketball tournament is its clear manifestation of diversity. Too often too many inaccurately boast of their all-accepting, diverse nature; then they reject the one who does not embrace diversity, meaning the original boaster isn’t as diverse as he or she might believe.

Not true in the madness of March. Each of the 351 Division I men’s basketball teams has an opportunity to make the tournament. It’s a striking, sui generis field…

68 teams fill the benches and brackets. As is typical, we see our share of birds, bears and more.

From the Cardinals of Louisville to a soaring pair of Eagles — with even Golden ones flying from Marquette… not to mention the Hawkeyes and Jayhawks and that team from Temple (although I’m sensing that an Owl doesn’t exactly intimidate one’s opponent all that much). 

Speaking of intimidation, I like Maryland, but few seem fearful of a team named after a turtle.

Bears seem to instill a little more fear in one’s adversary, as I assume Baylor can attest to. Just as formidable, however, are the Bruins and Grizzlies.

The Belmont Bruins are actually represented by “Bruiser the Bruin” — who is not to be outdone by the prowess of VCU’s “Rodney the Ram.” Still more of the furry and fictional will grace the sidelines, noting especially “Kaboom” (the gargoyle), “Pounce” (the blue panther), and “Peter the Anteater” (… yes, I did say “anteater”…). Pete is a popular name, no doubt, also represented via “Pistol Pete” from the state of New Mexico and the muscular “Purdue Pete” from my absolute favorite college in the country.

The “Pistol” is really an Aggie — of which there are two. (What’s an “Aggie,” by the way?)

That pales, I suppose, to the Billikens, another ambiguous name, whose moniker — crazily — is said to have originated from the football coach’s uncanny resemblance to a charm doll 108 years ago.

Let’s not forget, though, man’s best friend and its feline counterpart; the numbers included are impressive. There are four sets of Bulldogs (although only Gardner-Webb’s are Runnin’), a pair of Huskies, and one Wofford Terrier. Then there’s the Queen City’s Bearcats, the resurgence of Phi Slamma Jamma’s Cougars, a pair each of Tigers and Panthers, and four more of the always well-represented Wildcat.

Let’s give a brief shoutout to Abilene Christian’s “Willie the Wildcat.” I love the creativity! Granted, it would be even more fascinating to see a face-off between Buffalo and NKU. We would then witness the sweet, semantic duel between “Victor E. Bull” and “Victor E. Viking.” (Does the “E” in each stand for “epic”?)

There is more of course — the homologous mammals found in the Wolf Pack and Wolverines. Forget not also the Catamounts, Golden Gophers, Badgers, and Bison. 

Then come the Ducks. (Right. Another intimidating sports team.) Please don’t let a Gator near a Duck. 🙂

As with any diverse group, no less, the royal fighters and tough-sounding teams abound. This year we find Spartans, Monarchs, and Cavaliers included, in addition to two sets each of Knights and Gaels. 

The tough-sounding teams always sound tougher when opposed by perceived bad guys. We have two sets of Raiders (only one which is Red), one organized group of Rebels, and one band of Pirates. With all due respect, don’t even get me started on the worthiness of a Devil, regardless of whether it’s Sun(ny) or Blue. No worries. The nice guys still show up, Volunteering from the southeast state of Tennessee. 

Still more teams are a little ambiguous, i.e. the weather-representing Cyclones, the actual color Orange, and then the combination of weather and color found in the men from St. John’s. 

Virginia Tech shares its pride on the hardcourt by depicting what most of their buildings are made from — the Hokie Stone, a limestone common in Southwest Virginia — while Florida State and Oklahoma duly honor their Native American heritage. 

To be truthful, as much as I desire to be inclusive and diverse — I greatly respect them — but I struggle with the athletic nuts from Ohio and the tar, pitch, and turpentine created from the pine forests in North Carolina. There the freedom Flames, too… and the Racers… ah, yes, the Racers. Now there’s a basketball name.

What a great representation of diversity. What a great tournament, too.

May the madness now begin.

Respectfully…

AR

the current, drama triangle

“Too much drama!”

And as I once more reiterate the familiar refrain in our family to my budding young son, he knows exactly what I mean. There is too much drama. Too many theatrics. Too many times a circumstance becomes a spectacle. And too many willing players on the scene. 

Allow me to briefly introduce the “drama triangle.” The roles of the 3 players are clear…

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The victim… the one to whom something has happened to — maybe bad — but maybe not… yet when bad things happen, we far prefer to see ourselves as the innocent one… we struggle with how we may have contributed…  

The rescuer… the classic enabler… the hero, if you will… they feel guilty if they don’t help… the challenge with the rescuer is that their involvement keeps the victim dependent and gives the victim continued permission to fail — sometimes so much — often so much — that the victim never has to evaluate how they have contributed to the conflict…  

And the villain… the perceived bad guy… they can be mean-spirited… insistent… maybe even evil.

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When we see ourselves as the victims or heroes/rescuers (because none of us ever see ourselves as the bad guy), we actually create villains; we manufacture the miscreants.

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while — wrestling with the realities and fallacies of victimhood — as not everyone who claims to be a victim actuallyis a victim. Something is clouding the picture. So allow me to respectfully ponder further…

is there a relationship between being a victim and identity politics?

I pause, struck by the preposterous, real life example of actor Jussie Smollett, who appeared in court again last week, as one alleged to have intentionally utilized identity politics to concoct a well-defined victim status.

Why actually invent your very own victim status?

Remember that the rescuer comes to the immediate aid of the victim; the rescuer must help. The extent of the facts matters less than the potential depth of offense; the whole truth matters less. The rescuer heroically sweeps into the situation, saying, “Victim, let me help you.”

Together then, the victim and the rescuer create the villain.

Look again at Smollett — a victim in search of a rescuer. Smollett attempted to create a Trump-loving, gay-hating, possibly white villain. Said author Eboo Patel in his diversity blog: “He [Smollett] knew that there would be enough prominent people out there in politics, pop culture, activism, thought leadership, the media and liberal twitter to create a blizzard of support that might just snow over the facts of the case.”

Those prominent people played the role of rescuer. They snowed over the facts. There was zero accountability. When the rescuer and victim align, they forget the need for accountability.

Accountability means a person, institution, etc. must justify their actions or decisions; the facts must back up the feelings. But what’s happening in our current, reactive culture is that the rescuer runs in, aligns with the perceived victim, and creates the villain before all the facts are analyzed. 

That’s what’s happening in our politics…

That’s what’s happening in our media…

That’s what’s happening in us.

They/we are creating some pretty big villains. As comedic genius Billy Crystal once said, “The size of the villain determines the size of the hero. Without Goliath, David is just some punk throwing rocks.”

So I ask more questions than provide answers this day… what big villains are we creating? … where are we forgoing the prudent need for accountability? Where have we allowed the agreement of the victim and rescuer to serve in place of accountability? What role has identity politics played? And where have prominent people in the media played an unhealthy role?

More and more, people are tuning out politics and turning off the media.

“Too much drama,” they say…

Respectfully…

AR