hope deferred

Can I be real with you for just a minute?

I love words. I love the flow of the pen across an empty page. However, there are those moments when the thoughts are swimming inside my head longing to be free, but it is as if they are stuck somewhere between my mind and my hand. And those are the times when I am reminded that I need to just stop and do some soul listening. That, my friends, is what happened to me this weekend, and I am so grateful.

In mid-June, our friends, Scott and Mindy, their six children, two neighbors’ kids, Mindy’s brother, and Gracie (the family pet from Thailand) came to visit. This was a special visit for our family because it was the first time we got to meet the sweet Asian treasure that we had been praying for and supporting for over a year and a half. Levi came home to his forever family on April 22, 2017. Never before have you seen love given so freely, without reservation, or a heart so grateful for EVERYTHING!!! And when I say everything, I mean everything. His smile, it lights up the room. You would never believe that you are looking at the same child if you saw a picture of him from nearly four months ago and a picture of him now.

Long after their return to Florida, my friend Mindy posted one of the last pictures of Levi in China and talked about his sad eyes… his sad, empty eyes. Those pictures brought to life, for me, more than ever the Proverb that says:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

My eyes were quickly drawn to two words: “hope” and “deferred.”

Hope… that trust or reliance on, desire accompanied by expectation of fulfillment…

And…

Deferred… to put off, postpone…

Therefore, hope deferred would be to put off or postpone trust or desire. When hope — something we are trusting in or believing to come about — is deferred or put off/postponed, it truly does make the heart sick. The sick heart, the sad, empty eyes — you’ve seen them. I have seen them. We have all seen them whether we like to admit it or not… the pictures of the starving children, with the bloated bellies, in Africa… the rough and tumble group of siblings facing yet another move and another family because they are caught in the foster care system with what seems like no end in sight… or the Chinese treasure who has been sitting in an orphanage for 1,683 days waiting for someone to love him and to love on.

The coolest part of this Proverb is not the sick hearts nor the deferred hope; the coolest part of is that: a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. The longing of a heart fulfilled brings forth hope anew. That which was once on the verge of death is brought to life! This is a love so freely given. This is a heart that is finally set free… this is Hope Deferred…

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you and piercing me
What brings you so much pain?
What could it be?

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you begging to be free
What brings you so much heartache?
What could it be?

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you longing to see
Hope spring alive
Could it really be?

Hope no longer delayed
Empty eyes cease to be
Life springs forth and the heart is set free.

Dedicated to Levi Simeon Wise… thanks for letting me be a part of your circle of love.

Respectfully…
LJ

does evolution make sense?

I recently read an article (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/us/darrow-bryan-dayton-tennessee-scopes-statues.html) about a statue of Clarence Darrow being erected in front of the courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee, where the famous Scopes trial was held in 1925. I was interested in one of the comments about the public having an aversion to scientific findings regarding the evolution/creation debate.

I should state at the beginning that I am a believer in Biblical creation. I don’t believe that the Bible contradicts science. I believe that without an orderly, designed creation, there couldn’t be any science. True science, I believe, is based on observable, repeatable events that can be depended on to occur, not presuppositions of things that cannot be observed from the past.

Just as a house or a car need someone who knows what they are doing to conceive of it, design it and make a blueprint, this cosmos needed a wise, knowledgeable being to design and create it. I was in a class where the teacher read a quote from an atheist scientist that if he didn’t know better, it looked like the animal he was studying had been designed. I’ve also read articles that state that parts of animals, like the eyes or wings, etc., could not have evolved little by little. To function, they had to have been created in one step.

I believe that it takes more faith to believe that the universe evolved from nothing to simplicity to complexity than it takes to believe in an intelligent being who thought of it all and created it from nothing. If you go back millions of years to the very beginning, the question remains:

“What was there before the beginning of things, and how did it begin?”

I believe that the intelligent being was God and that He has always existed and is outside of time. I believe He created everything out of nothing. He is described as being “self-existent” and the “uncaused cause.”

It’s not as important to me how long people think it took for God to create the universe, or how long ago it was. But I do believe that the creation narrative is true, in that it says that God created the plants and animals after their own kind, to reproduce their own kind. If you plant an apple seed, you get an apple tree. I will admit that there are mutations and variations within kinds (species), such as the different species of the cat family – house cats to lions and tigers. And lions and tigers can even mate and produce offspring. But I do not believe that one kind can change into another kind, as the theory of evolution suggests.

I believe that as humans, we enjoy and appreciate beauty, nature, music, etc. because a mind that can create those things in the first place placed the enjoyment of them in our minds. When I see a dead animal in the road, I am repulsed. I wonder why humans are repulsed by death and decay, and it occurs to me that it is because death is not natural to us. If we evolved by survival of the fittest, it seems to me that we wouldn’t care if things die and decay.

Ultimately, Biblical creation makes more sense to me than evolution.

Respectfully…
SF

[Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash]

how many cups?

There were two other scary incidents that could have been life threatening to Sam. They were in addition to the times I personally threatened his life.

The first was the grill brush. It was an industrial strength brush hanging on a bar designed for grill accessories on the side of the grill. It was heavy plastic with a brush made of one-inch long, very stiff stainless steel. It was a sturdy sucker-I could have scraped the asphalt driveway clean down to the gravel beneath. The grill was sitting in a corner of the deck covered by a vinyl cover-out of sight, out of mind. Apparently, it wasn’t out of Sam’s mind.

We frequently left Sam and Meg outside in the backyard, safe within the confines of the Invisible Fence. They loved to lie on the deck in the sun. Like a child, we couldn’t leave Sam alone for long or he’d find something to do, and this time he thought he would clean the meat flavor off the grill brush. Maybe he thought he was helping, like doing the dishes.

I found what little was left of the plastic handle lying in the grass. There was no sign of the steel brush anywhere. I even got down on my hands and knees to look for pieces hidden in the grass, but I found nothing. He could have munched it anywhere and discarded it. He was never selective about dining ambiance.

I started to seriously worry about the metal pieces perforating his stomach or intestines trying to pass through his body, and a possible trip to the emergency clinic in the middle of the night. No sign of distress the following two days, but on the third, Ed was doing poop patrol before mowing and yelled, “Lin, come out here. You’ve got to see this!”

I walked up, looked where he was pointing and burst out laughing. There it was: a huge pooh that looked like an explosion of mangled Brillo, all spikey and metallic. It must have hurt a lot, like passing ground up tin cans. It was really something, and we laughed about it for days.

The next eating extravaganza was expensive. I used manure-based fertilizer for many of the flowering shrubs around the house. The ten pound bag was too heavy to lug around, so I filled a five gallon bucket about three-quarters full. As I worked my way around digging trenches around the drip lines and mixing the fertilizer into the soil, I had my back turned to the bucket sitting several feet behind me.

I heard Sam behind me somewhere, but I had my head in a Rhododendron, and wasn’t paying him any mind. I had no idea he was following and eating the fertilizer as I worked. Ed came out of the garage and caught him with his head in the bucket.

“Sam! Get out of there”! he yelled.

I turned and looked, and saw Sam’s entire snout covered with the fertilizer. Good grief. How long had he been sneaking the stuff, and what’s in it besides pooh? We knew Sam loved to eat deer and bunny poop, so this was probably a culinary convenience-just stuck his head in a bucket. No rooting in the grass required.

Ed grabbed the bag and started reading the ingredients. To be safe, I called the poison control center. I never had reason to call the doggy poison control center before, and wasn’t aware you were required to charge a rather large sum to a credit card before anyone would speak to you that knew anything about anything. They weren’t in it for philanthropic reasons.

First a tech, or someone like that, asked a lot of questions. I repeated the same answers to the same questions when the vet finally came on the line. At least I assumed he was a vet. He could have been a plumber for all I knew.

I gave Sam’s age, weight, rattled off the ingredients, but could not say exactly how much Sam had ingested. The doctor wanted to know how many cups.

“I wasn’t serving tea”, I snapped. “He was sneaking it when I wasn’t looking”!

After a somewhat frustrating conversation, it was suggested I take him to a vet. Ours was closed for the day, so we piled Sam into the van, and off we went to the Emergency Care Center.

The big goof was as happy as a clam to meet so many new friends. He greeted everyone in the waiting room, went from chair to chair, wagging and smiling, as if he wasn’t about to empty our bank account. He reminded me of a smarmy politician working a crowd. He did everything but kiss babies.

After explaining the situation at the front desk for a third time and filling out the required paperwork, Sam was whisked off to the back. Thankfully, no one asked, “how many cups”?

An hour later a doctor came out to tell us Sam was receiving IV fluids, and they may want to keep him all night to keep an eye on him. She said the high iron content in the fertilizer could damage the lining of his stomach. I almost laughed at that. His stomach was made of iron! She said to hang around for a while, and she would let us know. Cha-ching went the cash register in my head.

While we waited we could hear what sounded like Sam’s deep bark in the back. He didn’t sound ill. In fact, he sounded rather boisterous. It was his happy bark. The doctor came out to give us an update, and I asked her if that was Sam barking. She laughed, and said, “Yes. He’s barking at the cats in the cages. He’s a happy boy, isn’t he? Everybody loves him”. Yeah, everybody loves him.

Four and a half hours later, $522.00 poorer and with two prescriptions, we took Sam home. He had mild diarrhea for a couple of days, but was none the worse for wear. What a knothead.

I will say though, the Rhododendron’s looked splendid that year.

Respectfully…
Linda

 

[Sam and Friends, A Collection of Recollections of Life with a Knothead
With permission by Linda Kiernan July 2017]

doomsday?

Growing up in the inner city of South East Queens NY was a tough enough experience without having new fears to be concerned about with life in NYC in the ‘70s. In high school my science teacher, Mrs. Alvarado/Morales (I never remembered which was her maiden or married name), told us that we had to get prepared for a new phenomena soon to come in our lifetimes. The phenomena was the new Ice Age. She and others in the scientific community were sure that we were headed to an ice armageddon in our very near future. As is evident by the publications of the time, Mrs. Alvarado seemingly had sound evidence behind her claim — or did she?

This last article in July 1971 claims that in 50 or 60 years (which would be about 4-14 years from current date) we might have to have start growing gills. By now some of that evidence should be seen (it doesn’t exist). Wait. I thought ice freezes water — not liquifies it. So while we were sufficiently concerned, no one was panicking that this was going to happen — at least not anyone I was associated with at the time.

Fast forward to 2017… Now it’s global warming which quickly fell out of vogue. It is now “climate change.” The most important aspect of this new climate change frenzy is if you don’t believe in it as prescribed, many consider you a neanderthal, fool, or as Al Gore said July 13th in Australia, ignoring “the tradition of all the great moral causes that have improved the circumstances of humanity throughout our history.” He further went on to liken the climate change battle to “the abolition of slavery, woman’s suffrage and women’s rights, the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the movement to stop the toxic phase of nuclear arms race and more recently, the gay rights movement.”

Wow… Being a black man, I can’t imagine anyone trivializing any of these great struggles, especially slavery to climate change.

Climate change has become a new religion; if you disagree with the so-called faithfuls’ ideas on this subject, you might be shamed or rhetorically stoned. Those who present it as settled science that another dare not challenge, are some of the people who told us about the impending Ice Age years ago. The major difference today is how social media and the internet spread the propaganda.

I recently challenged my educated, knowledgeable cousin to prove how climate change really works; he couldn’t. He referenced many scientists who say it is so, and I mentioned scientists who say it is not. At best we had a draw. I asked him why is it ok to accept the thinking of the scientist who says it is so and not the other way around? Were they not all giving theoretical explanations? Again, we had a tie on the arguments at best.

I then asked him a simple question: “Do you know the Las Vegas Valley (where I live) and part of the Mojave Desert was part of an ancient body of water? What happened to it?”

In disbelief, he shrugged it off that this was a fact. I pulled the information from the UNLV site; it reads: “The Mojave Desert is located in the southwestern United States and is composed of Death Valley, Pahrump Valley, Amargosa Valley, the Las Vegas Valley and some of the surrounding areas.

The Mojave Desert region has oscillated in climate many times in the past. When man first arrived in the Mojave, it was not likely to be as desert like as what we experience today. While, no one is sure when man first visited the region, there is evidence for human activity over 10,000 years ago! That would have marked about the end of the Pleistocene era, a time when the Mojave was a much cooler and less arid environment. Portions of what are now vast expanses of desert, were likely shorelines of lakes, streams and marshes, and plentiful vegetation and animal life.

As the climate became hotter and drier, the lakes dried up, the streams receded, and left behind isolated ground water fed springs that contain species found no where else in the world, or ‘endemic’ species.”

So my cousin asked the same question you might ask, which is what the heck does this all mean?

It simply means that nature changes itself with or without mankind’s intervention. We have been measuring weather and keeping records for the past 150 years. We assume that the last 150 years have been the most significant because we must be the masters of weather patterns. We confuse weather which is constantly going through cycles as climate. Climate takes a significant amount of time to change as indicated above by UNLV. Weather can change day to day, year to year, decade to decade. 150 years is not statistically significant to call it a “crisis.”

I gave my cousin some additional examples, such as theories that say the Earth’s poles have shifted over the life of the planet. In other words, it is quite possible that the North pole now sits where the South pole is. After much debate, he admitted that there surely should be additional investigation and we shouldn’t declare climate change to be a settled matter. That was all I asked him and all I would ask you. I also asked him to follow the money line on this issue. Advocates like Al Gore are now worth somewhere between $100 and $300 million according to varied reports. They have made a considerable fortune, perhaps trying to be the modern Noah of the bible. They do this while often flying in Lear jets, limos and burning more carbon footprint in a year than most of us do in a lifetime.

My final conclusion is either someone was lying to me in the 1970s or lying to me now. Or could it be they are just misguided but believe they are smarter than us? I believe the Emperor has no clothes…

Who remembers Heat Miser and Snow Miser from that Christmas cartoon? They are opposite ends of the same idea… just like the Ice Age doomsday that was predicted and passed, as well as the new climate change.

Respectfully…
DG

 

a sick health care system

Most of the news coverage about Congress’ attempt to rewrite the Affordable Care Act may as well be on the sports page. It’s all about who’s winning and losing. Similarly, most of our elected officials stick to their shallow talking points because they are focused on winning politically, too. To talk forthrightly about health care means to acknowledge there will be trade-offs whatever public policy we pursue. Both parties are hesitant to face these realities head on.

We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but for some reason many of us seem to think that health care does, and we can have as much of it that we want or need. That is not the case. Health care is like any other good or service. There is not enough of it available for everyone to have as much as they desire. One way or another, there will be rationing. It’s just a question of how.

For most items in our economy, prices are the mechanism to determine who gets what. Some are able to afford the health care they desire at market rates, many can afford it only if they forgo different purchases, and others can’t afford it at all. We are a compassionate people and we don’t like to see others suffer. And so, through our government we have developed programs whereby costs are shifted from one group of people to another: from the poor to the rich (Medicaid), from the old to the young (Medicare), and from the sick to the healthy (Obamacare).

(Actually, the biggest cost shift is from the living to the unborn. All of these programs are financially unsustainable and are loading down future taxpayers with untenable amounts of debt. But that’s for another column.)

Taxes are just one way these costs are shifted. At least with taxes, though, we know who’s paying what. Increasingly, health insurance has become the vehicle by which costs are shifted. This method is particularly insidious, because the degree to which some are subsidizing others is not transparent.

Health care and health insurance are two different things. Traditionally, insurance is something you buy, but hope you never use. If you file an auto, home, or life insurance claim, that means something bad has happened. We willingly pay a relatively small amount of money to share the risk in the unlikely event something catastrophic occurs to us.

Health insurance is structured differently. You would never use your auto insurance to pay for an oil change, yet we use health insurance to pay for a routine check-up. Furthermore, it is common toward the end of the year when deductibles reset for a glut of elective procedures to get scheduled because that way someone else will pay for them. That creates upward pressure on premiums for everyone.

Also, both the federal and state governments require that health insurance policies cover a variety of treatments. At first glance this appears to be a benevolent gesture to force the big rich insurance companies to share some of their wealth. In reality, these costs get passed along to all customers, even those who wouldn’t buy that particular coverage if given a choice.

The regulation that has truly caused health insurance to not be insurance any more is the requirement that insurers cover pre-existing conditions. Consider if you didn’t have auto insurance and had a car accident, or if you didn’t have home insurance and your house caught on fire. If you called an insurance agent the next day and said you wanted to buy a policy and file a claim, they would likely laugh and hang up on you. However, if you didn’t have health insurance and were diagnosed with a costly disease, an insurer has to sell you a policy under current law. That’s crazy.

The Democrats’ answer to this conundrum was the individual mandate. Force everyone to buy insurance and nothing will be pre-existing. It’s hard to keep track of all the Republican reform plans put forth this summer, but some GOP proposals would have kept the politically popular requirement to cover pre-existing conditions but ditched the politically unpopular individual mandate. How about being honest with the American people? You can’t have one without the other.

Ultimately, we need to let health insurance be insurance again. Allow people to buy catastrophic coverage only and pay for routine procedures themselves. For those who can’t afford routine care, use public funds to pay for basic services, and reform malpractice laws for free clinics who provide charity care (again, a topic for another column). Don’t wreck the entire system in pursuit of an unattainable, utopian goal.

Health care is not a right. The irony is that treating it as such actually results less care for everyone, including the poor. How compassionate is that?

Respectfully…
Pete

mom guilt

I struggled this year. I struggled with what I needed to write. What would help someone along their way? …and I struggled. I even considered that the Lord had closed the door on my guest blog time, and yet here I am. I hope this meets you or someone you know along the road when you need it most. Thanks to AR for the invite again; it’s always such an honor.

I was walking with a fellow mom (who I will call P) along a beach path recently in Myrtle Beach. I am just getting to know her, as our sons played baseball together this year.

The husbands were taking a large group of the boys from the team to a local water park and most of the moms were spending the day on the beach. She looked at me like I had 3 heads when I said I was looking forward to a day of relaxing. She asked why I didn’t feel guilty for not going nor felt guilty for planning a day of relaxing at the beach.

I said, “No, I don’t feel guilty.”

I told her P we’re a better mom when we take time for ourselves, read a book, get a pedicure, sit on the beach or have lunch with a friend… doing these things all help us, not hurt us — in being a better mom. P told me she has a lot of guilt being a mom, and that her husband really feeds into the guilt. This conversation has been plaguing me for weeks and got me wondering how many moms feel this same way.

When I googled “mom guilt,” 493,000 pages came up! WOW! WOW! WOW!

I had no idea this was crippling so many moms. I then saw this quote from author Fay Weldon: “guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine.”

Webster’s defines “mom guilt” as tendencies a mom has to berate herself and to be judged by others for our child rearing decisions. A poll by Glamour Magazine asked men and women how guilty they felt about working after having kids. I was dumbfounded by the results: 87% of women and 0% of men feel guilty.

Let’s go back to my earlier time I was sharing while at the beach…

A group of us were having fun, enjoying the waves, the sun… some were napping, some were chatting… it was a great day. Throughout the day P kept asking if anyone had heard from our spouses and sons… “Do you think they’re ok?… Should I be worried that I haven’t heard from them?” I reassured her several times that it would be more concerning if we had heard from them.

I could see the struggle inside her on her face. It was sad; she’s believed the mom guilt lie. It’s the lie that says good moms don’t need a break — good moms are fulfilled solely by the time with their kids; “good moms _____________ (fill in the blank).” Friends, it’s a lie.

Focus on the Family describes taking time for yourself in this way…

Imagine running your car on low gas; it’s always a gamble, right? If you run out then someone has to come rescue you, fill up your car, and that takes away from two people — where if you had just stopped and filled up, you could’ve kept going. We are just like that car. If we are running our emotional and/or physical tank on empty, we can’t be the best for our family. We run the risk of running on low gas and that’s when tempers flare, feelings get hurt and meltdowns happen. If we had stopped and taken an hour, an evening, a whole day or even a weekend, we could’ve kept going at our best.

I’ll promise you this: the longer we let our tank run empty, the longer it takes to refill. Small stops of refilling when we’re a little low is much easier than if we let ourselves run bone dry.

I think I’ve become the strange lady in the grocery. When a kid is screaming and the mom is trying to regain control or maybe she’s not and just letting the kid scream, I’ve begun offering encouraging words. Sometimes my words are well received — sometimes they’re not — but I’ll keep saying them.

Let me end by saying parenthood is hard, and we’re all in the same kind of boat whether we see it or not.

So be kind; sometimes the sea of parenthood is temporarily smooth and sometimes it’s rowdy and the water is sloshing into the boat. So offer a smile, say a kind word, load a busy mom’s groceries into her cart, be kind to each other, and mostly be kind to yourself.

Respectfully…
AW

 

[Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash]

an american millennial… overseas…

Change has never been an unfamiliar thing for me. In fact, 18 years and eight life-altering moves later, change is something I welcome into my life.

As a little bit of a background, my mother works for General Electric (GE) as a Human Resources manager. In the past we have gladly followed her across the country. It was no surprise when she came home and told us that she was wanted for a job in Cheltenham, England; we jumped on the chance to live overseas.

Following my high school graduation we packed up and left our house in Loveland, Ohio. My sister and dad were getting ready to start a new life, once again, this time “across the pond”. On the other hand, I was only staying for the summer before attending Penn State in the fall.

I’d like to think that with every move I learn something new and this move is no exception. Despite the fact that I have only been here for about a month, I have already noticed so many differences between America and the United Kingdom. Prior to immersing myself into this place I was under the impression that because we spoke the same language we would be the same; I was greatly mistaken. I have not only learned how difficult it is to assimilate to a culture completely different from my own — and that while this move is an amazing experience for me and my family — I am so blessed to be an American.

Before we left Loveland, I pictured this move like it was just another family vacation; like every day would be activity filled and all my Instagram followers would be jealous of my amazing summer. The truth is, after my mom and dad go to work, it is just my sister and I left to explore this fabulous new city we are in; we have covered just about every inch of it and slowly we are settling into our routines. However, even as we go about our daily lives the way we would at home, the world around us moves differently. Everyday I sit at the same table in the same bookstore cafe dressed the same as everyone else, but when I walk in, it feels as if I’m back in the high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit.

Living in Cheltenham is like living in the Hamptons of New York. Everyone there went to an expensive prep school and buys expensive clothes and drinks fancy coffee with their circle of friends they’ve known all their lives. A friend of mine that grew up in London and is now living here says that because she’s black she feels that people stare at her more here, where it is less common and for the first time in my life I knew exactly what she meant.

I never realized how proud I was of my beautiful country until I, so badly, wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July and here it was just a normal day. Whereas Americans wear their patriotism loud and proud, the Brits do not. They also don’t like when people look them directly in the eye or raise their voice. In America it is considered friendly to compliment strangers… I told a girl I liked her skirt and she looked completely shocked I was even speaking to her.

However, not all Brits are this reserved; in fact, one of the biggest things I learned upon interacting with them is that they are not all the same. Due to the fact that they were different from me, I wanted to put them all in one large category, but just like Americans, how they interact with you mostly depends on where they are from. Cheltenham feels more like a social circle that I am slowly trying to find a way into; it feels almost as if they don’t know how to talk to me rather than they don’t want to. On the other hand, people from Wales more willing to talk to anyone, and unlike the most Brits, they hug as a greeting. Generally speaking they are far more reserved than Americans, but each new one I interact with, I learn something new and I can’t wait to meet more.

As different and weird as it feels, this place is becoming our home. No, they don’t have any good Mexican food, but I think when I go to college (or “uni” as they call it here), I know my family will do well. The main reason we came here still stands; it is an amazing opportunity to see Europe. Already I have seen and experienced so many things. My goals and aspirations to travel have grown so much because of this move. I have also learned the importance of family and I am amazed at how much closer we have grown since this move.

I once had a teacher who, after telling her about how often I’ve moved, she asked where I called home. At the time I told her I didn’t know and she responded that it was sad I didn’t call any particular place home. But what I know now is that home is where you make a life for yourself and you have people that love and accept you no matter what. Overall, this move has taught me that I will always be an American (and proud of it), but if you surround yourself with people that love and care about you, then you have found home.

Respectfully…
HB

 

[Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash]

in search of common ground

As The Intramuralist guest writers continue through the month of August, today we wrap up a 4-part series exploring the reasons for the partisan gridlock in Washington and why each side talks about the other as evil, in search of mutual respect and a bipartisan path forward. If you’re just catching this entry, reviewing the previous installments – The Great Divide, Why One Would Choose to be Liberal, and Why One Would Choose to be Conservative – would be a helpful foundation. We are now In Search of Common Ground.

I began this escapade not knowing if I could complete it – certainly with no predetermined conclusions – but this exercise has provided a number of observations that have influenced my political worldview:

First of all, we itemized lists of extremist groups that choose to associate themselves with each side, socialists, militant atheists, moral relativists, and race baiters for the liberals, racists, anarchists, religious zealots, and materialists for the conservatives.

This brought my first observation: neither side describes themselves in those terms. You don’t hear liberals talking about abolishing capitalism or morality, just as you don’t hear conservatives promoting discrimination or theocracy. Each side tries to define the other as extremist. Why? Because if you believe your core values are threatened by the other side, you’re more inclined to write a check and get involved.

What should we do? Whenever one side talks about the other in extreme terms, stop listening.

Secondly, we explored a number of single issues that motivate some to vote one way or the other. In every case, the right answer is somewhere in between:

Environment vs. Business – Which do we need, a productive economy or to take care of the environment? The obvious answer is both.

Abortion – This is a tough one for those who believe any abortion is taking a life. But there is also no excuse for the abhorrent practice of partial-birth abortion. I’m comfortable with Bill Clinton’s declaration, “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.”

Guns – The right to own a gun is clearly in The Constitution. And there is absolutely no need for people to arm themselves with weapons whose only purpose is mass murder.

The right answers? In the middle, in the middle, and in the middle.

Then we examined the reasons one might choose to be liberal or conservative. The goal was not to prove ourselves right, but to understand the other. These analyses made clear that each persuasion has legitimate motivations for seeing the world as they do. So again, the right answer very well may be to combine the best of both rather than striving for one side to defeat the other.

But another observation bubbled to the top: liberals want the government to control economic outcomes, but stay out of our private lives, while conservatives want the government to stay out of the economy, but are far more comfortable legislating morality.

Are those even consistent philosophies? One begins to wonder if there truly are sets of core principles guiding each side, or are both simply cabbaging together collections of special interest positions in hopes that they add up to 51% of the electorate? For the left, democratic socialism, a progressive tax structure, gay rights, pro-choice, gun control, affirmative action, and social welfare. For the right, capitalism, tax incentives, evangelicals, pro-life, gun rights, reverse discrimination, and business. What do those positions even have in common? Who represents the common good?

And what would that common ground look like?

First of all, our government is out of control. We are $19 trillion in debt. It doubled under W., and it doubled again under Obama. Which means it’s growing not at a steady pace, but at a geometric rate. Like a virus.

We’re not going to fix that on the backs of poor people. Nor would we fix it if we took every dollar from “The 1%.” We’re not going to fix it by cutting all social programs, nor by not touching them. Nor can we fix it by continuing to write blank checks to the military.

Congress is sticking their heads in the sand pretending Medicare and Social Security have any hope of surviving the tsunami of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. Rather than fix them, they keep playing politics, pointing fingers at the other side, saying they’re out to get you.

The same games are played with taxes. The politicians keep arguing about tax rates, arguing over who is favoring the rich or engaging in class warfare. But what matters is tax revenue, how many dollars are collected. It’s possible that lowering tax rates – with the appropriate closing of tax loopholes – would increase tax revenue, which would be good for everyone.

It is a fact, the rich and the poor are getting farther apart. There are those who could afford to pay more. But we can’t turn around and spend it, otherwise we just dig ourselves into a deeper hole. And entitlements need to be reformed so they don’t incentivize not working. Right now there are flat dollar amounts that once you exceed them by a single dollar, you lose your entire benefit. You simply can’t afford to do that. We’ve got to make it so it is always in your best interest to work and earn more.

On social issues, it is completely understandable why a homosexual wants equal rights. It is also completely understandable why a person who believes that homosexual acts are sinful would be reluctant to grant them. This country is a beacon to the entire world that all men and women were created equal, both the homosexual and the evangelical. We’ve got to find a way to give the homosexual equal rights without making the evangelical’s sincere viewpoint illegal.

So all of this begs the question, why can’t our elected officials find these compromises? I think the answer is clear: Politicians care more about being re-elected than about accomplishing anything in office.

Ubiquitous gerrymandering has institutionalized this phenomenon. Gerrymandering doesn’t only create safe districts for the majority, but also the minority. The way you get a whole bunch of districts with 60% favoring your side is by creating a few districts with 80% favoring the other.

The result is that in many cases, general elections don’t matter, only the primaries. So primary voters no longer have incentive to elect a bipartisan moderate who has a better chance in the general. Activist primary voters are more likely to elect an extremist who will “go fight for you.” Translation: talk about the other side as evil.

We’ve got to find our way out of this. I find myself debating systemic fixes such as requiring bills to have a majority vote of each party, or if you don’t vote for enough bills that pass, you’re ineligible for re-election. Create incentives to work together and get stuff done. Nonpartisan redistricting commissions are certainly a step in the right direction.

But politicians aren’t going to oust themselves. The answer has to start with you and me. We have to hold politicians from both sides accountable for actually accomplishing things.

There are legitimate reasons one would choose to be liberal. There are legitimate reasons one would choose to be conservative.

Let’s quit talking about the other as if they were evil. Let’s combine the best of both sides. Let’s find common ground.

Respectfully,

MPM

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

why one would choose to be conservative

Today we continue our guest series on the legitimate reasons one would hold a particular political view. I again ask readers not to focus on their view, but the other, in search of common ground. Today we explore Why One Would Choose to be Conservative.

As with liberalism, we start with conservative extremists, not as representative, but for reasons that will become clear in the series conclusion:

Racists – There are no two ways about it, just as no Democratic presidential candidate since 1960 has received less than 82% of the African-American vote, those who are prejudiced vote in the other direction.

Anarchists – And those who would overthrow the government, for whatever reason, vote with the party who would at least limit it.

Religious Zealots – Those who would hold a literal interpretation of the Bible over our Constitution align with the party that wraps itself in religion.

Materialists – Greedy, filthy-rich people who want to keep as much as possible for themselves.

And just as with liberals, there are those who vote conservative because of their passion for a single issue:

Business – Attributing this country’s success to the strength of our free-enterprise system, some object to any restriction upon business whatsoever.

Abortion – Those who equate ending a pregnancy within the womb to murder.

Guns – It’s in the Constitution, so don’t you restrict my right to own any gun one iota.

And just as with liberalism, there are legitimate reasons one would choose to be conservative.

We again need to recognize that the labels have flipped over the years. European “conservatives” sought to preserve the monarchy the Americans (“classical liberals”) revolted against.

But today, generalizing, while liberals are by and large idealistic, conservatives tend to be more pragmatic.

They don’t necessarily disagree with the problems liberals identify, but they don’t think passing laws to fix them works very well.

And they definitely don’t see government as a very effective means of solving society’s problems.

At the core of conservatism is a belief in a free-market economy as clearly the most prosperous economic engine the world has ever seen, so much so that many equate the free market with freedom itself.

They believe that any government interference in that economy creates inefficiency. Less efficiency means less prosperity. Too much inefficiency, and we are no longer the economic powerhouse we could be.

Conservatives are far more comfortable with the disparate outcomes of the free market. They like to say that everyone is guaranteed equal opportunity, but not equal results.

As one conservative writer put it, “Man is flawed. This world is imperfect. Youth is fleeting. Life isn’t fair. Conservatives are comfortable acknowledging all of these things.”

But conservatives are afraid that the more we “rob from the rich and give to the poor,” the less incentive there is to drive economic activity, which means a lower standard of living.

Just as with liberals, there are a myriad of reasons one could be conservative. Socially, philosophers have debated for thousands of years whether standards of right and wrong stay the same forever or change over time. Social conservatives are more likely to believe in moral absolutes.

I again don’t want to be too cursory or over-generalize, but that pretty much captures it for me – let the free market do its thing, and interfere with it as little as possible.

So conservatives, is there anything important I left out? Or liberals, anything I glossed over? Remember, the goal is to understand each other, not insult the other.

Because next comes the hard part, In Search of Common Ground….

Respectfully,

MPM

Photo by Mitch Nielsen on Unsplash

why one would choose to be liberal

We’re embarking this week on a guest-written series exploring why people hold the political views they do. The goals are not to think maliciously of others, speak respectfully to each other, and hopefully find enough areas of agreement that could serve as the basis of an agenda the vast majority of us could support. See Sunday’s The Great Divide for the series introduction.

Each side has their extremists, and each side has their single-issue voters. Though unflattering, we will include them for both sides, as our conclusion will discuss how each poisons the tone of our political discourse. But the focus of our analyses are the very legitimate reasons one would choose to hold that political worldview. Today we explore Why One Would Choose to be Liberal.

I ask for your patience in discussing extremists. I am not saying they are representative of liberals, nor that the conservative extremists will be representative of conservatives. Why I include them will become clear by the end of the series:

Socialists – People who believe that the government should own the means of production, so business decisions could be made altruistically, rather than by greedy profiteers.

Militant Atheists – Those who want any reference to God completely removed from the public square.

Moral Relativists – Those who believe there should be no standards of right and wrong.

Race Baiters – If the African-American vote split 50/50 instead of 80/20, that would be the end of the Democratic party as we know it. So some politicians focus on keeping that voting bloc in line.

Similar to the extremists, each party has those who align with it for a single issue that is their passion:

Environmentalists – Some are extreme, believing that nature is more important than human beings, but most simply advocate protection of our environment, because this is the only earth we have.

Abortion – For some, this has become an all-consuming issue, preserving a woman’s right to choose.

Guns – Concerned about the high rates of gun-related crime and death in America, some seek to restrict the use of some or all guns or to make private ownership of firearms unlawful.

These are far from exhaustive lists. They are exemplary and will be used to make a point about how they affect our political discourse in the conclusion of this series.

But the primary point is that there are very legitimate reasons why someone would choose to be liberal.

To be clear, we must differentiate between classic liberalism and what it has come to be known as today. Classic liberalism focused on enhancing individual freedom and therefore limiting government. But modern liberalism, which has re-branded itself first to being “moderate” and now “progressive,” considers government to be a crucial instrument in protecting against social inequities.

In general, liberals sincerely care about people. That’s not to say that conservatives don’t, but when liberals see the injustices of discrimination or the inequalities between the have and have nots, they say to themselves, “That needs to be fixed.”

They tend to be a bit idealist. When they see one of these problems, they not only believe it should be fixed, but that it can be.

This idealistic care for people leads to a generally positive view of government.

Since real freedom can only exist when people are healthy, educated, and free from poverty, liberals believe the government should guarantee the right to an education, health care, and a living wage, while outlawing discrimination and pollution.

Then there needs to be a provision for taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves.

And they pay for all this by taking from those who can.

As one progressive website puts it, “Everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.”

There are, of course, many other possible motivations. I wish to be neither cursory nor exhaustive. Some are liberal more for social reasons than economic. In those cases, it is typically sticking up for the rights of a minority group of any sort – racial or otherwise – against being overrun by the majority.

And liberalism, which originally sought to limit government to protect the individual, has evolved to favor a strong central government to mandate the equality it so desires.

Fair enough? Any liberals out there who think I’ve left something out? Any conservatives who think I’ve used rose-colored glasses?

Just remember, the goal isn’t to convince me that liberals are evil, but to discover the legitimate reasons one would hold that view.

Next we will explore Why One Would Choose to be Conservative.

Respectfully,

MPM

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash