ray rice, the affordable care act, & a pit bull

Years ago, NFL running back Ray Rice hit his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, knocked her out, and drug her out of the elevator in which the altercation happened. Rice and Palmer were each highly intoxicated at the time. After celebrity media outlet TMZ released a video of the violent incident, Rice was released from the Baltimore Ravens and subsequently indicted on a charge of third-degree aggravated assault.

Said incident was serious, emotional, and prompting-of-immediate reaction. It was hard to watch that video. How people responded (and continue to respond) seemed dependent on their proximity of view.

From the viewpoint of some — especially those who have personally witnessed the horrors of domestic violence — Rice should be incarcerated for years. From the viewpoint of some others — maybe those whose focus is on football, and solely winning or losing — it was no big deal. And from still others — those who saw that Rice and Palmer married six weeks later — and continue to speak out against domestic violence — they see the experience as awful, hard, but yet a poignant story of redemption and reconciliation.

My point is: the proximity of a person’s vantage point matters. Proximity affects perspective.

Last week, the House of Representatives repealed Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act/whatever-is-politically-correct-to-call-it. For some — especially those whose premiums have gone down or who are troubled by the mere existence of the Trump administration — it was an awful, shameful thing. For others — whose premiums have skyrocketed or who have lost their desired coverage or doctor — it was to be celebrated. And yet, still from others — who realize that this has become a partisan debate, instead of realizing that neither ACA or a “repeal/replace” campaign mantra is totally good or effective and simply, the American healthcare system needs to be fixed — the reaction was mixed. As a wise friend said, “Healthcare needs fixing — doesn’t matter if it’s the ACA or not. But if both sides of Congress are not willing to sit down and work together to fix these things, nothing will change.”

On healthcare, too, our perspective is typically based upon where we sit… what we see… and how we — and those we love and do life with — are affected. The challenge is that multiple, valid perspectives exist.

Let’s try one more.

With all the plates spinning in the Intramuralist’s daily routine (house on the market, graduating senior, a few increased days of single parenting, etc.), I have become the new favorite customer at my local kennel (… at least I keep telling them I’m their new favorite…). Yesterday when I dropped off my animals, I had to step aside, waiting for a young man to exit with his pit bull.

As the man and his dog walked out, the dog asserted himself, attempted to lead, and attempted to go farther and faster than his owner desired. Immediately, the human involved here yelled at the pit bull; he was mad. “Stop it! You know better! Cut it out! NOW! The man was more than a little agitated.

From my close perspective, it seemed like that man was being a little harsh on the dog. It’s a kennel; there’s lots of other animals there; it’s easy to be distracted. But I quickly recognized there existed other perspectives that from my vantage point, I had no way of seeing… I had no way of knowing this pup’s past record of behavior… I had no way of knowing how this pit bull best responds to direction… and I had no way of knowing what else was affecting the dog owner’s day, which would in turn affect how he communicated with his dog — and with everyone else.

My point is that even though I was the closest to the man — and even though I had a pretty good vantage point — a vantage point which served as the basis for my opinion — there were still aspects I was incapable of seeing — aspects that might provide the basis for other, different, and yes, valid perspectives.

Can we recognize that multiple, valid perspectives may exist?

Can we acknowledge that most of the time, we are incapable of seeing all?

Or are we simply too stuck in thinking what we perceive is the only possible perspective?


college clashes and a little bit more

Beginning with an editorial intro from USA Today this week:

“At Claremont McKenna College in California, protesters blocked the doors to a lecture hall preventing conservative author Heather Mac Donald from speaking. At Middlebury College in Vermont, a professor accompanying libertarian author Charles Murray was injured by an angry mob. At the University of California-Berkeley and its surrounding community, protests against scheduled speakers have turned ugly.”

Last week bitingly-sarcastic (and in my semi-humble opinion, sometimes both incredibly witty and incredibly rude) conservative commentator, Ann Coulter, was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley. Coulter was invited by a nonpartisan, student organization. People protested. Violence was threatened. Berkeley attempted to postpone the event. Coulter eventually cancelled because of the rising intensity of security threats.

What has since ensued is a debate over free speech and the First Amendment on college campuses.

Again, from the USA Today editorial board:

“In just the place where the clash of ideas is most valuable, students are shutting themselves off to points of view they don’t agree with. At the moment when young minds are supposed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of arguments, they are answering challenges to their beliefs with anger and violence instead of facts and reason.”

USA Today does a good job in my opinion, moving this debate past the more simply-defined concept of the validity of free speech. This isn’t about free speech; it isn’t about what a person is not allowed to say.

It’s too avoidant to characterize the current college campus debate as questioning the right to individual verbal expression.

This dialogue is about an unwillingness to entertain opposing opinion.

I admit: entertaining opposing opinion is not the easiest to do. And so many who long ago left the college campus still struggle with said willingness.

So what’s happening on the college campus — which I assume includes some very smart people — seems an exaggerated manifestation of what we’re seeing on other societal avenues.

For some reason, a perceived growing number of people see the existence of opposing opinion as a threat. We can’t entertain it… we can’t listen to it… we can’t wrestle with any validity. We must resist any willingness to allow the opinion to exist. Here then, we see a stark contrast between intellect and wisdom… as a lot of bright people aren’t acting very wise.

I appreciate what Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in response. “Let her speak… If you don’t like it, don’t show up.” Note that Warren is no fan of Coulter’s, but knows the wisdom in allowing opposing opinion to exist.

In fact, perhaps what I appreciate most about this debate is the common ground crossing all societal, political lines. Warren, Bernie Sanders… Coulter… all seemingly hailing from a bit of the radical, political fringe… from the left and the right…


The polar-opposite, ideological, political fringe agreed.

Said Sanders, “I don’t like this. I don’t like it. Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.”

Exactly. This isn’t about free speech. This is about silencing those with whom one disagrees.

When we advocate for silencing, we simultaneously sacrifice wisdom.

We sacrifice wisdom when we are no longer willing to wrestle with the validity of opposing opinion.


flipping the bird

I love it when spring and summer welcome the way to warmer weather. Days lengthen and sleeves shorten, and at least in the mid and northern states, neighbors begin to commune more outside together.

One of my personal fave responses is rolling down the window, opening up the sun roof, and letting the music blare… maybe straight from the latest hit pop charts… maybe an 80’s throwback… maybe a little contemporary Christian mixed in, just to keep me grounded.

I love driving and living like this!

A couple weeks ago, we experienced one of those breakthrough days. The warmer weather had peeked through, but still wasn’t here to stay.

I was driving as depicted down a decently busy, more residential street, maybe going somewhere near 35 m.p.h. After the stopped light turned green, I pressed on the accelerator (and revved up the music) and started to go. But immediately, all of a sudden, a sharp red sports car gunned his gas pedal and turned right in front of me, causing me to stop and slam on the brakes.

I admit… I thought about my reaction for a prolonged nano-second, but then I hit my horn briefly, calling attention to the man’s actions. It wasn’t a long honk, but it was a honk nonetheless, bringing attention to the misdoings of the man.

Let’s be clear. I had the right of way. There was zero question. There was no existence of “gray” in this intersection.

The driver of the other car made a decision that was questionable. I had done no wrong. However, when his decision-making was drawn attention to, he promptly responded by sticking his hand up and out his open window, and flipped me none other than the infamous, disrespectful “bird.”

Did I have to honk? No.

Was it wrong for me to honk? No.

Did I lay on my horn and exaggerate any offense? No.

I simply called attention to the choice of another that was questionable at best. He couldn’t handle the question. Let me say it one another way: he wasn’t willing to handle the question.

It thus made me wonder how often we do that… how often we can’t handle the question. And instead of dealing with our own responsibility, our own culpability, how our own decisions potentially negatively influence others, we are quick to flip that bird, so-to-speak… we are quick to deflect all attention so that we never have to wrestle with personal responsibility.

Perhaps we intentionally or unintentionally exaggerate or share a mistruth… “yeah, but he… she lied first…”

Or we treat someone rudely…  “yeah, but he… she… they were mean to me…”

Or maybe we simply refuse to forgive… “they hurt me… don’t you know that? … don’t you know what they did?”

How often do we deflect the blame?

Better yet, how often do we ignore our own involvement? How often do we allow the behavior of another to prompt the denial of personal responsibility? How often do we refuse to acknowledge ethical, moral, or relational wrongdoing simply because it’s easier to point fingers at any who call attention to it?

People… parties… us.

It’s tough. It’s easier just to flip those birds. Regardless of season.