a letter to my sons

Dear Sons,

Oh, how I love and respect you. What an incredible privilege it is to be your parent. You are older now — on your own in many ways. I wanted to take a few moments to briefly revisit some important things your father and I have long attempted to instill in you. Granted, you are fairly independent now… it’s up to you…

Seek God first.

There is so much available to you on this planet… so much to strive for, seek and find. Embrace, enjoy, but don’t let the fleeting distract you, as this planet is not perfect, paradise, nor anything even close. It is not heaven and should never be confused as such. That means you will encounter sin and struggles in both others and yourself. Give others and yourself generous grace; pick yourself up when you fall and continue to grow. Welcome godly conviction but not human condemnation. And don’t point fingers — again, not at others nor at self. Finger pointing too often evinces hypocrisy.

Love your neighbor well.

Seeking God first means you attempt to follow what he asks of us. He asks us to love both what and who he created. It’s why we take care of both his people and his planet. Unfortunately, you will be tempted to love well only those who think, look, act and even vote like you. Don’t fall prey to that limited thinking; it takes even the intelligent down. Love the neighbor and the stranger. Respect them. Interact with them. Ask them questions and listen to their response. Ask them more. Know, too, they are always welcome at our table. 

Prioritize what is good and right and true.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Grace. Faithfulness. Forgiveness. Family. Friendship. Gentleness. Laughter. Humility. Service. Selflessness. And self-control. Never allow anything lesser to pierce what is good.

Pursue the truth.

Discerning what is true is a centuries-old challenge; it’s not always clear. Understand that what you feel doesn’t always line up with what is true. Your feelings are valid, but they are not necessarily indicative of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Also, your experience does not equate to everyone else’s reality. Know that. Be humble. And never let these learnings halt your pursuit.

Eat your vegetables.

Yes, ok… that’s not really the best way to say this, and I haven’t always modeled this well. I have much to learn. The bottom line is for each of us to be healthy — to intentionally care for our body — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. If you are off in any of the three, you are most likely off in all. But again, give yourself great grace. It’s ok to not be ok.

Treat a girl like a queen.

I’ll be honest; this is a tough one these days, but I will not stray from what your father and I have always taught you. Girls long to be cherished; boys long to be respected. Never withhold your love and respect. From either. But be careful. Not everyone holds the same values as you, especially in regard to all of the above; some have not yet found that guiding moral compass. That doesn’t make another bad, but it does mean you must be careful about any potentially compromising situation. Don’t go too far with someone you don’t love, especially in regard to time, topic, and touch. Build friendship first. Be kind always.

And lastly, when panned or praised, criticized or commended, accused or absolved, always remember the first three above…

Seek God first…

Love your neighbor well…

Prioritize what is good and right and true.

All will not always go well for you. But if you follow the above, you should sleep very well at night. You will have peace.

Love you, sons… always and all the time…

AR

so now what?

This last week has been a political soap opera. With all due respect to both the bold and the beautiful, this week has been awful. 

Not awful because a woman was finally given an opportunity to speak. Not awful because a man was finally given an opportunity to clear his name.

Awful because of how we have behaved.

Flip from one news source to the other… from FOX to CNN… MSNBC to the Weekly Standard… HuffPo to WaPo… the New York Times to the New York Post. You’ll read what you want to hear… “There is no way she is lying!” … “There is no way he is lying!” … “The gaps in her story don’t matter!”… “A 35 year old accusation doesn’t matter!”… “How dare you don’t believe her!”… “How dare you slander him!”… “How dare you!!”

In other words… how dare you think differently than me.

Sadly, we have been encouraged to believe only one perspective is right.

Sadly, we have been encouraged that because only one perspective is right, all other angles are either evil, ignorant or idiotic.

And sadly, we like to say so. Sometimes meanly.

No wonder many of us have chosen simply to tune it out. No wonder many of us just want to say our peace absent of any dialogue. No wonder many of us, too, find comfort in social media’s partisan echo chambers.

Friends, I, too, have not handled all things well. I can get riled up sometimes; this has been awful. But let me humbly share with you what I sincerely believe…

I believe that last week we witnessed two honorable people share what they believe to be true.

I also believe that the media has egged us on…

… and our politicians are playing politics. There is zero doubt in my mind that political motivations drove much of the tense conversation in last week’s Senate chambers.

There gathered what a wise friend termed “the layout of the representation of America. We had the Texan, the Southerner, the New Englanders, the Hawaiian, the West Coast, East Coast. It didn’t matter if they were Republicans or Democrats; they collectively showed the divide, the anger, the incivility, the circus that is our country.”

That’s what’s awful. Do we even want to be civil again?

When Sen. John McCain passed away last month, some said at times he was “the conscience of the nation.” He encouraged civility. He encouraged respect. He did not want to fuel the divide. In his final statement, in fact, he wrote: “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.” Those tribal rivalries aren’t just across the globe; last week they were on display in the U.S. Senate.

So now what?

Will we humble ourselves?

By that I mean… will we quit acting as if there is only one right perspective?… will we quit disparaging the person who holds a different perspective? … will we quit hanging out with the one who thinks differently? … will we quit learning from them? … will we quit telling them that they need to think like us? … will we quit judging and insulting them if they don’t think like us?… will we quit thinking that one party is a beacon of purity and the other is evil? … will we quit dwelling in partisan echo chambers? … will we quit thinking that we are so moral and the other party is so not? … will we quit turning a blind eye to the obvious political ploys in the party with which we most identify? … will we quit ignoring that they are manipulating both citizens and situations for their benefit? … will we quit engaging in personal attacks? … will we quit relying on those biased news sources for accurate news? … will we quit?

Will we quit throwing stones at one another?

Sadly, too many believe we must keep throwing stones. One month, it’s one party — the next, the other. And we justify the throwing by our tribal likeminded because “those guys did it first.” Do we not realize by continuing to justify the throwing of stones, we are doing damage? We are not being humble; we are instead contributing to the circus; and we are making things worse.

So again… now what?

Humbling ourselves, each of us — meaning respecting and loving our brothers and sisters, neighbors and strangers, no matter how different they look, act, vote, and think like us — such is the only honorable way. 

Sure, that sentence is a little klunky. But I want to be clear. Respecting, loving, and interacting with the one who is different than us is the only honorable way.

Respectfully…

AR

a sobering but important read…

On August 5, 2010, Elena Kagan was confirmed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. She was nominated by Pres. Obama, after previously serving in both his and Pres. Clinton’s administrations. Kagan was the first nominee with no experience as a judge since William Rehnquist in 1972. Ideologically, she is considered to be liberal. (She also hired current nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh when dean of Harvard Law School.)

In her confirmation process, a letter from Miguel Estrada was shared. Estrada commended Kagan for possessing a “formidable intellect” and “exemplary temperament.” Ideologically, Estrada is considered to be conservative. Estrada still believed a President has the prerogative to nominate judges who share his/her governing philosophies. Hence, different as they are, Estrada felt Kagan was “an impeccably qualified nominee.”

Move to today’s Supreme Court squabble, where many have referenced the former controversy surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas. Allow me to humbly suggest we should also look at what happened to Miguel Estrada — and to his family. He, too, was once nominated…

Having received a unanimous “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, Estrada was nominated in 2001 by Pres. George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. [According to Wikipedia] “Senate Democrats, claiming Estrada was a conservative ideologue with no experience as a judge, and unable to block his nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Republican Party took control of the Senate in 2002, used a filibuster to prevent his nomination from being given a final confirmation vote by the full Senate.”

More from Wikipedia:

“… Leaked internal memos to Democratic Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin mention liberal interest groups’ desire to keep Estrada off the court partially because ‘he is Latino,’ and because of his potential to be a future Supreme Court nominee. A spokesman for Durbin said that ‘no one intended racist remarks against Estrada’ and that the memo only meant to highlight that Estrada was ‘politically dangerous’ because Democrats knew he would be an ‘attractive candidate’ that would be difficult to contest since he didn’t have any record…”

Estrada was nominated in May of 2001. After 28 months in political limbo — including seven failed cloture votes, six months of filibuster use, and continuous political posturing — Estrada withdrew his name from further consideration on September 4, 2003.

Summarizing the account… “Numerous judicial nominees prior to Estrada had been kept off the courts, when the Senate refused to let the nomination out of committee for a floor vote… but the Estrada filibuster was different in multiple ways. Estrada’s was the first filibuster ever to be successfully used against a judicial nominee who had clear support of the majority in the Senate. Estrada’s was the first filibuster of any court of appeals nominee. It was also the first filibuster that prevented a judicial nominee from joining a court.”

Oh, how sobering this is. Can we not admit that political motivations are in play? … from all sides? 

… with the Democrats on Estrada… the Republicans on Merrick Garland… 

And now — regardless of whether or not Dr. Christine Ford is telling the truth — can we not admit that both the Democrats and Republicans are still playing political games?

This is disturbing. 

But sadly, it gets worse.

During the confirmation process of Miguel Estrada, his wife, Laury, suffered a miscarriage. Then, a year after her husband’s name was both damaged and withdrawn, Laury passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. Persons on all sides of the proverbial political aisle could not help but wonder how much the unprecedented stress of those 28 months painfully impacted their family.

What are we doing? Who will be maligned next?

Can we stop for a moment, recognizing that both sides are playing games, and as the watching public, we are fueling the fight when we justify the game playing by one??

At the onset of the Trump administration, Miguel Estrada was rumored to be a candidate for the nation’s next solicitor general. Estrada released a statement: “I have only respect and best wishes for those who agree to serve despite the deterioration of the confirmation process over the years, but everyone who knows me in this town knows that I would never accept a job that requires Senate confirmation…”

The deterioration of the process… that’s it.

Regardless of what happens this week and next with Ford, Kavanaugh, and seemingly, “As the Senate Turns,” I pray no one finds cause to celebrate. The process remains deteriorated… that is, until we quit taking sides, tolerating solely the games of one.

Respectfully…

AR

a few more words on Kavanaugh & Ford

So allow me to humbly offer a few more words…

What I appreciate in the current #MeToo moment is the breakthrough of speaking truth to power, giving women an honored voice where for too long there has been a consistent none.

What concerns me in this moment is the breakdown of some key societal norms that have long been considered wise, such as being innocent until proven guilty and truth not discerned via gender, ethnicity, or other demographic.

Unfortunately, I feel we’ve lost our way somewhat. Our emotions have clouded our perspective.

How we feel is dictating our truth.

We have become biased. And most of us can’t see it in ourselves — only in others.

Every accuser deserves to be heard, friends. But every accuser does not deserve to be believed.

Again, allow me to reiterate my desire to humbly address this heartache; this is indeed a tough, multi-faceted subject. For those I’ve walked with who have severely struggled to recover from such trauma, I have grieved and cried with them… too often, gut-wrenchingly for years.

I have also walked and grieved and cried with numerous others — with no judgment whatsoever — who have lied.

I’m not really comfortable with the word “lied” in that sentence; sorry — it actually pains me to post it. In my experience, it hasn’t always been a boldface lie, but more a distortion of truth. Some women and men do distort truth… often sincerely, albeit knowingly or unknowingly. Having experienced that multiple times, it affects my current perspective.

The reality is that we often gauge our perception on whether a specific accuser is telling the truth based on our own experience.

Friends, with all due respect, that is an inaccurate gauge. 

We can’t tell whether Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh is telling the truth based on their gender or our experience. We can’t tell without any sworn testimony or collaborating evidence. I am sorry we can’t immediately tell; no doubt that is currently a most inconvenient truth for a watching nation with far too constant, breaking news. But what we know is not enough. We don’t know enough to base a belief on fact; we only know enough to base a belief on bias.

What we also know — that also greatly disheartens me — is that many of our elect are politically motivated. That’s on the left and right, friends. And if Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh are each sincere in their perspective — which is quite possible — our elected politicians are doing a disservice not only to us, but also, greatly to them. I  am highly disappointed with the political motivations that are obviously in play… and also, by our narrow vision that only allows us to see those unscrupulous motivations on one side…

Of course, the Democrats want to delay this.

Of course, the Republicans want to be done with it.

Both parties are clearly, politically motivated.

And so I find myself not trying to find compromise, so-to-speak, but rather, attempting to best discern what here is good and right and true. 

That’s hard. Really hard.

I get tempted to base my perception of truth on how I feel…

… on my own experience…

… on my political leanings…

… on my sobering frustration with the entire Senate Judiciary Committee…

But that is not enough to discern truth.

Hence, with this situation seemingly only feeding the divisiveness that partisans on both sides continue to fuel, the only wise thing I know is for each of us to pause, humble ourselves, and pray. Pray for truth to be revealed.

Join me. 

Will you?

Respectfully…

AR

Kavanaugh questions

With the latest developments in the Supreme Court confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Senate leaders called for a public hearing next Monday. At the time of this posting, accuser Christine Blasey Ford has not accepted the Senate’s invitation; hence, the hearing may not happen.

But assuming it does, according to Senate rules, the question-asking of those testifying before a committee can be assigned to any individual. Recognizing that unpretentious, respectful, truth-seeking questions are most necessary, the Intramuralist has been assigned to the task before us. Under oath, I’d sincerely like to ask the following…

To the accuser…

  • Is this true?
  • Is any part of this exaggerated?
  • Why do you remember specifically what happened but do not remember where you where, when you were there, and why you were there?
  • Why did you edit your social media accounts to remove previously posted progressive ties?

To the accused…

  • Is this true?
  • Is there any angle or aspect which is partially true?
  • How well have you known your accuser?
  • Did any of your friends have a relationship with her?
  • How have you grown or changed emotionally and spiritually since high school?

To the Senate Judiciary Committee…

  • Who leaked this story?
  • Why?
  • Sen. Feinstein, why did you wait 7 weeks before sharing this information?
  • Why didn’t you ask Kavanaugh about it in committee or in a private, closed door session?
  • Did you intentionally withhold this information for political reasons?
  • Sen. Grassley, why did you immediately suggest the vote would go on as planned and not take time to listen to the accuser?
  • Do you not believe that every accuser has a right to be heard?
  • Are you intentionally rushing hearings for political reasons?
  • Democrats, since many of you admitted you would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh even before meeting him and hearing his testimony, how much of this is:
  1. an attempt to delay in hopes of getting closer or past the midterm elections, hoping to fan the flames of the #MeToo movement? Or…
  2. an attempt to damage Kavanaugh’s credibility as a future justice? 
  • Republicans, since many of you admitted you would vote to confirm Kavanaugh even before meeting him and hearing his testimony, how many of you are actually willing to sincerely listen to the accuser and consider her account as potentially true?
  • To all of you, what other motives are in play?
  • Do you recognize that your lack of objectivity is making many of us wish to support none of you?
  • And do you realize that your behavior is prompting many of us to lose respect for our government?

And to those of us watching…

  • Why do we allow our partisan leanings to sway our perception of truth?
  • Are tribal lines more important than truth?
  • Where have we not believed the accuser because we liked the person she accused?
  • Why do we respond differently to whether the accused is Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Keith Ellison or Kavanaugh?

And more…

  • In the #MeToo movement, should the accuser always be believed?
  • On whom rests the burden of proof?
  • Do we recognize that for the accuser who is telling the truth, it takes tremendous courage to speak up even after many years?
  • Is it possible that Ford is telling the truth, but got the person wrong?
  • Could Ford and Kavanaugh both be telling what they believe to be true?
  • Does evidence matter?
  • Do witnesses matter?
  • Does a non-criminal scenario this old matter?
  • And can we admit that the only two people in the entire world who have some semblance of the truth are Christine Ford and Brett Kavanaugh? … and that none of us… none of the rest of us… can specifically discern what happened?

We weren’t there.

(I’m not the question-asker either.)

Respectfully…

AR

race, in the airport…

“F- – – YOU!”

“F- – – YOU!” (…a little louder than the last…)

And as it was said at least three more times each, my African-American friend in-line and I looked at one another, grimacing, disheartened by what we had sadly just stood between.

My respite this summer included a variety of interactions and travels… some with family, some with the familiar, others still to a foreign land.

On one such venture, I was traveling alone, attempting to grab a quick bite before catching my next flight. I stopped in the airport at one of those make-your-own, fast-fire pizza joints, hoping to grab something quick and be distracted by nothing else. Unfortunately, I was distracted immediately.

The pizza place was packed. The lines were long, the pace was fast, and the workers were seemingly drowning, attempting to simply keep up. 

It’s tough when you’re drowning; you’re trying to keep up at a minimum, survive it seems, maybe do the best you can; but at the very least, the desire is simply to hold all things together. The staff here was trying, but it was challenging at best. Smiles were at a minimum. Scarce, in fact. Ok, nonexistent. The chaotic pace had zapped any otherwise present joy.

I met a young African-American male in line; our conversation was brief but solid — each in search of a brief respite before our connecting flight.

The pizza place staff was very ethnically mixed — black, white, Hispanic. The manager was a middle-aged white male, who by all accounts, was also in a pretty steely mood; in restaurant terminology, he was totally, completely “in the weeds.”

Prior to placing my order, there was a 30-something, African-American woman who placed her order. In addition to her pizza, she purchased an empty cup. She and what looked like maybe her mother took a seat a row behind my in-line friend and me, while her male counterpart stood at the counter awaiting her order… and yes, her cup.

So amid the crowd stood my newfound friend and me and the man who was retrieving the order for the African-American woman. We stood between the woman, the counter, and the store manager.

When the pizza was finally retrieved for the woman, the manager forgot to give her the cup. Her friend retrieved the pizza but failed to realize the importance of the cup. The woman started yelling — a semi-silent yell at this point. Her friend looked at her confusingly; he didn’t understand. She responded semi-loudly, “My cup! Don’t forget my cup!”

Her friend turned to the manager behind the counter, saying nothing, but politely gesturing and pointing to the cup. The manager — trying to manage at least 7 other orders simultaneously — was seemingly aware something was happening, but was unsure of exactly what it was…

“Get my damn cup! I paid for that damn cup!” the woman more loudly reiterated from a row away.

At this point, the manager seemed unaware of the specifics but very aware that one of his customers was annoyed with him and his marketplace. He looked up, seemingly stupefied at the perceived annoyance. He obviously didn’t care for the ratcheting up of emotion, and then started to get gruffer with those in his immediate presence, not realizing the cup was of chief importance. It mattered not… the woman continued…

“I paid for that cup! Check the frickin’ receipt!!” (Note: “frickin” is a substitute for the actual, so-called “French.”)

The manager proceeded to get hot. He grabbed a cup, gave it to the woman’s friend, but clearly, disrespectfully mumbled vulgarities under his breath. Meanwhile, the woman continued, dissatisfied at the lack of expedient service… 

“I am not a poor Nigger! I am not a poor Nigger! I can afford anything I want! Want to see my bank account?? I am not a poor Nigger!” 

She said it over and over again. My heart hurt for her.

The manager at this point was clearly, increasingly irked. He started shouting at her. Who said “f-you” first,” I do not know. They both just kept shouting at one another, focused most on their own circumstances, irritations and inconvenience.

My newfound African-American friend of mine… well, he and I just looked at each other, and sadly shook our heads. I was so thankful for him — for our bond amidst the discomfort. We both hated being there… being in the middle. If either of us could have made a significant difference, we would have done so. But here were two people who were clearly upset, and could see nothing other than their own circumstances. They could not see any other way.

I was thankful for my new friend. We shook our heads, nodding a sober goodbye, both wishing for something better and more.

We realized the absence of authentic communication — more so, the absence of any actual desire to communicate. We walked away, grimacing, disheartened by what we had sadly just stood between.

Respectfully…

AR

the Serena Williams experiment

So I ran a small, experiment this past weekend. Bear with me. It was a sincere, semi-intentional ploy, with no desire to manipulate, but to learn.

And learn I did.

Other than Intramuralist notifications, rarely do I post anything on my social media accounts other than an encouragement, expression of gratitude, or an especially clever comment by one of my kids. But as I was watching the U.S. Open women’s tennis final unfold, I decided to react.

Most are now aware of what happened Saturday night…

Tennis great Serena Williams had lost the first set to Naomi Osaka. Osaka was playing exceptional tennis. Early in the second set, Serena was beginning to rally, with the pro-Serena, New York crowd clearly rooting her on. Umpire Carlos Ramos then noticed a hand gesture from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, considered to be “coaching.” Under Grand Slam event rules, coaching is defined as “communication, advice or instruction of any kind by any means to a player.” It is not allowed. Hence, Williams was given a warning by the umpire. One of the controversies — as shared unanimously by the expert announcers — is that coaching violations are inconsistently applied.

Then after moving ahead in the second set, but dropping her serve to make it 3-2, Williams smashed her racket on the court in heated frustration. That is an automatic rules violation. Since it was Serena’s second code violation, she was penalized a point.

Not long thereafter, while sitting on the sidelines prior to the players changing ends, Williams continued to argue with the umpire. She passionately defended herself, saying she does not cheat, and that she was owed an apology. She was angry and loud. She accused Ramos of being a “thief,” having “stolen” the previously awarded point. Considered as verbal abuse, Ramos then assessed a third violation, resulting in an entire game penalty, putting Osaka up 5-3.

The arguing continued, with tournament officials even entering the court, with whom Williams would continue to plead her case. After an extended delay, play resumed with both players visibly shaken. Osaka would proceed to win, 6-2 6-4, but the umpire exited to a raucous chorus of boos, shared by fans obviously agitated with how Williams was treated. The boos continued during the award ceremony, silenced only when Serena asked the crowd to stop, wanting to ensure Osaka received her just acknowledgement and award.

Typically, when reacting to a controversial current event, I like to take some time and wrestle with all sorts of varied angles. I like to read and study and pray for discernment, seeking foremost to understand. I like to think things through… think who it affects… and think: “what am I missing?”

But in my small experiment, I did nothing of the sort. Instead… 

I reacted. I intentionally omitted context. I only posted the following: “I’ve never seen a US Open like this. Way to still handle it with class, Serena.”

The reality is that I never have seen an Open like Saturday night. The crowd’s reaction seemed unprecedented.

And handling it with “class”? That was in reference to Serena silencing the crowd in order to honor Osaka. I was — and still am — amazed at how in the moment, Serena felt called to console her opponent.

But in order to allow my only comment to focus on how Serena honored Osaka and handled the crowd, I had to ignore how Serena berated the umpire. Our culture isn’t very good at respecting authority, and if that was my kid out there, I would be disappointed and dismayed.

What is equally true is if I only focused on how Serena berated the umpire, I would have had to ignore the fact that on the men’s circuit, many are known to be significantly more emotional and vulgar — and not necessarily receive a code violation.

In other words, in order to make my point — in order to believe that only one perspective was correct — I had to ignore another angle.

And so I learned… when we react, when we omit context… when we fail to take the time to sort through varied angles, read, study, and pray for that discernment — we are most tempted to ignore something significant… something that might broaden our perspective… and something that might give us more grace for one who thinks differently. 

What are we missing, friends?

And how often should we be asking that question?

Respectfully…

AR

throwing the stone

“… They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, ‘The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.’”

Like many, this semi-humble current events observer listened to much of the Senate confirmation hearings for current Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Like many, also, this semi-humble current events observer eventually turned the hearings off.

While there did exist moments which were seemingly productive, insightful and indicative of both sincere praise and authentic concern, too many moments were partisan, disrespectful, and disappointing.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) seemed to sense something similar. While she is one who has expressed valid concern with Kavanaugh sitting on the high court, after multiple interruptions and disruptions, her opening statement on Wednesday included an actual apology to the nominee, saying, “I’m sorry for the circumstances, but we’ll get through it.” She was then immediately mocked by many on Twitter… for having the audacity to apologize.

How disappointing.

The confirmation process has become partisan.

Attack ads begin immediately. Senators make up their minds before meeting the nominee. Parties hold closed-door strategy sessions, hoping to derail the process. They focus on ensuring their tribe sticks together, as opposed to sincerely vetting and evaluating a potential, future judge. Maybe the tribe can disrupt the process; better yet, perhaps they can discredit the candidate going forward. It’s evident with some of the harsher opposition to Kavanaugh now, just as it was evident in 2016, when Pres. Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland was ignored.

That’s just it. Both parties do it.

And what’s sadly unfortunate, is that many of us suggest it’s ok. Wait…

It’s ok for one of them.

Why?

Because they threw the stone first.

Question: since when did any stone throwing become acceptable behavior?

As the summer of 2018 came to a close, one of the most bittersweet, beautiful occurrences was the gathering to celebrate the life and faith of Sen. John McCain. It was amazing on so many levels… hearing from his family… hearing from both political rivals and friends… being inspired by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

John McCain was a statesman. In fact, as I learned more from tuning into the multiple memorial services, few seemed as fierce as either friend or foe. But McCain still advocated for respect.

In some of the late Senator’s last words delivered on the Senate floor a year before his death, McCain shared the following:  [emphasis mine]

“… Our deliberations today — not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities — authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role — are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline — either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it…”

Who shot first?

Who threw the first stone?

It doesn’t matter… we’ve all played some role in it.

We, my friends, can do better. 

Respectfully…

AR

how great it is/was/is

WOW… how great it is to be back… I am eager and excited and pouncing to post as we get back in the swing of our weekly, respectful conversations.

But WOW… how great it was to feature our 10th annual Guest Writer Series… What a privilege it was to hear varied perspective from a diverse group of people! And how awesome it was to see the hundreds of you that read or participated in this year’s offering — including the many of you who privately reached out to say, “I can’t comment, but I’m reading and watching — and yes, learning from someone who thinks differently than me.”

Allow me to affirm and applaud that.

Since the origin of the Intramuralist, I have said that listening to me is not what’s most important. In fact (and listen closely, in case I’m never again quite so humble), sometimes what I write is wrong. Sometimes my perspective is off. And sometimes I don’t even know it. 

But in the world in which we now live, I never wish to insulate the echo chamber. Echo chamber residents only hear the sound of their own voice… their own opinion. And maybe an opinion is wise at one time… but if it never sharpens… if it’s never stretched… if it’s never challenged to say, “Look, there are other angles,” then I think we sacrifice the greatest wisdom.

I especially enjoyed the wisdom and other angles shared in this year’s series. This group of varied gender, ethnicity, faith, and political perspective had some poignant lines that made many of us think… i.e. 

“We have to allow ourselves to walk in the freedom of knowing that we are all on level ground; we are not so different from one another.”

“When five or more justices think they know better based on any reasoning whatsoever except for what the Constitution says, that is not democracy.”

“For many of us this ‘want-need’ struggle still affects our lives, especially if we are trying to follow the Biblical truths that address the acquisition of ‘getting’ and the teachings on ‘giving.’  But what if those truths mean we would really have more, not less?”

“When others have an offense against another, is it right for the offended person to hate the perceived hater?” 

“Many preach love, but discharge hate when the office holder is not in their camp. Many preach tolerance, but end relationships because of political views.”

“[Trump] could not have risen to power were it not for the toxic political environment that existed before he was elected. He knows how to take advantage of uncivil discourse, but it did not start with him, and it will not go away after his presidency unless we do something about it.”

“Hillary hears you and is intrigued by opposing viewpoints and tries to incorporate them into solutions. Voters rarely saw this side of Hillary.”

“To say we have not seen any change to race relations would not be truthful. To say there is not still much work to do would also would not be truthful. My advice is to acknowledge and embrace the positive changes that have occurred.”

“The bottom line is we all play a role in each other’s lives. We have to ask ourselves how we can be a part of the solution… Can we listen without judging?”

Great to ponder, no doubt. 

And so I return with much more to discuss… from Mollie Tibbetts to John McCain to a Bahamian grocery clerk who inadvertently taught me an eye-opening, humbling lesson… to witnessing the counter screaming encounter in the airport… to the excellent, diverse books I read… to attempting to discern where God’s compassion and sovereignty meet — and how many of us are better at embracing only one of those… to voting third party and the existence of the Electoral College… to Joe Biden, Lindsay Graham, the “three amigos,” and voting for the “nice guys”… to my young son’s profound lesson on racism — and what it taught me…

I love our Guest Writer Series for so many reasons — most of all, because it is the manifestation of welcoming diverse perspective, an excellent habit for us all. Note that I also love the intentional respite it provides, firing me up for a fruitful return.

“So let the games begin, friends!” Remember all are welcome to play.

We play sincerely, often seriously, but always, always, respectfully.

Respectfully Indeed…

AR

fixing the world

[Intramuralist Note: Today features Guest Writer #9 in our annual summer series; the opinions expressed may or may not be held by me, but I value the writer’s expression and their commitment to respect…]

My wife and I are very social. We love having friends and family over. We live in a tourist destination, so we have been fortunate and only once, unfortunately (it was the guest from hell – another blog post will detail that encounter), to host many of our family and friends in the 22+ years since we have lived here. Apparently, our adult girls have acquired or learned our social graces. Our house was always the home where apparently parents felt safe enough to leave their kids with us. We have watched our girls and their friends grow up to be mostly mature and productive young adults. Most have managed to get some college and vocational training. In fact a few not only have degrees, but advanced degrees. So I’m pleased where they seem to be headed. 

Each of my girls have their own places; in fact, my youngest is now a homeowner. My eldest is still working towards that. Somehow, however, our home is still a gathering place. Many Sundays, holidays or days off they seem to find a way to their old nest. My wife and I still refer to their rooms as “the girls’ rooms.” Even though they have not been in those rooms for at least 2 years, we still have memories that are mostly great for the 18 years or so they lived here. Some of those years had absences for both away schooling and a small military experience (another day’s article on that military experience, as well).

The interesting thing about their frequent drop-ins is that their friends seem to know when they are here and also drop in. So my food budget is seemingly ruined week after week. Most of them are pretty good eaters. They also don’t mind enjoying a few adult beverages. I still have some trouble handling that, as I am not a drinker, but they do drink responsibly, so I am comforted by that.

What my wife and I get from this obviously uneven exchange is we get to have a dialogue from 20 somethings. They are very vocal about likes, dislikes, social issues, politics, and entertainment. Thanks to them I can span the conversation from artists as diverse as Ed Sheeran and Elton John, from Beyonce to Kelly Clarkson to Drake. I have a playlist — thanks to my nephew — that rivals any top 40 station… did you know the groups Imagine Dragons and The Killers are both local Las Vegas bands? … did you also know the group Florida-Georgia Line actually originated in Nashville, Tennessee? … pretty cool, eh ? All these things I learned by listening or engaging in their dinner conversations.

So yes, we enjoy the dialogue, but what, do you ask, troubles this writer?

It seems this generation is looking to solve all the world’s problems in one swift stroke. They are concerned about climate change, political discord, racism, whether our food is from Non-GMO sources or not… we’ve discussed gun control, Black Lives Matter, the MeToo movement and other issues at our kitchen table’s version of the United Nations. All these issues are worthwhile causes to discuss. Every single issue represented here is worthy of its own blog piece. In fact, I wrote on climate change last year. AR, who is responsible for this space, must have also enjoyed it because she invited me to return this year.

The main difference that I explain to my children and their friends is that as mentioned, while these causes are worthwhile, their generation seems to want to solve every issue today. Today. In fact, it seems as if today is too late; these should have been solved yesterday. I have explained, for instance, that an issue like racism has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Using Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example, I have shared that in his iconic, 1963 “I have a dream” speech, he begins each stanza by saying, “I have a dream that one day…” In other words, MLK knew that to change minds and legislation, it would be an involved process. To say we have not seen any change to race relations would not be truthful. To say there is not still much work to do would also would not be truthful. My advice is to acknowledge and embrace the positive changes that have occurred. 

I still encourage them to continue to push for changes in racial equality and other issues they embrace, but to understand it will change only through smart, strategic methodologies. Shouting down people you disagree with politically or otherwise just makes a lot of noise and prompts sound bites on the evening news. Saying that, I don’t suggest people should be passive, but instead seek out likeminded people and organizations and craft ideas to truly help — not solely incite and inflame. 

In speaking with the younger folks, I see the passion in youth desiring change. What I don’t always see is full knowledge of the issues. Their understanding is often at an emotional level and not necessarily fact-filled, as a frequent response is “well, I heard this” or “saw this or that.” When pressed, superficiality is often apparent.

With no desire to embarrass for not grasping the depth of the subject matter, I usually say, “Let’s pick this conversation up another time.” Usually, the subject matter is not brought back up, but it seems a new norm to have multiple issues and causes that our young folks focus on. Or perhaps it is a lack of focus. 

My focus — my passion — is about hunger. Not only work in an industry that helps the situation, but my money and attention are focused on that cause. In my church, the food pantry ministry is the largest single, itemized contribution to which I give time and money. So while I realize there are a zillion-and-one causes in the world, I concentrate on one that not only can I speak about, but actually, also, do something to help.

While solving all the world’s issues by the younger generation seems noble, it is actually doing a disservice by not focusing the needed attention on something they can actually affect. I would love to see less shouting and name calling of those they disagree with. I would love to see smart action on their part. All those causes not being solved, can only lead to frustration and inevitably disillusion. I would rather see us work together on singular issues where we can get closer to the solution we seek. I, too, would love to push a button and fix everything, but this is not going to happen. The world is not a perfect place and never will be, but we can chip away at some of its problems one chip at a time. That is how we can all sculpt this world into the masterpiece we desire. 

Respectfully…

DG