the last 2 weeks in questions…

So for the last two weeks, the Intramuralist has been on the road. It’s been great — great to interact and visit and listen and celebrate and invest in those I see less often. In order, no less to keep up on the news — and ensure I’m not following too much of a biased, therefore misleading site — I’ve written down the questions I’ve seen published while away. Hence, the last two weeks in 100 questions…

  1. Why Won’t Socialism Die?
  2. Does Intolerance Dampen Dissent?
  3. Hello, Boris?
  4. Is British Politics on the Brink of a Historic Realignment?
  5. Is the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process Dead?
  6. Why Do People Tear Down Architectural Landmarks?
  7. Will Venezuela Force Foreign Policy Reckoning For Progressives?
  8. What Is ‘Single Payer’ Health Care?
  9. Who is blocking Medicare-for-All?
  10. Would Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-All Save Money?
  11. Will Bipartisan ‘Lower Health Care Costs Act’ Help?
  12. High Drug Prices: Who’s Really to Blame?
  13. Who’s going to Win the Stanley Cup?
  14. Can the Boston Bruins win the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals?
  15. Can the Blues Break their Stanley Cup drought?
  16. Can Warren Overtake Sanders?
  17. How the Sanders Revolution Ends?
  18. Did Bernie Just Inadvertently Admit That Actually There Is A Crisis At Our Border?
  19. What’s So Funny, Joe?
  20. Is Biden the New Hillary Clinton?
  21. Can Joe Biden Be the Future and the Past?
  22. What is the Point of His [Biden’s] Candidacy?
  23. What is the Hyde Amendment?
  24. Did Leonardo da Vinci Have ADHD?
  25. What Would Leonardo da Vinci Think of the Future?
  26. What was Leonardo da Vinci Doing at Your Age?
  27. Why Is Mueller Fighting a Public Hearing on Capitol Hill?
  28. Did Mueller Lie to the Attorney General on March 5th?
  29. How much did the FBI rely on a discredited Trump-Russia dossier?
  30. Why Is the Info Behind Russia Probe All Linked to Clinton?
  31. Is Bill Barr a Bad Man?
  32. Another Year of Investigations?
  33. Is Common Ground on Abortion Possible?
  34. What Do the New State Abortion Laws Really Mean for Women?
  35. Who to Blame For America’s Iran Policy?
  36. School Choice: Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?
  37. Why Are Dems Still Foot-Dragging on Impeachment?
  38. Are Democrats Choosing to Lose?
  39. Have Democrats Given Up on Beating Trump in an Election?
  40. Do Dems Have to Impeach Trump to Have a Chance in 2020?
  41. Does the Dem Media Need Impeachment to Boost Ratings?
  42. Where’s the Media’s Explanation for Avenatti?
  43. Was President Trump Actually ‘Nasty’ to Meghan Markle?
  44. Are Meghan Markle & Prince Harry Really Moving to America with Baby Archie?
  45. Why Does Queen Elizabeth Have Two Birthdays?
  46. What’s Next for “Jeopardy” Phenom James Holzhauer?
  47. How Did the Warriors Get Here?
  48. This Can’t Be It for the Warriors, Can It?
  49. The Hottest Destination for NBA Free Agents Is … Brooklyn?
  50. Lakers? Knicks? Suns? Who’s Willing to Trade for CP3 and His Monster Contract?
  51. Why Is Spirituality Correlated With Life Satisfaction?
  52. Will Woke Progressives Allow Celebrities to Be Christian?
  53. Meryl Streep: What About Toxic Feminimity?
  54. Is there a Barack Obama-Steven Spielberg collaboration coming?
  55. What If Appalling FBI Texts Were Written About Obama in ’08?
  56. Why Did Obama Ignore Reports of Russian Meddling?
  57. Are We at Risk of a Chinese Dollar Dump?
  58. Why Is China So Afraid of the Memory of Tiananmen Square?
  59. Across China, Who Remembers Tiananmen?
  60. Is Russia Rethinking Its Relationship With China?
  61. How Would Reagan Approach Iran?
  62. Is U.S. Pressure Really Uniting Iran’s Rival Political Camps?
  63. Why Do College Commencement Speeches Ignore Economic Reality?
  64. Will Trump Really Pull the Trigger on Mexico Tariffs?
  65. Why Is Congress Incentivizing Illegal Immigration?
  66. Can We Blame Climate Change for the Tornado Outbreak?
  67. Can Soil Solve the Climate Crisis?
  68. Why Does Al Gore Keep Denying Science?
  69. Who’s in Danger of Missing the Third Dem Debate?
  70. Are “Children of Divorce” Doomed in Their Own Marriages?
  71. Why Does US Allow Food Additives Europe Says Are Unsafe?
  72. What Comes First? The Home or the Retirement Account?
  73. What Is A Safe Withdrawal Rate In Retirement?
  74. Is It 1998 All Over Again for Markets?
  75. Can Big Pharma Be Held Accountable for Opioid Epidemic?
  76. Did Cellphones Bring Down Crime Rates in the 90s?
  77. Is ‘Gaming Disorder’ an Illness?
  78. Where are the floods?
  79. What if We Hired for Skills, Not Degrees?
  80. What Inspired Orwell’s Masterpiece?
  81. Claire McCaskill and a MeToo Double Standard?
  82. Why Are Unions Joining Conservatives to Protect Pipelines?
  83. Why Do We Worry About Recession So Much?
  84. How Long Will My Money Last?
  85. D-Day, A Year Too Late? 
  86. Could Tolerating Disease Be Better Than Fighting It?
  87. Who Can Adopt a Native American Child?
  88. Should Conservatives Abandon the University?
  89. Modern Diversity Training: Reconciliation, or Grievance?
  90. What is Pride Month?
  91. Will Elon Musk Ruin Astronomy?
  92. To Vape or Not To Vape?
  93. What’s Next for Stocks As Recession Probabilities Increase?
  94. Did Ilhan Omar commit federal tax fraud?
  95. What Makes U.S. Military Interventions Successful?
  96. 2020 Census: Will Your Children Get the Support They Need?
  97. ISIS Using Mex Border in Terror Smuggle?
  98. Who is the best player at the Women’s World Cup?
  99. Who will rule the Women’s World Cup?
  100. Can We All Just Get Along?

Just asking questions, friends. Any reliable new source should allow each and all of us to ask them.

Respectfully…

AR

super-sized, once more…

Ten years ago, in the early days of the Intramuralist, we penned the beginning of this post. I’m fascinated by its continued relevance…

“Everything’s bigger in America. We’ve got the biggest cars. The biggest houses. The biggest companies. The biggest food. And finally, the biggest people. America has now become the fattest nation in the world.”  (From Morgan, in “Super Size Me”)

The fattest nation in the world. I wonder: is bigger always better?

In the wake of prodigious deficit spending, we continue to hear the government convening in order to decipher what new legislation to enact. They speak of which programs to add and where to increase spending. Let me be the first to say, much legislation supports what many consider to be a good program. But question: when do we employ our discernment skills? In other words, when do Democrats and Republicans examine which programs are no longer effective or which do we simply have no resources to fund — even if it’s good? Once a program is funded, does that mean it is subsidized (or super-sized) for life?

The size of our government has increased exponentially under most all current and recent executive and legislative branches. Few laws are rescinded. Hence, our “fat” nation now controls how we park, how we drive, what we drive, what we eat, what we drink, how we behave in public, the level of noise we can make, what drugs are available, what words can be said on television, our guns, our banks, the car manufacturers, interest rates, dairy standards, the animal population, what others can say in regard to our health, what they can say in regard to our character, what must be taught, what must be preserved, what is extinct, how to vote, how to marry, how to own, how to rent, how to buy, how to sell, how to operate a boat, what insurance to obtain, the toll roads, parks, how many can sleep in a hotel room, when and where you can buy alcohol, how much income tax to pay, sales tax, gas tax, real estate tax, personal property tax, estate tax, excise tax, utilities tax, payroll tax, dividends tax, motor oil tax, gift tax, amusements tax, consumption tax, yada yada yada. That looks on the plus size to me. Let us say it differently: our government is big! And that is due to both Democrat and Republican-led efforts. That is due to multiple administrations.

Is this what the Constitution intended?  Big government? Control and influence in as many aspects as elected officials deem necessary? Where will they stop? 

Now ten years later, government continues to be super-sized. 

Such prompts me increased concern as heading into 2020, we witness the public flirtation with socialism. Why? Because Socialism would make government even bigger; hence, we ask: have we forgotten the historic dangers of super-sizing?

Wrote author Robert Tracinski two years ago in response to the younger generations’ belief that socialism is positive as a whole:

“What have they missed that they can believe that? Here’s what they’ve missed: the artificial famine in Ukraine, the Soviet Gulags, the forced deportation of Lithuanians, the persecution of Christians, China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, North Korea’s horrific prison camps and famines, the systematic impoverishment of Cuba, and now Venezuela’s collapse into starvation and mass-murder…

There’s always someone who insists that it isn’t fair to pin all of these crimes on ‘socialism’ because those examples weren’t really socialism. The only ‘real’ socialism is the warm, fuzzy welfare-statism of a handful of innocuous Western European countries. This is a pretty obvious version of the No True Scotsman fallacy…” 

[“No true Scotsman or appeal to purity is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample… (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group.”)

In Pres. Bill Clinton’s 1996 State of the Union address, encouraging a bipartisan approach, he said the following: 

“We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there’s not a program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means. The era of big government is over.” 

With the size and debt of the federal government recently articulated as a significant problem plaguing our country today, I wonder if we’ve forgotten the wisdom in Clinton’s words… and the danger of being so big.

Respectfully…

AR

note to the graduate ’19

[Originally penned 4 years ago, when my oldest was graduating from high school… still one of our most popular, timeless posts…]

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

As we pen a final post to those now formally entering adulthood, allow us to address a few more brief truths as you take these next few, albeit humongous steps…

First, there is a time for everything — every activity under heaven, every season under the sun. Hear me now: you will not enjoy nor desire each of these times. Every activity will not be wonderful nor every season incredibly joyous and fun. Don’t let me discourage you; that’s not my intent. My intent is to wrestle with reality.

Remember that enjoying and embracing are not the same thing. As you face life’s next chapters, the truth is that there will be seasons and chapters that stretch you beyond your wildest imagination — beyond where you ever thought you’d go or perhaps ever wanted. You have a choice in how to respond. When the time comes to tear down or turn away, embrace the time; when the time comes to speak, speak — or be quiet, be quiet. Enjoying the season is less important than learning from the experience. The wise man learns and grows from the seasons that are hard.

Second — and don’t let me shock you — but contrary to perhaps your long-held belief (or any fictional, parenting mantra) — you cannot be whatever you want to be. I’m sorry; remember… we are wrestling with reality. Similar to the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and that jolly old St. Nick, there are a few things we’ve told you that aren’t actually true.

It is true that you cannot be whatever or whoever you want to be (… just ask all those who’ve thought they should be President). You can, however, be all that God created you to be. 

Embrace your gifts. Utilize the unique wiring within you — the wiring that makes you distinctly and beautifully, uniquely you! Don’t compare yourself to another, falling prey to society’s hollow teaching that another person’s wiring or set up is somehow better or worse than yours. Simply embrace your own strengths and grow from your own weaknesses. Seek God first; seek his intention for your life. Then be who he created you to be, and do what he created you to do. Don’t compare your calling to any other.

And third (because this proud, reflective parent always has seemingly much to say), let me offer a brief rapid fire of final encouragement…

Love deeply. Offer grace generously. Never view grace and truth as opposites, as each should be applied in ample measure. Wash your sheets. Don’t be selfish. Resist being quick to anger. Be fast to forgive. Be humble. Forgive again. And again. Pursue wisdom. Consider coffee. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Separate the reds from the whites. Be charitable. Save some; spend some; and give some away. Don’t be afraid of sorrow. Turn off the XBOX. Put the iPhone down sometimes. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t think of equality with God as something to be grasped. Listen to the elderly; invest in the young. Bow and curtsy when appropriate. Show respect — in what you say and how you think. Remember that respect does not mean accepting as equally good and true. Remember that all things are not equally good and true. Know when to say that; know when to not. Open doors for other people. Look another in the eye. Use your napkin. Be discerning. Be aware that just because something feels good, it might not be wise. Be prayerful. Figure the faith thing out. And embrace each and every season shared above… embracing the time to laugh… the time to cry… the time to grieve… and yes, the time to dance.

There is a time for everything. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. Graduates, without a doubt, now is your time to dance. Enjoy… how beautiful…

With a special salute to this year’s grads…

AR

so what’s the issue?

Last week we asked the following:

Naming no specific persons or parties, why do you believe America is headed on the wrong track?

Your responses — publicly and privately — were fascinating and insightful. I always appreciate even the most private conversation. I admire the one who asks more questions. And I sincerely respect the one who knows they don’t know it all. 

Duly noted, this topic is huge. So let’s dive deeper. Let’s be a little more particular. Let’s get to what’s maybe more tangible and wise to wrestle with.

Let me first again state the added ground rule of omitting references to a specific person or party. Note that the reason for said ground rule is to minimize the tension and emotion often sparked in the specifics, so that we can actually dialogue. When we dialogue, we make progress. When we make progress, solution becomes possible. 

I want to wrestle with specific issues. No judgment. No blame. Just the issue itself.

Without naming a specific person, party, or a political position, what is the greatest issue facing our country today?

It’s a slight tweak on our most recent question in regard to right track/wrong track; that’s a little broader. My desire is to become more distinct.

What one issue, from your perspective, currently plagues our country most?

Climate change?

Government size?

Gun control?

Mental health?

Religious freedom?

Don’t allow me to suggest one issue or another. We each hail from varied perspectives; hence, our perception of what plagues us most will undoubtedly be different. There are so many possible answers.

Please feel free then to suggest any issue. If possible, try to avoid simply stating a political position. For example, believing that foreign threats or terrorism currently plagues our country, I might identify the specific issue as: “Too many terrorists are currently plotting to destroy us.” 

Then, if possible to answer, here’s a tempting sub-question:

Concisely as possible, what needs to be done to solve the issue?

Again, resist the urge to blame another. The goal is progress — not continued finger pointing.

The means, my friends, is respectful dialogue.

Since so often respect is absent and dialogue shuts down — and since so often even the intelligent justify insult — and since so often so much impedes actual solution — let’s focus on the “it” and not the “who.” Let’s focus on the actual issue. When we target the “who,” we often impede progress.

So what’s the issue? What’s the greatest issue facing our country today?

Respectfully…

AR

pausing for Decoration Day

Prior to our next post following up on soliciting right track/wrong track/tough topic feedback, allow us to pause for a moment for Memorial Day. I’ll be honest; sometimes our federal holidays don’t prompt in me the reflection and forethought they deserve. For example… 

On the 4th of July, I don’t always find myself pondering and giving thanks for our nation’s Declaration of Independence from British rule…

Labor Day signifies more to me the official end to summer than any thought of the working people who have added to the strength and well-being of our country…

And Columbus Day? Yes, I’ve seen the appeal by some to change its name to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” And while I wish for all heritage to be honored, with truly all due respect, I’m pretty sure that floating Monday in October will remain a day where my primary awareness is having an extra day off in an otherwise busy week.

Not so, no less, with today. Well, tomorrow actually…

Observed every year on the last Monday of May is Memorial Day, a day in which we honor and remember those who have died serving in the United States Armed Forces. The day is less commonly called “Decoration Day,” denoting the practice of adorning the grave of a fallen soldier.

151 years ago — a wild thought to even imagine — then Ohio congressman, former general, and future President James Garfield addressed a crowd of 5,000 at Arlington National Cemetery for the first Decoration Day exercises. I love how he starts with how any actual speech on this day far pales in comparison to who we honor on the day…

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept; plighted faith may be broken; and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot…

I love to believe that no heroic sacrifice is ever lost; that the characters of men are molded and inspired by what their fathers have done… Each for himself gathered up the cherished purposes of life — its aims and ambitions, its dearest affections — and flung all, with life itself, into the scale of battle.

… If each grave had a voice to tell us what its silent tenant last saw and heard on earth, we might stand, with uncovered heads, and hear the whole story of the war. We should hear that one perished when the first great drops of the crimson shower began to fall, when the darkness of that first disaster at Manassas fell like an eclipse on the Nation; that another died of disease while wearily waiting for winter to end; that this one fell on the field… The voices of these dead will forever fill the land like holy benedictions…”

As with other national holidays, it is easy to transform the meaning of a holiday into something seemingly lesser. In fact, I love the thought that Memorial Day is simultaneous with the start of summer — the fun, frolic, rest and relaxation that comes with the season.

But let us not forget those who “flung all, with life itself, into the scale of battle.” Let us not forget the silent tenants of those graves.

Let us first pause and give thanks before any summer festivity, ensuring those heroic sacrifices are never lost. Those men and women, who died while serving, did what they did then so you and I could do what we do now. 

That is worth always remembering.

Respectfully…

AR

wrong track?

So on the heels of our most recent discussion, allow me first a brief shout out…

On Sunday we talked about America’s abortion debate. That’s not a subject in which our country consistently dialogues respectfully, and yet, hearing from many of you publicly and privately, I witnessed numerous dialogues laced with significant diversity, courteous communication, with varied conviction. Yes, there is hope (and need) for respectful dialogue.

With such a backdrop, allow me another challenging, but worthwhile subject to ponder. However, for participation in this conversation, I’d like to humbly request one additional ground rule…

One ground rule. Two questions. 

Question #1 comes today. Question #2 comes Sunday. Allow me first to set the backdrop…

For years pollsters have asked respondents where they think we’re heading. Are we going in the “right direction” or are we on the “wrong track”?

Currently (merging the data of the Economist, Harvard-Harris, Investor’s Business Daily, Politico, Rasmussen, and Reuters), only 39% of us believe the country is going in the right direction. 56.3% of us believe we are on the wrong track.

Prior to any “told-you-so’s” or fist bumps in the current, volatile, socio-political climate, let me add some relevant historical data…

At the beginning of January 2016, the differential was somewhat greater. 24% of us believed the country was going in the right direction; 65.7% perceived us on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January 2014, those numbers were 30.1% in the right direction and 63.3% on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January of 2012, the numbers were 24.5% in the right direction — 70% on the wrong track.

And at the beginning of January of 2010, 35.9% of the country believed we were going in the right direction — 56.7% in the wrong. Note: those numbers are almost identical to today.

So here’s my observation…

Noting that the numbers 9 years ago are almost identical to today, the perception that our country is going in the wrong direction is not based on any singular party or personality. In fact, data shows a solid wrong direction perception for well over two decades. Americans get that something is deeply wrong. We know this isn’t working.

Hence, first the ground rule — in addition to being respectful, of course: 

Please name no names and no parties. Make no references to specific people.

Then, the first of two questions…

Why do you believe America is headed on the wrong track? In other words, what’s wrong?

(Or if you don’t believe such, why do you not?)

Be respectful. Be semi-brief. But be sincere; what do you think? Feel free to reach out to me publicly or privately — private message, email, comment or text. Let’s see what one another thinks. 

Next post will pose Question #2. It’s a little more targeted, asking for feedback on specific issues, utilizing similar ground rules.

But this process makes me ponder…

If we adhere to the ground rules, could we actually ease the tension? And if we could actually ease the tension, could we make more progress on the issues?

Ah, more great questions…

Respectfully…

AR

America’s abortion debate

So how do we navigate through an issue that’s laced with passion, emotion and conviction? How do we talk about a topic that is nothing short of a rhetorical, ticking time bomb?

The so-called “sides” aren’t talking; they don’t seem to know how to any more. Hence, they only insult and scream. 

But geesh… we can’t even agree on who the “sides” are…

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice

Pro-Choice vs. Anti-Choice

Pro-Abortion vs. Pro-Life

Pro-Women vs. Pro-Birth

We even fight about what to call each other. We then judge the other side, exonerating self in our decision to stop listening to, learn from, and sadly, respect.

Friends, walk with me here for a minute, through the ticking time bomb. I pray my gentleness and respect will be evident to all.

Throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. I have grieved with those who have made the choice — and grieved with those who did not. I have grieved the stoppage of a beating heart — and I have grieved the lack of compassion offered to one who has stopped it.

I am troubled, too, by the extremes. As with most issues, there are extensive middle perspectives. Adherers of these convictions are typically more silent than the rest, as the extremes are always louder. But on abortion, especially, that middle is incredibly messy. 

According to Pew Research, about 20% of America believes abortion should be illegal in every and all circumstances and about 30% of America believes it should be legal in every and all circumstances. That means the 20% would not allow abortion in cases of rape and incest, and the 30% would allow abortion any time in those nine months. That leaves 50% of us somewhere in the messy in-between.

I mentioned that throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. The primary reason I have had trouble discerning what I believe and having peace with my own conviction is because I have been deeply disturbed by the behavior of those 20 and 30 percent.

There are all sorts of angles to consider here… the angle of the mother… the father… the baby, fetus (or whatever name one considers most expedient to support their perspective)… not only those three, but also the angle of the great big God of the universe. What does he require of us?

My sense is the reason for the screaming is the tendency to accentuate solely one of the above angles. So let me humbly ask the obvious: aren’t all angles in play?

What would happen if each of us learned to consider the other three angles?

Would we learn more? Would we grow? Would we come to a solution?

We don’t have to necessarily change our conviction or opinion, but wouldn’t it be wiser if we actually had compassion for all?

I get it. It’s a tough issue; it’s hard to talk about. It’d be far easier to ignore and insult instead of wade through the ticking time bombs.

But I believe in respect and compassion for all. That’s not the same as compromise, as it remains true; we can’t “split the baby in half,” so-to-speak.

But we can learn to listen better.

We can learn to have more compassion.

And we can learn in making our gentleness and respect evident to all.

Respectfully…

AR

Harvard. Smart?

So let’s start today with the end in mind. Let’s “reverse engineer” — noting the solid engineering schools across the country — including Harvard — as we start where we typically end… with ten questions already in mind…

  • What are we doing?
  • Can we no longer tolerate moral difference?
  • If one person engages in a legal activity that is perceived as “trauma-inducing” to another, must the first person be stopped?
  • Is what’s trauma-inducing for one therefore trauma-inducing for all?
  • Can you or I decide what’s right for everyone else?
  • Is everyone deserving of due process?
  • Does the “unpopular defendant” deserve legal representation?
  • Are collegiate administrations exuding wisdom on the college campus?
  • Are we teaching twenty-somethings how to grow up?
  • And what’s the right response to a protest?

On Saturday Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana removed spouses Ron Sullivan and Stephanie Robinson from their respective dean positions on campus. They were co-faculty dean of Winthrop House. They were also the first African-Americans to serve in this position.

Sullivan has an extensive, admirable, professional resume — including roles as an advisor to then Sen. Barack Obama on criminal justice issues and representation of Michael Brown’s family in their suit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri. Sullivan’s past clients have included accused murderers and terrorists, consistent with the constitutional right that any accused of a crime deserves legal representation.

In the past year, no less, Sullivan also signed on to serve as part of the legal team representing Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood producer who now stands accused of multiple rape and sexual assault charges. Note that for many, Weinstein is the face behind the commencement of the #MeToo movement. What he is accused of doing is vicious and vile.

Some students then proceeded to launch a protest, demanding Sullivan’s removal from Harvard’s Winthrop House. One called his presence “deeply trauma-inducing.” As the New York Times wrote, “Many students expressed dismay, saying that his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women disqualified Mr. Sullivan from serving in a role of support and mentorship to students.” The point was that Sullivan’s credibility was not only damaged, but he was now deemed incapable of supporting or serving. He should thus not be allowed to oversee the Harvard house since he chose to represent the accused.

Note the following two, editorial responses. First, from Reason, which leans moderately right: 

“… This is a disaster. The administration has endorsed the ridiculous notion that serving as legal counsel for a person accused of sexual misconduct is itself a form of sexual misconduct, or at the very least contributes to sexual harassment on campus. It is no exaggeration to say that Khurana has undermined one of the most important principles of modern, enlightened justice. He should be ashamed of himself.

By caving to the mob, Harvard has shown student-activists that it takes seriously their demands for a kind of broadly-defined safety that includes protection from ideas they don’t like. This outcome will undoubtedly embolden them.”

And second from The Atlantic, which leans moderately left: 

“… Harvard administrators were warned about the unavoidable conflict between upholding an important civic normthat legal representation for even the most reviled is a service to the community, not a transgression against it — and giving in to the demands of the undergraduates most aggrieved by their faculty dean’s choice of clients. And rather than infer a responsibility of the extremely privileged to uphold civic norms for the benefit of those in society who most need them, this institution, which purports to educate future leaders, chose to prioritize transient discomfort felt by its most aggrieved students…

… Protecting the norms around the right to counsel is orders of magnitude more important than the ‘unenlightened or misplaced’ discomfort of some Harvard undergraduatesdiscomfort rooted in difficulty tolerating moral difference…”

The moderate right and left seem to agree. So let’s revisit the question…

What are we doing?

Respectfully…

AR

do you really value all people?

No doubt navigating through current cultural conversations is often like tiptoeing through terrains liberally laced with landmines. Use the word “Trump” at any time, and chances are ears will perk up and emotions will be immediately heightened.

Bring up McConnell, Pelosi, and/or Schumer; the odds of respectful dialogue will most likely go downhill quickly. It gets worse; watch for the utilization of words such as “bigot,” “extremist,” or “Socialist.” Maybe even “Hitler.” There has to be a reason the other person is entirely wrong.

Yes, current cultural conversations are really, really difficult. But if we are going to truly value all people — which people on both the left and right say they want to do or claim to do — then that means we have to quit dismissing another as entirely wrong. When we dismiss another as entirely wrong, we are not valuing all people.

Hence, conversation is vital… even when it’s hard.

Let’s return once more to the wise words of Stephen Covey. How can we utilize his seven proclaimed habits in order to have more effective, respectful conversation? And yes… even when it’s hard.

[Utilizing the quoted insights here of Dr. Tammy Lenski, who teaches individuals and groups how to untangle disagreements and build dynamic partnerships by engaging conflict effectively. Note her written words are italicized below. All emphasis is mine.]

Habit 1: Be Proactive

… In conflict, too many people mistakenly assume that they have no real hope of changing the relationship they have with the other person… When you make that assumption, you postpone or avoid the important conversation that could change matters. When you act proactively in a conflict situation, you step up to the difficult conversation rather than avoiding it. Avoidance of important conversation usually allows frustration to fester and the divide to widen…

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

… In difficult conversations, you want to have a “big picture” image of success before you start the conversation. It’s worth advance thought before simply plunging in. The end you want to visualize shouldn’t be one in which the other person “sees the light,” changes their opinion, or does things your way. Worthwhile ends include preserving the relationship, minimizing the debris of ongoing conflict…

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Putting first things first means attending to your priorities before you attend to lesser matters. In difficult conversations, you want to focus on the most important topics and avoid getting side-tracked by less important matters, pet peeves, and minor annoyances…

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

This is basic conflict management 101. If you enter your most important conversations with the intent to win at the other person’s expense, then you risk prolonged and entrenched conflict and greater harm to the relationship. The win/win approach invites you to consider the conversation as a joint exploration into what could work for both of you. While this kind of conversation takes longer to accomplish, you’ll usually save emotional energy and time in the long run.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood  {Yeah, we aren’t too collectively good at this…}

In difficult conversations, you may be tempted to spend your energy telling. Telling the other person what they did wrong, what the impact was on you, what you’d like them to do differently. While some of this may be important for them to hear in order to understand the impact of the situation on you, it is a mistake to begin there. And it’s a costly mistake if both of you try to begin there, since the resulting “telling tug of war” will make the conversation messier than it need be. Instead, try entering your difficult conversations with genuine curiosity.Make it your first priority to understand the other person’s perspective, even if you don’t agree to it. Real attention to understanding is likely to yield new information that can help you resolve the problem.

Habit 6: Synergize

Synergy is the interaction of individuals for greater combined effect than any one person would have on their own. Truly effective conflict management is all about synergy. Different values, opinions, and perspectives, when viewed as opportunity instead of a problem, allow families and organizations to build on their joint strengths and minimize the individual weaknesses…

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

… Sharpening the saw is the act of self-renewal, learning, and personal growth. In dialogue terms, sharpening the saw means practicing your habits in low-stakes situations so that they’re more accessible to you when you need them most. It means learning how to manage yourself well in difficult moments… When you stretch yourself and practice when the stakes are low, you help your mind respond better in those trying moments.

Do we really value all people? 

My sense is how we converse will give some indication.

Respectfully…

AR

Note: Please see Dr. Lenski’s full comments at https://tammylenski.com/7-habits-of-highly-effective-conflict-resolution/ . Many thanks to you, Dr. Lenski, for your wisdom and insight!

my generation believes… (part 2)

Reading “The Generational Imperative,” many moments, I stood still… lots to ponder…

“What is this ‘Generations’ Thing?…

The good news about this stuff? It’s really easy to get.

The premise of generational dynamics is simple. It is based upon three well-researched, universally accepted, and easy-to-understand truths:

Truth #1: Between the time we’re born and the time we leave the full-time classroom for adulthood and our career years, usually in our early twenties, we will form most of the core values and beliefs we’ll embrace our entire lives… by sharing the same core values, we will become a generation, or what the intellectuals like to call an ‘age cohort’… 

Truth #2: In the past century, life in America has changed frequently, and often in sharply new directions… for the first time in history, American life expectancy now permits five living generations, each of whose formative years were notably different from the other generations and whose core values, as a result, are also very different.

Truth #3: Our generational core values and attitudes are going to exert astonishing influence over our consumer decisions, career choices, and lifestyle preferences for life. So if marketers want to influence those decisions, and if employers want to maximize their human resources in the workplace, and if Americans want to understand themselves and their families and their fellow Americans, then they must understand each generation’s unique core values.”

Some initial, immediate, key takeaways…

Each generation is unique.

Their core values are unique.

What happened to each generation in their formative years is also unique; it shaped what they believe and how they behave.

Note — and an important one at that — no generation is better nor worse than another; instead, it is unique. Hence, if we are going to be engagers of respectful dialogue, we must learn to communicate with, listen and learn from the unique. 

So let’s highlight that uniqueness…

First, those Silents (born between 1927-1945)… “as consumers, they are richer, freer spending, less brand loyal, and more receptive to advertising and new products than the generations that previously occupied their current age bracket.” As employees, “many Silents are working beyond the traditional recruitment age, at least part-time…”

Next, those Boomers (born between 1946-1964)… “First-Wave Boomer kids (1946-1954) are raised by stay-at-home mothers who consider themselves democratic and tolerant. Their fathers become the rock-solid provider figures in their lives… and… after spending their early childhood in the carefree and innocent Happy Days of the 50’s, that cocktail — that recipe of idealism and a strong sense of right and wrong — goes a long way in explaining one the most tumultuous periods, but also one of the most socially enlightening periods, in our nation’s history…”

“Generation X. It is not a derogatory label… The premise is this: This generation is so individualistic in its thinking and so diverse in its ethnicities and lifestyles that it tends to resist any single label, and it resents attempts by marketers and advertisers to pigeonhole it… GenXers also experience the most psychologically difficult childhood in American history, as one adult institution after another fails to deliver on its promises to them”…

And the Millennials (again, don’t call them “Gen Z”!) — noting that we don’t have enough distinct, decision-making info on the upcoming Gen Y yet — the Millennials are a “dramatic departure from the core values and attitudes of Gen X, because Millennials are experiencing dramatically different formative years. Where Gen X children had been the least adult-supervised generation, Millennials are the most adult-supervised”…

I will say what I said on Sunday: “Generational differences are not about right vs. wrong or better vs. worse. Once more, it’s about learning how to respect and communicate with those who are different than we.” Friends, we need to learn to communicate with those who are different than we. Generations mark a significant difference.

Will you join in the conversation? Will you be intentional in listening and learning from those who are different than we?

Respectfully…

AR