the pendulum

Oh, how the pendulum swings…

First to one side
Then to the other
Extreme on both ends

One goes higher
The next goes faster
Boasts of higher and faster swell

Oh, how the pendulum swings…

Constantly in motion
Never staying long in the opposite ends
Seemingly most stable in the middle

Yes, oh, how the pendulum swings.

I had a great conversation with a new friend the other day; I loved it… instantly authentic, lots of truth, active listening, deep topics, no offense, with the highly valued bonus of great wit and exceptionally well-timed sarcasm… yes, my kind of conversation.

We discussed the challenge of current political climate — a climate full of falsehoods and “fake-ness,” minimal truth, limited listening, all sorts of mountain-out-of-molehill topics, and ample offense… with unfortunately, no added wit nor sarcasm.

And we talked about the political pendulum.

Some find relief in the recent pattern of 4/8 years of one ideology more promoted and accepted, then 4/8 years of an opposite ideology, with the political pendulum swinging back and forth from the extremes. The idea is that if a person can persevere through the presidency and prominence of one for a limited number of years, the pendulum will soon be back to a place more desired to that individual… granted, again, for only a limited number of years. The pendulum never lasts at the extreme.

On one hand, that gives people peace, as no one person or party can be — will be — in control for all time. On another hand, the idea is great cause for concern, as each time the pendulum seems to swing “higher and faster,” so-to-speak. Each polar opposite end vows to pick up the steam. And because they focus seemingly most on the sins of another as opposed to the sins of self (both which exist), they justify all sorts of less than honorable behavior. The extremes justify:

… falsehood and fake-ness…
… minimal truth…
… limited listening…

They also justify:

… disrespect…
… obstruction…
… and devaluing of relationship.

Add arrogance, too — even subtly or unknowingly — as it’s way too easy to feel we are so wise and omniscient, forgetting the need and benefit to submit both our thinking and emotion to divine wisdom. No, none of us have this all figured out.

The problem with the pendulum is that as the weight swings to the polar opposite side, unethical behaviors are justified. And the behaviors seems to keep getting worse, as we hear popular refrains, such as, “Well, they did this, so we must do this.” The focus seems always on the sins of the other.

Oh, how the pendulum swings…

And yes, that’s concerning.


a tale of two testimonies

In regard to healthcare, I found the following two, recent testimonies fascinating. This is a little lengthier post than usual; however, the contrast is striking and insightful… two people, reacting to the exact same thing. First, from Lisa Morse…

“In 2010, at the age of 30, I ran my first half-marathon. A year later I ran my first full marathon (4:25:10 — you never honestly forget your first marathon time). I was in the best shape of my life. Although I gave myself a few months off from long-distance running, I started planning for my next half-marathon. Unfortunately, I began having intense joint pain in my hands, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. I was only 31 years old but felt like I was 80 — simply getting out of bed in the morning was a physically painful endeavor. Turning the pages of a book could cause ridiculously excruciating pain. It felt like my joints were being stabbed repeatedly with a knife that was on fire. Imagine going from running a marathon to just a few months later struggling to open a car door.

Numerous Google searches told me I most likely had psoriatic arthritis. I made an appointment with my doctor and the testing began. Because psoriatic arthritis isn’t something you can directly test for, I had to be tested for everything else that it might be. Blood tests ruled out rheumatoid arthritis, lyme disease, and parvovirus. I was then referred to a rheumatologist and officially diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis in which an overactive immune system attacks the connective tissue in the joints. If it is not treated, it can lead to irreversible joint damage. 15-30 percent of long-time psoriasis sufferers (I have had it since the age of 14) develop psoriatic arthritis, and I am one of the lucky ones. My rheumatologist prescribed hydroxychloroquine, a form of quinine, which suppresses the immune system. It provided some relief and life became a little bit easier — I even started running again — but my immune system still wasn’t working properly and I needed frequent doses of Aleve.
In 2014, my insurance plan changed and the rheumatologist I had been seeing for the past two years was no longer an in-network provider, so I had to change doctors. Although I grumbled about it at the time, it was probably one of the best things to happen to me medically since the pain began. My new doctor was astounded by the swelling in my ankles and in addition to telling me that I should absolutely not go on any more 10-mile runs (unless I wanted to start talking about ankle replacement surgery), he wanted to pursue a much more aggressive treatment plan. He prescribed Humira for me and the life-changing effects were almost immediate. My psoriasis cleared up entirely, the joint pain eased considerably, my energy levels increased, and I started to feel pretty good again. Humira is another immuno-suppressant. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, with a suppressed immune system I am sick much less often and much less severely than I was prior to Humira. In the two or three times a year I get sick now, I can usually work through it: pre-Humira I was sick once a month (or more) during the flu season and would miss at least three days of work at a time. Humira allows me to be a more productive, tax-paying member of society.

My two medications retail for $4,900/month and $175/month, which annually amounts to the cost of approximately 87 iPhones.

My experience with psoriatic arthritis and Humira have taken place entirely within the timeframe that Obamacare has been in effect. I do not have a job that provides health insurance. For the past 14 years, I have worked for a sole-practitioner attorney. I am his only full-time assistant. I serve as receptionist, office manager, paralegal, and more. My boss has always treated me well and is, quite honestly, much like family. I have helped to build his law practice into the success that it is today. My husband is a self-employed public policy consultant. We purchase our insurance on the marketplace and rely on the Obamacare subsidy to make ends meet. For our family of three, our silver plan premium (without the subsidy) is about $840/month. Our premium will increase substantially next year, especially if the ACA is repealed, and we will be paying more money for less coverage. If we lose our subsidy and our rate increases the 20-30 percent that is projected, our premium will be unaffordable for us. Without insurance, my two medications retail for $4,900/month (Humira) and $175/month (hydroxychloroquine—generic), which annually amounts to the cost of approximately 87 iPhones. On a side note, Humira was $3,200/month when I was initially prescribed it two and a half years ago—the drug has been on the market for 16 years, so the research and development has been done and over with for a long time. This mark-up should shock the conscience of anyone with a soul.

Thanks to Obamacare, my insurance cannot drop me or charge me more due to my condition. I have worked, paid taxes, and been insured my entire adult life. I am college-educated. Aside from the Obamacare subsidy I receive, I have never relied on public assistance. Psoriatic arthritis is not the result of unhealthy choices or stupid life decisions. I realize I am expensive to treat medically, but I am also a valuable member of society, as are many other similarly-situated people. No one is an island, and despite Ayn Rand’s writings to the contrary, civilized society requires a bit of compassion.”

And second, from Mary Katherine Ham…

“You may know me as a political pundit and writer who has spoken publicly about how the Affordable Care Act negatively affected my family. What you might not know is two years ago, I was a seven-month-pregnant widow with one toddler who got a letter two weeks after my husband died, informing me I’d lost my third or fourth health insurance plan since the Affordable Care Act passed. If you’ll remember, the promise was that I could keep my plan if I liked it. I could not.
I predicted what would happen to my family’s insurance, and to much less fortunate people subjected to the exchanges with us, many of whom have seen doubled premiums and tripled deductibles. If you’ll remember, the promise was everyone’s premiums would go down. They did not. For predicting it, I was routinely called a lying hack in public. It’s a hazard of the job, but I wasn’t lying. I was right. I also thought it was improbable the federal and state governments could handle building these exchanges and that they’d likely blow up and be inoperable, thereby preventing people like me from actually purchasing the new plans the ACA required we purchase. Again, I was not lying for partisan gain.

ACA has helped people. I know some of them well! I have two friends with serious health challenges, one of whom I can say was probably kept alive by Obamacare; the other by the fact she was able to keep her grandfathered pre-ACA plan. I am not in the habit of asserting any piece of health legislation is either perfect or a tool of evil designed by hateful actors. They’re not. I will not assert either of these fundamentally shallow and manipulative things about either ACA or adjustments to it (and, yes, this piece of House legislation is an adjustment or a reform, not a repeal, which would change dramatically in the Senate if taken up and change again before eventual passage).

It has come to my attention that, even among those who should know, or assert they know a lot about health care policy and the market, many don’t know that people like me exist. But there are many of us, many with far fewer resources than I, who now have much more expensive, less effective, junkier, nearly unusable plans than we had back when our allegedly “junk” plans were outlawed. Again, we are not the only ACA story. But we are part of the story, we were sold a bill of goods, and we’re often overlooked.
There aren’t a lot of good answers, here. There are many reasons for that, which start in the mid-20th century with a fundamental distortion of health-care markets through wage-and-price controls, and then a tax benefit that incentivized employer-based health insurance. ACA was not a good answer. AHCA likely isn’t a super one either.
In any system, and any change to a system, there will be people who come out on both the good and bad sides of the deal. When Obamacare supporters denied this truth applied to ACA, it was wrong. There’s the possibility of marginal improvement to it, but not if you do nothing, as insurers and customers alike pull out of exchanges because they can’t afford to stay in them. Yet another major provider announced this week it will drop out of the Virginia exchange. Republicans were elected several elections over to address just this problem.

Most people who aren’t in the individual market, which is the one most affected by ACA, have no idea what the plans look like. It is a market where the costs of the bill’s mandates are more visible, even when subsidized. When I cite exorbitant deductibles, folks tell me to suck it up and pay $3,000. I laugh at a $3,000 deductible. What in the old system was considered a very high deductible is now among the lower available, and premiums for any kind of deductible are high, even with subsidies. Many families have to hit $12,700, and they’re paying a mortgage-sized premium. For many, the purchase becomes hard to justify or supplants an actual mortgage or similar outlays.
Arguing about this as if beneficiaries of ACA don’t exist isn’t right. Arguing about it as if people like me don’t is also not right. ACA was never the panacea it was sold as and it remains distinctly un-utopian in its results. Lazy characterizations of things you like as perfect—and of people you oppose as big fans of people dying—are not particularly helpful to actual people.
So if you’re weaving a utopian or dystopian scenario for Facebook, remember reality is almost always less extreme and more nuanced than you’re asserting, and you probably know a real human on both sides of every imperfect adjustment to our Frankenstein system.
One of them was a pregnant widow who had to spend her 32nd week of pregnancy and the first week after her husband’s funeral calling midwives, doctors, insurance companies, and help lines to make sure she’d still have the third plan she was promised she could keep.

My family may be the trade-off that was worth it for you to implement ACA. And I’m actually fine with you thinking that, as long as you don’t pretend we and the rest of the people like us don’t exist. We’re probably never going to stop arguing about this, but arguing responsibly and empathetically is better.”

Striking, isn’t it? … how for some, the Affordable Care Act has been helpful, and for others, the exact same law has been hurtful.

I’m thinking most of us need to broaden our perspective… maybe… just maybe.


before healthcare

I really want to talk about healthcare. I see it as an important issue, worthy of respectful discussion, but finger pointing currently seems more prominent than fixing. Partisanship has surpassed any semblance of panacea. So before we can wrestle with what seemingly prompts the unhinged, sky-is-falling emotion from far too many, we need to wrestle with partisanship first. Why? Because partisanship is impeding solution.

So many emotions — coinciding within the far left, far right, Obama lovers, Trump lovers, Obama haters, and Trump haters camps — are killing conversation. This polarization then impairs our ability to solve what needs it… i.e. healthcare.

I’m reminded of “Common Ground,” a great read directed at stopping the “partisan war that is destroying America,” co-authored by liberal columnist Bob Beckel and conservative columnist Cal Thomas. They call out the hypocrisy within issues, organizations, and individuals that have deepened the partisan divide, so-to-speak, and they encourage the rest of us not to be seduced into such thinking. Yes, the intelligent are being seduced. Partisans are successfully playing to our emotions. They are luring us in.

Think about it…

This past week the House repealed Obamacare; barring any perceived more significant current events, I’d like to talk about this more later in the week. But note as some have pointed out, some/many who voted to repeal/replace, did not actually read the legislation (…hear an Intramuralist “geeeeesh” here…). That should concern us all.

Here’s an additional fact: some/many who passed the original Affordable Care Act also didn’t read the legislation (… the geeeeesh continues…). Friends, our congressmen/women, who represent us, need to read what they are voting upon — whether that is “yea” or “nay.” But here’s what happens: partisanship and polarized thinking has seduced us into believing that not reading the legislation was ok one of those times. In other words, the end justifies the means, so if a person likes the result, it’s ok that this time, the legislator didn’t read what he was voting on. That acceptance of less than honorable behavior is a direct result of partisanship and the coinciding emotions.

Where did this severe level of partisan seduction begin?

Some attribute the less than honorable behavior to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s stated strategy to oppose anything and everything then Pres. Obama put forth. Others attribute it to Obama’s forceful push through of Obamacare, ignoring conservative input and changing Senate rules to eventually ratify. Still more attribute it to the Republicans fervor in insuring Pres. Clinton paid for his personal indiscretions. And still more blame it on the Democrats response to the not so articulate Pres. George W. Bush and those perceived weapons of mass destruction.

Beckel and Thomas actually go back further than the past four administrations; they also blame no singular party nor individual. They go back to the late 1970’s, when laws regarding lobbyists were eased. Lobbyists were given more access to current congressmen — more opportunity to interact with those actually crafting current law. Remember that the goal of a lobbyist is to get their law passed; they don’t care about the totality of laws; they care about their law.

Hence, when the lobbyist laws were eased, legislators began socializing with lobbyists. Previously they had socialized with one another — regardless of party. All of a sudden, however, instead of our representatives working together during the day and enjoying time and life together in the evening, they started separating in the evening. Restaurants and bars became known as hangouts of the left or the right — as opposed to places where they would hang out together. Hanging out together helps people realize how reasonable another is, despite deep political and policy differences.

Fascinating… when we stop hanging out with those who think differently, even in all of our intelligence, we lose sight of another’s reason. That is hurting us. Said James Q. Wilson, over 10 years ago in “Commentary” Magazine, who believes in spite of most of us being centrists, we are becoming a polarized nation, “By polarization I do not have in mind partisan disagreements alone. These have always been with us… By polarization I mean something else: an intense commitment to a candidate, a culture, or an ideology that sets people in one group definitively apart from people in another, rival group. Such a condition is revealed when a candidate for public office is regarded by a competitor and his supporters not simply as wrong but as corrupt or wicked; when one way of thinking about the world is assumed to be morally superior to any other way; when one set of political beliefs is considered to be entirely correct and a rival set wholly wrong.”

This one way of thinking, one set of beliefs, one set of what’s right… it’s killing conversation and impeding solution.


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.


second chances?

Let’s do this a little differently today. Let me share what I want to talk about before we begin. I don’t want to get off track in the rabbit trails and red herrings. I don’t want to minimize any detail, but I also don’t want the specifics to keep us from wrestling with the underlying question. Let me be clear: the specifics are hard. The audacity is unthinkable… sobering… and nothing short of infuriating. We will not minimize the severity. I simply want to talk about an underlying angle. I want to wrestle with the excellent question of: what’s too much to pay?

I want to talk about forgiveness. And consequence. I want to address pardon… propitiation… a restart, so-to-speak. I want to talk about second chances. When do they and when do they not apply? When does a person not deserve a second chance?

And… who gets to decide that? Could different people, have different, okay ways to proceed?

Let me offer the awful example…

Joe Mixon is a 20 year old, aspiring NFL athlete. Soon after arriving on the college campus, one day after his 18th birthday, Mixon punched fellow student, Amelia Molitor, in the face, breaking multiple bones, requiring hospitalization, surgery, and a jaw wired shut. Not only did Molitor have to endure the physical recovery, she was also subject to the extended stares, shame, social media avenues attempting to blame her, and to the fans, attorneys, etc. who prioritized Mixon’s football future over Molitor’s mental and physical health.

While the horrifying incident happened three years ago, the video wasn’t released until last December, which spurred on even more stares at Molitor, more outrage directed at Mixon, and more fans and attorneys attempting to minimize Mixon’s criminal actions.

Molitor has seemingly worked hard to heal and survive. Some would say she has found a way to thrive. Part of her chosen way through was to meet not long ago with Mixon.

From Molitor on their meeting: “Joe and I were able to meet privately, without any attorneys, and talk about our experiences since that night. I am encouraged that we will both be able to move forward from here with our lives. From our private discussions I am satisfied that we are going to put this behind us and work towards helping others who may have found themselves in similar circumstances.
I greatly appreciate his apology and I think the feelings he expressed were sincere. We both could have handled things differently. I believe if we had a chance to go back to that moment in time, the situation would not have ended the way it did.”

From Mixon: “I’m thankful Mia and I were able to talk privately. I was able to apologize to her one-on-one. The way I reacted that night, that’s not me. That’s not the way I was raised. I think she understands that.
Talking together helps move us past what happened. I know I have to keep working to be a better person, and this is another step in that direction. I love working with kids, and I’m looking forward to more chances to do that kind of work. I want to lead a life that inspires them, and I hope I can lead by example from today forward.”

The initial incident was awful. The apology was also accepted. I’m also not close enough to either Mixon or Molitor to gauge the depth of sincerity nor entirety of motive.

Note that Joe Mixon is considered one of the most skilled NFL prospects — possibly, even, talent-worthy of being drafted in the top five or ten. When he was finally selected by the Bengals in the mid-second round Friday night, many were outraged — as character-worthy, prompts the controversy.

If a person chooses to never cheer for Joe Mixon, they will find no active argument from the Intramuralist. If a person chooses to jeer, they will also find no argument. But if a person feels led to give a second chance to another — investing in him, walking alongside him, providing structure and discipline and helping him grow — you will also find no argument. A second chance is not a right, but it can be beautiful, contagious, and inspiring.

Hence, this isn’t about Joe Mixon, Amelia Molitor, the Bengals, or the NFL. The question is: when does a person deserve a second chance? Who gets to decide that? And is it ok that we will have different answers to that question?

When an athlete, celebrity, public servant, felon, or friend, does actually redeem themselves… when they do grow, change, repent, and become a positive influence… when a person or relationship is redeemed or restored… is that not most beautiful?

Tough, I know, as it only starts with a second chance and the specifics are hard. I just don’t want to miss wrestling with the underlying questions… those that affect us all.

Respectfully… always…

the itch

This has been a bit of a rough week on this semi-humble current events observer. With the house on the market, the need for extended single parenting, a sick kid, and all that accompanies a graduating senior this time of year, my week has been challenging. Hence, when an unexpected allergic reaction prompts hives on over 90% of one’s body, it can be arduous indeed. Yes, it itches all over; and yes, I won’t be taking any antibiotic containing sulfamethoxazole again any time soon.

Let me be frank in saying that while the Intramuralist has never shied from sharing a personal reaction to a current scenario — albeit respectfully, of course — sharing my personal reaction to bactrim seems a bit of a stretch…

… well, sort of…

Let’s go back to the itch.

I itch all over.

Let me say it another way. While there’s a ton going on all around me, a ton going on in this world today, a ton happening not just to me but to all those around me — people I know and people I don’t — I can’t think about them. All I can think about is how much I itch.

Remember that iconic “Friends” episode guest-starring Charlie Sheen? Sheen plays a military man on leave, eager to spend a passionate two weeks with his girl, Phoebe. As foreshadowed by the episode’s title, “The One with the Chicken Pox,” Phoebe has contacted the infectious disease, and it quickly spreads to Sheen as well. Ever insistent Monica mandates the two strap oven mitts to each hand, thereby making physical touching — and itching — impossible. When the afflicted are enthusiastically able to free themselves from Monica’s need to control the behavior of other people, all the passionate pair want to do is touch each other… that is, all they want to do is scratch. Their itch is pretty much all they can think about.

That, my friends, is how I feel today.

… again, well… sort of…

That is how I’m tempted to feel today.

I want to be totally transparent…

The itch is bad. It’s strong. I was forewarned by my wise medical professionals that it would take a while to resolve and in the meantime, I may be more irritable and hungry. It truly is hard for me to think more of anything or anyone else.

In other words, my itch is affecting my reaction to all that ton of activity going on around me. It’s affecting how I feel, think, and respond to other events, scenarios, people, etc. It’s affecting everything. I am totally tempted to see life through my itch. My sensitivities are exponentially heightened; my reactions are nothing short of instantaneous. I’m less gentle… less kind… less openminded… and less empathetic. I’m also more blunt… more passionate… more stubborn… and yes, more irritable.

One of the things I oft advocate is to step outside my circumstances long enough to gain an accurate perspective. In fact, perhaps one of the most sincere questions I humbly ask of another is whether we are allowing God to be defined by our circumstances — or are we stepping outside of our circumstances long enough, in order to see him first. In other words, how much are our circumstances affecting our perspective?

Right now, my circumstances justify a less kinder, more stubborn response. Let’s go farther… remove my circumstances from me… project them onto one of my children or onto another I love or hold dear. You can bet I will be just as “lesser”… that is, less gentle… less kind… less humble… etc. I can’t be as rational nor wise when I’m focused on the itch.

Man, I need to find those oven mitts. Maybe, too, I’ll go grab something to eat.


tribal mentality

One of my fair-minded, progressive friends has suggested for several years that we are witnessing the manifestation of a tribal mentality — groups banded together by belief or emotion that will squelch anything it perceives as a threat. They move as a group — as a “tribe,” so-to-speak — and survival of the tribe becomes what’s most important.

That means that objectivity, rational thinking, and relationship are each secondary to the survival of the tribe. “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us,” is the often vocalized clamor and adhered-to thinking. There thus exists a push to resist anything or anyone who thinks/feels/believes differently, suggesting that they are a threat to what is wisest or best.

That means, too, that empathy, compassion, and tolerance are also secondary. At best, each of those virtues is limited… “we can only relate to the likeminded… we will only have compassion for those who think like us.” Hence, some who proclaim to be the most tolerant blindly become intolerant in that they only accept those with similar beliefs. They are no longer willing to be challenged by thinking that is different.

Let me be clear with my concern… any ideology which diminishes objectivity, rational thinking, and relationship, cannot be wisest nor best.

I get concerned, no less, with the number of highly intelligent persons who so willingly accept said mentality. So many of my friends don’t think like me; in fact, last I looked on this planet, there is no one who thinks exactly like me (… although there is one fairly handsome, special needs teen who comes pretty close…). So why are we demanding like-thinking from others?

Have we equated different opinion as wrong?

Why do we see different opinion as a threat?

Why can we sometimes simply not allow different opinion to exist?

When collaborating with my fair-minded friend, together we recently wrestled with a few more, poignant conclusions…

  • When we are offended by other points of view, we can’t hold any meaningful dialogue…
  • When we refuse to see any other perspective as valid, we close our minds to reconciliation…
  • When we close our minds to reconciliation, we are blind to how beautiful and powerful reconciliation is…
  • When we hunker down in our so-called tribes, we have become the intolerant…
  • Silencing the opposition is a key part of the tribal mentality…
  • Silencing the opposition leads to tyranny…
  • Wisdom includes a respectful give and take…

I remember realizing several years ago that if I fly East or if I fly West, I will still eventually get to the same place. I can fly over the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, from Ohio to Bangladesh, and still arrive at the same place, at the same time.

But the challenge with the tribal mentality is that it has no tolerance for flying in any other direction than their own… “West is the only right way.”

That’s simply inaccurate…

East… West… we end up the same place… but only if we listen to and respect one another, especially those who think differently.


what’s positive?

Last post, we asked our audience: what is the biggest problem in today’s culture? With a plethora of responses, many responded with an answer related to personal responsibility, the ill effects of social media, declining moral/faith values, over-value of self and own opinions/wants/and needs, and some kind of “lack” — especially lack of education, reverence for God, and respect for one another.

I appreciate, too, the answers that filtered in thereafter, with one of the more poignant responses centering around how our culture treats those with unseen illness, specifically mentioning mental illness. From my limited perspective, there is no “side” that consistently treats those with mental illness or cognitive disability consistently well. Sometimes we as a culture can be quite judgmental of what we do not see… what we do not know… what we do not understand.

That said, we flipped the question for today’s dialogue. What do you think is the biggest positive regarding today’s culture?

Allow me a couple of acknowledgements prior to sharing the responses. As in our last post, I heard from many — and I heard from a diverse many… persons from varied age, stage, ethnicity, circumstance, political leaning, etc. I love that! … and I value it deeply. The same was again true. I also witnessed significant overlap within that diversity. I love that, too. Such tells me that we may not be as far apart or polarized as the supposed “sides” as some want us to believe we are in order to fulfill their own agenda.

However, I did find persons having a harder time vocalizing their opinion and doing so concisely. I have thus tried to group the responses and overlap, as possible. Here’s what people said: what do you think is the biggest positive regarding today’s culture?

  • Freedom (… answers included individual liberty, lifestyle, religion, from government, etc.)
  • Awareness (… much in regard to ongoings in the city, country, and world… as one person said it, “We are more globally connected to the struggles across the globe.”)
  • Speed of social awareness
  • Innovation
  • Technology
  • Social media (… answers centered around two primary aspects: one, the global awareness as above expressed; and two, the ability to maintain friendships regardless of geographic location…)
  • Ease of access to varied perspectives and points of view
  • Compassion
  • Generosity
  • Passion (… as opposed to apathy, that passion could lead to positive results, if used for good…)
  • Acceptance (… both of people and varying lifestyle…)
  • Openness
  • Tolerance (…not political…)
  • Improved opportunities (… especially for people that, in the past, would have been marginalized due to race, religion, or gender…)
  • Improved educational opportunity
  • The respect and voice women have (… said by an American currently living in foreign country…)
  • The youth
  • The number speak out for the voiceless, feed the hungry, take care of the poor and practice justice and mercy
  • That this culture is temporal — not eternal
  • God’s grace
  • God is not dead
  • God is working
  • God is still in control — in spite of us!

And there were several who added the following:
There are still good, kind and humble people in this world!

Hence, a couple concluding notes…

Just as we found when asking about the problems instead of the positives, there was no consistent pointing to a specific person or party. There were not these so-called political divides; the above answers came from persons who lean all over the place politically.

Also, with the exception of the social media responses (which, one will note, showed up as both a positive and a problem), as one participant shared, “A good number of the responses relate to problems that aren’t entirely new. It seems that many comment on the universal human condition — a condition that has existed for many years — and not solely the decline of American society in 2017.”

That should tell us something. That should stop some of the finger pointing. That should prompt us to increased empathy and forgiveness… and decreased selfishness and “sides.”

There is good in this world.