throwing trash

Nearing the end of the first playoff game of the 2012 MLB postseason, one of baseball’s historically most controversial calls was made…


With 1 out and 2 base runners, the Atlanta Braves were threatening the 3 run lead of the St. Louis Cardinals.  A ball was then hit to short left field, where the shortstop ran backwards quickly to make the catch while the left fielder also sprinted in.  At the last moment, the shortstop backed away, and the ball hit the ground.  No catch.  The crowd went wild!  The bases were now loaded.  Except…


Lost in the crowd’s newfound exuberance was that the left field line umpire had called the Texas-league-looking blooper an ‘infield fly,’ meaning the hitter was out and no runners may advance.  The rule exists so that a defensive player doesn’t allow the ball to drop intentionally, in order to catch the runners in a double play.  Hence, after the call, there was little more threatening of the Cardinals’ lead.


As said multiple times recently amidst these posts, this is not a sports blog.  We will not be dissecting the perils and pitfalls of the infield fly rule.  Instead, my desire this day is to focus on the crowd’s reaction.  What did they do?  What every disappointed, discouraged, and semi-organized group of people seems to do these days…  as for 19 minutes, play was halted.


Bottles and cans went flying on the field.  The crowd went wild once more.


People were throwing trash — passionately dispensing their litter all over the field.


Here’s today’s zillion dollar question:  when do we ‘throw trash’?


When do we dispense litter —  all in the name of passion?  … emotion?


After Wednesday night’s presidential candidate debate, we witnessed a lot of trash….


“That moderator was terrible… he lied… how dare he pick on Big Bird… the altitude — that’s what caused the problem — that’s why the President looked so incredibly inarticulate…”


Yes, when we can’t logic our way out of things, we throw our trash on the field.


Watch out, friends, I have bad news for you…


When people can’t win on the objective alone, they become emotional; they begin to play dirty; they start throwing trash.


After the initial presidential debate — when by all accounts, Gov. Romney soared and Pres. Obama looked lost in thumbing through economic explanation — the Intramuralist sadly predicts, we will be encouraged to throw more trash.  The campaigns are about to start playing dirty.


News alert:  if you think that only the Obama campaign will play dirty, you are naive.


Also:  if you think that only the Romney campaign will play dirty, you are equally naive.


This is the dire state that the American political process has evolved into.  Both the Obama and Romney campaigns will now play dirty.  The President looked terrible on Wednesday.  He looked as if he had little comprehension of economic issues — seemingly articulately lost without without a teleprompter and script; my sense is his campaign will subtly suggest he has little other choice.  The Governor will most likely play equally dirty.  The reality is that dirty, character-smearing politics works.  That’s sad.  It’s sad that the watching public succumbs so easily.


Here we go, friends… a month ‘til we vote.  Thank God it will soon be over.  No longer will have to listen to our Facebook friends justify calling one or another any derogatory part of the human anatomy.  I have trouble with that.  It’s disrespectful.  It’s most representative of the name-caller’s own foolishness.  Egad.


Watch out.  Just like in Atlanta, self-serving, political operatives will be encouraging us to delay the game… shout profanities… and throw our trash.




an imperfect church… imperfect people

I couldn’t stop thinking about one tangent comment from Sunday’s post regarding divisiveness:  It’s “not about how the contemporary American church is obviously often an imperfect reflection of who God is.”


I realize that many will quickly quip how we can discern in totality who God is and what he wants from his people.  That’s an excellent question and an even greater pursuit.  It’s also a question that we probably can’t answer in entirety.  Yet the lack of answering in entirety should not dissuade us from attempting to answer.  Often the greatest growth comes simply through the asking.


I believe wholeheartedly, no less, that the contemporary American church is often an imperfect reflection.  So are the European churches.  Asian.  African.  Churches and people… we are each imperfect.  And we are incapable of being pure substitutes for divine reality.


God is not reflected well by those who embrace terrorism.  For those who believe that the killing of the infidel somehow merits eternal reward, such is inconsistent with the Creator of the world — the Creator, thus, too, of the people being mercilessly destroyed.


God is not reflected well by those who have physically or sexually abused others within the church.  For those who have gut-wrenchingly misused the intimacy and respect forded by church authority, especially with young men and women, such is inconsistent with the One who calls us to respect all life.


God is not reflected well by those who in the name of God shout hatred…


… nor by those who turn a blind eye to one side so they can remain focused on the other…

… nor by those who believe either the Republican or Democrat parties are all good (after all, they, too, were created by imperfect people)…


God is not reflected well by those who are arrogant… compassionless… unforgiving… and self-focused.


No, this idea that we need to spend so much time focusing on self is not representative of who God is.  My sense is God is much more humble than any of us could ever be.


The challenge, therefore, with “all of the above” lies within how we process what we see.  The watching world often forgets that the church is imperfect..  that all of God’s people are imperfect… that you and me are imperfect.  And in that forgetting we still make conclusions as to who God is and what he wants from us because we say, “I don’t want to be like that!”  “I don’t want anything to do with that!”  But yet, those conclusions are based upon imperfection.


Nowhere, friends, is it logical to derive conclusive, impassioned opinion based on what’s imperfect — or perhaps better said, based on what may be inaccurate.  Imperfect people — and thus inaccurate representations — are inherently incapable of modeling for us always and consistently who the Creator of the world actually is.


So what are we to do?


One, we must refrain from defining who God is based on so much emotion and individual experience.  How we feel doesn’t always necessarily line up with what is good and true.


Two, we must pursue God.  If there is a God out there who wants something from his creation, then I want to figure that out.  I’m sensing something along the lines of, “If he loves me and created me, then he probably wants me to love him back.”  Seems like a wise place to start.


And three, we must keep asking questions… even the tough ones.


Often the greatest growth comes simply through the asking.





Some things never compare to childhood learnings.


I was perhaps barely a teenager… in that age when you’re growing up, observing adults, aware of when things just aren’t pure and good, but also not quite certain how to process the lack of purity and goodness.


My family attended a small midwestern church.  It was a special place to my family; but during this particular time, we had a pastor who seemed to be struggling.  It was obvious from my teenage perspective that his leadership was questionable.  Some seemed to revere him; others, well, were seemingly unoffensive with their words, but yet, I knew something was off.  Even at a young age, I discerned that our pastor’s authority was questioned by a significant many.  His leadership was not entirely effective; in fact, it seemed only effective with somewhere near half the congregation.


Sometime thereafter, I remember our pastor making several emphatic, controversial statements from the pulpit.  Again, something seemed off.  Then through a series of events that were somehow hidden from an observant teen’s eyes, the pastor did something that to me — simply put, even in my elementary understanding — felt wrong.  In order to continue his professional tenure — knowing his leadership was significantly questioned and arguably effective with only, at most half the body, he articulated a refusal to resign.  Granted, as a kid, I’m not sure it was necessary he resigned; he was an honorable man.  But what happened next was also not necessary…


He asked us to vote.  To vote on whether he should stay… or he should go.


Friends, that vote served one purpose and one purpose only; it divided the people.


This post is not about my childhood pastor.  It’s also not about how the contemporary American church is obviously often an imperfect reflection of who God is.  This post is about how and why sometimes our leaders intentionally employ division.  Just like my childhood pastor, he chose to divide the people in order to survive.  I wonder if that is happening again now.


As Pres. Obama said recently on “60 Minutes, “I’m the first one to confess that the spirit that I brought to Washington, that I wanted to see instituted, where we weren’t constantly in a political slugfest… I haven’t fully accomplished that.  Haven’t even come close in some cases…  My biggest disappointment is that we haven’t changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked.”


Some days I wonder if Pres. Obama has increased the division.  I must thus also wonder, just like my old pastor, if the division has been intentional.  A few observations…


One, Pres. Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric regarding unifying our country was so inflated, it has been impossible to obtain…  “There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America”…  “I’m in this race not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation”…  “We will remember that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea:  yes, we can.”


And yet, it is no secret that at times the President has pointed out what divides us…  Black vs. White… Republican vs. Democrat… Wealthy vs. All Other Classes.  He also has pursued divisive policy.  For example, as he prioritized health care reform even when our economy was flailing, he did so behind closed doors on a partisan basis with no majority, public support.  Unity was irrelevant.  Hence, from my limited perspective, division has often been encouraged in the past four years, especially nearing elections.  I thus ask why.


Truthfully, I can’t answer that question.  When Obama came to office with a contagious message of hope and change, I was impressed.  I wanted the tone to change.  I wanted us to change our spending patterns; and I wanted to change the divisiveness that has existed in the USA ever since lobbyist restrictions were eased during the Carter administration.  I looked forward to greater unification, lesser partisanship, and decreased government intrusion.  But that’s not what hope and change have evolved to be.


I can only surmise that just like my childhood pastor, the President believes the division is somehow necessary to maintain his current professional tenure.  Knowing his leadership is significantly questioned and arguably effective with only, at most half the nation, something must be done to spark his supporters’ passion — even if that means intentionally dividing the United States of America.


The Intramuralist will always be seriously disappointed — regardless of party — in any who utilizes a strategy that intentionally divides in order to propel one’s own election… as some things never compare to childhood learnings.




a price tag on integrity

Some days I wonder… can you place a price tag on integrity?  Is there something for which integrity will be sacrificed?


I caution you not to answer too quickly.  My keen sense is that far too many of us actually — but subtly — perhaps even unknowingly — allow a price tag to be placed.  The tag seems to slip so easily on.


We observe, in fact, the small things, the actions and words that may seem minute, but are yet, fairly reflective.  My wonder thus centers around how even the “little things” chip away at one’s character… at seemingly good people… at even you and me…


For example, in the most recent Monday Night Football game — also known as an incredibly poor display of accurate officiating — with all due respect to the replacement refs, who truly aren’t experienced in this area (but are finally done, thank God!) — the Seahawks won the game on a last second ‘Hail, Mary’ heave.  The disgrace is that all replays showed a Packer in possession of the ball.


I am struck by the reaction from the Seattle Seahawk faithful… specifically from coach Pete Carroll…


Carroll said as he viewed the play, the Packer defensive back had the advantage in the air, but “when we finished the catch we had the ball, and they had the ball too, so it’s simultaneous…  They called it and the league backed it up, and game over, we win.”


Carroll is obviously loyal to his team.  Well done, coach.  Yet to act as if he saw something that few outside of suburban Seattle saw is disingenuous.  It discredits him.  “Little” as his comments may be, the skewed perspective sacrifices his integrity.


But why?  Why would someone allow a price tag to be put on integrity?


Friends, this blog is not about sports nor about Pete Carroll.  Carroll has led several teams well.  My question is why Carroll would act as if he knew something the rest of the watching world did not… that only he knew the complete truth?  Would he even, possibly, lie?  Perhaps he considers the skewed perspective only a “little lie,” yet such only serves as a dart in his integrity.  The bottom line:  why would one sacrifice something so meaningful — and so difficult to get back?


Carroll obviously had something to gain.


Skewed perspective is rampant — almost so frequent that we oft fail to notice…


Another example… each month Pres. Obama announces his “jobs created” numbers.  Now granted, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office, the Intramuralist is not one who believes government is the creator of jobs.  My strong economic sense is that it’s a far more accurate explanation to say that government makes the conditions “ripe” or “less ripe” for jobs to be created, with the private sector providing the majority of employment opportunity.


Nonetheless, each month the administration announces the jobs government has “created” under their leadership.  The inherent, arguably disingenuous challenge is that also each month, jobs have been “lost,” as a specific amount of jobs must be new each month solely to keep pace with the birth and immigration rates.  Thus, to announce what’s created as opposed to the net gain or net loss serves as an inaccurate picture of the economy.  Why would any announce only the “created jobs”?  Why would they not acknowledge that half of the employment picture is omitted from that perspective?  … a half that changes the perception of what is actually true.


I return to 3 predominant questions — questions not just for candidates and coaches, but also, for each of us…


Would we ever sacrifice our integrity — even with the “little lies” or omissions?

Is there a point at which a price tag can be placed upon our character?

And are we most tempted when we have something to gain?


Yes… yes… great questions…  even more challenging to answer.




media fast

In a society where subjectivity is masked as objectivity…


… where opinion is offered as news…

… where persuasive rhetoric is free-flowing…

… the following story disturbs me…


Dozens of emails have been uncovered between the Department of Justice and Media Matters.  Public Affairs Director Tracy Schnakler and Media Matters staffers planned and discussed how to attack reporters who covered potential improprieties in which the department’s reputation was in question, such as the Black Panther voter suppression case and the “Fast and Furious” gun operation scandal.


Here’s the problem:


Media Matters is a subjective, partisan advocacy group.  It started with millions in donations from liberal philanthropists connected to the Democratic party.


The Department of Justice is to be an unbiased branch of government, funded by our tax dollars.  There is no ethical reason for an objective government entity to coordinate efforts with a liberal advocacy group.


Hence, with less than 50 days prior to the election, the Intramuralist must again encourage you (if you dare pay attention) to receive your news from a “newsworthy” site.  If your primary news comes from The Huffington Post, you are being seduced by liberal rhetoric.  If your primary news comes from The Drudge Report, you are being enticed by a conservative slant.  Opinions that come from these sites do not qualify as news; we cannot fool ourselves by thinking otherwise.  I often find their sensational headlines to be embarrassing, especially if thought to be equated with good, responsible journalism.


As said here previously, we encourage being as “least skewed” as possible, as paying attention to “skewed” sites does not make any of us an informed voter; it only makes us a manipulated one.  We thus recommend 2 sites for nonpartisan information:


Both of the above sites offer extensive liberal and conservative opinion, and no slanted opinion is manipulated to appear as if it is something it is not…  unlike The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report.


Let me therefore respectfully challenge all Intramuralist participants — acknowledging that in the next 2 months, partisan faithful will be charging after us, caring not if they distort the truth; their goal is only to obtain our vote.  Truth is lesser in importance.


My challenge, therefore, again comes comparable to fasting…


Those who embrace fasting as a personal discipline speak of its many benefits.  Most prominent among them are good health, minimization of toxins, and a strong renewal of a pure mind, thereby allowing their bodies and brains to function more effectively.   Persons who regularly fast attest to thinking more clearly and feeling better about themselves.


If we were to “fast” from skewed news sources for the next 50 some days, I wonder…  would it minimize the “toxins” from our brains?  Would omitting the hereby identified propaganda and persuasive rhetoric assist us in thinking more clearly?  That is, what would happen if we agreed to eliminate the employed rhetoric which allows us to mythically believe we are receiving accurate news?  … which emboldens us into thinking we are informed voters?  … and which allows us to think our passions and perspectives are potentially, possibly, self-righteously pure?


I prefer functioning effectively.  I prefer minimizing the toxins… minimizing the Huff Posts, Drudge’s, and opinionated journalists on TV.  They are not news.  Thus, I’m becoming a new fan of fasting… starting now… for at least the next 50 days.




16 trillion dollars


Sixteen trillion dollars.  16 trillion dollars, friends.


Let me be clear:  this is not a partisan post.  This post will be factual and objective.  It will also be sobering.  The outstanding public debt of the United States of America is now almost the 14 digit $16,000,000,000,000.


Now for those of you who equate any accounting with an obscure foreign language, allow me to first simply explain the difference between our deficit and our debt.  The deficit is the fiscal year difference between how much the government takes in verses how much it spends.  The debt is the accumulation of these deficits.  In other words, to amass a debt of sixteen trillion dollars, the United States government has been spending beyond its means for years.  It is our pattern.  (Warning:  this next sentence will be opinion…)  This pattern of spending beyond our means for years is incredibly foolish.


(Now back to facts.)


When we objectively ask what has contributed to this massive, almost unfathomable number (and avoid analysis via any partisan filter), we must evaluate the annual deficits under each administration.  In order to compare apples to apples, so-to-speak, the deficit is expressed as a percentage of our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Again for my foreign language avoidant friends, GDP is the total value of all the goods and services produced in a country in a given year.


So comparing our past presidents’ deficits (since dollar amounts would be an inaccurate comparison), going back to 1968, U.S. presidents have amassed the following annual deficits as a percentage of GDP:  (the more negative the percentage, the larger the deficit)


Richard Nixon -1.6%

Gerald Ford -3.5%

Jimmy Carter -2.4%

Ronald Reagan -4.3%

George H.W. Bush -4.3%

Bill Clinton -0.1%

George W. Bush -3.2%

Barack Obama -8.3%


(Source:  Office of Management and Budget)


Now each president gives us their justification for why the deficit has to be so large; some presidents like to give us that justification over and over… and over.  For Pres. Bush 43, it was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For Pres. Obama, it is the “worst recession since the Great Depression.”


The Intramuralist has 3 concluding opinions:  One, I’m tired of the justifications.  Two, many fairly loud critics should be much more thankful for one William Jefferson Clinton.


And three…


For the last 3 years, we have not made any progress in lessening the deficit and lowering our debt.  I remember VP Biden’s public address where he said we have to “spend more money to keep from going bankrupt.”  With all due respect to Joe Biden, we have spent more money for far too long, and if we continue this pattern, we will go bankrupt.


This is not a partisan question; it is a serious, sobering, nonpartisan question.  Who has a plan to pay down the debt?  Who will do so aggressively?  Who will not get caught in partisan politics and political power plays?  Who will recognize that this is most important?


As Condoleezza Rice exhorted last Wednesday night, “When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means. They see a government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come. The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny. That is not the America that has inspired others to follow our lead.”


Amen, Condi.


Let me add one more opinion:  if we cannot solve this fiscal crisis, cliff, or whatever any pundit desires to call it — just like any financial entity or household — we will cease to exist.  No entitlement will matter.  No social issue will matter.  If we don’t exist, no issue matters.  Pick your passion…  abortion, gay marriage, gun control, this rhetorical war on women, healthcare, defense spending, social security, you-name-it.  With all due respect — regardless of the position of your passion — none of these will matter if  we don’t get our fiscal house in order first.




winning the words battle, but losing the idea war

[Note:  Today is the final post of our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]



In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates, each of which lasted three hours.  Today candidates running for office state their case via 30-second commercials and 140-character tweets.

Whether it’s because of technology or because we just live busier lives today, there is a perception that voters have shorter attention spans than they did 150 years ago.  So just like marketing for other items, political advertising has become more concise and summarized.  That approach may have positive short-term effects in terms of winning elections, but there can be negative long-term impacts.  Over-simplified campaign slogans can foster misperceptions on broader policy issues.

Even though I am an active member of the Republican Party, initially I was not a fan of George W. Bush.  The reason was because as a candidate he referred to himself as a “compassionate conservative.”  I suspect that phrase was the brainchild of Karl Rove meant to maximize electoral success.  From that perspective, the motto was effective.  It appealed to independent voters who wanted fiscal responsibility but believed Democrat claims that Republicans were cold and heartless.

To me, though, conservatism is compassionate.  To put the two words together implied a paradox and reinforced the Democrat talking point.  Two generations of the welfare state has institutionalized dependency for a large segment of our society, something I don’t find to be very compassionate.  It’s too bad that important point got pushed aside in an alliterative pursuit for votes.

This year, given the fact that many Americans are out of work or underemployed, the topic on many voters’ minds is jobs.  Rightfully so, most politicians are emphasizing their intent to improve the employment situation.  Unfortunately, many candidates (Republicans and Democrats alike) are saying that they are going to “create jobs.”

Voters may react positively to such a pledge.  Yet, there’s one problem as I see it:  government can’t create jobs.  It’s a significant difference of opinion, and when Republicans say they will create jobs, they are ceding to the Democrat viewpoint about where jobs come from.

A job will only exist when the time put in by an employee enables value to be added to a product or service.  That’s the true source of jobs (and wealth, by the way)… individuals acting freely to develop things that other people want or need.  All revenue that the government has comes from the private sector, not the other way around.

Government does have the power to prevent jobs from being created, through excessive regulation and high taxes which discourage entrepreneurs from taking risks.  Unfortunately, “I will destroy fewer jobs” doesn’t go well on a bumper sticker.

Political consultants should give voters more credit that they can absorb more information than a sound bite.  They should provide candidates more opportunity to fully explain the ideas behind their positions.

To get elected, candidates need to obtain a majority of votes, so there is a natural tendency to react to public opinion.   However, sometimes what we need instead is changing public opinion.  What we need is leadership.





[Intramuralist Note:  My “little brother” — although he towers approximately a foot overhead — now shares with us as the State Senator from Indiana’s District 24.  Way to go, wise bro… well done.] 

fifty shades of ‘gray’

[Note:  Today is day 7 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]



Catchy title – right?


With all the hoopla surrounding this book, a taboo to some, a guilty pleasure for others, to find a discussion of it here on this seemingly wholesome, cerebral blog, how controversial!  To some this might be an opportunity to learn about something that normally they wouldn’t give the time of day. Others will simply turn away and deem it beneath them. Still others might welcome it as a chance to learn what all the fuss is about.


Well, sorry to disappoint, but this is not about the erotica sweeping the land via lonely housewives. This is about another brand of Gray. The one that dwells between the black and white of our current society, the one that, unfortunately, is also taboo, and the one we really need to be talking about.



I am, for one, all for having a belief system that a person is invested in – that you care enough about to defend, or at the very least one that carves out a way to live your life that is positive and beneficial to others. Grown out of your own up-bringing, faith and life experiences, however, what I fail to understand in our current society is the need by most to pass judgment on those whose beliefs are not in line with their own. The need to convince those with opposing opinions that they are wrong, for the simple reason that they are not the same as their own; note that I said “not the same” and not different.


Different is good; we have been taught to believe this phrase.

Not the same as me; well that’s another story.


Different is an obvious thing – it is geographical or educational or color. Different is the homeless man asking for a dollar on the corner, or the special needs teenager who bags groceries, or the girl from the south who says “y’all”. These are all excusable differences born out of circumstance beyond control.


Not the same as me is the man who doesn’t believe Global Warming to be the truth, or the mom who believes in spanking her children. Or the homosexual couple who desire to celebrate their relationship and legally commit themselves to one another. Those are choices, and if they are not the same as mine, then quite frankly, they are wrong. Or so goes the current party line on all sides.


They are the people who are as educated as I am, come from the same part of the country, might even have the same skin color and who, until they voice an opinion, or post something on their Facebook wall, I think are exactly like me. They should be – from the outside at least we are alike. How is it possible that they don’t believe as I do?


They have to be – we are the same. But somehow, we aren’t.


In our current society, it seems, that makes them wrong, or bad. If someone doesn’t line up 100% with our beliefs, then I oppose them. Period, end of story. No room for compromise, or discussion or debate. My side is right, yours is wrong. We can talk about it, but not in a way that is going to enlighten the opposition. There is no give and take, no understanding of why a person believes differently than I do. No “live and let live”.


There is my way, or the wrong way.

There is black and white.

There is no Gray.


What a tragedy.  I really mean that and am not trying to be overly dramatic. That word is thrown around for remarkable events like war, and un-timely death, or the collapse of the Reds in the post season (that one’s for you, AR). But really, even at its smallest level, judgment of others is a tragedy, too.


It keeps us from having empathy for others, from understanding a different religion, or point of view. From having compassion for the NRA member who lost a loved one in Aurora, or the Atheist who commits suicide, or the pro-life mother faced with a pregnant teenager.


They weren’t the same as me, they got what they deserved. If they had only supported gun control, believed in my God, supported sex education in school, like I DO, if only. 


It is a sad state we find ourselves in, my friends. When the only example of debate is shouting matches on cable news networks and belittling arguments on social media outlets. For most of us, our beliefs are so strong, it is hard to understand that anyone could believe as strongly in the opposition. But, they do, we are not all the same, and the things we could learn, about ourselves, our faith, our own morals, if only we’d do a little more listening and a little less shouting. Whether that is verbal shouting or the-oh-so-popular ALL CAPS SHOUTING, we must start listening to each other. Our differences are not as large as our problems in this country.


Bring back the compassion and understanding.

Bring back the educated debate and compromise.

Bring back the Gray.





[Intramuralist Note:  3.5 years ago, Jules helped provide the impetus for this blog; she sharpens me still today.  For more on her professional creativity, check out her published, fictional repertoire:  “These Darn Heels”, “Deja Who?” and the newly released “Try, Try Again”.]

we are Penn State

[Note:  Today is day 2 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]


I went to a wedding last weekend where the theme (which had been chosen over a year ago) was “We Are… Getting Married,” based on the familiar Pennsylvania State University’s theme, “We Are…Penn State.”  The wedding was held in… Pennsylvania. My family lives in… Pennsylvania.  And guess what college all my family attended?  Penn State. I planned on going there, but when President Reagan took away student loans to the middle class in 1982, I was quickly redirected to look at a school in Wisconsin, where we lived at the time. But my dream school was Penn State.


Jerry Sandusky has tarnished the name of Penn State and lots of people are taking aim at the whole University, almost as if they are a bunch of sharks feeding on a school (no pun intended) of fish. Small fish that make up a large school, but small nonetheless. So you may think or say anything to do with Penn State is ugly, awful and tainted. But I ask you this: do you think it is possible to be a Penn Stater and be good? Noble? Nice? Not pro-child molesting?


My family… over 50 of them at that wedding, were embarrassed to be associated with Penn State. They feel dirty. Disgusting and ugly.


They attended school like so many of us have. And if you haven’t, then place your favorite charity or high school or sport’s team in place of a college. My family is from Pennsylvania and went to a great college. No ifs or buts. Penn State is a good university, and we should not run hiding, shrinking in the shadows from people who feel they must excoriate someone other then the child rapist. My family did not rape kids or endorse the raping of kids. Did they enjoy some football? Some of them. Certainly not my mother, who would go to a game and read a book in the stands. But that is not what made them Penn Staters. They should be proud Nittany Lions because they went to a tough college and graduated with degrees and went on to be good members of society.


So if you say to me that I should crawl in a hole for ten years as payment for Jerry Sandusky, I ask you why would you say that? Why is it that when something awful happens, or even something mildly irritating, must we cast about to blame someone and something? It does not seem adequate enough to blame the bad people involved. Some more people have to pay. We feel like it isn’t enough for the bad person to pay, so we say that a shooter who killed 20 people had help from the guns. Guns are bad then.


Or we say that a drunk driver killed someone, so the bad bartender caused the fatal accident. Too often we do not set blame at the feet of the one it belongs to, because we want justice. Our type of justice. We are angry and we will set things to rights. Right?


Hmmm. That’s where it gets interesting. Who made us judge? Who are we to mete out punishment? Do we have the final say? Any say?


The parents of a serial killer… are they to blame? When does this stop and we say the person who did the awful deed is awful? When do we stop attacking other people to make ourselves feel vindicated? When is enough, enough?


Will you tell my family they do not need to hide that they are Penn Staters? Or do we really want my 72 year old dad to “wait” out your judgment time? However long that is. My brother has stated he will not attend any of the football games with my dad. This is madness! My dad did not rape the kids. My dad goes to the games for fun, and now that will certainly be a thing of the past. So Jerry Sandusky hurt my dad, my brother, me and my family. He hurt Penn Staters. The Nittany Lions.


So while you rage against the lack of decent sanctions against Penn State, because nothing can bring back the innocence of those boys (true), I say please, stop and hold your tongue for a minute. We are hurt. We are hurting. We need mercy. And someday, you might need it, too. What do they say? What goes around, comes around? It does. So when you are down because your company did something illegal, or your kid did something tragically awful, or your spouse did something bad, do you want me to come around and kick you in the teeth? Will it not be enough to say you are suffering too?


Mercy plays a part in this society. Certainly we should treat other people the way we would want to be treated in that circumstance. The world needs fewer pointing fingers and more hands extended out to help someone up. We are all in this world together and if you can begin to really look at a situation from another hurting person’s point of view, then you are getting it. You are becoming smarter. Less vicious. You are becoming a better person. And if this dark world needs anything, it is people who are kind, patient, full of compassion and mercy. So please, I beg you, remember to wait a little longer before climbing on the bashing bandwagon. And before you take a certain wild and willing delight at the trials of Penn State and Penn Staters everywhere, remember my family’s wedding. Where the affair felt almost like it wanted to be held in a back closet somewhere. Out of sight. Hidden away.


Well, We Are… Hurting.  We Are… Embarrassed.  We Are… Sad.  We Are… Penn State.






[Intramuralist Note:  D is a wise and witty stay at home mom, whose never been afraid to tackle the tough subjects.  She also has an innate fondness for Peanut M&M’s.]

i see dead people

Funny thing about dead people.  They can’t talk.

Funny thing about us.  We talk about dead people.


Remember the deceased can’t talk nor talk back.  They can’t respond to the words we say nor the impressions we have.  They can’t affirm what’s right nor correct what’s wrong.  Hence, I wonder what they’d say…


Thinking back over the years… what would John F. Kennedy say?  By most historical accounts, it seems an inspiring sense of optimism evolved via JFK’s leadership.  There was something contagious in how this charismatic, young politician spoke… how he dreamed… how he challenged…


  • “To whom much is given, much is required.” 
  • “Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”  
  • “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”


Yet after only an approximate 1000 days, JFK died in his political prime.  While for some this prompted increased reverence, romanticism, and historical rewrites, there’s much the public learned after Kennedy died.  There were reports regarding affairs with multiple women.  There were reports of serious health ailments and prescribed drug usage for those problems.  There were questions as to how the medications impacted his infidelity.


I wonder what Kennedy would say.  What was intentional?  What did his wife know?  What would you tell us if you could speak?


More recently, what would Joe Paterno say?  Among the NCAA’s winningest football coaches, Paterno led Penn State and contributed significantly to academic life, donating over $4 million to the State College campus.  There was something unique in how this career coach spoke… how he motivated… how he challenged…


  • “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”
  • “Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”
  • “It’s hard for me to explain. I don’t have an ego. I’m going to work to give these kids a chance to win. If we win, it’s theirs.“


Yet after 46 years as the Nittany Lion coach, Paterno’s former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on 40 counts of child sexual abuse over a 15 year span.  While Paterno passed away this past January, investigations continued at Penn State.  There are now reports of conspiracy and cover up.  There are questions as to what the coaching staff and administration knew.


I wonder what Paterno would say.  What did he know?  What other motivations were relevant?  What would you tell us if you could speak?


And finally, 3 days ago, Steven M. Covey died.  Covey wrote the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Unlike JFK and Joe Paterno, there is no residual scandal; hence, I think I know what he would tell us if he could speak…


  1. Be Proactive.  Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind.  Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals.
  3. Put First Things First.  Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency.
  4. Think Win-Win.  Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.  Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you.
  6. Synergize.  Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.
  7. Sharpen the Saw.  Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.


Personally, I like #5 best.  We could all work to understand a little more…  especially understanding dead people… especially not assuming we know all.