on Wisconsin

Today’s the day Wisconsinites gather for more than a Packer game.  (Granted, Lambeau Field seems far more unifying.)  Today is the recall election for the state’s chief executive.  For more factual details on what has progressed to this point, please read our week old post entitled “Discerning What Is Wise.”  Today’s respectful opining focuses instead on what’s actually at stake.


In order to genuinely discern what’s at stake, step one is to whittle away the rhetoric.  If you read hyperbolic editorials or listen to the latest rhetorical robo-call, you may hear the following, actual claims:


“The Final Battle In The War Against Unions Is Underway”

“Wisconsin Can’t Wait”

“Governors Declare War on Nurses and Teachers”

“Governor of the Year:  Scott Walker”

“We Hate Walker!”


Scott Walker has been Wisconsin’s CEO for only 18 months, and yet, in that brief period of time, “America’s Dairyland” has been transformed into the national hotbed of polarized politics.  What’s synonymous with polarized, political hotbeds?  Rhetorical abundance.  Factual manipulation.  Limitless passion.  Record distortion.  And a total disrespect of dissenting opinion.


(Note:  more people in Wisconsin need to read the Intramuralist.)


Clearing away the rhetorical chaff, there exists no Wisconsin “war.”  Last I observed, while American armed forces fight bravely in Afghanistan, there is no war on women, no war on teachers, no war on Christmas, contraception, etc.  Let’s not disrespect our troops by claiming military conflict where it doesn’t exist.  Hence, there is no “war” in Wisconsin.  The origin of this conflict rests in the question of whether or not collective bargaining should be limited.  That is not war; that is a question… a question on which reasonable people disagree.


What is the long term impact of union contracts on state government?


And a secondary question that all reasonable people must also wrestle with:  do labor unions funnel money to their candidates who, if elected, then return the favor by approving overly generous contracts?


Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Refrain from emotional argument.


Our opinions on the appropriateness of collective bargaining limitations say nothing about how we feel about teachers.  That is an emotional argument simply serving to ratchet up the rhetorical volume.  I had some great teachers; in fact, thanks to clever Mr. Cunningham, I’m now consistently utilizing my genuine interest in current events!  And allow me to not speak solely of my own experience, as I’m also incredibly thankful for my sons’ educators, especially those who unselfishly empower my youngest, having special needs.


Yet how we feel about our teachers does not correlate to the relevant question.  What is the long term impact of union contracts on state government?  How have public employee pensions and insurance affected state budgets?  Those questions must be asked and answered without all the rhetorical and emotional interference.


Notice California — a beautiful state currently strangled by massive debt.  Public pensions have been a significant contributor to this noose. (FYI:  Be careful when researching this issue; many partisan writers will claim an inaccurate percentage, omitting the key accounting issue of underfunding pensions, with some state funds scheduled to run out as early as 2017.)   According to Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), “Three times as many people are retiring as are entering the workforce. That arithmetic doesn’t add up. In addition, benefits, contributions and the age of retirement all have to balance. I don’t believe they do today. So we have to take action.”


Agree or disagree with the approach, the origin of the Badger political hotbed is a result of one state taking action.


Gov. Walker asked public employees (exempting law enforcement and firefighters) to pay 5.8% of their salary toward pensions and a minimum of 12.6% toward health insurance premiums.  Previously in Wisconsin, employees paid little to nothing for pensions and an average of 6% toward healthcare.  While the jury’s still out on long term implications, in these short 18 months, a clear majority of objective sources conclude that Wisconsin’s economic climate has improved.


Thus, the question:  what is the longterm impact?


If rhetoric stays out of the way, today Wisconsinites might be closer to answering that question.  The rest of the country will most likely also answer it soon.





This week Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on super-sized soft drinks in New York City.  While his stated goal was portion control in an effort to reduce obesity, it was ironically amusing, as the announcement came 24 hours before National Donut Day, an observation the mayor’s office previously, publicly, and enthusiastically proclaimed.


Controlling soft drink size, however, is not the bottom line over which we should gulp.  After all, this is merely one law aspiring to control our behavior…


In West Virginia, only babies can ride in a baby carriage.

In Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to sleep in your refrigerator.

And in Flint, Michigan, we could each be arrested for donning those lovely, “saggy pants.”


The question is this:  how far should the government go to control individual behavior?  Does the government have that responsibility?  Is the government even capable of legislating that behavior?


Some legislation possesses greater credibility for legality consideration due to the targeted behavior having a proven, clear, and negative affect on another living being.  That’s the legitimacy in the legislation to curb indoor smoking; secondhand smoke causes health risks for those adjacent to the smoker.


That’s the legitimacy in the effort to ban abortion.  Aborting a fetus stops someone else’s heart.  The point is that individual acts such as smoking and/or abortion have a proven, clear, and negative impact on someone else.


The challenge then for any democracy is the extent to which behavior should be controlled when the negative impact on someone else is not proven and clear…


… such as soft drink gulping…


… such as homo or heterosexual activity…


… such as you-name-it.


Friends, I am not suggesting that all individual behavior is good and noble and right.  My question is more in regard to whether or not the government should legislate our isolated behavior.  When government attempts to control individual actions, government struggles to adhere to fluctuating standards of morality; government often overreaches; and government also inches toward policy more associated with Marxist and Communist thinking.


Allow me a rather relevant example…


One criminal activity has been especially glamorized with the evolution of society…


… in the name of love… in finding one’s soulmate… often veiled by celebrity…


Paul Newman, Julia Roberts, and Jerry Seinfeld — each of their marriages began via adultery.  Society has become numb to that behavior.  I speak not judgmentally, friends.  Many of us have been hurt or even engaged in such activity; we’re each capable of error.  My concern, however, is that society no longer sees adultery as not good, not noble, and not right.


The relative thinking here is that adultery has long been attempted to be legislated.  From early Roman law to the onset of American, adultery has been defined as criminal activity.  In many states still — from New York to North Dakota — adultery is illegal.  Government has attempted to curb this unhealthy, individual behavior.


(Dare the Intramuralist go out on a limb here, but…)  The legislation has been ineffective.


My point is this:  there are some behaviors that while currently viewed by as unhealthy or wrong, government is still incapable of stopping.  Government cannot supersede the spirit within the man.  Conviction comes via truth — not via government.  Also, we are motivated to find that truth when we are allowed to experience the consequences of our behavior.  When government removes the ability to experience the motivating consequences and repercussions of our individual actions and choices, we have moved further away from democracy and further still from wisdom.


Enough for now.  Pass the Diet Coke.




the chosen

Over the holiday weekend I witnessed it once again.  It’s been around seemingly forever, and yet it still can make me uncomfortable.  Obviously, it makes many uncomfortable; otherwise, society wouldn’t struggle dreaming up creative ways to avoid it.  We instead label the struggle and scheming as something else… something that sounds better… but something it’s not…


One by one, the kids lined up.  The boys to the left, the girls to the right.  The oldest maybe 13, the youngest near 5.  Time to choose.


“I pick you!” said the first captain, after quickly yet carefully assessing the potential prowess of the 20 plus peers before him.  “I pick Jackson!” said the next.  And so the process continued until all were chosen.


The frail little 5 year old was last.  The look on her face revealed little from a faraway glance.  I wondered how she felt being chosen last.


Chosen last.  Even worse?  Not chosen.


Therein lies the problem.  That’s what’s hard and often uncomfortable.  When people are selected for various activities or honors, someone is always chosen last or not even chosen.  I don’t like it on “Survivor.”  I didn’t like it in Saturday’s whiffle ball game.  Witnessing the one chosen last makes me uncomfortable.


My sense is that such discomfort is shared by more than me.  No ethical one appreciates another inherently deemed as “the worst of these.”  So the question is:  what are we to do?  What are we to do with the one with the perceived less ability?  Less prowess?  Hardest circumstances?


Those questions have historically been challenging for society to wrestle with.  We either ignore the discomfort — or in a currently increasing mantra, we work to keep that selection process from ever happening.  Allow me to illustrate…


When prom was hosted by Kaynor Tech High School in Waterbury, Connecticut this month, the principal of the school altered the selection process for king and queen.  Proclaiming that everyone deserves “the same opportunity,” Principal Lisa Hylwa — rather than allowing students to vote for the winner — had prom participants instead put their names in a box; the teenage royals were then drawn at random.  Yes, a random king and queen.


According to Hylwa, a chosen king and queen could potentially “spark jealousy, mean behavior, or bullying.”  The random drawing was, in her opinion, wiser.  In other words, the principal desired to keep the selection process from ever happening.


Now as admitted at the onset of this posting, it’s uncomfortable to witness the one chosen last or the ones never chosen.  Yet it seems equally painful (and reeking of a very stiff, political correctness) to suggest that the election process must cease to exist.  The reality is that not all persons are qualified for prom king, not all politicians can win an election, and not every basketball player will be selected in the NBA draft.


It seems to me that there is an increasingly developing mindset that each of us should be so qualified — that we should have this “fair shot” or opportunity at all.  The challenge is that the full manifestation of that logic is absent of the truth that we are each created with different gifts; we aren’t all equal.  We each have different skills, different gifts, varied intensities of ambition, work ethics, and God-given abilities.  To ignore them — and eliminate any process of election — seems equally uncomfortable.  Man can’t control something God created.


Friends, I don’t have all the answers; don’t conclude I feel that I do.  My strong sense is simply that this idea that all must have equal opportunity is creating an entitlement sense that lacks the wisdom to recognize individual gifting.  To eliminate the selection process — and thus any voting of kings and queens — is unwise.


FYI:  My youngest son was a part of Saturday’s whiffle ball game.  Of the 20 plus kids, he was one of the last chosen.  Did I mention he has Down syndrome?  Yet did he grimace and fret as it neared the end of the selection process?  Was he upset about being picked close to last?


That adorable 10 year old jumped up and down, eager to play, thankful to be a part of a team.  He has many gifts — most not exhibited on a base path.  He knows that.  Hence, if we could all be a little more like him…


(P.S.  He does have a great arm.)




discerning what is wise

One week from today a historic election will be held in the Badger state.  For those comfortably identified as a “political junkie,” it’s actually rather fascinating.  For those who prefer politics be kept far more than even an arm’s length away, it’s an event that will fly completely below all radars.  Yet for the Intramuralist, it reveals the wisdom — or rather, lack of it — in the established political process.


First, briefly, the basic facts:


  • Republican Scott Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin in Nov. of 2010.
  • On Feb. 15, 2011, the “Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill” was introduced.
  • Details of the bill:  The stated purpose was to help fix unbalanced state finances by cutting benefits for most union employees (law enforcement and firefighters were exempt).  Union negotiations (for all but wages) became limited.  State employees were required to contribute 5.8% of their pay toward pensions and at least 12.6% toward health care.  (See the Green Bay Press Gazette for a more specific summary.)
  • On Feb. 17, 2011, Democrat state senators walked out and left the state, in order to prevent the bill’s ratification.
  • Large protests occurred; protestors hailed from multiple states.
  • In March, the bill was signed into law.
  • Efforts ensued to recall multiple Republican state senators who supported the legislation, costing millions of dollars.  When elections were held in August, most senators kept hold of their seats and Republicans thus kept control of the Senate.
  • A recall election was then pursued for Gov. Walker (state election rules require a governor to be in office at least 1 year prior to pursuing recall).
  • This coming Tuesday, June 5th, is that election.


Here’s what the Intramuralist finds foolish in this process…


First, I’m astounded by any adult whose means of dealing with undesirable circumstances is to run away.  I’m reminded of my 13 year old; he’s still maturing.  There are times when we have some tough conversations, and often, those are conversations he prefers not to have.  What’s one of his current coping strategies?  “I’m not having this conversation!”  And then he storms away.  I don’t care about party affiliation.  Have the tough conversation.  Stand proud and respectfully articulate your point when you disagree.  Otherwise, there’s great question for the need of maturing.


Second, the decision to recall Gov. Walker was made only a few months into his initial term.  I am struck by how partisanship so often trumps reason —  whether you are calling for Walker’s recall or the impeachment of a president.  Unless engaged in obvious criminal activity, give the elect their initial term.  If you are satisfied, vote for him again.  If you are dissatisfied, vote him out.  But don’t allow partisanship to masquerade as any sense of wisdom.


And thirdly, notice the massive amount of money by those desiring to oust Gov. Walker — and those who support him.  Estimates vary, but the reality is that Wisconsin has spent millions on these recall efforts.  For the 8 state senator recall races, an estimated $31 million was spent.  In the Governor’s recall election, that amount is expected to soar.  (Hmmm… wouldn’t those millions actually help fix the budgetary problems?)


Evidence of even more impurity?  Millions of the contributions opposing and supporting Walker are coming from organizations and people outside the state of Wisconsin.  In order words, non-Badgers are badgering the Badger elections.


Friends, whether you are engrained in a firm Republican or Democrat stance, if you believe your party’s establishment and the election strategy is pure, you are either unaware or ignoring the facts.  The fact is that too much money is involved in politics.  Money is polluting the system.  Without a doubt, it’s currently polluting the otherwise beautiful state of Wisconsin.


The fundamental question in the state of Wisconsin — the argument that the Intramuralist believes should be wrestled with and the argument over which good people will still disagree — is what is the long term impact of union contracts on state government?  Is there any truth to the belief that unions funnel money to their candidates who, if elected, then return the favor by approving overly generous contracts?  What is honorable?  What is good?  What is good for the economy?


While serving as the original impetus for the protests, the campaigns are no longer discussing the long term impact of collective bargaining.  The economic conditions in Wisconsin have been improving.  Yet due to the massive amounts of money distorting the political process, people and parties are now simply attempting to get “their guy” elected.  Hence, neither the Badger nor the watching non-Badger can easily discern what is wise.




one more thing

If you could ask for one thing, what would it be?


A little more money?

A little less hardship?

The certain re-election of Pres. Obama?

The certain defeat of Pres. Obama?

How about the acceptance of gay marriage?


I’m struck this day by what we want.  So often we’ve heard, “If I only had this” or “could only do this” or “if I only had this one thing taken away.”  What is it exactly that we want?


My sense around the globe is people believe if they just had that one more thing then they would finally be happy…


“If I only had this, then…”


Then what?


Part of the challenge in contemporary culture is that everyone wants something.  Free college.  Free health insurance.  Free.


Now granted, there are legitimate need-based situations where we as a society must find the best way to assist; we need to always be aware and care for the truly “least of these.”


Yet there is also a growing sense of entitlement that impedes the idea of going without… “You have a right to that one more thing”…  “The government should provide it for you…”  “The world would be better off…”  A thing.  A policy.  A perceived right.


And thus, you see the election of the Socialist candidate in France.  I don’t know the heart of Francois Hollande, but his proposed policy makes me shudder.  In a time of economic frailty, his solution is to spend and borrow and tax massively more.  Tell me:  what household or business entity are you aware of that has ever survived believing they can sustain unbalanced spending for an extended period of time?  Let me say this logically:  those households and businesses at some point cease to exist.  No entity can survive on promising what it doesn’t have.


Yet such is how the President-Elect of France garnered a majority of votes.  With a budget that hasn’t balanced since 1974, Hollande promised hiring 60,000 new teachers, creating 150,000 government-funded posts, lowering the retirement age back to 60 for some workers, and temporarily freezing escalating gasoline prices — much with borrowed resources.  Granted, he also plans to tax the wealthy at extremely high rates up to 75% (wonder what keeps those persons living in France), but Hollande has only a questionably measurable plan to pay for what he’s promised.  And yet, the people voted him in.  They want their “one more thing.”  No one likes austerity.  We don’t like to live with less.


I’m struck by the historical story of the wise man who was told by the divine to ask for whatever he wanted.  “Whatever you want, I’ll give it to you.”


He could have asked for that one more thing.


More money, more stuff, suffering taken away…

Increased power, opportunity, or debt-free living…




But he didn’t.  He didn’t even ask to be happy, believing that some one thing would be it — that it would finally make him happy.


Instead the leader humbly requested, “Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead people properly.”


I wonder…  if more of us around the globe — our leaders especially — in France, America, you-name-it — asked for wisdom to lead properly instead of promising to grant that one more thing…  I wonder what would happen to this planet.


Would we then, be happy?




victim status

I could be wrong, but I think we’re missing a few things…


“Brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”


How could troubles be an opportunity?  And better yet, how could they ever be considered an opportunity for joy?  What exactly are troubles an opportunity for?


I think of the recently deceased Chuck Colson, whose troubling stay in federal prison after his Watergate-related crimes led to the founding of Prison Fellowship, an organization that ministers to the ‘least-of-these’ masses in a radically effective way…


I think of Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch prisoner of a Nazi concentration camp, whose barracks was invested by massive swarms of fleas, yet it was the fleas which kept the abusive guards away, allowing the prisoners to study together and thus encourage one another…


Prisons and fleas.


Troubles and trials.




Many see troubles as unjust.  Nothing worthwhile.  Absolutely no good.  Dare I suggest — thus completely contradicting any concept of opportunity — we don’t like troubles and trials; in fact, we labor intentionally to avoid them at all costs.  Not only do many of us toil to minimize the trouble, when the trouble actually manifests itself, we are more likely to proclaim a seemingly ‘last-ditch’ status as opposed to wrestle with the possibility of the positive.  We identify ourself or others as a “victim.”


… “My son didn’t make the better team; the coach doesn’t like him.”  [In other words:  my son’s a victim.]


… “I didn’t get the promotion; they always promote minorities.”  [I’m a victim.]


… “All we want to do is work, to be able to support ourselves. But thanks to the rich being greedy, we can’t even have that.”  [We are victims.]


… “We deserve better. This is the hull of a slave ship.”  [We are victims.]


You can agree or disagree with any of the above and the degree of truth within.  The Intramuralist is not suggesting that there is zero truth in the expressed reasoning; the Intramuralist is suggesting, however, that in each of the above there is no recognition of potential opportunity (let alone one laced with any semblance of joy).


While physical, emotional, and spiritual troubles are not something I would wish upon anyone, I am also saddened by those who feel justified in encouraging victim status within troubling circumstances.


“You don’t deserve this!”

“How dare they do that do you!”

“You’ve been wronged!”

“We’ve been wronged!”


While wronging does happen on this planet, how much wiser would we be if we would instead more often ask:


“How can I grow?”

“What can I learn?”

“What can I accomplish through this negative set of circumstances?”


Many actions and words today favor blaming others as opposed to wrestling with self responsibility… demanding help as opposed to empowering individuals … and playing victim as opposed to recognizing opportunity.


We have forgotten the value and joy of opportunity…


… not to mention the prisons and fleas.





In case I have somehow failed to be transparent, allow me to briefly reveal that the Intramuralist is a diehard Reds fan.  Diehard.  I love them.  Growing up in the era of the Big Red Machine (and as a child, opportunistically desiring to root for a winner), I have long followed their failure and success.  Hence, when in the bottom of the 9th with loaded bases and 2 outs Sunday, when former MVP, Joey Votto, hit a walk off grand slam to win the game, I was literally jumping up and down.  It was awesome!  (… with all due respect, newfound Washington National fans…)


Yet perhaps what was most awesome about Sunday — and what’s most relevant here (for even the non-sports fan) — is not Votto’s all-star performance; it was not the fact that the dramatic game winner was actually his 3rd round tripper of the game; rather, it was how Votto spoke about his exceptional performance thereafter.


He didn’t boast.  He didn’t brag.  He didn’t chastise his opponent.  In the immediate post-game interviews, where superlatives were generously cast upon him, Votto resisted all attempts to affirm his own performance and his worth to all others.  Contrastingly, he complimented the opposing team’s pitcher, noting how difficult he is to hit, and then calmly spoke in regard to how all the fanfare wasn’t his forte.  Votto said, “Moments like this, this is kind of the icing on the cake, but all the little grinder type things are more my style.”  In other words, when the lights were on and the camera was rolling — with nothing scripted — Joey Votto displayed genuine humility.  In a moment where he could have bragged and could have boasted and we all would have listened — he intentionally chose not to.  He chose to be humble instead.  That, my friends, is something from which even the non-sports fan can learn.


We speak much these days about desiring unity — how if we were somehow more united in purpose and pursuit, we would be wiser; we would be more productive and successful.  And yet, we routinely abandon that which is our greatest unifier.  Unity is absolutely dependent on humility.


And so in Washington, intelligent men and women say they desire unity, but then they…


… blame all lack of success solely on someone else…


… use “I/me/my/myself” in a speech more times than we can count…


… say their top political priority is to deny one person a second term…


… and/or take credit for an outcome that was contributed to by many…


Friends, these actions reek of arrogance.  There are too many people touting their claim to their desired icing on the cake.  There is no humility in these actions.  When there is no humility, regardless of intentions uttered into a public microphone, there exists no unity.


Then again, perhaps that’s the actual bottom line.  Perhaps unity is merely an exercise in lip-service for environments extending beyond the Reds’ clubhouse.  Perhaps unity is simply something that sounds good — that many say they want — but in actuality, is merely the desire for others to cede individual opinion.  Thus, I conclude that many who boldly proclaim sincere unifying efforts often wish most to squelch opposing opinion.  That’s not unity.  If we desire unity, we must instead begin by modeling personal humility.


After Sunday’s Reds’ game, it was not only Joey Votto who donned a seemingly ceaseless grin.  The entire team was elated — the veterans, the rookies, the coaches and local media.  Age didn’t matter.  Experience was irrelevant.  The Reds’ clubhouse was completely united in their joy.


Were they united because they were victorious?


Were they united because Votto hit a walk off grand slam?


To some degree, yes.


But they were perhaps more united because of how Votto spoke about his role in the victory.  In the unscripted moment of truth, Votto affirmed others and focused on much more than his own accomplishments.  He demonstrated great humility.


(Did I mention I love the Reds?)




good politics?

In case you missed it:


First, background info, prior to Sunday…


  • In 2004 then State Sen. Obama said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” and “I don’t think marriage is a civil right.”
  • When campaigning in 2008, Obama and VP Biden opposed same-sex marriage.
  • Gay marriage is legal in D.C. and in 6 states, while Maryland and Washington have referendums pending in November.
  • With the ongoing state marriage debates, gay rights activists have pushed Obama to vocally advocate for same-sex marriage.
  • Obama has said his position is “evolving.”
  • Historically, a majority of Hispanic, African-American, and Catholic voters don’t support gay marriage.


Then, beginning Sunday…


  • Biden appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying he is now “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage; his office immediately began clarifying the VP’s comments, saying they reflected no change in policy.
  • Both left and right leaning news outlets believed Biden’s latest verbosity was intentional, with the President wanting to “have it both ways.”
  • On Monday, White House Press Sec. Jay Carney attempted to clarify Obama’s position, saying, “Marriage is a state issue, and the states have the right to take action on it.”  Carney added that Obama’s “views on LGBT rights are crystal clear.”
  • Left and right leaning commentators continued debating Obama’s views, with CNN’s Anderson Cooper saying, “The president’s position on gay marriage is anything but precise.”
  • On Tuesday, swing state North Carolina voted 61% to 39% to ban gay marriage in their state constitution.
  • On Wednesday morning, Obama said he was “disappointed” in North Carolina’s vote.
  • On Wednesday afternoon, Obama said his position on gay marriage has now evolved, saying, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”  He also stated that the states have the right to decide.


Shew.  Sorry; that’s a lot to follow.  Know, though, that all of the above is fact.


The Intramuralist understands that this is a sensitive issue; it is hard to discuss well.  Almost all conversations end up with someone on both sides spewing scorn in the name of passion (as in the Colorado state legislature Tuesday, where one civil union supporter yelled, “I hope you f***ing die!”).  I was amazed, too, for example, at the number of persons who boldly identified the North Carolina vote as the manifestation of bigotry.  Hold fast to your opinion, but is one automatically a bigot if they oppose same-sex marriage?  Is that what Pres. Obama was considered the first 3 years of his term?


Allow me not to digress, friends.  The point of this post is not to debate the legality nor morality of same-sex marriage.  We have addressed both advocacy and opposition in previous, respectful posts.


The concern I have this day is the factual timeline shared above:  the supposed “evolution.”  The entire transpiration of how the administration is approaching gay marriage looks like, feels like, smells like, quacks like…

Politics…  the motivation for this policy feels like it is completely political.  There is no cultural conversation — led by the federal government — as to what is wise and what is foolish.  What is good.  What is moral.  What is the long term impact.  What evolution of the policy will be good.  What evolution of the policy will be destructive.  How the Constitution supports government’s involvement.  The primary motivator is what makes for good politics.  Egad.


Now don’t let me act as if politics serving as the primary motivation is indigenous to Pres. Obama.  The Intramuralist believes this happens all over the place, across all party lines, transcending all issues, and most of the time, we’re all oblivious.  Issues and advocacy is passed off as prudent policy, when the reality is that the motivation for the policy is purely political.


Truth?  I can’t tell how Obama feels about gay marriage.  Does he really support it now — or does he feel he needs it to please and thus shore up his so-called “base”?  Did he really oppose it before — or did he feel as if he couldn’t be honest because it might negatively impact the Hispanic, African-American, and Catholic vote?


Change the issue.  Change the politician.  Are they being honest with us?  Or is their support or dissension based most upon what they believe to be good politics?


I said it before; I’ll say it once more…






the equity error

With eager politicians sensing an enticeable electorate, an ageless maternal mantra is being systematically extinguished.


“Life isn’t fair” is the frequent refrain.  The challenge is that we each take turns dismantling the mantra.  We say it isn’t fair, yet we act as if it should be.  Therein lies the equity error.  It’s rampant; it’s all over — amidst all demographics.  Call it the fallacy of fairness…


During the 2008 presidential primary season, when attempting to discern the plausibility of a Barack Obama presidency, I was struck by Obama’s foreshadowing response to ABC moderator, Charlie Gibson.  When Gibson asked why Obama desired to raise the capital gains tax when the lower tax rates advocated by both Bill Clinton and George Bush netted measurable, increased government revenue, Obama replied, “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”  At the time, I remember thinking that perhaps since Obama’s background is in law, his economic understanding was momentarily lesser.


Since that time, however, we have witnessed “fairness” manifest itself in proposed policy.  Regardless of effectiveness — let me say that again — regardless of effectiveness — policy and advocacy are being promoted on the perception of fairness.  That’s why this portrayed stab of equity is in error.


We discussed this briefly in regard to the Occupy Movement.  The movement has a fairly firm — although initially incongruous — list of demands.  Yet the bottom line of these clearly, disillusioned capitalists is that they believe happiness is their right; they have confused possessing happiness with pursuing it.  Hence, in order to be happy — which they see possible through free housing, education, income, and medical care — they believe it’s appropriate to take from someone else.  They believe it’s fair.


In France on Sunday, the French elected a new president, Francois Hollande.  Hollande is a socialist.  In fact, he intends to increase spending, borrowing, and taxes, even though the European nation is already deeply in debt. For those making in excess of $1.35 million annually, Hollande proposes taxing them at 75% (you read that correctly), as    seizing the income of the wealthy is only fair.  Socialism is another manifestation of the equity error; the government then serves as the discerner of fairness.


Since when do we have a right to that which belongs to someone else?


Income?  Opportunity?  Even inheritance?  Should that which is someone else’s good fortune be shared with me?


Follow me briefly for a relevant side note…


My oldest son plays high school baseball.  He does very well.  3 weeks ago I ran into into a fellow baseball parent in the check-out lane at the nearest grocery; our sons play on the same team.  The parent enthusiastically shared with me that her son had been elevated to the next highest team at the high school.  What was my reaction?  Elation!  Congratulations that their son was asked to play on a better team!


The reality is that in that moment, I had 2 possible ways of reacting:  (1) looking at the situation from the perspective of how it affects their son; or (2) looking at it from the perspective of how it affects me.


When we look at life from “how it affects me,” we lose sight of reality.  Their son’s progress, for example, had nothing to do with me; it had nothing to do with my son.  Their son was rewarded.  Excellent!  I need to celebrate the success of their son as opposed to falling prey to comparing them to me.  I need to celebrate the success of others as opposed to labeling them as “greedy,” “arrogant,” or even “opportunistic.”


In other words, fairness is irrelevant.  But that’s hard to admit; it’s far easier to dismiss the maternal mantra of “life not being fair” than it is to wrestle with our own circumstances.  “Equity” becomes bigger than reality.


Whether capital gains tax or high school baseball, the success of someone else need not be shared with you and me.  Life’s not fair.  My mother once told me that.





“The Bible.  We’ll just talk about the Bible for a second.  People often point out that they can’t help it, they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying ‘cause it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong.  We can learn to ignore the bullsh*t in the Bible and what it says about gay people, the same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullsh*t in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation.  We ignore bullsh*t in the Bible about all sorts of things.


The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document.  Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during Civil War and justified it.  The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave, and Paul doesn’t say, ‘Christians don’t own people.’  Paul talks about how Christians own people.  We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong… if the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong, slavery, what are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong?  100%…


People are dying because they can’t clear this one last hurdle.  They can’t clear this one last thing in the Bible about human sexuality… [continuing, as dozens are quietly now walking out..]  It’s funny as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react.” 


Such were the words of Dan Savage, an anti-bullying advocate, especially in the gay & lesbian community, speaking at the National High School Journalist Conference in Seattle on Friday.


Friends, as said here several times, human sexuality is a tough issue; it’s tough to handle well.  The Intramuralist has friends engaged in multiples lifestyles, and as some of us have discussed, this is hard to talk about; people confuse disagreement with disrespect.  They aren’t the same.


What concerns me most about Savage’s words — founder of the “It Gets Better” project, an encourager of gay teens to persevere, supported by various celebrities, activists and politicians — is not his stance on homosexuality.  It’s his savage approach.


When we disagree with other people, is it appropriate to attack them?  Is it appropriate, in a sense, to verbally bully them?  … to disparage them or to regard or represent them as being of little worth?  Savage not only demeans the people who disagree with him, but also to embolden his point, he denigrates and distorts the source.


Choose not to believe in the Bible.  Choose this day who you’ll serve.  Choose to agree or disagree with it’s teachings.  But to suggest that the chances of historical scripture being wrong are “100%” means one also inherently proclaims that oneself is infallible.  The lack of humility within that proclamation thinly veils an unfortunate foolishness.


I am not suggesting that Savage is right or wrong in his passion regarding the lack of limits on human sexuality; he is entitled to his passionate perspective.  He is, however, factually inaccurate in how he presents the contents of scripture, especially, for example, in regard to slavery.  The Bible does not condemn slavery; neither does it advocate the brutality and dehumanization that has manifested in the minds of contemporary culture.  The Bible teaches against slavery as we know it.


I thus wrestle with the reeling discomfort when Savage or any man claims to be more knowing and knowledgeable than God.  I wrestle also with the distortion.


Friends, I have many flaws.  Contrary to not-even-popular belief, I don’t know it all.  And there are things within the Bible that are far too wonderful for me, that I cannot even begin to comprehend.


But never will I equate my lack of comprehension to a personal omniscience…  me, this fairly insightful, witty blogger knowing exactly what is right and exactly what is wrong… me, knowing more or better than God… me, knowing it all… me, being able to claim a lack of comprehension of scripture as a definitive proclamation.  I will never proclaim a wisdom all according to “me.”


So in those areas where each of us disagree — where our passions and experience have challenged us in varied manners and ways — I make one promise:  I will never call you “pansy-assed.”  I won’t think it either.


Disagreement is not the same as disrespect — and the intentional employment of disrespect and distortion only decreases the validity of one’s perspective.