selective morality

As all times when we are so shockingly rattled, the race to reaction is furious and fast.  When scenarios and circumstance significantly disturb us, we immediately jump to the solution.  “If we only had tougher gun laws… eliminated the violent video games… cared more for the mentally ill… if we put an end to all the ‘war’ rhetoric…”  (note that the last of those suggestions seems oft hypocritically proclaimed, as violent rhetorical usage is often chastised until it’s convenient to employ for personal passion…)

 

The reality is, friends, that I understand the rapid reaction.  We probe possible cause and means of prevention.  We want justice.  The disturbance demands justice!  And when the victims are obviously, especially innocent — as in Newtown, Connecticut, where reportedly 20 of the victims are under the age of 10 — many of them kindergarteners — kindergarteners! — our need for justice is only magnified.

 

Thus, in our quest for justice, we attempt to find the way or the one thing that would solve the seemingly inherent problem, such as the gun laws, video game and rhetorical restrictions, etc.  “If we only had that!…”  Those are wise, appropriate conversations that we should have.  The challenge, however, is that none attack the root of the issue; none address the actual bottom line, and if we fail to tackle the bottom line, shocking scenarios will continue.  They may look a little different — possibly utilizing different weapons and words — but we will feel the same.  Still shocked.  Still rattled.  Still so disturbed.

 

How could someone actually do this?!”  It doesn’t make any sense.

 

It’s sad.  It’s grievous.  But evil exists on this planet.  I recognize that such is not a popular thing to either say or believe.  In fact, I have been a part of many discussions where at some point in the conversation in order to press home a point, one person inserts their passionate perspective that “all people are inherently good.”  Some may be messed up or mentally ill or a ‘switch is off somewhere,’ but for the most part, we’re all pretty good.

 

Popular or not, the Intramuralist respectfully disagrees.

 

Each of us have witnessed friends and loved ones make some rather confounding choices.  We’ve known persons who’ve engaged in violent crime, salacious infidelity, and unfathomable professional wrongdoing.  Simply put:  we’ve known people who have made bad choices.

 

What we now identify as a “bad choice” has somehow changed.

 

The closer people are to us, the more likely we are to offer grace and potentially, possibly, even alter our moral standards.  We have become, it seems, as I like to describe, “selectively moral.”  The closer we are to the perpetrator, the more morally selective we’re tempted to be; on the other hand, the more emotionally distant we are, the easier it is for our need for justice to trump any extension of grace.  What could instead cause us to attempt to offer full justice and full grace — simultaneously?  The recognition that none of us are “pretty good.”  It’s about capability; we are each capable of becoming confused in our moral standards — thus each capable of making bad choices.

 

Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  The invisible qualities of an omnipotent creator have been made manifest.  Yes, evidence of God is all around us.  But yet, even though we’ve known God, we sometimes refuse to worship him or even give him thanks.  We begin to instead think up our own ideas of what God is like — as opposed to seeking what he says he is like.  We craft our own ideas — our own solutions — perhaps ideas that fit better with our individual experience and thus passions.  As a result, our minds can become confused.

 

When a person’s mind becomes confused, they typically come to worship or value something far lesser than the divine.  And my sense is when that happens — not knowing exactly how things work here on planet Earth — that at some point God abandons them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desire.  It’s similar to a parent/child relationship; we teach and encourage obedience, yet over time and the repetition of wrongful thinking and poor behavior, at some point, we give our children over to their own desires, hoping that they learn wisdom the hard way, potentially via the consequences of their own behavior.

 

As a result, therefore, of the shameful things in some persons’ hearts, people will do vile and degrading things.  That’s what we witnessed in Newtown on Friday.

 

It’s shocking.  It’s tragic.  And it doesn’t make any sense… even with our admirable demand for justice.

 

Respectfully… and with an incredibly heavy heart…

AR

the misplaced comma

As I was pulling out and dusting off my fairly impressive collection of Christmas music — ok, wait; that is total “impression management.”  It’s actually, almost a bold face lie.  Sorry.  I mean, yes, my collection is impressive, but the truth is (confession time, friends) that I listen to Christmas music all year round.  I know, I know… many of you wish the triumphant tunes were confined to December days only — perhaps some of you will even pause your loyal readership for a few weeks — but there’s something about singing “peace on Earth” and “goodwill toward men” that puts me in a good mood all year long.

 

Recently, though, as I was again humbly, vocally accompanying the recorded artist on the CD (fathom that idea), I stumbled upon an error in the way contemporary culture sings a song.  In fact, the words are still the same, but a singular punctuation mark has been moved; it profoundly changes the meaning of the song.  Yes, I uncovered the misplaced comma.

 

We sing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”

 

The song, however, was originally written as “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”

 

Notice the placement of the comma.  That comma makes all the difference in the world.  We have changed the meaning of the song.

 

When we sing…

 

God rest ye, merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Savior

Was born on Christmas day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy!

 

… sometimes I think we act as if everything around us is happy…  like we are always happy.  “God rest you, happy people.”

 

Well, sometimes life isn’t happy.  In fact, a lot of days a lot of us have tough stuff to handle.  Life isn’t always happy, and a solid faith doesn’t necessarily make us merry.  While we may be able to tap into an inner joy and unparalleled peace — perhaps, something related to that peace on Earth — we’re still not always happy.  Christmas time, especially, is often a painful struggle for many.

 

Yet when we examine the misplaced comma and return it to its rightful place — “God rest ye merry, gentlemen” — and then we acknowledge that the 15th century carol, written in a minor, melodiously dark-sounding key — we see that the writer was not simply sitting back, believing it was so easy to be happy and merry.  The writer is encouraging each of us to rest in God’s merriment — in the joy available via the creator of the world — regardless of the darkness… regardless of that minor key.

 

I’ve heard it said that “if Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  There’s a part of me that believes there’s a lot of truth in that.  Look at us running around these days.  We’re working and wrapping and buying and baking.  We’re spending so much time preparing for Christmas that we’re almost avoiding the meaning.

 

Hence, the encouragement to rest.

 

No matter what.

 

Resting in the merry.

 

Respectfully,

AR

diminishing Christmas?

As the shopping days dwindle and the ole’ familiar carols continue to play, I’m struck by a continuous topic in some circles this time of year:  is there a war on Christmas?

 

As posted previously amidst these pages, the Intramuralist isn’t into identifying something as war that actually is not.  In the past year we’ve seen the rhetorical rants regarding wars on women, teachers, unions, and coal, for example.  Truthfully, friends, the war terminology seems most employed when the goal is to drum up passion for like perspective.  War is war, and in my semi-humble opinion, it should never be treated as something it is not.

 

There do exist movements, no less, in which people work to diminish impact and influence.  Again, these cannot logically be equated with combat.  Therefore, the question this season is not whether there exists military combat on Christmas; the question is whether there exists an intentional movement to diminish the impact and influence of the Christian holiday.

 

We’ve discussed, past, eye-opening examples…

 

… such as in 2002, when New York City schools banned nativity scenes from their December decor but allowed for Hanukkah menorahs and Muslim stars and crescents…

 

… or how each year retailers, such as Sears, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, or The Gap have either avoided or been accused of avoiding the use of the word “Christmas,” opting instead for “holiday” and/or the watered-down “winter.”

 

The examples continue this current season…

 

… in Newhall, California, where residents of a senior apartment complex were originally told by building staff that they had to take down their Christmas tree because of the presence of Christ’s name in the phrase, “Christmas tree”…

 

… in Santa Monica, where a large-scale nativity scene has been publicly erected for the last 60 years, but atheists have long worked to halt any public, religious sentiment.  After a year long battle via courts and complaints, the Santa Monica City Council finally voted to prevent any and all religious displays on public property.  (Notice the diminished impact.)

 

… or even overseas… where in Brussels, Belgium, they omitted their popular city Christmas tree exhibit this year.  Why?  There were concerns that the local Muslim population would find it “offensive.”

 

Yes, in this sensitive, seemingly uncanny age of correctness, many institutions still choose to address the Christmas controversy (not combat) by paying equal attention to other seasonal holidays.  Typically, this means ample consideration of Hanukkah for those who are Jewish and Kwanzaa for those who are African-American.  What I find unique about these celebrations is the comparison of the holidays…

 

Factually speaking, Hanukkah refers to 165 B.C. when Jewish rituals — which had been previously outlawed — where reinstated as the Jewish people managed to drive the Syrian army out of Jerusalem and reclaim their temple.  Hanukkah is the celebration of this victory; previous to the late 1800’s, Hanukkah was considered a minor holiday.

 

Kwanzaa, on the other hand, is factually more of an ethnic as opposed to religious holiday.  It was developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a way to celebrate and promote the African-American culture.

 

Christmas, no less, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in whom hundreds of prophecies were consequently fulfilled.

 

In other words, in this uncanny age of correctness — with of course all due respect — when we attempt to pay equal attention to all holidays, we are comparing reclaiming a temple with honor for an ethnic heritage with the birth of the savior of the world.

 

As said at the onset of this post, I don’t believe there is any so-called ongoing war.  I don’t.  But it certainly does seem that the excluding of acknowledgement and the equating of holidays is an attempt to diminish the impact that if true, the savior of the world would undoubtedly hold.

 

Respectfully,

AR

blaming the gun

At halftime of Sunday night’s Eagles vs. Cowboys football game, NBC host, Bob Costas, added a creative sort of commentary.  In reference to the weekend murder-suicide initiated by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher — and quoting significantly from Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock’s editorial column — Costas shared the following on national television:

 

Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.

 

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries.  Who knows?  Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend.  What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

 

In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed.  Who knows?  But here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe.  If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

 

As typical of our seemingly oft hypersensitive society, cyberspace and Twitter’s tweets were active with both outrage and support…

 

Is it appropriate for a sports host to offer a politically-charged monologue?

 

Is it appropriate for Costas to speak of something other than sports?

 

And is it appropriate for the host to opine against what is actually a civil right?

 

Would other civil rights opposition be treated similarly on TV?

 

Truth is, while the Intramuralist wonders about Costas’ conviction, I don’t claim to know the answers to all of the above.  Costas consistently shares an opinion in his weekly segment; rarely, however, does the opinion have any political connotation.

 

Is there some truth in what Costas opined?  Possibly.

 

Is there also some truth ignored?  I would agree with that as well.

 

The gun control debate in this country is challenging.  The right to keep and bear arms is firmly implanted in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights; it is the law of the land and a civil right.

 

As with all “rights,” they are often used and abused.  Sometimes it seems the most grievous abuse — regardless of frequency — garners the greatest attention.  Jovan Belcher sadly, grievously misused his right.

 

The ignored truth, in my opinion, begins first with the impossibility for any to aver definitively — not even a respected long time NBC sports host — that Belcher and his girlfriend would actually be alive today if Belcher had not access to a gun.  Too often our society blames a thing or a circumstance as opposed to recognizing the foolishness of one man’s actions — as opposed to holding the responsible person responsible.  In other words, it was not the gun that triggered the murder-suicide; it was Jovan Belcher.

 

I wonder if the reason we so quickly and easily jump to blame the gun (or the thing or relative circumstance) is because it’s easier to control.  Maybe if we attempt to impose gun control, we won’t have to deal with the foolish ways some utilize guns; maybe if we attempt to limit free speech, we won’t have to wrestle with the foolish things some say.  If we focus on control of things and/or circumstances, perhaps then we never have to focus on the actual foolishness of some people.

 

And my sense is that the foolishness of some people is what’s most challenging to control.

 

Respectfully,

AR

thankful

As perhaps you have by now surmised, the Intramuralist believes thanks can be given in all scenarios and circumstance.  Don’t let me suggest that it’s always easy nor that we always feel like being intentional with our gratitude.  I would never diminish the days that are hard for each of us.  Nonetheless, I do believe reasons for thanksgiving are always plentiful.

 

Today, I am thankful for…

 

Life.  Liberty.  The pursuit of far more than happiness.  Democracy.  Elections.  Voting.  The absence of dictatorship.  The freedom to agree or disagree.  The right to free speech — even when we actually disagree.  The Constitution.  The Bill of Rights.  Freedoms endowed by our Creator.  The wisdom foreseen by our founders.

 

Communication.  Listening.  The encouragement to listen.  Authentic dialogue.  The art of dialogue.  Respectful dialogue.  Dialogue where opinions aren’t all pre-determined (see again, listening).  Community.  Other people.  People to remind us that self is not as important as we think it is.  Humility.  Being grounded.  Accountability.  Wise persons bold enough and compassionate enough to help us in the grounding.

 

Faith.  Freedom within faith.  Freedom of faith — not freedom from it.  Free will.  The opportunity to see God and love him back.  His creation and the challenge and responsibility to love his children well.  Forgiveness — especially when we’ve needed it most but had somehow had no idea.

 

Ice cream.  Sundaes.  Coffee.  Playing cards.  More coffee.  Jokers wild.  Walking on sunshine, water, or just plain walking.  Game shows.  Knowing the Daily Double.  The Oak Ridge Boys.  Computers.  Christmas.  iPods, Pads, etc.  Diet Coke.  Mountain Dew.  Caffeine-free Mountain Dew.  Garland.  (Not tinsel, though… too messy on Dec. 26th.)

 

Chocolate.  Hot chocolate.  Whipped cream.  Starbucks.  Lattes.  Nonfat.  Foam.  (Did I mention coffee?)  More foam.  Sunrise.  Sunset.  “Fiddler on the Roof.”  Old musicals.  Old books.  Classics.  Julie Andrews.  New movies.  Star Wars.  Han Solo.  The princess.  That Darth is not my father.

 

Music.  More music.  Mariah Carey.  Martina McBride.  Miranda Lambert.  Bruno Mars.  The Beatles.  London.  Those big Beefeater hats.  Prince William and Princess Kate.  Monarchies.  Monarchies not here.  Broadway.  Elphaba.  Empathy.  Compassion.  Selflessness.  Teachability.  Tenderness.  Truth.  Growth.  More growth.  Recognizing both the need for growth and progress.

 

Respect.  Submission.  Honor.  The elderly.  Youth.  The privilege of learning.  The responsibility of teaching.  Taking them seriously.  Being intentional.  Sometimes being silly, too.

 

Old dogs.  New tricks.  Recognizing none of us have life all figured out.  College football.  College basketball.  Good games.  The NFL.  Positive attitudes.  Knowledgeable fans.  Cheering for a good play by the other team.  The other team.  Cool uniforms.  Nike.  Adidas.  Sweats on a Saturday morn.  Swag.  (Sometimes no swag.)

 

Falling leaves.  Brilliant colors.  No more to pick up.  Winter snows.  The beach.  Dreaming of the beach as winter arrives.  The mountains.  Water by the beach and the water by the mountains.  Friends there.  Friends here.  Friends who love you no matter what.  Thick or thin.

 

Foreign countries.  Home.  Coming home.  Clean laundry.  Sheets just out of the dryer.  Picked up toys.  Puzzles.  Getting the toys out.  Throwing them everywhere.  Children.  Babies.  Special kids.  Mature adults.  Even teenagers… well, most of the time.

Sitcoms.  Sundays.  “Cheers.”  A good toast.  Baking.  Alma maters.  Work.  Days off.  Vacation.  Christmas music.  Creativity.  Brainstorming.  Donuts.  (P.S. brainstorming while eating donuts is extra good.)  Wine.  The first miracle.  All miracles.  Being aware of them.  Vision.  Seeing rightly.  Acting wisely.  Loving those around us.  The opportunity.  The challenge.  The joy…

 

Yes, these things make me thankful…  today…

 

Respectfully,

AR

what’s it about?

The headlines are messy.  Actually, it’s more than the headlines that are so messy.

 

David Petraeus, who up until 2 weeks ago, was considered perhaps one of the nation’s few, contemporary, national “heroes,” unfortunately instantly had his heroic status removed.  Petraeus, the then current head of the Central Intelligence Agency — and former 4 star general — resigned his directorship of the CIA, citing an extramarital affair that was reportedly discovered via an FBI investigation.

 

Yes, the headlines are messy.  The details are murky.  There are questions and more questions as to the timeline of Petraeus’s infidelity, additional military personnel involved, potential breach of classified information, disclosure to the White House and Congress, timing surrounding the election, and any impact on Petraeus’s testimony regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.  Friends, this blog will address none of the above.  The reality is that none of the ‘questions and more questions’ are issues that at this time we can affirm or deny with certainty; hence, we will resist any temptation.  Today I wish to instead focus on one reaction… actually a common reaction… a reaction we especially employ when we’re fairly fond of the hero…

 

… such as Bill Clinton.  Julia Roberts.  Jerry Seinfeld.

 

All people at the “top of their game,” so-to-speak.  People who were at pinnacle points in their careers, and yet…

 

… they engaged in extramarital affairs.

 

The common reaction when we’re fond of our “hero”?

 

“It’s just about sex.”

 

The reality is it’s not “just about” sex; that’s what we tend to say in order to minimize the extent of what it’s actually all about.  It’s about a complete lapse of judgment.  It’s about emotion trumping commitment.  It’s about an ethical standard that is lesser or potentially nonexistent.  It’s often also about self.

 

Now please hear no piling of shame upon any person.  The truth is that each of us are capable of lapses of judgment and emotion trumping all; in fact, dare I suggest that I am not climbing out on any limb by disclosing that each of us have most likely fallen prey to some poor decision-making.  I also suggest — wholeheartedly — that each of us, also, is not fully defined by that poor decision-making; each of us is capable of redemption and forgiveness…

 

… which is equally available to Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, and Jerry Seinfeld.  It is available to David Petraeus.

 

True, it still makes no sense.

 

How could a person so admired and decorated stoop so seemingly, unscrupulously low?  Petraeus has a Ph.D.  He was an assistant professor.  He was confirmed unanimously at the CIA.  In 2007, Time magazine named him as one of their 4 runners up for “Person of the Year.”  He was named the second most influential American conservative by The Daily Telegraph as well as their Man of the Year.  In 2005, Petraeus was identified as one of America’s top leaders by U.S. News & World Report.  In 2008, Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines selected Petraeus as one of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals.  The Static Line Association named him its 2008 Airborne Man of the Year.  Der Spiegel named him “America’s most respected soldier.”  Newsweek named him the 16th most powerful person in the world.  He was also named as one of the “75 Best People in the World” in the October 2009 issue of Esquire.

 

Why would one man risk so much?  … put so much on the line?

 

Because it’s not about sex.  It’s about a lapse in judgment.  If we compromise our ethical standards in one area, where else are we willing to compromise?

 

Recognizing that we are each in need of redemption and forgiveness…

 

Respectfully,

AR

hail to the victor… oops… wrong approach

The people have spoken in different ways.  Some this day are jubilant.  Others are deeply disappointed.  Friends, we don’t all feel the same way.  In fact, as previously posted amidst this setting, the candidates have spent much of the past year actually encouraging us to not feel the same.  In order to propel their individual candidacy — arguably advocating the end justifies the means — the candidates have intentionally divided the country in order to drum up increased passion for their agenda.  Here’s the problem:  the election is done, but the people remain divided.

 

Many will take to the oratorical airwaves to proclaim that there exists no division; in fact, one of the many things I appreciated about Pres. Obama’s acceptance speech Tuesday night was his recognition of our differences, but his added comments that “we are not as divided as our politics suggests” nor “as cynical as the pundits believe.”  Perhaps not as divided or as cynical, but the Intramuralist suggests that we will only not be that segregated if we are intentional in addressing this issue.  There is no way around it; we are a nation in which millions of boys and girls weekly stand up in their classrooms, affirming our existence as one indivisible nation under God, and yet, we haven’t acted like it for years.

 

So how do we become less divided or cynical?  How does the healing begin?

 

Perhaps if I had all of life’s answers I wouldn’t be as busy with this blog nor my self-amusing caricature habit (all right, I’d still be doodling those pronounced facial features).  But I have a sense of a few steps essential in our healing…

 

Step 1:  Start now.

 

Healing can’t wait until next month or next year or the next election cycle.  If we want to keep the division from assuming permanent root, we must begin the healing today.  Looking it in the eye.  Calling it what it is.  And making a commitment to seriously and soberly address the divisiveness.

 

Step 2:  Be empathetic.

 

If you’re like me, you found the initial 24 hours on Facebook and Twitter a bit overwhelming.  Some gloated.  Some complained.  Some announced their readiness to exit the country.  Others responded with ‘good riddance.’  The bottom line with each response — from those who both loved and loathed the results:  neither worked to understand the emotions of those who felt differently.  Instead of empathy, they chose arrogance.  Arrogance is never attractive.

 

Step 3:  Eliminate the following words:  “mandate” and “compromise.”

 

Many will claim a mandate…  “We voted.  We won!”  And quite true is that such is often the winner’s bold assertion and the loser’s rueful admonition.  Please remember the context of this post.  We are acknowledging a “divisible” state of America.  With an estimated popular vote margin of 50% to 48%, almost as many people voted for the victor as against.  Thus, to profess a mandate is not a process that builds unity; it will encourage further division.

 

Let the record also show that many others will claim the need for compromise.  While I was never fond of the President’s 2009 quip that “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won,” the reality is that Obama was victorious.  More voters supported him than Gov. Romney.  Hence, Obama should not be expected to always meet in the middle.

 

Step 4:  Listen.

 

Remember (as does my 15 year old) that to listen means to both hear and consider.  To only hear does not qualify.  To only hear and consider the likeminded also does not qualify.  To listen reveals an interactive, respectful process with those on all sides of any aisle.

 

And Step 5:  Be humble.

 

Earlier I mentioned that arrogance is never attractive.  I can’t say that enough.  Confidence is contagious, but arrogance is polarizing.  When career Major League Baseball stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, declared he was “the greatest of all time — thank you,” did that make any feel better about his accomplishment?  My point is that humility is always more unifying than arrogance.  Allow me to be clear:  humility doesn’t mean silence nor submissiveness; it doesn’t equate to weakness.  Humility means joyfully being of one spirit, doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit… considering others… and looking to their interests.  It is not an abandoning of one’s own interests, but rather, it is a respecting of those who are different.

 

We do feel differently this day.  We are in need of leadership.  We have some tough issues to tackle in this democratic, debt-ridden, capitalistic, and freedom-driven society.  We are also in need of healing.  If we begin now, we can be that one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  It’s time to be intentional.

 

Respectfully,

AR

this is the day

This is the day!  While surely many will thank God that such denotes the end of the inundation of political advertising, today also marks the anniversary of the Intramuralist.  Four years ago on election day, this blog began.  My reason for writing that day was because my strong sense was the wisdom shared would be the same regardless of the election’s outcome.

 

We then posted the following:

 

TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS ELECTION CYCLE:

 

  1. People will do anything to win.

9.  Tina Fey is a comedic genius.

8.  Limericks using “Obama” can be fun (“Homearama”… yo momma…).

7.  Jesus would not be a Democrat OR a Republican.

6.  Objectivity in the media cannot be assumed.

5.  No party has a true grasp of all that encompasses social justice.

4.  “Feminism” does not mean “in support of all women.”

3.  People need to pray for our nation more than once every 4 years.

2.  Most people don’t know how to respect those with whom they disagree.

 

And for this playful artist…

 

1.  Both Presidential and ‘Veep’ candidates will be fun to caricature over the next 4 years!

 

As for this current election cycle, many of the above observations were again made manifest, although I would also add the following:

 

10 MORE THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS ELECTION CYCLE:

 

10.  A combined campaign costing approx. $2 billion cannot be a process that’s pure.

9.  Hope and change mean different things to different people.

8.  Racial and religious discrimination is still alive on planet Earth — and often in more places than vocal victims claim it to be.

7.  Vice Presidents don’t require polished speaking skills.

6.  Budgets make politicians financially accountable.

5.  Government mandated health care is divisive.

4.  First ladies always have a cool side.

3.  Debates matter.

2.  Spending is far easier than saving.

 

And…

1. A President Romney wouldn’t be as much fun to caricature — although Paul Ryan, that’s a different story!  (Sorry, friends… it’s all about the facial features…)

 

The reality is that on Wednesday, our country has a lot of work to do.  First, we have to recognize that many candidates (on the federal, state, and local level) intentionally divided the country in order to spur on their own election.  Perhaps it’s not as self-serving as we’re oft inclined to conclude, as many candidates believe so deeply in both their articulated and unarticulated agendas, that the end justifies their divisive means.  Allow me to simply say that if I ever ran for office, I would hope to not fall prey to such alienating activity.

 

Also, after intentionally investing in the sewing up our nation’s political scars, we must then tackle a run-away economic situation and get control of our nation’s debt.  We must return to and embrace our (responsible) fiscal and (thus also moral) roots.  Regardless of how passionate any of us is about any budget category or entitlement, our spending patterns over the past 12 years cannot be sustained; our fiscal fragility must be aggressively addressed.

 

Enough of that.  Happy Anniversary, friends!  Thanks for modeling respectful dialogue with me and one another.  You have done your job well!

 

And here’s to 2016!  Maybe I’ll be running.  More likely, I suspect, I’ll be busy with new caricatures.

 

Respectfully,

AR

stormy

The pictures are heartbreaking — almost unbelievable.  As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remarked, “The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is unthinkable.”

 

There have been multiple deaths, major destruction, and now massive need for clean up.  Extending along the coast and even branching eastward into Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, etc., the impact has been environmentally and economically huge.  Gov. Christie is right; the devastation is unthinkable.

 

So what do we do when unthinkable storms happen? … the seemingly unprecedented, natural disasters?

 

I suggest there exist two starkly different responses:  one rooted in arrogance — one, however, rooted in humility… two ways we respond when the unimaginable storms come our unfortunate way.

 

Allow me to suggest that the arrogance is often veiled; it’s an imperious approach that typically manifests itself within some form of blame — blame of another person or circumstance — but blame on something so concrete that potential disagreement is muted.  How can we disagree with a blame spoken with certainty?  How can we oppose a reasoning seemingly so concrete?  Yes, the arrogance guised as blame allows us to have an answer for the storm, even though reality often means the answer is at best ambiguous.

 

Almost simultaneously as Sandy destroyed our nation’s shores, multiple persons proclaimed that the concrete reason for the storm was climate change (also known as global warming or insertion-of-currently-most-politically-correct-and-or-convenient-noun here).  Former VP Al Gore, for example, wasted little time in labeling Sandy “a disturbing sign of things to come,” adding, “We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis.”

 

Now before proceeding with this posting, allow me to add a small but significant disclaimer:  the Intramuralist does not know whether or not climate change is fact.  I do not know.  I don’t know if it’s true or if it’s false.  Reasonable people disagree on this issue, and many of those most passionate on one side or the other are either agenda-driven or stand to personally benefit by the enactment of the argument.  Hence, I’ll say again:  I don’t know if climate change is true or false.  No one knows for certain.

 

What I do believe, no less, is that when we assume that climate change is the reason for a weather event, we are acting arrogantly.  Please… I mean no disrespect.  My point lies within the basis of the theory.  The basis for climate change is that dangerous weather events are happening due to changes in the Earth’s climate that have materialized due to man’s irresponsible behavior.

 

At first, such sounds fairly selfless — man’s irresponsible behavior.  Does that not sound selfless?  Where is the arrogance?

 

The arrogance lies within the focus; the focus is completely on man.

 

Within the climate change theory, there is zero acknowledgement of a potential divine being who may or may not have a purpose of which we are unaware.  There is no intentional corporate nor individual reflection that asks, “If there is a God of the universe — if he has allowed this — what could be the reasoning?  How, possibly, could this be part of any intentional plan?  Is there a reason?  A plan?  A consequence?”  The arrogance of the climate change theory is the assumption with certainty that we are the ones in control.  There is no submission to any God of the universe nor to anyone wiser or more omniscient than we.  Hence, true or untrue, I find the absolute blaming on climate change a veiled, arrogant approach.

 

But wait… where’s the second response to these storms?  … the one rooted in humility?  … the one that makes us feel a little better?

 

Watch how people now bond together… to clean up… support one another… and to love one another well.  To sort through the ruins… building each other’s houses… putting their houses back up on the rock… and encouraging those whose loss is yes, by all means unthinkable.  At times of crisis, the humbly beautiful approach is where we work side by side regardless of color or creed, income or demographics, or any potential disparity.

 

A wise approach to life’s storms means focusing on what binds us as opposed to what rips us apart.

 

Thank God… until Tuesday, at least.

 

In search of wisdom… always…

 

Respectfully,

AR

turning off the news

Oh, you’ve felt it, too…

 

Enough of it!  We’re through already!  Politics, schmolitics…

 

I am certain more than just a few of us are sick of the election cycle.  It hasn’t always been this way; it doesn’t have to be this way; and I pray it won’t remain this way.

 

Interestingly, I hear my more conservative-leaning friends blame the current president for this seemingly sad state of affairs.  I hear my more liberal-leaning friends blame his predecessor.  As a semi-humble current events observer (emphasis on the “semi”), I suggest that neither is wholly responsible; each administration has at times embraced divisive rhetoric and employed intentional negativity to pursue their desired end goal, but the Intramuralist’s clear sense is that Presidents Obama and Bush 42 only added to the increasingly, polarized state — a state that has many of us turning off the news, avoiding our Facebook accounts, and wondering how in the world we will unify after one more election.

 

As shared previously amidst these postings, the Intramuralist believes the seeds of polarization were sewn decades ago.  The majority of my belief was discerned when reading, Common Ground, a book co-authored by the very liberal Bob Beckel and very conservative Cal Thomas.  Endorsed by both the now deceased, liberal George McGovern and conservative Jack Kemp, Common Ground encourages each of us to (1) end partisanship, and thus (2) “save America.”  The book is insightful, especially for those of us whose blood continues to boil as we watch the Washington wrangling intensify.

 

Beckel and Thomas contend this corrosive culture began in the 1970‘s.  According to the authors…

 

The size of the federal government grew under both Democratic and Republican presidents.  These new agencies and departments created a substantial increase in government rules and regulations, impacting citizens and businesses alike.  The growth of governments produced cadres of political activists who would descend on Washington, demanding (and getting) access to policy makers.  Activists working for change were countered by an increase in the number of people who worked to protect the status quo.  The result was a tenfold increase in the number of lobbyists and lawyers…

 

Something else happened on Carter’s watch that would feed polarization.  Congress, especially the House, began to change the structure of committees.  Important committees, including Ways and Means and Appropriations, established subcommittees with new chairmen.  New subcommittees meant more staffers and congressional hearings, which meant more lobbyists and special-interest groups would descend on Washington.

 

These activists, lawyers, lobbyists, and special-interest groups possess personal motivations in regard to singular agendas.  Polarization keeps their agenda alive.  The problem is that it also promotes skewed perspective.  Ask Presidents Clinton and Bush 42, who, according to Common Ground, served as “Polarization’s Poster Children.”  Ask Ann Coulter and Arianna Huffington, whose careers have thrived on it.  Ask Rush Limbaugh and David Axelrod, who daily employ it.  Or ask Robert Bork, whose career was derailed by it.  Again, according to our liberal and conservative authors:

 

The Bork battle [Reagan’s 2nd nominee for the Supreme Court] rewrote the rules for future nominees.  No longer were a potential jurist’s qualifications paramount; ideology and personal issues were now fair game.  After Bork, no Supreme Court nominee would be as candid in confirmation hearings as Bork had been.  The Bork defeat, as much as any other event, helped launch a new era of “the politics of personal destruction.”

 

My point this day is that while Obama and Bush have embraced the division — in order to fuel their own election — the intensifying [and dare I suggest, foolish] division was not initiated by either.  They have perhaps used and abused the situation, although it did not start with them.

 

Politics, schmolitics…

 

I’ll go back to turning off the news, avoiding my Facebook account, and yes, wondering how in the world we will unify after this election.

 

Respectfully,

AR