state of the government

Today marks our 4th annual State of the Government address.  In our initial analysis, we made the following primary observations:

 

The State of the Government is too partisan.

The State of the Government is too influenced by money.

The State of the Government is too big.

The State of the Government is financially imbalanced.

The State of the Government is too far removed from the Constitution.

 

The following conclusion has also been expressed these past 4 years:  “The State of the Government has digressed over several decades, and until we responsibly address partisanship, special interests, size, spending, and straying from the Constitution, we will be challenged to admit even the Union is strong.”  My strong sense is the above is still true; the question is what can we do.

 

Government is too partisan.  Pre-speech analysis from multiple, varied sources suggest that Pres. Obama’s speech will be aggressively progressive this evening.  As Politico states, the President will “pay lip service to bipartisanship, but don’t expect anything like the call for peaceful collaboration that defined his first address to a joint session of Congress in 2009.”  Is the partisanship right?  Is it wrong?  Let me not answer the question; let me only ask another:  does this approach help?  Rightly or wrongly, during both the Obama and most recent Bush administration, the partisan divide has only gotten bigger.  If persons within either party or the media have intentionally drummed up partisan passion in order to propel one side of the divide, then they have done an ethical disservice to our country.

 

Government is too influenced by money.  Sticks and stones seem to fly on this issue, with people blaming one person or party or a singular judicial decision.  Based on objective research, it’s my conclusion that the moral digression due to money increased exponentially during the Carter administration, when lobbyist restrictions were significantly eased.  Until lobbyist monies are again restricted, the purity of our democratic process will continue to be obscured.

 

Government is too big.  Let me make this is as simple as possible.  Who watches their pennies more:  a small business on a tight budget… or a massive conglomerate with no budget?  The nonpartisan CBO projects the cost of the federal government to be $47.2 trillion over the next 10 years.  That’s an annual growth rate of approximately 6.7%, trouncing the growth of the private sector.  In a government that was created for the people and by the people, it was never intended to do all things for all people.  There is no way $47.2 trillion is being spent effectively.  And there is no way all those pennies are being counted.

 

Government is financially imbalanced.  Whether monies are spent on war or domestic programs, the government continues to spend.  They don’t balance their budget; they don’t even have a budget.  No business entity that attempts to operate with continued deficit spending for this long with zero plan to pay it back would be allowed to exist.  The elect continue to simply kick the plan for balanced spending down the road.  Is it because, as some say, in this economic state, we can’t do that right now?  Or, as I believe, do they avoid cutting spending in the sake of political expediency?  Let’s balance the budget.  Let’s make a plan.  Let’s stick to it… like every other wise, existing household in this country.

 

Government is too far removed from the Constitution.  Far too many are far too comfortable believing contemporary opinion trumps foundational truth.  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  The above Preamble was written to inspire an improved government (improved from that which was established via the Articles of Confederation).  Our founders desired a country that would be just, internally peaceful, and externally protected.  They desired our citizens would be blessed and free.  Too many today justify legislation that dictates exactly how people should prosper, how tranquility is insured, and what (in their opinion) is a more perfect union.

 

As said previously amidst these posts, far be it from the Intramuralist to suggest that the State of the Government is the sole fault of the current congress and administration.  But far be it from the current congress and administration to suggest it is the sole fault of their predecessors.  The reality is still true that the State of the Government has digressed over several decades, and yes, until we responsibly address partisanship, special interests, size, spending, and straying from the Constitution, we will be challenged to admit the Union is strong.

 

Respectfully,

AR

sweet grace

There’s that one moment in time…  that moment when circumstances are so intense, so blinding, that you can’t see anything else around you…  when the weight of the world is so heavy that you are forced to ask life’s deeper questions — bottom line Q’s — questions that get to the heart of every issue.

 

Some days I get so frustrated… at the…

 

… dysfunction, discord… the arrogance, lack of accountability… in our families, communities, Washington, and world… the total lack of respect for others… the hypocrisy… the judgment… so often justified in the name of passion, emotion, self-focus, or self-inflated-ness…

 

I get frustrated, too, as to how each of us falls prey…  how I fall prey… how I, too, can justify a foolish response or approach in the name of something lesser…

 

And then a moment arises that jolts us to the truth… where all else crumbles to the ground and our sense of self finally deflates, as we are forced to ask those deeper questions.

 

At midnight Wednesday night, the teenage daughter of dear friends kissed each of her family members ‘good night’ and told them how much she loved them.  She then left.  She has not been seen nor heard from since.

 

… every parent’s worst nightmare…

 

As of this posting, it has been over 70 hours of not knowing where this beautiful 16 year old is.  Pause for a moment…

 

Grace was not some troubled teen with obvious, flashing warning signs, where any of us would have previously contemplated the concept that “yeah, this is a behavior I would have expected from her.”  Not at all.  Grace is a beautiful, sensitive, sweet, faithful young lady.  This could be happening with any of our children.  With any of us.

 

So many (especially) teens get an irrational thought in their head that they then justify acting upon because of how they feel in the moment.  They have all these feelings inside that they don’t know what to do with… fear… anger… failure… They don’t know how to resolve all the emotion inside of them; they no longer want to feel that way.  They don’t know what to do.  And so they run.  They leave.  They are not running to something; they are running away.

 

How my friends now ache wanting to wrap their arms around their little girl, saying, “It’s ok.  We’re here for you.  We’ll walk through this together.  And there is absolutely nothing in this world that happens, that God isn’t big enough to handle.  There is nothing you have done or can do that will make God — or us —  love you any less.  He is real.  He is here.  And with his help, nothing is impossible.”  In other words, my friends know that circumstances are incapable of changing who God is and how he so desires to have a relationship with each of his children.

 

But instead, we choose to run.

 

We run from God.

 

Ok, ok, so our running may not appear as painstakingly obvious as beautiful Grace.  Adults are a little better (and definitely more intentional) at covering up and managing the impressions other people have of us.  We don’t necessarily leave our homes and abandon our families, but we do get caught up in foolish approaches and responses; then what happens?

 

We begin to justify the dysfunction, discord, arrogance, and lack of respect for others.  We justify them in the name of passion or emotion.  We inflate our sense of self, as our circumstances now blind the reality of God’s existence and who he really is and what he calls us to do.

 

Pray for Grace.  That she would come home.  Pray for the family.  That they would be blessed with an uncanny sense of peace and would continue to trust God…  that they would trust him regardless of circumstance.

 

That’s the message for us all.  Can we trust him?  Can we believe in him?  Can we recognize the reality of God’s existence?  Or will we allow heartbreaking circumstances — perhaps even a parent’s worst nightmare — to get in the way?

 

Respectfully… for you, sweet Grace…

AR

‘super’ bowl

A “super” day…

 

If we compare to last year, 111.3 million of us will sit down in front of the television at some point this evening and turn on Super Bowl XLVII.  The San Francisco 49ers — led by Coach J. Harbaugh — will face the Baltimore Ravens — led by Coach J. Harbaugh.

 

We will watch the obviously super brothers, and… we will eat…

 

In fact, we will eat a lot…

 

Some of us will grill.  Regardless of snow covering half the country, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest grilling day of the year — the first being the Fourth of July.

 

We’ll eat chips; an estimated 11 million pounds of potato chips will be consumed.

 

(… uh, not a ton of health food…)

 

Pizza will be served in plethoras.  It is, no doubt, the busiest day of the year for pizza restaurants, with major chains supposed to sell double what they do on a regular day.

 

Not to be out done, however, by wings and rings and even more things, as 1.23 billion chicken wings are expected to be consumed, accompanied by 49.2 million cases of beer.

 

Second only to Thanksgiving, Americans are expected to double their food consumption to 33 million pounds of snacks.

 

So we should be satisfied physically, enjoying the creativity of newly aired commercials and thus money exchanging hands…

 

CBS is charging advertisers an estimated $3.7 to $3.8 million dollars per 30-second spot.  30 seconds.  3.8 billion.  That equates to $125,000 per second.

 

(…I could do a lot with $125,000 per second…)

 

How about betting?  Is the Super Bowl the number one gambling day of the year?

 

Probably.  According to “Business Week” magazine, “No one knows for sure since the huge majority of the money changes hands under the table.  Last year, Nevada’s 184 sports books wrote $93.9 million worth of bets.  The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, aka March Madness, recently surpassed the Super Bowl’s handle (the total amount wagered) in the state with roughly $100 million in bets, but that’s over 67 games.  According to the American Gaming Association, a gambling lobby in Washington, the Super Bowl is still the biggest for illegal wagers.  The AMA says the Nevada handle accounts for only 1.5 percent of the Super Bowl total, which would make for more than $6 billion nationwide.  March Madness, the lobby says, citing the FBI, is a $2.5 billion betting event.  But Pregame.com founder R.J. Bell estimated in ‘USA Today’ that March Madness topped the Super Bowl last year, $12 billion to $10 billion.  Again, nobody really knows.”

 

So allow me to get this straight…

 

Tons of money exchanges hands…

Money that could arguably be more wisely spent is gambled away…

We will eat and drink lavishly, ‘stuffingly’, unhealthily…

And upon completion, the winners will call it the ‘best day of their lives’…

… the losers will articulate the utter agony of defeat.

 

All for what is best described as a “game.”

 

A “super” game, no less — but still just a “game.”

 

Yep, our country is sure messed up sometimes…

But can’t wait to watch…  love those brothers Harbaugh…

 

Respectfully,

AR

fact as opposed to rhetoric

Every now and then a story strikes me as so significant that my sense is we need to discuss and highlight such amidst these postings.  The depth of the news deserves our attention.  Today is such a day.

 

Allow me to initially note that this account is very current; that being so, details are evolving daily.  I would encourage you to pay attention to those details.  Hence, take note of the following name:  Saeed Abedini.

 

Abedini is a 32 year old American citizen.  He is originally from Iran.  Abedini has a wife and 2 small children.  His extended family remains in Iran.

 

Abedini returns regularly to the Arab country in order to both visit his extended family and oversee a humanitarian effort he began years ago to build an orphanage; he has been arrested multiple times upon his return.   What has Abedini been arrested for?

 

Abedini is a pastor.  He is an American Christian pastor.  Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity.  As we logically wrestle with fact as opposed to rhetoric, know that any Muslim who apostatizes — literally “regresses” — or specifically goes on to at some point, somehow reject the Islamic faith — commits an offense which may be punishable by death.  Islamic scholars disagree on this assessment; the reality exists, however, that a sizable number of scholars believe execution is the appropriate consequence.  Under Shariah law, a Muslim who converts to Christianity is on par with someone waging war against Islam.

 

In mid-December without initial notice of any formal charges, Abedini was again imprisoned.  As he remained incarcerated, the Iranian government ambiguously charged him with compromising national security, omitting the specifics of the compromising actions.  The government also announced the American would go on trial for this offense.  According to his attorneys, Abedini is scheduled to appear before an Iranian judge known as the “hanging judge,” a man identified by the European Union in 2011 as an individual actually subject to sanctions for human rights violations.  Judge Pir-Abassi has reportedly presided over a number of cases against human rights activists, often handing down long prison sentences and even several death penalties.

 

One more seemingly significant detail:  at the time of this writing, Abedini’s whereabouts are also ambiguous.  When his family went to visit him in Iranian prison last Wednesday, they were told he was not there.  Then yesterday, they were told he had been moved within the prison yet they were not permitted to see him.

 

A couple more related notes:  Abedini’s family reports that he has been repeatedly interrogated and beaten within prison walls.  He has also experienced injury and pain as a result of these beatings and may be in need of medical treatment.  His attorney and family seem to know few more specifics.

 

Allow me one more rather relevant detail…

 

While the American government often calls for the fair and humane treatment of its citizens — in fact, our government often simply calls for the fair and humane treatment of all people regardless of citizenship — for months the American government has said nothing.

 

Finally, this week — only after approximately 250,000 online signatures, significant negative publicity, and public appeals by 50 U.S. House Representatives — the U.S. State Department called for Abedini’s release.  As Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) stated, “Every U.S. citizen should have the assurance that the U.S. government will come vigorously to their defense in a time of need, especially when they are unjustly tried in a foreign country.”  For months, there was not only no vigorous defense; there was no defense.

 

Why would we allow an innocent man to persevere alone?  Did his religion affect our response?

 

Ensuring that we wrestle with fact as opposed to rhetoric, the Intramuralist can only concerningly, definitely offer, “I don’t know.”

 

Respectfully,

AR

[Note:  This morning, Jan. 27th, Abedini was sentenced to 8 years in prison for attempting to undermine the Iranian government.  His attorney was apparently shut out from some of the judicial proceedings.  What will now be the response of governments around the world?]

inaugural

A subjective review of history suggests that most second term inaugural speeches error a bit on the boring side.  While each of us can discern for ourselves whether such was true of Pres. Obama’s address yesterday, one second term speech stands out with certainty… written in 1865…  penned by Pres. Abraham Lincoln.  With the end of the Civil War and slavery in sight, Lincoln still spoke not of great hope nor previous promises.  Lincoln spoke of sadness… and of what binds us together…

 

“Fellow-Countrymen:  At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

 

[Still acknowledging conflict, Lincoln widely recognized what so many forget — that more can often be said with fewer actual words…]

 

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

 

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

 

[Wow… in an address that audiences would attend to for years, Lincoln not only acknowledges the reality of God but also a submission to God…]

 

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

 

With just over 700 words and a remarkable reliance upon the divine, the revered Lincoln soberly recognized the depth of division within our country.  There’s a focus on unity, a call for healing, and a humble commitment to heal the wounds together; there is also a respect for all people regardless of position or politics.  Yes, today, we have much to learn.

 

41 days after this address was delivered, Pres. Lincoln was assassinated.  Let’s face it:  the brave call to unification and reconciliation is not popular.  It is a far easier route not to unify and not to heal.  As we face the next 4 years together, I pray for the braver, more humble, more difficult route.

 

Respectfully,

AR

executive orders… round 2

In recent days, there has been much conversation about the appropriateness and legality of bypassing the legislative process via executive order.  The Intramuralist is certainly no expert, yet as Pres. Obama averred his presumed certain authority to exert specific decrees, my mind wandered (albeit fairly facetiously) as to what decrees I would declare, should I perceive such authority…

 

… I hereby declare that all young men under the age of 23 must pull up their pants, with underwear waistlines fully covered…

 

… I hereby declare that no texting, Facebook, Twitter, or alternative social media shall substitute for authentic dialogue…

 

… I hereby declare that Congress and the White House must work together and actually listen to one another…

 

… I hereby declare that Congress cannot simply, solely arrogantly obstruct the desires of the White House…

 

… I hereby declare that the White House cannot simply, solely arrogantly decide what is wisest and what is not…

 

… I hereby declare that Pres. Obama must discontinue use of the self-focused phrase “I won”…

 

… I hereby declare that the government can no longer spend more money than it takes in…

 

… I hereby declare that again…

 

… and again…

 

… I hereby declare that the Constitution must be adhered to…

 

… I hereby declare that term limits be imposed immediately…

 

… I hereby declare that radio stations must quit over-playing “Gangnam Style”…

 

… I hereby declare that “Keeping Up the Kardashians” is not reality…

 

… I hereby declare that most all reality shows are not reality…

 

… I hereby declare that we will no longer borrow money from China…

 

… I hereby declare that we will no longer borrow money from anyone…

 

… I hereby declare that we will not print money in order to make money, thus decreasing the American dollar in value…

 

… I hereby declare that no one is allowed to scare people via the inexact science of global warming or climate change…

 

… I hereby declare that no one is allowed to scare the elderly via inflammatory rhetoric so that they will be more prone to vote a certain way…

 

… I hereby declare that politicians will not and cannot lie… ever…

 

… I hereby declare that I will not and cannot lie… ever…

 

… I hereby declare that no politician will overlook what is good or right or true in order to advance their own political agenda…

 

… I hereby declare that no more executive “actions” or orders will be allowed.

 

By this I stand.

 

This is enough.

 

… albeit even facetiously…

 

Respectfully,

AR

falling from grace

Today is the day.  According to multiple news outlets, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the world’s most infamous and (previously seemingly) successful cyclist, Lance Armstrong, has admitted to intentionally using performance-enhancing drugs.  The interview is scheduled to be aired today on Oprah’s OWN network.

 

The significance of the admission is obvious:

 

  1. Armstrong has been incredibly successful; his career has included 7 Tour de France victories (albeit titles of which he has since been stripped).  And,
  2. Armstrong has vehemently denied drug usage for years; his denials have also, often, arguably, publicly defamed other people…

 

When fellow Tour winner (and fellow Tour-title-stripped winner), Floyd Landis, implicated Armstrong, Armstrong publicly declared Landis “desperate for attention and money.”

 

When the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was investigating, Armstrong called the head of the quasi-government agency, Travis Tygart, “obsessed” with “getting” him, boldly proclaiming that Tygart was executing an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”

 

With today finally being the day, we now know that all of the above were lies.  We also know that all of the denials of truth telling around him were intentional efforts to discredit others instead of deal with self.  (We like to do that sometimes… discredit others instead of deal with self… but alas, I digress…)

 

Once more, the infamous has fallen from grace.

 

Some fall hard, friends… well, at least initially… Marv Albert, Jim Bakker, Kobe Bryant, John Edwards, Tonya Harding, Marion Jones, Richard Nixon, Sandi Patty, David Petraeus, OJ Simpson, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods… persons supposedly at the “top of their game,” widely admired, yet those who fell a long, long way down.

 

My mind wanders…

 

Did they ever deserve to initially be so admired?  Did we allow their words, athleticism, or success to substitute for a wrongful impression of sound character?

 

Did their immoral act simply unveil their true character — a character that was previously well hidden under the surface of celebrity?  That’s fascinating to me, especially as I see many of the above seem to pay only the penance of time, flying intentionally below the media radar for a specified period — and then ease back into a comparable, original role, undoubtedly hoping few will mention the reason for their fall.

 

Still, are they each capable of redemption?  I mean, most of us observed what happened at Penn State last fall — and the extent of the passion directed not only at the perpetrator but also at all associated with him.  Was/is Jerry Sandusky even capable of redemption?  What if we ever falter? … are we capable?

 

Finally — thinking again of Armstrong’s admission — how should we feel about the “good” Armstrong has previously done?  Lance Armstrong’s “Live Strong Foundation” has provided significant support and inspiration to cancer survivors for years.  Now that Armstrong’s unethical acts are evident, how are we to think about the past good he has done?  Was it all just a facade?  Can the efforts and actions now even be considered good?

 

Once again I’m humbly reminded as to how consistently through history, broken people are used for a greater good.  Warts and all — many who have at one time (or more) engaged in unethical acts — can still contribute to the good.

 

I wonder then what the future holds for Lance Armstrong.  Is he capable of redemption?

The better question, however, is will he be humble enough to actually seek that redemption and thus be used for the greater good.

 

We shall wonder.  Some shall pray.  Praying, too, that no other broken person feels so confident of throwing that first stone…

 

Respectfully,

AR

blessing in the bad

Every now and then, the Intramuralist semi-gracefully stumbles upon a truth which is so counter-cultural — an ideal or behavior that seemingly opposes all prudence.  In other words, there exist areas of wisdom that the world completely fails to comprehend…  where society thinks one way… often fairly adamantly… often obliviously… often, unfortunately, at its own peril.

 

Lately, the Intramuralist has been observing society’s reaction toward suffering.  Let’s face it; there’s been a lot of “bad stuff” happening…

 

… people out of work… government bickering… Sandy Hook… Hurricane Sandy…

… death… divorce… distance between friends…

… not enough money… not enough time… sickness…

… sick children… fighting… debt… more debt…

… friends losing houses… families losing jobs… neighbors not knowing how to put food on the table each night…

 

Trials and temptations, negative circumstances, scenarios which are simply incredibly difficult to endure.  There’s been a lot of “bad stuff.”

 

Most of us — maybe, possibly, most all of us — perceive the “bad stuff” as exactly that:   bad.  Hence, we work tirelessly to alleviate the “badness” — to eradicate any situation in which suffering exists.

 

There’s only one, glaring glitch embedded within that pursuit.  If we eradicate all the “bad,” my sense is that we miss the surprising, bountiful blessing within…

 

  • Blessed are those who are poor… who are thus more likely to realize their need for God — and not allow arrogance to get in the way…
  • Blessed are those who are grieving… who are thus more likely to seek out lasting comfort — and not fall prey to numbing themselves via merely temporary means…
  • Blessed are those who don’t succeed… who thus have opportunity to learn to genuinely celebrate the success of another…
  • Blessed are those whose best laid plans have completely fallen through… who are less likely to struggle with their need to dominate or control…
  • Blessed are those who must sacrifice… who are then more likely to comprehend what is valuable and what is not…
  • Blessed are those who cannot care for themselves… who are thus more likely to appreciate the authenticity of selfless service — and in turn encourage service in others…
  • Blessed are those who have tragically lost a loved one… who are far more likely to long for something more eternal than this planet…
  • Blessed are those whose children have disappointed them… who have intensified opportunity to recognize what’s most important to teach — and surrender that which is minimal…
  • Blessed are those who cry… for they have learned the beauty of empathy…
  • Blessed are those who have less… for they are less likely to take life for granted…

 

Friends, we work to eradicate negative circumstances.  And while I would wish such specific circumstances on no one, I am concerned at the bountiful blessings society seems to simply ignore — that it completely fails to comprehend.  It’s almost as if in our perceived pursuit of rights, fairness, and entitlement — each which possesses some value — we forget that there exists blessing in the “bad.”  Joy lies ahead even amidst the trial.  Hence, if we eradicate what is arduous, if we abolish the “bad” — no matter how adamantly — we may also eradicate the blessing…

 

… and the waning wisdom of society.

 

Respectfully,

AR

executive orders

In the wake of emotion following the shock of Sandy Hook, this coming Tuesday, a Washington group led by VP Joe Biden plans to place on the desk of the President their recommendations regarding increased gun control and safety.  Foreshadowing their report, Biden publicly remarked that while multiple options remain, “The President is going to act.  There are executives orders — executive action that can be taken.”

 

U.S. presidents have been taking “executive action” for over 200 years.  While these orders are not legislation, they still are accompanied by full force of law.  The reality is there is no specific constitutional provision for the decrees, but there exists a vague granting of executive power in Article II.  The idea is that presidents issue executive orders in order to assist in operational management of federal agencies or to carry out what they perceive as their unequivocal, “constitutional responsibilities.”   That’s what the orders are supposed to do; however, through the years — as for some reason seems typical in contemporary culture — we have digressed…

 

Initially, executive orders were issued for such as the following:

 

  •   On December 25, 1868, Pres. Andrew Johnson pardoned “all and every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion” related to the Civil War (the “Christmas Proclamation”).

 

  • In 1861, Pres. Abraham Lincoln used presidential directives to run the early months of the Civil War.  Within his first two months in office, Lincoln issued a proclamation activating troops to defeat the Southern rebellion; he also issued proclamations to procure warships and to expand the size of the military.

 

  •   After World War II began, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the interment of Japanese-Americans — thinking they may be a threat — thereby impacting more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans, even though many were U.S. citizens.  Note:  it is widely believed that in FDR’s clear growth of government, expansion of the extent of executive orders was also his practice.

 

Via executive order, Teddy Roosevelt protected 130 million acres of land and created 5 national parks.  Pres. Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.  Executive orders have been arbitrarily and subjectively utilized, all via one man’s discretion… albeit one very powerful man.

 

Don’t let me also act as if all of the above was deemed categorically constitutional; much, in fact — even then — was controversial.  Conventional wisdom tells us that Lincoln’s actions were most likely unconstitutional, and the purported cruelty of Roosevelt’s executive orders has been debated for decades.

 

Still, as alluded to, through the years, executive orders have digressed; they have become seemingly more arbitrary and albeit, more political.  Such as…

 

  • In reaction to 9/11, Pres. George W. Bush created the Dept. of Homeland Security.

 

  • On March 16, 2012, Pres. Obama gave the White House absolute control over all the country’s natural resources in case of a natural disaster or during a time of war.

 

There is more.

 

Friends, herein lies the challenge…

 

If you are a supporter of Pres. Obama, the probability is that you wholeheartedly support his executive orders.  If you were a supporter of Pres. Bush 43, you most likely supported his decrees.  The challenge is that wisdom must be adhered to regardless of who is president.  For example, should any president decide he or she has the discernment skills to dictate the approach to the economy — meaning proceed via executive order — such would scare me.  For example, as much as I respect Pres. Obama, his economic background, in my opinion, is strikingly minimal.  Hence, should he enact any executive order affecting our economic future, the Intramuralist would question the inherent wisdom.

 

Gun control?  Gun control?  Did VP Biden misspeak once again?  Or is it totally ok to bypass Congress and simply dictate one’s opinion, assuming it is wisest and best?  Is it ok to bypass bipartisan debate?  Is it wise?  Or is it arrogant?

 

Great questions.  Guess we’ll see on Tuesday.

 

Respectfully,

AR

the end of the world

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.

 

Truthfully, long before R.E.M.’s popular, 1987 musical refrain, many have consistently experienced the end of the world as they know it…  long before R.E.M… before and after the revelation of the new age translation of the currently publicized Mayan Indian prophecies.

 

Briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with Mayan prophecy — noting that this specific calculation is not adhered to by professional Mayanist scholars, yet predicts a series of unknown cataclysmic events — the world is scheduled to end this Friday, December 21, 2012.  (In other words, if your Christmas shopping isn’t complete, feel great freedom to forgo it.)

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

 

Any time the end of the world is definitively foretold, it always gets me thinking, as it’s long been humanity’s habit to proclaim our unique omniscience, especially — for some reason — in grandiose matters.  From Y2K to 2011‘s Harold Camping to Pompeii, Italy to the arrival of Halley’s Comet, humans have long specifically predicted the date and time of the bloody end to the planet.  Uh, best I can tell, with all due respect, of course, to date, they’ve all been wrong.

 

I do chuckle inside somewhat…  I mean, the historical scriptures affirm that no one will know the hour nor the day; somehow, however, people continue to miss that rather obvious point.  In light of the current December doom, in fact, I also chuckled at NASA’s response.  The government space agency released a statement saying that Friday will actually not be Earth’s end.  Hmmm… My sense is that if no one knows the actual hour nor the day, then the ancient Mayans couldn’t have known it… and NASA — smart as those scientists may be — wouldn’t know it for certain either.

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

 

For the moment (dare we) — perhaps only for posterity’s sake — let’s entertain this idea that Friday — or today or Sunday or even next Wednesday or Thursday — actually is the end of the world; how would we live differently?  … beginning today?

 

How would we act differently?

What relationships would we invest in?

What would we be more intentional about?

 

We’d hug our kids a little tighter.

We’d tell our loved ones that we love them.

We’d affirm those around us, focusing on their strengths, as opposed to chastising their weaknesses.

We’d be less partisan.

We’d offer generous grace.

We’d omit no truth with that full application of grace.

We’d quit spending more than we take in… (wait… since those bills wouldn’t arrive until after Friday…)

We’d listen more.

We’d take time to figure out who God is and who we are in relation to him.

We’d be still.

We’d give more.

We’d take less.

We’d be aware of the beauty of the moment.

We’d look at the skies and be in humble awe of creation.

We’d give thanks.

We’d forgive.

And we would love lavishly and generously… no matter what.

 

If we did all that, we could belt the last line of R.E.M.’s refrain — remaining unfazed by events out of our control.  Intentional living is good and true regardless of world events… from the tragedy of Newtown, the wrangling in Washington, and yes, even those ancient Mayan prophecies.  It doesn’t matter when the world will end, as intentional living girds us with peace; we can be fine.  Fine?  Actually, that’s the last line of the song…

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

 

Fine it is.  P.S.  Hope you read this before Friday.

 

Respectfully… always…

AR