one huge question

A great discussion occurred at the ballpark yesterday.  In one of those slow moments, hoping to teach our children well, one young person asked one huge question…

 

“What does it mean to sacrifice?”

 

Ah, terrific question!  She has heard the word often in today’s culture…   “shared sacrifice”…  “a sacrificial lamb”…  “sacrifice bunt”…  “sacrifice fly”…  “hard choices and shared sacrifice”… “all must sacrifice.” 

 

And then one seemingly discerning parent chirped in, “I don’t think many today have any comprehension of what it means to sacrifice.”  Touché.  Hearing the word and knowing what it means are two totally different things.

 

Man cannot sacrifice that which costs him nothing.

 

 

Sacrifice…  what it is…

 

An offering of something precious.  Precious.

A giving up of something for the sake of someone else.

Selfless.

 

 

What it’s not….

 

An offering of something worthless.  Worthless.

A giving up of something for one’s own sake — i.e. for publicity, attention, or “impression management.”

Selfish.

 

 

What today’s culture often acts as if it is…

 

Something we expect of someone else.

 

 

At this point in our fans-in-the-stands conversation, with now multiple adults chiming in, I suppose our one young person may have been overwhelmed, but to her credit, she listened attentively for a final question, confused with culture’s overuse of a word that made little sense…

 

“So what’s the opposite of ‘sacrifice’?”

 

A short pause and then…

 

“Indulgence.”

 

“Entitlement.”

 

“Expectation.”

 

 

Hence, all the Intramuralist offers this day is one simple question in response:

Which is more prominent in today’s culture…  sacrifice?  … or indulgence, entitlement, and expectation?

 

I wonder what the long term impact is… indulgence without consequence, entitlement in place of individual responsibility, all arguably, while feeling entitled.  I wonder how the prominence of such self-focused, guised virtues affects people and policy…

 

Perhaps that discerning parent was right.  “I don’t think many today have any comprehension of what it means to sacrifice.”   Hearing the word and knowing what it means are two totally different things.

 

Respectfully,

AR

concerned

Now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act/”Obamacare” has been ruled mostly constitutional and the Intramuralist’s analysis of the law itself has ceased, allow me to share my most significant, resulting concern…

 

The process to enact the law was fully partisan.  The sad reality is that this is an observation we ignore if we agree with the bill — with most bills.  But then again, this isn’t what concerns me most.

 

The process was divisive.  Due to the fact that the process was pushed from a partisan perspective, divisiveness was rampant.  One of my current, chief apprehensions about Pres. Obama is whether or not he’s a uniter or divider.  Then again, this also isn’t what concerns me most.

 

The process (notice there is much about the process) was manipulated, full of favors, negotiated behind closed doors, and rushed through Congress without congressmen reading the bill.  There is much in that observation that causes this semi-humble current events blogger to shake my head, wondering how so many seemingly ethical people can be comfortable with that.  But no, this still isn’t what concerns me most.

 

It also isn’t the content.  The advocates’ primary talking point for the last few months has been:  “the bill’s not perfect, but it’s a good start.”  Allow me to acknowledge there is some ‘good stuff’ in there; but allow me to also acknowledge there’s some ‘bad stuff’ in there.  Ignorance of that fact does not make this law wise nor even comparable to “perfect.”  Then again, the specifics of what’s embedded within the legislation are known to very few.

 

I’m also not most concerned about the new taxes.  I know, I know…  Even after the Supreme Court ruled the only way the mandated purchase can be constitutional is because it’s a tax, the White House Press Sec. said Friday (after the ruling) that it’s not a tax; “it’s a penalty.”  Geepers.  The Supreme Court ruled a “penalty” is unconstitutional; a tax — regardless of wisdom — is legal.  Still, the flurry of rhetorical contradiction is not my greatest concern.

 

Additionally, I’m not significantly concerned about some pundits’ reactions.  For example…

 

Democratic National Committee Executive Director Patrick Gaspard, tweeting almost immediately after the ruling:  “It’s constitutional. B—–s.”  Note that his “B” word rhymes with “witches.”  Nice.

 

Am I concerned about significant inflation and debt?  Of course… but not most.  Economically speaking, if coverage is mandated, specific services are required, and coverage is now free for many, someone has to pay for that.  Will it be the government, thus sinking into deeper debt?  Or will it be you and me?  What will be the effect on small business?  Small business now has 2 choices:  hire less than 50 people (so providing coverage isn’t mandated) or significantly raise the price of goods and services.  One amounts to fewer jobs — the other, higher inflation.

 

Am I most concerned about larger government?  Where inefficiency expands and individual liberty potentially diminishes?  Not exactly.

 

Ok, ok… what concerns me most?

 

Time and time again, our country passionately works to care for the least of these.  I believe that is our calling, as a nation, but even more so as individuals.  Ironically, however, time and time again, our justification for caring for those ‘least’ totally omits that this is what the God of the universe has long exhorted us to do.  The call comes not from a party nor any president.

 

Repeatedly, policy is advocated where we omit any recognition of a divine creator.  We pat ourselves repeatedly for doing what’s supposedly good and compassionate without acknowledging it was God who mandated the calling.  With healthcare, we can boast, “Finally!  We are taking care of the least of these!”  But God has been historically clear; any nation that refuses to acknowledge him — what he’s done and what he still calls us to do — ceases to exist.  Don’t take my word for it.  Study it.  Countries who negate their reliance on God are at some point utterly ruined and destroyed.

 

I believe in individually and corporately caring for the least of these.  I believe in being fiscally responsible.  And I believe in acknowledging God as the one who called us to do both.

 

Respectfully,

AR

the decision

Today the Supreme Court will reveal their ruling on the Patient Affordable Care Act/”Obamacare.”  It is one of the most watched judicial decisions of the last few decades.

 

Four potential outcomes exist:  (1) the entire law will be upheld; (2) the entire law will be repealed; (3) the individual mandate will be repealed; or (4) the mandate and more will be repealed.  If outcomes (1) or (2) occur, my sense is a microphone will somehow magically appear before the President and leading partisans today, who will then claim either victory or the agony of America’s defeat.  Whoever falls on the ‘agony of defeat side’ will also then be tempted to demonize the court.  Note:  we have a habit of demonizing those with whom we profoundly disagree — or at least those who seemingly stand in the way of our desired progress.

 

As a blogger, ‘tis time for me to be done with healthcare analysis.  For 3 years, after reading the law and presenting multiple concerns, I am still no expert.  Then again, many who possess passionate opinions of this law — many who even voted for it — are also not experts; they didn’t even read the bill.  Friends, I don’t understand that.  That practice fights against every ethical bone in my body.  Legislators supported this law not knowing the specifics that were in it — not analyzing the totality of the legislation’s impact; they then voted based on party lines.  A bill now estimated to cost $1.76 TRILLION over the next decade (according to the nonpartisan CBO) was supported by those who never studied the specifics of what they were voting on.  Wow.  Let me pause once more… wow.  I care not the issue.  I care not if I support the issue.  To vote along party lines for a bill that expensive and never read is in my opinion, irresponsible.  We live in a representative democracy.  Our legislators cannot claim to represent us well without reading the bill.

 

This irresponsibility has been apparent from multiple, additional aspects…  as articulated in the Intramuralist’s frustration voiced in February of 2010:

 

… I am frustrated that individual coverage is mandated.  Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were harshly criticized for such advocacy during their respective campaigns. [Granted, Edwards is criticized even more harshly now.]

 

… I am frustrated that multiple times throughout this process, individual cost-increasing “deals” have been included in order to secure 1 legislator’s vote.

 

… I am frustrated that discussions are only broadcast publicly when a supermajority fails to exist.

 

… I am frustrated that these deals, closed door meetings, and solely partisan efforts cease only with a single senatorial seat change [after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)].  

 

… I am frustrated with increased costs, taxes, and debt.

 

… I am frustrated that some believe the end justifies the means, thereby advocating misapplication of the reconciliation procedure [a budgetary tactic utilized to pass the policy when the Democrat’s impenetrable supermajority was lost].

 

 

Truth is, I believe the President was correct this week when he said, “You know, it’s fashionable right now for people to be cynical.”  I would add to his perspective that a significant contributor to the cynicism is how healthcare was approached.  The approach was partisan, expensive, divisive, non-transparent, full of favors, and at times, manipulated.  This may be going out on a shady, little limb here, but those adjectives logically induce increased cynicism.

 

My final thoughts… at least for now, abiding by the high court’s decision…

 

With the inspirational message Pres. Obama shared in his initial presidential campaign, many of us had hope that his leadership would prompt unity.  However, the manner in which he led Congress and the country through healthcare reform concerned me; it was not unifying.  Was that because of an obstructionist congress — a congress with clear Democrat majorities?  Or was that because of the President’s partisan approach on healthcare?  Certainly not the only partisan prone to believe he knows what’s best on a specific policy measure, it concerns me that Obama spent substantial time and political capital on healthcare, when it was/is our economy that is most in need of attention.

 

As long said here amidst these postings, healthcare should be accessible, affordable, and portable, and the end result cannot justify an irresponsible means.  For the record, the Supreme Court will not be ruling on the constitutionality of responsibility…  maybe they should…  considering those ethical bones.

 

Respectfully,

AR

hmmm…

The things that make you go hmm

Things that make you go hmm

The things that make you go hmm, hmm, hmm…

 

More things.  Current events that make the Intramuralist go hmmm.  Truthfully, there are a lot of them lately…

 

… Yesterday — with all eyes on the Supreme Court, awaiting the ruling on the Patient Affordable Care Act/Obamacare/Mandated-Health-Insurance/Or-Whatever-You-Want-to-Call-It-Act — the justices passed on healthcare, ruling instead on Citizens United and the Arizona immigration law; they will release their ruling on the “all of the above healthcare act” Thursday.

 

The controversial Arizona ruling struck down 3 of 4 parts, but said the most controversial (and yes, popular) aspect was constitutional, meaning that it is lawful for state and local law enforcement to verify immigration status on routine stops.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  Both sides claimed victory.

 

Wait… if both sides feel victorious, does that mean the issue is finally done?  Ha…  Friends, an editorial note here…  There is a reason the first word of illegal immigration is “illegal.”  But we have to find a humane way to deal with the issue that doesn’t saturate the employment pool nor pave a path for terrorists.  Terrorism is still, sadly, alive and well on planet Earth.  Too much rhetorical spin is already involved in this Supreme Court ruling.

 

 

… Lest you are unaware, Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney are in race to solicit the largest stockpile of dinero.  Cash.  Money.  Etc.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  The latest gimmick by the Obama campaign is the Obama Event Registry.  “Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?” asks the re-election campaign.  “Let your friends know how important this election is to you — register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift.  It’s a great way to support the President on your big day.  Plus, it’s a gift that we can all appreciate — and goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.”

 

Geepers.  With all due respect to the Obama campaign, with my birthday arriving in a few short weeks, I’d enjoy a few gifts.  And I’m expecting far more than a gravy bowl.

 

 

… Venus Williams lost in round 1 of Wimbledon yesterday.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  The talented Williams sisters never lose that early.

 

 

… In the “Furious & Fast” or “Fast & Furious” gun smuggling mess, Pres. Obama has claimed “executive privilege,” thereby allowing Att. General Eric Holder the freedom not to turn over subpoenaed documents.  Holder has turned over approximately 7,000 of the requested 70,000 documents.  What makes me go “hmmm”?  70,000 documents??  Are you kidding?!  How could anyone want 70,000 documents?  How could anyone be expected to turn over 70,000 documents?  And what’s buried in those 70,000 documents that no one wants us to see??

 

Another editorial note here:  More respect and honor should be given to the family of Brian Terry, the federal agent who died on the opposite end of those smuggled weapons.  In all the discussions… in all the exertions of “privilege”… he should be remembered and revered.

 

 

Ah, current events…

 

The things that make you go hmm

Things that make you go hmm

The things that make you go hmm, hmm, hmm…

 

They always do…

 

… noting the lack of wisdom and integrity in this world…

 

Respectfully,

AR

the error of our ways

Typical of my family’s summer evenings, I had opportunity to watch another youth baseball game yesterday… (actually, I watched about 4 games yesterday.)  Good thing I love that sport.  While yes, the pace can seemingly eke along at times, all the strategic nuances of the game can be fascinating…  well, not always as fascinating as the fans.  Yesterday, I decided to observe the fans…

 

 … the yellers… the screamers… the strong, silent types… the knowledgable… the casual observer… the college scholarship hoper… the sibling who’d prefer to be elsewhere… the devoted family… the team mom… the always encouraging… the discouraged… the focusers on the positive…

 

Before my son began playing, I observed the loyalists at the game on the field before us.  The red team was to my left — the blue team to my right.  Note that these kids were 13 years old…  competitive baseball, but 13 nonetheless.

 

The red team’s parents cheered only for their team.  The blue team’s parents likewise cheered only for their own.  On a side note, my observant younger son and I enjoyed cheering on the good plays regardless of team color.

 

As the game progressed with the score remaining close, the intensity also evolved.  I noticed a little more enthusiasm.  A little louder cheer.  And a little more dramatic disappointment when the diamond’s circumstances didn’t match the fans’ desires.

 

These fans weren’t unique.  They didn’t seem different than any of the fans gracing the sidelines of the 31 other fields in this tournament.  Truthfully, they didn’t seem much different than you and me.  Still, one thing bothered me most…

When the first baseman dropped a foul ball, the opposing fans cheered.  

When the shortstop made an error, the hoopin’ and hollerin’ continued.

When a pitch went wild that allowed all runners to advance, screams of delight went shrieking through the stands.

 

In other words, the cheers were no less in enthusiasm and volume than when a great play was made.

The fans cheered just as loudly when their sons did well as they did when the other teams’ sons messed up.  In other words, it mattered not how their own sons succeeded.  The means justified the end.  If someone else erred, it was irrelevant if their own son benefitted.  All they seemed to want was for their kid to win.  Truth be told, I’m not sure those parents are any different than you and me.

 

Previously this week I had a conversation with a friend who suggested the means didn’t matter.  It was fascinating to me.  He recognized that while the means may not “look good” or be saturated with obvious integrity, sometimes that was necessary to get the desired end result.  We were talking current events — not even baseball.

 

Cheering on the errors was nowhere more evident than on the game immediately preceding my son’s initial playoff game later in the day…

 

Ahead 12-3 going into the top of the last inning, the Elks’ defense suddenly gave up 10 runs, changing pitchers 4 times in less than 3 outs — attempting to somehow stop the so-called baseball bleeding.  With each run and pitcher alteration, the intensity ratcheted up another notch.  In the game.  In the stands.

 

Going into the bottom half of the inning now down by 1, the Elks first play was a slow dribbler toward second — a seemingly easy play.  The ball then went methodically right through the second baseman’s legs.  The crowd, no less, went wild!  Cheers (and jeers, of course — not from the strong, silent type) were dependent on the color of your team.

 

Question:  do we celebrate the error of another if we stand to benefit?  Does it matter to us if someone else screwed up?  Do we even care about those people?  Or do we simply cheer if something good happens for us?

 

Many seem to cheer — socially and politically and even at baseball — because of what they personally receive —  because of how they personally perceive the benefit.  I feel at times like often that’s more important that what’s fiscally responsible, constitutional, or even what is good.  I’m reminded of the 20-something I overheard talking about the new healthcare law.  She didn’t care what was in it; she was just happy that she didn’t have to pay for insurance any more.  In her words, she could “blow it on something else.”

 

Often, it seems, we’re solely focused on our own benefit.  On winning.  On us.

 

I wonder if we do that in far more places than youth sports…

 

Respectfully,

AR

my elliptical

It’s true.  All the accusations are accurate.  I am an exercise nut.

 

I love it.  I exercise 6 days a week with a minimum of 30 minutes cardio.  Add in strength and weight training, and Monday – Friday amount to a 60 – 80 minute regimen.  I believe it’s good for me; it’s good for all people.  I look better.  Feel better.  No doubt we’d each benefit from consistent exercise.

 

In order to make exercise practical, numerous equipment exists in our home — free weights, Bowflex, medicine ball, etc.  None, however, compares to the preciousness of my beloved elliptical.  Yes, I love it.

 

The elliptical is raved about by kinesiologists and fitness experts.  It elevates the heartbeat, utilizing the entire body, but minimizes the impact on the body’s joints.  Hence, many one-time runners switch to the elliptical at some point in order to lessen the impact specifically on their knees.  The elliptical is an effective, efficient exercise machine.  We’d each benefit from having an elliptical.

 

As a leader in my family, I’ve decided that each member of my extended family should also have one.  My parents, brothers, nieces and nephews, cousins, you-name-it.  Some of them are opposed to exercise — especially this daily idea — but they don’t know what’s good for them; they need to exercise.  Even more so, they need to purchase an elliptical.

 

The reality is that if only a few of us buy this excellent cardiovascular machine, then the price increases.  The manufacturers have to make money, and so stores have to sell their products at a high enough profit margin to recoup their costs.  But, if everyone in my family buys one, the stores can reduce the cost.  Better for me!  Granted, some of my family never intended to buy an elliptical; but alas, they don’t know what’s good for them.

 

Truthfully, originally my family wasn’t all on board.  It didn’t matter.  Even though some passionately disagreed with purchase, I had enough persons in the family willing to side with me.  We could vote.  I would win.

 

In fact, I was ready for that vote.  And then… wouldn’t you know?  A new person joined our family; marriage will do that to you.  And so this new guy came along, and he had a bit of a rebel in him; he wasn’t willing to go along with my plan for the family.  Remember:  this is good!  Each of us buying an elliptical will drive the cost down.  And it will keep us all healthy!  Don’t people know what’s good for them?

 

But our new family member was pretty stubborn.  He wouldn’t go along with my plan.  Hence, I had to find a new way to make everyone buy an elliptical.

 

At first, I continued to try to convince the majority.  “Come on… you have to buy one to figure out how much you’re going to enjoy it.  You have to purchase it before you actually realize the benefits.”  But that didn’t go over so well.  My plan wasn’t quite as popular as I thought.

 

Sorry, but I had to push this through.  Ancestors had advocated for ellipticals for decades!  My family simply doesn’t know what’s best for them.  Trust me.  I know.  I know best.  Then I remembered an old way we used to settle on the family budget.  It required fewer of us to agree.  It may not have set well with my siblings who disagreed, but hey, remember, I know best.  Ellipticals will be good for them!

 

And so, using that ole’ budgetary tactic, I got enough votes to force everyone to buy one… even though they didn’t like it.  They’ll thank me later.  That’s what I’m banking on… this is good for them.  They’ll thank me later.

 

And so, as soon as today, the Supreme Court will rule on the new health care law, the Patient Affordable Care Act, or as some call it, “Obamacare.”

 

It is no secret that the Intramuralist believes this law is unwise.  I say that not as a partisan, but rather, as one who read the entire bill.  Note:  most congressmen did not read it.  Consistent with previous posts, I believe it to be unconstitutional in the mandated purchase of health insurance solely based on the condition of being alive; I also feel that the approach taken to ratify the legislation was heavy-handed, disrespectful, and oblivious to differing opinion… just like me and my elliptical…

 

… even though it’s healthy.

 

Respectfully,

AR

martyrs, anyone?

Nathan Hale…  the bold young captain in the Continental Army, who went behind enemy lines, hoping to gather intelligence in the American Revolution, who was then captured and hung by the British, whose purported last words were, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

 

Saint Valentine… the Roman priest, who — absent the flowers and conversation hearts — was marrying persons within the Christian church at a time when the emperor was persecuting the church and prohibiting marriage, who was then imprisoned and tortured for his conduct, receiving a 3 part sentence of beating, stoning, and finally decapitation because of his stand for Christian marriage, with his supposed last words signed, “from your Valentine.”

 

And Joan of Arc… a onetime peasant girl who led the French army in several military victories during the Hundred Years’ War, known for her solid intellect, who steadfastly claimed to receive divine visions, who was burned at the stake at only 19 years old, charged with “insubordination and heterodoxy,” who refused to renounce her relationship with God.

 

Resolute.

Composed.

Committed to truth.

 

And one more powerful description…

 

Regardless of potential consequence.

 

Each of the above are identified as “martyrs.”  A martyr is willing to die instead of sacrificing truth.  Nothing matters more to them than what they believe to be true.  And the truth is never obscured.  It’s never veiled or debated or packaged publicly nicely so that no one will actually know what that truth is.  Everyone watching knows what the martyr believes in.

 

My sense, friends — and I could be wrong — but my sense is that we are in an age with few martyrs.

 

So many, so often, sadly it seems, are willing to compromise — at the very least conceal — even alter to the point of convenience — what they believe to be true.

 

The concept of being willing to actually die seems foreign indeed.

 

What do many willingly do instead?

 

… exaggerate…

… deflect responsibility…

… blame…

… engage in ad hominem attacks…

… change the subject…

… deceive…

… lie…

… utilize rhetorical spin…

… or perhaps arguably worst yet, alter the truth.

 

I’m reminded of Jack Nicholson’s infamous line in “A Few Good Men”:  “You can’t handle the truth!!”

 

Jack’s right.  Often we can’t.  That goes for many in public office… many of us.  We are more apt to change the truth, cover it up, or make it somehow more convenient.

 

Where are the martyrs?

 

… the historical Stephen’s? … the man who knew something so powerful, inspiring and real, that he refused to compromise his message?  Where are the humble and those always committed to truth?  Where are those public servants who refuse to compromise their message?

 

I’m afraid they may no longer be here.

 

Respectfully,

AR

orders

On Friday Pres. Obama altered U.S. immigration law via executive order.  In one of those mind-boggling moments that quietly reveals the hypocrisy on both the established right and left (and makes the Intramuralist sarcastically snicker), the use of executive order has come under increased scrutiny.  Let’s objectively dissect the issue here.

 

An executive order is a decree issued by any executive branch of government (could be local, state, or federal, for example) in which law is either established or changed.  While the decree bypasses the legislative branch of government, it is not free from judicial review.

 

American presidents have issued executive orders since George #1 was in the White House, yet contrary to popular belief, there exists no explicit constitutional statute that authorizes such action.  Presidents have been following the precedent of their predecessors, based on the Constitution’s vague granting of “executive power,” combined with their sworn charge to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

 

The purpose of executive orders varies greatly.  Via such directives, FDR prohibited the “hoarding” of gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates in 1933; in 1964, Lyndon Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of JFK; and in 1969, it was Richard Nixon who prohibited employment discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, etc. in the federal civilian workforce.

 

As the practice has evolved — again, based on presidential precedent as opposed to clear constitutional authority — the frequency of usage has remained high (FDR issued over 3700 orders; Truman utilized the process almost 900 times, compared to Bill Clinton’s 364, George W. Bush’s 291, and Barack Obama’s thus far 127).  However, the controversy of the practice — due especially to the questioned motive for bypassing congressional approval — has increased significantly.

 

For example…

 

In 2007, Pres. Bush issued an order to expand the use of approved stem cell lines in the way he deemed was ethical.  Some wanted no limits, as the research is considered extremely helpful in curing future disease; some wanted a complete ban, concerned about the intentional destruction of human life in the process.  Bush decided via executive order what was ethical.

 

As Governor of Texas, Rick Perry issued an order requiring all Texas girls to receive the HPV vaccination.  Supporters of the order cite the possibility of obtaining cervical cancer; opposers don’t believe it is government’s role to dictate vaccine, especially when the purported dangers are sexually transmitted.

 

And on Friday, Pres. Obama eased American deportation policy, halting the deportation of illegal immigrants’ offspring.  Supporters believe it’s humane, as the fact that children (up to age 30) are in this country illegally is no fault of their own; opposers worry about the impact on unemployment and long term cost.  The issue is complex and has multiple aspects to discern, especially, currently, in regard to how much committed crime is allowed by the illegal immigrant allowed to stay.

 

The hypocrisy?

 

Some claim Obama had no authority to alter immigration law on his own, yet they were quite comfortable when Bush 43 issued his directives.  Others enthusiastically cheered Obama’s Friday move, forgetting the outrage they once articulated under Bush.  In other words, support or outrage of the use of executive order depends most on the executive and on the order — as opposed to its actual use.

 

Back to the Intramuralist’s snicker… directed again toward both the established right and left…

 

Last September, when asked why he simply doesn’t alter immigration law via executive order, Pres. Obama said, “I cannot do this on my own because there are laws on the books.”  Those laws were still in existence Friday.  Hence, since previously Obama felt he didn’t have the authority to do what he just did, I must conclude that the fall, potentially close election is a factor.

 

Also snickering…  previously many on the right have also believed that immigration laws should be altered, finding an effective and compassionate way to handle the influx of illegal immigrants.  But they, too, seem well aware that there exists this fall election.

 

My bottom line, friends, is that politics is motivating policy.  Politics is also motivating the method used to enact the policy, and politics motivates both our opposition and support.

 

Sometimes, I just can’t stand politics.

 

In search of wisdom… respectfully,

AR

not special

As commencement speeches become snoozingly predictable and rhetorical, creative overtures are especially appreciated.  One address, given last week by English teacher David McCullough at a Massachusetts high school, was not appreciated by all.  The now ‘gone-viral’ speech is colloquially known as “You’re Not Special.”  The following words are extracted verbatim from McCullough’s message:

 

“Commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.  All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.  You are not special.  You are not exceptional.

 

Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.”

 

If you watch the video, you will find the teenage crowd attentively chuckling in response.  My sense is that McCullough intentionally worked to speak to the graduates in a language they’d understand.  Once he knew they were ‘with him’ — interested in what he was actually saying instead of lured to sleep by another predictable or rhetorical overture — that’s where McCullough left sarcasm behind and shared his central message… a message to a culture that so easily focuses on self…

 

… where we think we’re the most talented athlete…

… where we think we’re the brightest politician…

… where we think we’re the greatest, best, most grounded, solid, exceptional, experienced, gifted, intelligent, successful, you-name-it…

 

… where we’re so focused on our own ‘specialness.’

 

Hence, having their attention, the wise English prof adds:

 

“… We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point – and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…  Now it’s ‘So what does this get me?’

 

… If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning.  You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness.  (Second is ice cream…  just an FYI)  I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning.  It’s where you go from here that matters.

 

… Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.  Be worthy of your advantages.  And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect.  Read as a nourishing staple of life.  Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer…

 

… None of this day-seizing, though, this YOLOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence.  Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion-and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.  Because everyone is.”

 

That was his point.  Everyone’s special.  But we can’t allow that to cause us to think too highly of ourselves.  Too many people do.

 

Respectfully,

AR

missing in our mission

I’ve decided I’m not too keen on this concept of being “religious.”  So many of us seem too religious.  We are religious about our work schedules, our workouts, eating, drinking, reading, looking good, our morning crosswords, shopping, iTunes accounts, iPods, iPads, iSomethings, word choices, kids’ sports, etc.  Being religious has little to do with faith, friends.  “Religious” simply means devoted to a cause or activity.  I’ve known many who are wholeheartedly devoted; and yet many omit any acknowledgement of the divine.

 

Repeatedly in current societal mantras — also, often, with no acknowledgement of God — I am hearing the calls for justice… for social justice, for a just social standing.  The reason so many advocate for the widows and orphans and poor and disabled is because such persons have no social standing; there is no prestige attached to their position.  And so, some loudly articulate the need for social “justice.”

 

How can we provide social “justice”?  What can — and should — we do for the least of these? … for the most vulnerable?

 

… feed.

 

… give a cold drink.

 

… invite in.

 

… clothe.

 

… care for when sick.

 

… visit when imprisoned.

 

Each of the above compassionately and effectively ministers to the least among us.  We should thus be generous in the above provisions.  Many, in fact, are “religious” in their attempts to both advocate and provide.

 

Fascinating to me still, is that many religiously attempt to both advocate and provide but offer no acknowledgement of God.  And yet, each of the above socially “just” provisions is deeply rooted in biblical exhortation.  It thus then blurs the supposedly nonporous boundary between what is church and what is state — especially when one advocates for social justice as a role of federal government.  We are then asking government to do what God has commanded — albeit, what God has commanded the individual… what God has commanded for you and me.

 

For many “religious” persons — most likely myself, too, at times — we ignore that individual command.  We oft abdicate our role in providing for the least among us.  We can sit back, shout the name of Jesus, but do we actually engage in the feeding and giving, inviting and clothing, caring and visiting?  Some will be called to work in the field; others will be called to contribute monetarily.  But it is equally, arguably hypocritical to stand back, acknowledge God’s exhortation to the individual, but then, do nothing to provide for those who have lesser.

 

Once again, friends, we find a societal issue where far too many are firmly entrenched on a supposed right or left.  The solution is not compromise.  The solution is to dissipate man-created, partisan opinion and do what we are individually called to do.

 

What are we called to do?

 

Feed.  Give.  Invite.  Clothe.  Care for.  And visit.

 

What else?

 

Acknowledge God.

 

If we do one without the other — even though the call for individual social provision is actually historically, biblically beseeched — then something is missing in our mission…

 

… most likely something that is prudent and wise.

 

Respectfully,

AR