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

life isn’t fair

Some of life’s greatest truths are told via the most clever settings.  (Maybe we listen better that way.)  From the witty 1973 novel that evolved into the movie, The Princess Bride, by William Goldman…

 

It’s one of my biggest memories of my father reading. I had pneumonia, remember, but I was a little better now, and madly caught up in the book, and one thing you know when you’re ten is that, no matter what, there’s gonna be a happy ending. They can sweat all they want to scare you, the authors, but back of it all you know, you just have no doubt, that in the long run justice is going to win out. And Westley and Buttercup – well, they had their troubles, sure, but they were going to get married and live happily ever after, I would have bet the family fortune if I’d found a sucker big enough to take me on.

 

Well, when my father got through with that sentence where the wedding was sandwiched between the ministers’ meeting and the treasury whatever, I said, “You read that wrong.”

 

My father’s this little old barber – remember that too? And kind of illiterate. Well, you just don’t challenge a guy who has trouble reading and say he’s read something incorrectly, because that’s really threatening. “I’m doing the reading,” he said.

 

“I know that, but you got it wrong. She doesn’t marry that rotten Humperdinck. She marries Westley.”

 

“It says right here,” my father began, a little huffy, and he starts going over it again.

 

“You must have skipped a page then. Something. Get it right, huh?”

 

By now he was more than a tiny bit upset. “I skipped nothing. I read the words. The words are there, I read them, good night,” and off he went…

 

All this was never explained to me till I was in my teens and there was this great woman who lived in my home town, Edith Neisser, dead now, and she wrote terrific books about how we screw up our children…  And I remember once we were having iced tea on the Neisser porch and talking and just outside the porch was their badminton court and I was watching some kids play badminton and Ed had just shellacked me, and as I left the court for the porch, he said, “Don’t worry, it’ll all work out, you’ll get me next time” and I nodded, and then Ed said, “And if you don’t, you’ll beat me at something else.”

 

I went to the porch and sipped iced tea and Edith was reading this book and she didn’t put it down when she said, “That’s not necessarily true, you know.”

 

I said, “How do you mean?”

 

And that’s when she put her book down. And looked at me. And said it: “Life isn’t fair, Bill. We tell our children that it is, but it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s not only a lie, it’s a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it never has been, and it’s never going to be…”

 

“It isn’t!” I said, so loud I really startled her. “You’re right! It’s not fair.” I was so happy if I’d known how to dance, I’d have started dancing. “Isn’t that great, isn’t it terrific?” I think along here Edith must have thought I was well on my way to being bonkers.

 

But it meant so much to me to have it said and out and free and flying – that was the discontent I had endured the night my father stopped reading, I realized right then. That was the reconciliation I was trying to make and couldn’t.

 

And that’s what I think this book’s about. All those Columbia experts can spiel all they want about the delicious satire; they’re crazy. This book says, “life’s not fair” and I’m telling you, one and all, you better believe it… we’re not created equal…

 

Look. (Grownups skip this paragraph.) I’m not about to tell you this book has a tragic ending. I already said in the very first line how it was my favorite in all the world. But there’s a lot of bad stuff coming up, torture you’ve already been prepared for, but there’s worse. There’s death coming up, and you better understand this: Some of the wrong people die. Be ready for it. This isn’t Curious George Uses the Potty. Nobody warned me and it was my own fault (you’ll see what I mean in a little) and that was my mistake, so I’m not letting it happen to you. The wrong people die, some of them, and the reason is this; life is not fair. Forget all the garbage your parents put out… You’ll be a lot happier.

 

And yet we live in a society which continues to embrace fairness as a philosophy, arguably believing that such is good and just and will make people happier.  Fascinating. The challenge is that each of us have different gifts, different strengths, and even different weaknesses because we are not the same; we have not been created all the same.  And yet, there seem fewer adults willing to say it.

 

Respectfully,

AR

cliffhangers

Allow me to begin with a semi-sarcastic disclaimer:  this isn’t my favorite topic.  While the Intramuralist focuses on respectful opining and dialoguing about the inherent wisdom or lack of it within current events, to focus on what may appear to be merely economics (yes, a core requirement of both my college degrees) isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do.  The challenge, though, is that our nation’s current economic state — and how we got here, accompanied by the current rhetorical wrangling — is full of wise and foolish approaches.  It is thus time we, too, focus on the colloquial “fiscal cliff.”

 

For those of you who have yet to turn back on your news after all the election hyperbole, you may have missed the cliffhanger reference.  From ‘tweets’ to television, the airwaves are rampant…

 

“Does anyone realize the people who created the fiscal cliff are the ones negotiating to get us out?”

 

“We already fell off the Moral Cliff a while ago, which was the precursor to the Fiscal Cliff.”

 

Or my current personal favorite…

 

“Wonder how long Wile E. Coyote has been waiting with his giant anvil at the edge of the Fiscal Cliff…”

 

Friends, I cannot stress enough that if you are receiving your news from strictly a partisan source (i.e. Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow), your perspective will be skewed.  The Limbaugh’s and Maddow’s of the media continue to cast all blame elsewhere, and in my opinion, neither exhibit the humility necessary on a consistent basis to wisely tackle truth.

 

We are not in this fragile fiscal state because of any one president named Bush or Obama, any war in Afghanistan or Iraq, or any entitlement such as health care or housing assistance.  We are in this fragile fiscal state for 2 basic reasons:

 

(1) For years, our federal government has spent more than it takes in.

 

And (2) For years, presidents and congress have justified the spending.

 

Now it is true that multiple aspects have impacted the frail economy… the wars were expensive; Obamacare is expensive; national defense is expensive.  Social Security runs on a deficit budget.  The post office, Medicare, and Medicaid all spend more money than they take in.  I often stand amazed observing lobbyists and special interest groups (and too frequently, the politicians to whom they donate money) loudly proclaim their passion for the entitlement from which they most, specifically benefit.  The time, friends, for passionate proclamations trumping fiscal soundness has come to a halt…  albeit the screeching halt at the end of a so-called cliff.

 

This cliff is the result of those in Washington (and the lobbyists shouting behind them) being unable to agree on how to solve reasons number 1 and 2 above.  When they could not agree on a responsible budget approach and debt limit over the last 2 years, legislators agreed to sequestration, the formal term for mandatory cuts to federal programs.  Hence, if congress and the administration do not come to an agreement now — and also, if they do not de-prioritize their passionate proclamations — $1.2 trillion will be made in mandatory cuts – half from the military, half from domestic programs.  Health, education, military staffing, and benefits will likely all be significantly affected.  All tax brackets may be significantly negatively affected.

 

Why not simply raise taxes?  Great question.  Some propose this passionately.  “Tax the rich; they can afford it!”  Others oppose it with seemingly equal venom.  “You can’t tax the rich; they’re the job creators!”  Yet regardless of whether or not a tax-em’-all-more strategy is economically sound and/or effective, the reality is that the sobering challenge still remains…

 

… the challenge is that raising taxes alone will not alter reasons number 1 and 2 shared above.  The federal government cannot keep spending more than it takes in; and it cannot keep justifying the spending.

 

Respectfully,

AR

wrestling with the facts

Thank God the election is over.  Allow me to say that again…  thank God the election is over.  Also over, therefore, is the onslaught of political advertising, negative campaigning, and adults acting more like children.  Sorry.  That should not be inferred as criticism of any one person or any one party.  There is just something utterly unattractive about grown men and women desiring to lead and unite us who intentionally distort truth and employ rhetoric that is seemingly, purposely divisive.  Personally, I find that one of the most disturbing developments of the American political system.  What is good and true and right is often sacrificed for “what will get me elected.”

 

Multiple other developments were made manifest via the completion of the most recent election cycle.  For example, we witnessed arguably increased significance of both gender and race.  Also, as a nation, we began to discuss the fragility of a fiscal pattern that continuously spends more than it takes in.  And in an additional, unique development, for the first time, we witnessed a national normalization of Mormonism.

 

Whether given or denied your vote, the placement of Mitt Romney on the Republican presidential ticket prompted more positive publicity of Mormonism than ever generated by “Idol’s” Archuleta, talk’s Glenn Beck, Sen. Harry Reid, or by any of the singing Osmonds.  Many accepted Mormonism as a religion which is good and true and right.  And admittedly, Mormonism — also known as the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) — is marked by people who stereotypically lead an ethical, moral life.  Yet as is true with the Intramuralist, in order to discern goodness, truth, etc., it’s essential to wrestle with the facts.  Hence, we ask:  what exactly is Mormonism?

 

Let me initially suggest that no singular post could define all that the LDS Church believes, so allow me to briefly summarize what is significant but may remain less explored…

 

Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830.  Several years beforehand, Smith said he was in the woods as a teenager praying one day when he saw a vision in which God and Jesus came to him and told him his sins were forgiven, that contemporary churches “were all wrong,” and all creeds of Christianity “were an abomination” in God’s sight.  Smith was 14 at the time.

 

When Smith was 18, he said he was visited by the angel named “Moroni.”  Moroni would reveal the secret location of the “golden plates,” which contained divine truth that only Smith had the skill to translate.  The angel warned Smith not to show the tablets to anyone.  When Smith was finished with the translation, he says he returned the plates to the angel.  The completed translation was published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon.

 

Mormonism thus utilizes 4 primary sources:  the Bible, the sacred texts of Mormonism (which includes the Book of Mormon), additional writings by Smith, and the writings of church leaders, especially the church presidents who are now considered to be inspired prophets of God.  These create the foundation of their faith.  What’s in that foundation?

 

As with all faiths, it is significant to examine their perspective of God, a tenet from which all disciplines and doctrine flow.  Unlike Christianity and Islam, though, Mormonism teaches the existence of multiple (and many) gods.  They believe an infinite number of planets exist, each with their own god(s) who were once human and have since evolved into god status.  Smith once wrote, “In the beginning, the head of the gods called a council of the gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and (the) people in it.”  Mormons will often suggest that they are monotheists — believers in one true god — for since they live on Earth, Earth’s own god is the focus of their current human worship.

 

Consistent with that teaching — and perhaps what’s most notable yet least known — is that the Mormon Church teaches that individuals have to learn how to become gods themselves.  In fact, if a couple marries according to a Mormon ceremony (which only Mormons are invited to), and each lives an obedient life, the couple may then themselves attain god status.  This is central to the Mormon faith:  obedient humans are able to become gods based on their behavior here on Earth.

 

By all accounts, even before the Romney candidacy, Mormonism has become America’s most successful home-grown religion; started by Smith, they now boast a membership of approximately 15 million persons worldwide.  It’s contagious.  With the prioritizing of missionary work and moral lives — consistent with the persona portrayed by Gov. Romney — it is an attractive religion to many.

 

But let’s be certain to ask the tougher questions… is it good?  Is it true?  Is it right?

 

As always, no matter how attractive, wrestling with the facts is essential.

 

Respectfully,

AR

 

 

[Significant sources utilized for this analysis include:  The History of Joseph Smith, Mormonnewsroom.org, Newsweek, Pearl of Great Price, Probe. org, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. ]

israel

Perhaps you’ve noticed.  Violence is escalating in the Middle East.

 

True, there is a current truce, but the hostility is still glaring.  Even amidst a so-called “truce,” the animosity is obvious.

 

“Help us!  …This thing is getting worse!  The Arabic – Islamic nations see [the U.S.] as weak and further more they know our country is vulnerable and the attacks are intensifying as a result!  … Several large bombs and packs of explosives have been found in the past few days… Islamic Jihad is declaring responsibility for these attacks.  Hamas is blaming Israel for them.  What’s new about that?”

 

The reality, friends, is that thousands of miles away, it’s easy for us to pay little attention to what’s occuring in the Middle East.  We’ve got arguably tougher issues — at least things more pressing on our plates — items we’re currently more passionate about, and colloquially speaking, we’ve got seemingly bigger fish to fry.  Yet the truth remains; violence continues to escalate in the Middle East.

 

The Israelis and Palestinians are fighting one another.  The Jewish nation and the Arab nation.  Truth is, they’ve been fighting for a long, long time.  Hence, we must ask why…  why do they fight?

 

This is an ongoing struggle.

 

Is it about territory?  Yes.  Is it about religion?  Yes.  Do people disagree as to what the struggle is all about?  Also yes.

 

The reality is that after more than 50 years of war, terrorism, peace negotiation and human suffering, Israel and Palestine remain as far from a peaceful settlement as ever.  It’s not an easy fix.  Hence, as best as possible, allow me to attempt to explain.  This explanation is not full proof, but it’s an explanation given to children, as sometimes they ‘get it best’… getting it better than adults…

 

The area which Israelis and Palestinians are in conflict about is within the original British Mandate of Palestine of the 1922 League of Nations Palestine Mandate, which today is defined by the borders of the State of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the Kingdom of Jordan also called Transjordan…

 

In 1917, during World War I, Britain’s army took control of Palestine. The British government issued the Balfour Declaration, “viewing with favor” the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but also stating that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”…

 

In 1948 the British departed, the State of Israel was declared, and a number of Arab nations invaded Palestine.  As the pro-Israelis won the subsequent war, Israel became a reality.  Civilian unrest and military conflict has intensified in recent years in two Palestinian uprisings…  culminating in the Oslo accords.

 

The Oslo accords was seen as groundbreaking and a first step to a firm and lasting peace.  But after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin (former Israeli Prime Minister) the peace process slowed down to a grinding halt. The Palestinians living on the occupied territories didn’t see their living conditions improve.  Additionally the Israeli settlements, from Palestinian view seen as one of the largest obstacles for peace, weren’t beginning to be withdrawn.  Instead their population almost doubled on the West Bank even if few new were constructed. This along with sporadic attacks from Palestinian militant groups and the retribution from the Israelis made the situation unholdable.

 

After the failure of the summit between USA President Bill Clinton, PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, dubbed Camp David II, and in the wake of the controversial visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, violence erupted resulting in over 2,000 deaths to date. Certain [Muslim] Palestinian groups started a new wave of suicide bombers, people who load themselves up with explosives and detonate themselves near Israelis, often civilians, but sometimes also soldiers. In response, the Israeli army has reoccupied the West Bank enforcing strict military law, and sealed off the Gaza strip, imposing economic restrictions on the Palestinians. The Israeli security forces instituted targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants, and destroyed the homes of suicide bombers’ families.  These things have lead to numerous casualties among civilians (mostly bystanders) as well as massive damages to property.

 

Massive damages.  Massive.  People blaming one another.  Friends, it is always easier to blame someone else than to take responsibility for oneself.  To claim one side to be completely pure would be nothing less than naive.  We have more to discuss here.

 

So can these nations stop the fighting?

 

Great question.  It’s not an easy answer.  Too much is getting in the way.  At least for now…

 

Respectfully,

AR

[Intramuralist Note:  Special thanks to www.encyclopedia.kids.net.au for significant content in this posting.]

thanksgiving

Thank God no matter what happens.  No matter what.

 

Are any of us stuck on that “thank God” part?  I often remember those historical words… that the basic reality of God is plain enough.  We just need to open our eyes and yes, there it is!  By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see:  eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.  It’s there.  It’s all around us.  It’s real.  And it’s authentic.

 

What happened, though, was this:  people knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God — refusing to worship him — they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They have pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  Many of us have then traded the glory of God for something lesser.

 

Something lesser.

 

And what’s lesser gets in the way of us giving thanks…

 

… in being intentional in our gratitude.

 

Hence, today I give thanks for _____________________.

 

And ____________________.

 

You fill in the blanks.  Pick something.  Pick something to give thanks for.

 

Today I give thanks with a grateful heart… for an abundance of blessing… both near and far… both big and little… both silly and serious…  so much of which routinely blows me away… by taking that long and thoughtful look.

 

Blessings to each of you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

May we each be intentional in our thanks.

 

Respectfully…  always,

 

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

the petraeus’s & sandusky’s

I had a tough evening with my youngest son the other night.  He’s 11.  He disobeyed.  And the reality is that he disobeyed disrespectfully and defiantly.  He announced that he would not do what he was asked — and he would not do what he knew was right.

 

“I don’t care!  You can’t make me!!”

 

And since I’ve been slightly maturing in my parenting (thank God!), I employed what has arguably evolved into one of my more effective techniques.  With disappointment in my eyes and thus no affirming glance, I closed the door and quietly walked away.

 

My son began to sob.

 

Actually, he sobbed for quite some time that night.  Those tears were hard to hear, always seemingly piercing my own heart and soul.  Yet I knew at least for an initial while, I needed to allow his tears to flow.

 

Why was he crying?

Because I walked away?  Because I was disappointed?  Because of no affirming glance?

 

While each of the above certainly had both impact and merit, none served as the cause of the cry.  My 11 year old bawled because he chose wrongly.

 

Josh was so grieved by his defiant-but-intentional choice of wrongful behavior, that he grieved his own iniquity.

 

“Why?!  Why did I do this?” he cried uncontrollably.  I kid you not; it was uncontrollably for quite some time.  Josh was bothered by his lack of virtue; he was dismayed by his willful wrongdoing.

 

After allowing the tears to flow for several minutes, I re-entered his room and held him tight.  At first I said very little, as the tears continued, but so did the outwardly, now cavernous contrition.  He was unnerved by the obvious fact that his wrongful choice came so intentionally and easily.  Part of me of wondered if he was shocked that he was actually capable.

 

As I finally tucked him that night, watching my budding adolescent fall asleep with swollen eyes and still with tears, I sat and wondered what I could learn… what each of us could learn…  When we make wrongful choices — so intentionally and easily — are we shocked that we, too, are actually capable?  Do we wrestle with our own wrongdoing?  Are we bothered by our own, manifest lack of virtue?  And are we dismayed?

 

Too often I think we miss that — we miss the growth that comes from individual, reflective wrestling because we instead surround ourselves with people who simply “amen” our experience and thus numb our negatives — as opposed to hold us accountable for both the wise and poor choices of our lives.  We are quick to shame the Petraeus’s and Sandusky’s, but far slower in examining any wrongful actions, motives, or thinking that takes root in our own hearts.

 

We live for the moment, allow emotion to trump truth, and often allow moral behavior to be relative with each evolving circumstance.  The challenge is that circumstances will always change; such is a perilous pattern.

 

As is no secret amidst these pages, my young son has Down syndrome.  Please — no sympathy necessary.  Josh has taught me more in life than I ever could have known without him.  He has taught me and stretched me in ways previously impossible.  There is nothing lesser about his life; there is only more blessing in mine and in so many others’ lives because of the joy and wisdom he so freely brings.

 

One of Josh’s many marvelous traits is that he doesn’t allow all the “crud of life” to get in the way — circumstances and emotions never interfere nor trump reality.  And the other night, when it was obvious he had made a wrongful choice, there were no excuses or exaggerations.  There was only the honest grief that he failed to choose wisely.

 

We continue to learn, as it is often the child that leads the adult well.

 

Respectfully,

AR

dirtbags

We are such smart people.

 

Honest to goodness, I had conversations over the past 10 days in which someone actually shared exactly the following:

 

Obama is a narcissist.

 

Romney is a dirtbag liar.

 

Friends, you are each welcome to your own opinion.  I’m sure various factions of blog readers will affirm one of the above or the other; perhaps there exist some who adhere to both.  This post, however, has zero to do with narcissism nor the ability to articulate truth.  My questions this day instead center around us being such smart people.  How is it that so incredibly frequently, we claim to know with certainty the heart of another?

 

… narcissist…

 

… dirtbag…

 

Perhaps a large majority of you will disagree with me this day (and I’m ok with that), but I do not believe that any one man can fully discern the heart of another.  Leave the politicians out of it — because the reality is, being the smart people we are, we make these character judgments in regard to far more than the Obamas and Romneys of the world.  Yes, we may perceive a glimpse of the heart of another — via a leaning or lacking of integrity — but a glimpse implies an obstructed view.  We are not as smart as we think we are.

 

If we are authentically attempting to discern the character of another, my sense is we need to look for evidence of the following in the person’s actual behavior:

 

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness
  • gentleness
  • and self-control

 

And that’s pretty much it.

 

Again, feel free to disagree with me.  I’m ok with it.

 

Feel free to claim you do know with certainty the character of another that you have only witnessed from afar… the Obamas, Romneys, and people in your world… maybe even your neighbors.  And then I have to ask what those far away from you and me also may see…

 

… do they discern all that we are?

 

… have they witnessed the totality of our behavior that allows them to assert such a definitive opinion?

 

… is there any way possible one or two or even seven events could create a distorted opinion — an obstructed view — or hence, a limited perspective?

 

Yes, we are such a smart people…

 

… or at least we think we are.

 

Respectfully,

AR