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

healing – part 2

As we recently marked the 4 year anniversary of the Intramuralist, I was reflecting on the diversity of our interaction.

 

Over our tenure, it’s been suggested this blog is too conservative, too liberal, too Christian, and too anti-Christian.  One person even once suggested that I wasn’t bright enough to run a lemonade stand (but he misspelled “lemonade,” so that made me feel a little better).  But it’s been fascinating to me that now that we average approximately 250 hits daily, different people can read the same thing, see the same thing, and/or hear the same thing, and yet walk away with completely contrasting perspectives.

 

In dialogue this past week, no less, I witnessed that same dichotomous response… to the blog… to the President’s acceptance… to the Governor’s concession.

 

And here’s what struck me…

 

It was not that I heard persons praise and pan each; it was that I heard Republicans and Democrats both praise and pan the President… both praise and pan the Governor… and well, somewhat praise and pan the objectivity of the Intramuralist’s posts.

 

The resulting take away was not simply echoing our initial post on how and when the healing begins, as we feel differently about the election’s outcome.  I gleaned instead this week that even all those who proudly identify themselves as “conservative” or “liberal” don’t necessarily feel or react the same within those identifications.  They can read the same thing, see the same thing, and/or hear the same thing, and yes, still walk away with completely contrasting perspectives.

 

While perhaps this is no news flash, what prompts me to hone in my focus is that the depth of our division and difference has the potential to serve as an added obstruction within our nation’s need to heal.  How can we move forward as one, indivisible nation under God when the differences are so deep?  … when even within our people groups our perspectives are different?

 

This is tough question.  And the reality is, I’m not sure I have all that great of an answer.  I can go back to one of our initial steps to listen — to both hear and consider — but I’m not convinced that’s enough.  After all, I had Rep. and Dem. friends who thought Pres. Obama’s acceptance speech was very good; I equally, also, had Rep. and Dem. friends who thought Obama’s speech was fairly awful.  People who seem likeminded often still differ in their perspective.

 

And so perhaps, if we truly wish to heal the deep divisions in this country, we need to do a little more than (1) start now, (2) be empathetic, (3) eliminate the words “mandate” and “compromise,” (4) listen, and (5) be humble.

 

Perhaps in this nation of free men, as Lincoln once quipped, we need to be a little more intentional in seeking to understand the perspective of another.

 

Now allow me to initially add a rather significant caveat…  I once heard a seemingly wise man say that he always learns the argument of another so that he can argue against it better and then magnify the illogical loopholes.  Something about that approach seems dishonest — perhaps impure.  My sense is we need to better understand the perspective of another not so that we can poke holes in their perspective, but rather, so that we can actually understand them… so that we can hear and “get” what’s most important to them, as opposed to allowing a wrong impression to take root in our own hearts and minds.

 

Yes, I believe that’s it.

 

In order to embrace our ‘one nation under God status,’ we don’t need to all agree on all things; we don’t even need to always compromise.  But we do need to care where each other is coming from.  For example, on the issue of caring for the least of these, some of my more liberal friends believe their conservative counterparts are heartless; simultaneously, some of my more conservative friends believe their liberal counterparts are ignorant of the lazy.  Instead of attempting to understand the depth of those perspectives on this issue and others, we far too easily sit back, make judgments, and then “humbly” consider ourselves so much wiser.

 

Part 2 of the healing process is simple to state:  we need to work to understand each other better.  We must be intentional.

 

Simple to state… pretty tough to actually accomplish…

 

Respectfully,

AR

hail to the victor… oops… wrong approach

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Step 1:  Start now.

 

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

 

Step 2:  Be empathetic.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Step 4:  Listen.

 

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

 

And Step 5:  Be humble.

 

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

 

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

 

Respectfully,

AR

this is the day

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

 

We then posted the following:

 

TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS ELECTION CYCLE:

 

  1. People will do anything to win.

9.  Tina Fey is a comedic genius.

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

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

6.  Objectivity in the media cannot be assumed.

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

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

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

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

 

And for this playful artist…

 

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

 

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

 

10 MORE THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS ELECTION CYCLE:

 

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

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

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

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

6.  Budgets make politicians financially accountable.

5.  Government mandated health care is divisive.

4.  First ladies always have a cool side.

3.  Debates matter.

2.  Spending is far easier than saving.

 

And…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Respectfully,

AR

pro-woman

Tuesday marks the 4 year anniversary of the Intramuralist… fire up!

 

I am excited not only about the election and our post that day, but I am also excited and honored and humbled and a little, truly blown away to acknowledge this coming week how far we have come — and yes, what the Intramuralist is still called to do.  It is a joy and a privilege to share these postings together — modeling respectful dialogue.  Thanks for being part of something bigger than you and me.

 

While Tuesday awaits, no less, I must initially acknowledge some of the many things that strike me; in fact, there is one development that continually makes me pause and ask, “What?  Really?  People said that?”

 

Over the past few months especially, I’ve noticed the evolution of a very specific rhetoric, a rhetoric that’s evident of something bigger — albeit a rhetoric that may well be the manifestation of foolishness.

 

Over the course of these campaigns, many times we have witnessed the promotion of a candidate being “pro-woman” or “all about women” or “the woman’s candidate.”  The identification suggests that one candidate is solely empathetic of how women feel, while the other candidate has zero in common with the feminine gender.

 

Here’s the zillion dollar, semi-subtle sanctimoniousness within that gender specification:

 

All women don’t feel the same.

 

Let’s be clear…

 

Do all men feel the same?

Do all children?  … teens?  … youth?

Does each demographic category feel the same about all issues?

Are all individuals equally passionate?

Do demographics extinguish individuality?

How about all Hispanics?

Or African-Americans?

Would it ever be appropriate to conclude that all African-Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, or caucasian Americans feel exactly the same way?

 

Of course not.

 

Unfortunately, I thus conclude that any messaging campaign suggesting that one candidate is “the candidate for all women” is inaccurate and arguably inappropriate, as the message doesn’t resonate with a significant portion of the female population.  Most of us have multiple female friends.  Believe me… they don’t all think the same way.

 

Wait… there is one additional, tangent, seemingly highly sensitive aspect of this argument… that is, that the pro-woman’s candidate is also often identified as someone fully supportive of abortion or perhaps more politically correctly (and extensively) stated, women’s reproductive rights.  In other words, because the stance implies the allowance for an individual woman to make all decisions regarding her own body, this is thus more empathetic of women.  The inherent inaccuracy, however, is that factually via the process of abortion, lives of women are also terminated.  Friends, this post proclaims no opinion on the wisdom of abortion; that is tough topic and one which we would never treat arrogantly nor insensitively.  What this post does suggest, though, is that to proclaim either above opinion is more “pro-woman” than the other is illogical.

Therein lies another attempt at persuasive rhetoric.  All women do not feel the same way.

 

As this election season winds down (finally, thank God), I am beginning to quietly resent this notion that all demographic categories are likeminded…

 

We feel different ways and believe different things…

 

… about abortion… about economics… about debt, unemployment, and entitlements.   We feel differently about the campaigns and their candidates.

 

My concluding sense is that the idea that one candidate could possibly be the candidate for all women is merely a rhetorical re-election ploy — just as if someone asserted themselves as the candidate for all men, all African-Americans, all college students or Californians.  So when we don’t all feel the same way, what do we do?  How is the candidate to handle himself?  … to arrogantly assume he knows best for an entire gender, race, or people group?  … or to tenderly and correctly handle words of truth?

 

We’ll see beginning Tuesday.  I wish I was certain the rhetoric would go away.

 

Respectfully,

AR

stormy

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thank God… until Tuesday, at least.

 

In search of wisdom… always…

 

Respectfully,

AR

the extreme games

Last week I had a fairly tense discussion with my oldest son.  Yes, even in healthy families, heated discussions can and do occur.  “Heated,” however, does not equate to “unhealthy.”  Granted, it was not derogatory nor profane, but it was hard.  Neither one of us enjoyed it.

 

Nearing the end of now the definite argument — with disagreement fully, emotionally apparent — my son proclaimed (in the seemingly unending wisdom of adolescence), “You’re unreasonable!  You’re ridiculous!  You’re extreme!”

 

With that then perceived, concluding assertion, my son got out of the car, slammed the door, and walked up the drive to the house of his friend.  He never looked back.

 

I sat there cold… in the temp and the mood… frustrated that our dialogue had ended so sorely and sourly.

 

What was I to do?

 

For a moment I simply sat there.  Still.  A quick prayer.  Then I called him — but with no more need to argue in my voice nor heart.  “Come back to the car.  Two people who respect one another don’t end a conversation like that.”

 

He wasn’t pleased, yet he returned.  I then explained the following…

 

It’s ok for us to disagree.  In fact, throughout our relationship we will disagree more often; this will happen again.

 

None of us are exactly alike, and thus, none of us think exactly alike.  Two people who love each other tons still will think differently; they will at times disagree.

 

But how we behave when we disagree makes all the difference in the world.

 

Let me be clear:  Son, you are free to disagree with me.  I want you to grow.  I want your convictions to be your own.

 

But when we disagree, you are not free to call me ‘unreasonable,’ ‘ridiculous,’ or ‘extreme.’  Disagreement does not equate to any of those adjectives.

 

The rationale for utilizing those words is because if you can label me as something so negative or wrong or unworthy, then you never have to wrestle with what I say.  You never have to acknowledge that someone you love thinks differently.  And you never have to exert the humility it takes to acknowledge you might not have life all figured out.

 

I realize we think differently, but I am not unreasonable.  I am not ridiculous.  And I am by no means extreme.

 

My tone was gentle but firm.  It was not critical nor judgmental.  My bottom line was that just because we disagree does not give my growing teenage son the freedom to call me something I am not.  Yet then we both had a bit of an “a-ha”…

 

Calling people something that they are not is a practice far too many adults regularly employ.

 

This is not a tactic solely utilized by the American teen.

 

Good people will disagree…

 

… on politics…

… college football loyalties…

… even on the value of quilting, conservation, or “Connect Four.”

 

But when we disagree, we also do not possess the freedom to dismiss the other person as unreasonable, ridiculous, or extreme.  When we do so, we are the ones who look foolish; we are the ones who are stubbornly stuck; and we are the ones who refuse to grow.

 

Respectfully,

AR

driving the vote

In less than 10 days, this election will be over (… thank God, thank God, thank God…).

 

Shall we say it again?  (… thank God, thank God, thank God…)

 

(Note:  I kind of like to thank God.)

 

As previously stated, the Intramuralist will not be endorsing any candidate(s).  Our goal here is to respectfully and authentically tackle the issues — not to tell you who to vote for.

 

One of the issues that matters most to this semi-humble observer is the economy and our national debt.  Allow me to share only facts — absent all analysis…

 

Current national debt:  approximately $16.2 TRILLION

 

If this amount is divided into so-called “fair shares,” the debt amounts to approximately:

  • $52,000 for every person living in the U.S.
  • $136,000 for every household in the U.S.

 

The federal government continues to spend far more than it takes in.  Taxing the highest income earners at 100% does not significantly alter the accounting.  Hence, we borrow from foreign governments.

 

What does the government spend money on?

 

Observing each decade since 1960, as of 2010, 61% of U.S. expenditures are now allocated for “social spending” — our #1 expenditure and the highest this budget category has been in 5 decades.  Social spending includes income security (Social Security, welfare, etc.), healthcare, education, housing, and recreation.  In 1960, only 23% was spent on social spending.

 

During the first 2 years of Pres. Obama’s term — when he enjoyed a partisan majority in both congressional bodies, U.S. congressmen introduced 176 bills that would have reduced spending — but 2,480 bills that would have raised it.

 

[OPINION ALERT!  (Yes, this is a subjective comment…)  It’s far easier for the elect to spend rather than save.]

 

(… back to the objective…)

 

When Pres. Clinton entered office, the national debt was approximately $4.2 TRILLION.  When he left, the debt was $5.7 TRILLION (compared to contemporary presidents, this was one of the lowest nominal & percent increases; in fact, during Clinton’s last year in office, the national debt actually decreased).

 

When Pres. George W. Bush entered office, the national debt was approximately $5.7 TRILLION; when he left 8 years later, the debt was $10.7 TRILLION.

 

When Pres. Obama entered office, the national debt was approximately $10.7 TRILLION; as stated, after only 4 years, the debt is now $16.2 TRILLION.

 

Knowing that this is an issue that no president (save arguably Bill Clinton) has effectively addressed during his tenure, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was established by Pres. Obama.  Out of that commission, the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Debt Plan was proposed.  The plan — named after co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, a former Republican senator and Clinton Chief of Staff, respectively — recommended multiple options to reduce our debt.  It has not been enacted.  In fact, over the past 3 years, the federal government has even operated without a budget.  Budgets provide accountability; that is also a fact.

 

The debt continues to soar.  There is no enacted plan to pay it back.  Hence, I return to my previous, subjective comment:  it is far easier to spend rather than save.

 

Is this pattern wise?  Can it be sustained?  If we continue to borrow massively, will our dollar hold value?  And if our dollar loses value, are we capable of even social spending?

 

This impacts the economy.  And yes, this will drive my vote.

 

Respectfully,

AR

 

 

[Utilized sources for this posting:  Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, U.S. Census Bureau, National Taxpayers Union Foundation, and www.presidentialdebt.org.]

turning off the news

Oh, you’ve felt it, too…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Politics, schmolitics…

 

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

 

Respectfully,

AR

debating the football

Here comes the game again…  the lights are on… the stage is set… this should be interesting… the game of the night… the game of the month…

 

What will the refs be like?  … silent?  … deferring?  … biased?  Let’s hope not.  Replacement moderators just don’t seem all that effective.

 

Ah, blue for one team — red for the other.  Wait — there’s also some pink in there.  It is still October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The Intramuralist so appreciates how those on center stage still bring attention to someone other than self.

 

Ok, wait… here come the ground rules…  (Mr. Ref, they don’t listen to the rules; haven’t you noticed?  Haven’t you seen all that fighting at the bottom of the pile — all that scrapping and punching and grappling when the mics aren’t on?)

 

There went the coin flip.  The incumbent will go first.  (Nice posture, by the way, gentlemen… although too many stare downs on the line already… kind of creepy… what are they looking at — each other’s helmet?  … tie?)

 

Hmmm… the teams’ staring continues.  Strategists must have said, “You need to look right at the other team.”  Oooh… strategists must have also said, “Don’t look so mad,” but that one’s a little harder.

 

Keep your game face on!  Intimidate them!  But be sure to look confident and strong.

 

“I am strong,” the sigh seemed to say.

 

(Golly, that pronoun “I” came off a little strong there.)

 

Personal foul!  You can’t say that on television!  The world is watching.

 

Lining up again.  Next play.  Next question.  Here we go.

 

They are fighting… they are actually fighting!  Throw the flag!  Throw the flag!!

 

Ooops… there went the flag.  But once again, of course, the teams disagree on who the foul should be on.  They even disagree on what the foul should be about.

 

Unsportsmanlike conduct!  Yes, the whistle blows again.

 

Yikes, he was offsides there.  (Funny how they always deny it.)

 

Quit grabbing!  That’s holding!!

 

15 more yards… or was that seconds?  It’s hard to discern sometimes.

 

I, me, my, myself.

We hear that a lot in this format.  I’m stunned, in fact, at how much these leaders refer to themselves and their plethora of accomplishments.  Hmmm… I would think leadership equates to a little more humility.

 

Geepers… that sure seemed like an illegal block.  Then again, that can only be employed by the moder- – I mean, referee… that is, if the ref gets too involved.

 

A call for leadership… yes, I like that… responsible, ethical, knowledgeable, transparent, courageous, consistent, non-political…  humble, too… oh, wait… they aren’t that good at that.

 

Ah, invoking the name of those who’ve gone before us — those “Hall of Famers,” so-to-speak.  We can almost see the names on the back of the jerseys… J. Kennedy… R. Reagan… yes… invoke those names; it makes us feel better.  They also employ the names they believe will make us think lesser of the other team — or maybe that they’re a little weaker, less effective somehow…  J. Carter… G. Bush  (p.s. I can’t put of their other choice words in print).

 

Hey, teams, have you made any mistakes?  Can you admit it?  What personal fouls will you acknowledge you committed?

 

Are you kidding?!  We only acknowledge fouls that are visible and proven!

 

And that, my friends, is what’s wrong with Monday Night Football… I mean, the presidential debate… I mean, football…

 

Sometimes it’s hard to tell…

 

Respectfully,

AR