teaching our children well

On Memorial Day weekend, the Intramuralist salutes our veterans and those in active duty.

 

I’d like to say the rest of us are empathetic.  I’m not sure that’s actually true.

 

You are brave.

You choose sacrifice.

You know loss.

 

When those 3 aspects are combined, most of the rest of us pale in comparison…

 

The bravest person I know is my 8 year old son.  Having survived a life-threatening illness as an infant — in addition to the repair of a congenital heart defect — he continues to know no bounds and uniquely encourages the multitudes, not allowing his disability to equate to a limitation.  He both humbles and amazes me.

 

The person I know who has most willingly chosen sacrifice is one of my dear college roommates, Sara.  Sara is a determined Air Force Academy graduate who had ample, excellent opportunities awaiting.  She and her husband have instead chosen to raise their family — and live their entire adult lives — ministering to a needy, Asian people group, void of authentic hope.  Sara’s greatest goal is to love the people there well, even though her extended family (and most modern conveniences) remain thousands of miles away.

 

In regard to knowing loss, let me sympathetically submit that I have sadly known many who have known gut-wrenching grief — those who have lost spouses, those who have lost children, those who have lost a friend or family member who have meant the absolute world to them.  I cannot imagine the depth of the heartache.  Yet amidst the agony, I’m uncertain whether any compare to those who have witnessed multiple peers perish beside them.  At any given moment, the thought has to go through your head, “that could have been me.”  To see that loss… to experience that loss… to actually feel that loss… I would think it would significantly impact your view of the world, your grasp of reality, and your level of gratitude.

 

For this Memorial Day weekend, the primary activity of the Intramuralist household is competitive baseball for our older 2 boys.  Today, in fact, in my role as an assistant coach, I watched our middle son’s team struggle through what they deemed a painful loss.  A few handled their despair somewhat less than maturely.

 

With my son in the car on our prolonged drive home, I asked why the drastic change of his countenance.  “I hate to lose,” he muttered.  For an 11 year old boy, I understand.  I also understand these young men don’t comprehend real loss.

 

“Son, perhaps it’s time to instead talk about gratitude,” I smiled subtly.

 

To those who are brave, who have willingly chosen sacrifice, and who know loss like no other, thank you.

 

Thanks for teaching us well.  A blessed Memorial Day to you… to your families, too.

 

Respectfully,

AR

 

(Originally published on Memorial Day weekend 2010.  My boys are now 15, 13, & 10.  P.S.  They still aren’t all that fond of loss.)

dear graduate

I know this time of year you are perhaps bombarded by words of encouragement, affirmation, and a plethora of gifts.  Enjoy!  You have worked hard and accomplished much.  Granted, some of you have worked harder than others, but the reality today is that this is a unique accomplishment for each of you.  The future is bright.  You have decisions to make.  And those of us watching desire to spur you on.

 

The Intramuralist thus has a few words to share with you, but know this beforehand:  what is shared today is the same regardless of the road travelled or current societal state.  How fragile is the economy, how promising is the job market — each matters less than what I share with you here.  My words will always be the same…

 

First.  Foremost.  Always…

 

Get wisdom.  At all costs, get it.  Cherish it.  Embrace it.  Many things in this world will come and go.  Life will change.  You will experience hardships and joys that are currently inconceivable.  In order to handle each of those well, it is vital that your character is marked by wisdom — more than anything else.  It matters not how rich you are or poor you are if you have not wisdom.  The perceived success of a fool will never be sustained.

 

Next, guard your heart.  Guard everything that flows from it.  I am not encouraging the construction of emotional barricades — obstacles that in the long run are more compatible with foolishness.  No, I am speaking to content.  What’s in your heart.  Keep your mouth free from perversity, and corrupt talk from your lips.  Remember that garbage in your brain means garbage will come out of it.  What’s in your brain impacts your heart.  Guard it.  Keep it pure.  Purity is one of the few things you can never retrieve.

 

Also vital, don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example.  Be an example in what you say, in the way you live… in love, faith, and in that purity.  It is true that we cannot control how other people think; we don’t have to.  Learn that now.  But don’t give those around you — regardless of age — a reason to look down on you.  Your youth is not a liability.  Rather, it is a gift.  A contagious gift!  There is a freshness and a clean-slate-attractiveness that prompts the rest of the world to watch you.  Use that gift well.  Be intentional in what you say, how you live, what you do.  One of the biggest mistakes people make this day — also regardless of age — is that they fail to be intentional.  They let life “just come to them.”  And then they get to the end of a day or the end of a year or perhaps the end of a life and think, “What did I do?”  “Where did my time go?”  “What did I actually invest in?”  Have an answer to that question.  Invest in what is good and pure and noble and right.

 

Know, too, that there is right and wrong in this world.  That’s a hard thing to admit.  We don’t like to acknowledge the wrong, and the reality is that many persons acknowledge wrongful thinking or behavior in irreverent ways.  Yet if you fail to acknowledge the existence of wrong and/or evil on this planet, you will be more be susceptible to the accompanying foolishness.

 

One more thing:  act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  It’s a 3 part process, and many become passionately unbalanced because they omit one of the imperative parts…

 

If you are just but not merciful, your heart has hardened; a hardened heart hurts its possessor most…

If you are merciful but not just, you have lost your ability to reason.  There are reasonable consequences for actions and choices.  Those consequences empower growth.  The challenge is that we typically don’t like to experience any negative; we prefer an easier way…

And if you fail to be humble, an arrogance will begin to permeate all you think and do.  You will think too much of yourself.  Instead of seeing all things as a gift from God, you will think of yourself as a gift to all things.  That boastful perch will impede your wisdom — regardless of your IQ score.  Intelligence matters far, far less than wisdom.

 

Well done, graduate.  Have fun.  Life should be fun!  Remember the future is bright.  Pursue it with joy.  As you keep your focus on what’s ahead of you, encourage one another.  Serve.  Reach out to those who have lesser.  Learn from waiting.  Learn more from suffering.  Watch your words.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Don’t wear yourself out to get rich.  Don’t trust your own cleverness.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you.  Resist bitterness.  Avoid comparison.  Don’t envy.  Value wisdom.  Value wisdom most.  Be intentional.  And always remember:  there is hope for you.

 

Blessings… always…

AR

one more thing

If you could ask for one thing, what would it be?

 

A little more money?

A little less hardship?

The certain re-election of Pres. Obama?

The certain defeat of Pres. Obama?

How about the acceptance of gay marriage?

 

I’m struck this day by what we want.  So often we’ve heard, “If I only had this” or “could only do this” or “if I only had this one thing taken away.”  What is it exactly that we want?

 

My sense around the globe is people believe if they just had that one more thing then they would finally be happy…

 

“If I only had this, then…”

 

Then what?

 

Part of the challenge in contemporary culture is that everyone wants something.  Free college.  Free health insurance.  Free.

 

Now granted, there are legitimate need-based situations where we as a society must find the best way to assist; we need to always be aware and care for the truly “least of these.”

 

Yet there is also a growing sense of entitlement that impedes the idea of going without… “You have a right to that one more thing”…  “The government should provide it for you…”  “The world would be better off…”  A thing.  A policy.  A perceived right.

 

And thus, you see the election of the Socialist candidate in France.  I don’t know the heart of Francois Hollande, but his proposed policy makes me shudder.  In a time of economic frailty, his solution is to spend and borrow and tax massively more.  Tell me:  what household or business entity are you aware of that has ever survived believing they can sustain unbalanced spending for an extended period of time?  Let me say this logically:  those households and businesses at some point cease to exist.  No entity can survive on promising what it doesn’t have.

 

Yet such is how the President-Elect of France garnered a majority of votes.  With a budget that hasn’t balanced since 1974, Hollande promised hiring 60,000 new teachers, creating 150,000 government-funded posts, lowering the retirement age back to 60 for some workers, and temporarily freezing escalating gasoline prices — much with borrowed resources.  Granted, he also plans to tax the wealthy at extremely high rates up to 75% (wonder what keeps those persons living in France), but Hollande has only a questionably measurable plan to pay for what he’s promised.  And yet, the people voted him in.  They want their “one more thing.”  No one likes austerity.  We don’t like to live with less.

 

I’m struck by the historical story of the wise man who was told by the divine to ask for whatever he wanted.  “Whatever you want, I’ll give it to you.”

 

He could have asked for that one more thing.

 

More money, more stuff, suffering taken away…

Increased power, opportunity, or debt-free living…

 

Free.

 

But he didn’t.  He didn’t even ask to be happy, believing that some one thing would be it — that it would finally make him happy.

 

Instead the leader humbly requested, “Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead people properly.”

 

I wonder…  if more of us around the globe — our leaders especially — in France, America, you-name-it — asked for wisdom to lead properly instead of promising to grant that one more thing…  I wonder what would happen to this planet.

 

Would we then, be happy?

 

Respectfully,

AR

victim status

I could be wrong, but I think we’re missing a few things…

 

“Brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”

 

How could troubles be an opportunity?  And better yet, how could they ever be considered an opportunity for joy?  What exactly are troubles an opportunity for?

 

I think of the recently deceased Chuck Colson, whose troubling stay in federal prison after his Watergate-related crimes led to the founding of Prison Fellowship, an organization that ministers to the ‘least-of-these’ masses in a radically effective way…

 

I think of Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch prisoner of a Nazi concentration camp, whose barracks was invested by massive swarms of fleas, yet it was the fleas which kept the abusive guards away, allowing the prisoners to study together and thus encourage one another…

 

Prisons and fleas.

 

Troubles and trials.

 

Opportunity?

 

Many see troubles as unjust.  Nothing worthwhile.  Absolutely no good.  Dare I suggest — thus completely contradicting any concept of opportunity — we don’t like troubles and trials; in fact, we labor intentionally to avoid them at all costs.  Not only do many of us toil to minimize the trouble, when the trouble actually manifests itself, we are more likely to proclaim a seemingly ‘last-ditch’ status as opposed to wrestle with the possibility of the positive.  We identify ourself or others as a “victim.”

 

… “My son didn’t make the better team; the coach doesn’t like him.”  [In other words:  my son’s a victim.]

 

… “I didn’t get the promotion; they always promote minorities.”  [I’m a victim.]

 

… “All we want to do is work, to be able to support ourselves. But thanks to the rich being greedy, we can’t even have that.”  [We are victims.]

 

… “We deserve better. This is the hull of a slave ship.”  [We are victims.]

 

You can agree or disagree with any of the above and the degree of truth within.  The Intramuralist is not suggesting that there is zero truth in the expressed reasoning; the Intramuralist is suggesting, however, that in each of the above there is no recognition of potential opportunity (let alone one laced with any semblance of joy).

 

While physical, emotional, and spiritual troubles are not something I would wish upon anyone, I am also saddened by those who feel justified in encouraging victim status within troubling circumstances.

 

“You don’t deserve this!”

“How dare they do that do you!”

“You’ve been wronged!”

“We’ve been wronged!”

 

While wronging does happen on this planet, how much wiser would we be if we would instead more often ask:

 

“How can I grow?”

“What can I learn?”

“What can I accomplish through this negative set of circumstances?”

 

Many actions and words today favor blaming others as opposed to wrestling with self responsibility… demanding help as opposed to empowering individuals … and playing victim as opposed to recognizing opportunity.

 

We have forgotten the value and joy of opportunity…

 

… not to mention the prisons and fleas.

 

Respectfully,

AR

frequently NOT asked questions

As FAQ’s are supposedly commonly asked in some context, the Intramuralist has determined that it’s not answers to “the common” that I desire.  My questions aren’t common in any context; that’s part of the problem.  I wonder what would happen if they were asked…

 

To those who claim it’s racist to vote against someone due to the color of their skin…

Is it not equally racist to vote for someone due to the color of their skin?  I mean, isn’t the primary idea that skin color shouldn’t matter, yet in both cases it clearly does?

 

To those who claim gay marriage erodes the institution of holy matrimony…

Hasn’t marriage been defiled for centuries — considering the societal acceptance of adultery, no-fault divorce, irreconcilable differences, etc.?  I mean, isn’t the primary idea that the earthly concept of marriage has long veered from what was historically presented as God’s design?

 

To those who claim that we need to accept all people as they are…

Are you accepting of the persons who don’t believe we need to accept all people as they are?  I mean, if not, aren’t you contradicting your own argument?

 

To those who claim that “fairness” is a justification for economic policy…

How do you wrestle with the fact that the full manifestation of economic fairness equates to socialism and then Marxism?  I mean, are you comfortable with that reality — or do you feel government will always limit the extent of its control?

 

To Hollywood…

Do you really believe you’re in touch with the American values as to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable?  I mean, if so, how does that impact your movie content — and for those of you who are often rude to persons holding contrary opinion, do you believe that’s noble, too?

 

To those who believe George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch shooter of Trayvon Martin, is innocent…

Do you realize that reportedly, Trayvon Martin had only Skittles and iced tea in his possession?  

 

To those who believe Trayvon Martin is innocent?

Do you realize that reportedly, George Zimmerman had multiple injuries to his eyes, nose, and back of head? 

 

And to those who believe that either Zimmerman or Martin is completely innocent?

Do you realize that since none of us were there, we may never know exactly what happened?  I mean, could you… would you… be ok with that?  Are we as a public ok with not knowing all?

 

To Pres. Obama & Gov. Romney…

What are you planning on doing during a 1st or 2nd term that you’re not sharing publicly?  I mean, what kind of rhetorical spin are you utilizing that’s intended to make your desired policy more popular than it really is?

 

And our concluding, FAQ lightning round…

 

Washington:  why haven’t you passed a budget in 3 years?

Supreme Court:  are you ever politically motivated?

Pres. Obama:  if VP Biden & Co. hadn’t put pressure on you, when and what would you have said about same-sex marriage?

Gov. Romney:  how do you feel about gay marriage?

John Edwards:  what were you thinking?

Ron Paul:  will you ever stop running for president?

Hillary:  are you satisfied being Sec. of State?

Greece/California:  did you really believe you could continually spend more that you took in without ever experiencing a negative consequence?

U.S. law enforcement:  why are you using drones for surveillance on American citizens?

Mary Kennedy (estranged wife of RFK, Jr.):  why did you kill yourself yesterday?

Junior Seau:  why did you kill yourself?

 

Some questions will never be answered.  Others are just far too uncommon.

 

Respectfully,

AR

fanfare

In case I have somehow failed to be transparent, allow me to briefly reveal that the Intramuralist is a diehard Reds fan.  Diehard.  I love them.  Growing up in the era of the Big Red Machine (and as a child, opportunistically desiring to root for a winner), I have long followed their failure and success.  Hence, when in the bottom of the 9th with loaded bases and 2 outs Sunday, when former MVP, Joey Votto, hit a walk off grand slam to win the game, I was literally jumping up and down.  It was awesome!  (… with all due respect, newfound Washington National fans…)

 

Yet perhaps what was most awesome about Sunday — and what’s most relevant here (for even the non-sports fan) — is not Votto’s all-star performance; it was not the fact that the dramatic game winner was actually his 3rd round tripper of the game; rather, it was how Votto spoke about his exceptional performance thereafter.

 

He didn’t boast.  He didn’t brag.  He didn’t chastise his opponent.  In the immediate post-game interviews, where superlatives were generously cast upon him, Votto resisted all attempts to affirm his own performance and his worth to all others.  Contrastingly, he complimented the opposing team’s pitcher, noting how difficult he is to hit, and then calmly spoke in regard to how all the fanfare wasn’t his forte.  Votto said, “Moments like this, this is kind of the icing on the cake, but all the little grinder type things are more my style.”  In other words, when the lights were on and the camera was rolling — with nothing scripted — Joey Votto displayed genuine humility.  In a moment where he could have bragged and could have boasted and we all would have listened — he intentionally chose not to.  He chose to be humble instead.  That, my friends, is something from which even the non-sports fan can learn.

 

We speak much these days about desiring unity — how if we were somehow more united in purpose and pursuit, we would be wiser; we would be more productive and successful.  And yet, we routinely abandon that which is our greatest unifier.  Unity is absolutely dependent on humility.

 

And so in Washington, intelligent men and women say they desire unity, but then they…

 

… blame all lack of success solely on someone else…

 

… use “I/me/my/myself” in a speech more times than we can count…

 

… say their top political priority is to deny one person a second term…

 

… and/or take credit for an outcome that was contributed to by many…

 

Friends, these actions reek of arrogance.  There are too many people touting their claim to their desired icing on the cake.  There is no humility in these actions.  When there is no humility, regardless of intentions uttered into a public microphone, there exists no unity.

 

Then again, perhaps that’s the actual bottom line.  Perhaps unity is merely an exercise in lip-service for environments extending beyond the Reds’ clubhouse.  Perhaps unity is simply something that sounds good — that many say they want — but in actuality, is merely the desire for others to cede individual opinion.  Thus, I conclude that many who boldly proclaim sincere unifying efforts often wish most to squelch opposing opinion.  That’s not unity.  If we desire unity, we must instead begin by modeling personal humility.

 

After Sunday’s Reds’ game, it was not only Joey Votto who donned a seemingly ceaseless grin.  The entire team was elated — the veterans, the rookies, the coaches and local media.  Age didn’t matter.  Experience was irrelevant.  The Reds’ clubhouse was completely united in their joy.

 

Were they united because they were victorious?

 

Were they united because Votto hit a walk off grand slam?

 

To some degree, yes.

 

But they were perhaps more united because of how Votto spoke about his role in the victory.  In the unscripted moment of truth, Votto affirmed others and focused on much more than his own accomplishments.  He demonstrated great humility.

 

(Did I mention I love the Reds?)

 

Respectfully,

AR

special

There are some days that put life in perspective.

 

… a day when the weight of the world seems secondary… when we forget about the future consequences of today’s actions… some that will be good… some that will not… many of which are not discernible no matter how loud the proclamation of the passion…

 

… we forget those days the increasingly inimical polarization… the attitudes that boldly call opposition arrogant… forgetting that when we steadfastly announce the arrogance in others, we oft foreshadow the conceit in ourselves…

 

Hence, we are thankful for those days that put life in perspective — as yesterday was for me.

 

A couple hundred athletes.

A grandstand full of fans.

Spirited competition.

Multiple events.

And vocal enthusiasm for absolutely every athlete — every adult and child — who crossed the finish line.

 

The first Special Olympics was held in 1968, after a Chicago P.E. teacher approached Eunice Kennedy Shriver, JFK’s sister, about funding an Olympic-style athletic competition for people with special needs.  Today the competition provides opportunity for more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries, offering year-round training and competition in 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports.  Yesterday was the track and field competition in our city.

 

Initially, I stood in quiet awe — witnessing the sustained, contagious cheers from the crowd regardless of placement, regardless of time necessary for individual completion.  As the runners sprinted around the track — some stopping for breaks when necessary — I was touched by their ability, perseverance, and determination.

 

Better yet was the look on the faces of so many.  Atypical of most competitions, a majority of participants sprinted and jumped with a countenance of great, great, obvious joy.  It was amazing, and it, too, was contagious.  (“All competitions should be that way,” I thought… for kids… adults… with or without a disability… sports, politics…)

 

A couple of quick personal notes…

 

First, I’m proud of my son.  This parent cries more these days than I ever imagined.  Thanks much in part to Josh, those cries are also full of joy.

 

Secondly, we owe significant thanks to the coaches and teachers who have walked alongside our Special Olympians.  From each of us who is blessed to parent a special needs child, we are overwhelmingly thankful for those who selflessly invest in our kids, encouraging both them and us along the way.

 

Yet perhaps the most poignant perspective of the day was offered by one teenage runner.  She had great form, solid strides, and was swift around the track.  As she ran an entire 400 meters, the crowd seemed well aware of the amazing accomplishment.  She was good!  She was fast.  The 14-15 year old girl was accompanied by another gal, to whom she was loosely tethered.  But in her we were each reminded of the beauty of these games — and the meaning of the moment…

 

As their mission says, the Special Olympics gives athletes “continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”  Such was obvious in this one, young runner.

 

She strode around the track with speed, grace, and that unprecedented joy, anchoring her team’s relay.  Each of us watching paused — clapped — amazed.

 

She was blind.

 

Respectfully,

AR

good politics?

In case you missed it:

 

First, background info, prior to Sunday…

 

  • In 2004 then State Sen. Obama said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” and “I don’t think marriage is a civil right.”
  • When campaigning in 2008, Obama and VP Biden opposed same-sex marriage.
  • Gay marriage is legal in D.C. and in 6 states, while Maryland and Washington have referendums pending in November.
  • With the ongoing state marriage debates, gay rights activists have pushed Obama to vocally advocate for same-sex marriage.
  • Obama has said his position is “evolving.”
  • Historically, a majority of Hispanic, African-American, and Catholic voters don’t support gay marriage.

 

Then, beginning Sunday…

 

  • Biden appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying he is now “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage; his office immediately began clarifying the VP’s comments, saying they reflected no change in policy.
  • Both left and right leaning news outlets believed Biden’s latest verbosity was intentional, with the President wanting to “have it both ways.”
  • On Monday, White House Press Sec. Jay Carney attempted to clarify Obama’s position, saying, “Marriage is a state issue, and the states have the right to take action on it.”  Carney added that Obama’s “views on LGBT rights are crystal clear.”
  • Left and right leaning commentators continued debating Obama’s views, with CNN’s Anderson Cooper saying, “The president’s position on gay marriage is anything but precise.”
  • On Tuesday, swing state North Carolina voted 61% to 39% to ban gay marriage in their state constitution.
  • On Wednesday morning, Obama said he was “disappointed” in North Carolina’s vote.
  • On Wednesday afternoon, Obama said his position on gay marriage has now evolved, saying, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”  He also stated that the states have the right to decide.

 

Shew.  Sorry; that’s a lot to follow.  Know, though, that all of the above is fact.

 

The Intramuralist understands that this is a sensitive issue; it is hard to discuss well.  Almost all conversations end up with someone on both sides spewing scorn in the name of passion (as in the Colorado state legislature Tuesday, where one civil union supporter yelled, “I hope you f***ing die!”).  I was amazed, too, for example, at the number of persons who boldly identified the North Carolina vote as the manifestation of bigotry.  Hold fast to your opinion, but is one automatically a bigot if they oppose same-sex marriage?  Is that what Pres. Obama was considered the first 3 years of his term?

 

Allow me not to digress, friends.  The point of this post is not to debate the legality nor morality of same-sex marriage.  We have addressed both advocacy and opposition in previous, respectful posts.

 

The concern I have this day is the factual timeline shared above:  the supposed “evolution.”  The entire transpiration of how the administration is approaching gay marriage looks like, feels like, smells like, quacks like…

Politics…  the motivation for this policy feels like it is completely political.  There is no cultural conversation — led by the federal government — as to what is wise and what is foolish.  What is good.  What is moral.  What is the long term impact.  What evolution of the policy will be good.  What evolution of the policy will be destructive.  How the Constitution supports government’s involvement.  The primary motivator is what makes for good politics.  Egad.

 

Now don’t let me act as if politics serving as the primary motivation is indigenous to Pres. Obama.  The Intramuralist believes this happens all over the place, across all party lines, transcending all issues, and most of the time, we’re all oblivious.  Issues and advocacy is passed off as prudent policy, when the reality is that the motivation for the policy is purely political.

 

Truth?  I can’t tell how Obama feels about gay marriage.  Does he really support it now — or does he feel he needs it to please and thus shore up his so-called “base”?  Did he really oppose it before — or did he feel as if he couldn’t be honest because it might negatively impact the Hispanic, African-American, and Catholic vote?

 

Change the issue.  Change the politician.  Are they being honest with us?  Or is their support or dissension based most upon what they believe to be good politics?

 

I said it before; I’ll say it once more…

 

Egad.

 

Respectfully,

AR

the equity error

With eager politicians sensing an enticeable electorate, an ageless maternal mantra is being systematically extinguished.

 

“Life isn’t fair” is the frequent refrain.  The challenge is that we each take turns dismantling the mantra.  We say it isn’t fair, yet we act as if it should be.  Therein lies the equity error.  It’s rampant; it’s all over — amidst all demographics.  Call it the fallacy of fairness…

 

During the 2008 presidential primary season, when attempting to discern the plausibility of a Barack Obama presidency, I was struck by Obama’s foreshadowing response to ABC moderator, Charlie Gibson.  When Gibson asked why Obama desired to raise the capital gains tax when the lower tax rates advocated by both Bill Clinton and George Bush netted measurable, increased government revenue, Obama replied, “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”  At the time, I remember thinking that perhaps since Obama’s background is in law, his economic understanding was momentarily lesser.

 

Since that time, however, we have witnessed “fairness” manifest itself in proposed policy.  Regardless of effectiveness — let me say that again — regardless of effectiveness — policy and advocacy are being promoted on the perception of fairness.  That’s why this portrayed stab of equity is in error.

 

We discussed this briefly in regard to the Occupy Movement.  The movement has a fairly firm — although initially incongruous — list of demands.  Yet the bottom line of these clearly, disillusioned capitalists is that they believe happiness is their right; they have confused possessing happiness with pursuing it.  Hence, in order to be happy — which they see possible through free housing, education, income, and medical care — they believe it’s appropriate to take from someone else.  They believe it’s fair.

 

In France on Sunday, the French elected a new president, Francois Hollande.  Hollande is a socialist.  In fact, he intends to increase spending, borrowing, and taxes, even though the European nation is already deeply in debt. For those making in excess of $1.35 million annually, Hollande proposes taxing them at 75% (you read that correctly), as    seizing the income of the wealthy is only fair.  Socialism is another manifestation of the equity error; the government then serves as the discerner of fairness.

 

Since when do we have a right to that which belongs to someone else?

 

Income?  Opportunity?  Even inheritance?  Should that which is someone else’s good fortune be shared with me?

 

Follow me briefly for a relevant side note…

 

My oldest son plays high school baseball.  He does very well.  3 weeks ago I ran into into a fellow baseball parent in the check-out lane at the nearest grocery; our sons play on the same team.  The parent enthusiastically shared with me that her son had been elevated to the next highest team at the high school.  What was my reaction?  Elation!  Congratulations that their son was asked to play on a better team!

 

The reality is that in that moment, I had 2 possible ways of reacting:  (1) looking at the situation from the perspective of how it affects their son; or (2) looking at it from the perspective of how it affects me.

 

When we look at life from “how it affects me,” we lose sight of reality.  Their son’s progress, for example, had nothing to do with me; it had nothing to do with my son.  Their son was rewarded.  Excellent!  I need to celebrate the success of their son as opposed to falling prey to comparing them to me.  I need to celebrate the success of others as opposed to labeling them as “greedy,” “arrogant,” or even “opportunistic.”

 

In other words, fairness is irrelevant.  But that’s hard to admit; it’s far easier to dismiss the maternal mantra of “life not being fair” than it is to wrestle with our own circumstances.  “Equity” becomes bigger than reality.

 

Whether capital gains tax or high school baseball, the success of someone else need not be shared with you and me.  Life’s not fair.  My mother once told me that.

 

Respectfully,

AR

the pursuit

While May Day came and went last week, one movement is attempting to stay — to stay relevant, that is.  First taking their message to the streets last September, the Occupy Wall Street protest seemingly lost momentum and attention in recent months, as winter weather and erratic behavior obscured the message behind the movement.

 

Hence, the Occupiers are hoping to now recapture what was lost.  They called for convergence on May 1st, International Workers’ Day, a day historically associated with opposers to capitalism.  Yet with vocal but sporadic response last week, OWS is calling for more organized demonstrations next Saturday.

 

The Intramuralist believes it’s important to look at the root of the Occupiers’ pursuit.  As first discussed here last fall, here is the movement’s purpose — in their own words:

 

“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants…

 

We demand, firmly but without violence: social justice, wealth distribution and an ethic of commons. We condemn poverty, inequality, environmental devastation and corruption as tools of subjugation by the powerful on society.”

 

In order to minimize the emotion of this movement, I will refrain from addressing the erratic protestor behavior — the violence, the destruction of public property, and the negative impact on multiple small businesses.  Allow me to address the following instead.  Here are my questions…

 

How can you assume that the so-called 1% is greedy?

Do you know their hearts?

How is the individual wealth of others an obstruction for you?

Are you not able to work or do you not desire to work?

Are any of the so-called 99% greedy?

Where is the value of personal responsibility?

What about hard work?

What role, if any, does religion play in your pursuit?

Is there any submission to the God of the universe?

Is there submission to anyone?

How do you embrace the Arab Spring concept but distance yourself from the violence that accompanied the approach?

What are the limits of wealth distribution?

Are your protests truly socially just?

What do you believe you’re entitled to?

 

Note that suggested entitlements have included college, cars, housing, medical and dental care, etc.  Many also desire a guaranteed living wage regardless of employment.  All debt also should be forgiven.

 

Now… my 17 cents…

 

While some of the demands and expressions of the Occupiers seem outlandish and arguably extreme, the reality is that there is a segment of society which has become disillusioned with capitalism.  I believe it’s wise to ask why.  From my perspective, some have equated “happiness” with its pursuit.  The Occupy Movement is the manifestation of this equity error.

 

“Happiness” is not a right; it is not included in the unalienable rights boldly outlined in our Declaration of Independence.  Rather, it is the pursuit of happiness which is our prerogative.  We are a free people.  We are free to pursue our individual callings, callings that allow for both risk and reward.

 

Capitalism encourages that pursuit… to be successful… to seek and thus find… to be responsible… to realize the value of hard work… to submit to a divine reality.  People have opposed capitalism — and instead advocated for increased entitlement (and less individual liberty) — because they have failed to realize that the pursuit of happiness is sometimes wiser and better and more life-transforming than happiness itself.  The pursuit is good.

 

Ok, make it 18 cents.

 

Respectfully,

AR