All mind, no heart

If you don’t oppose abortion, you can’t join the Republican Party.

If you don’t support the LGBTQ community, you can’t join the Democratic Party.

That, right there, is why this nation is so divided these days.

Both political parties have become one-issue parties. They may say otherwise (or they may not), but that’s the bottom line.

No one asks about the root causes of either issue, because no one wants to dig deep for truth in our shallow, social media-centered society.

Root causes

Why do women want an abortion in the first place? All we hear about is rape victims, but I’m guessing the issue is far more widespread – and complicated – than that.

Why are LGBTQ people not attracted to people of the opposite gender? They’ll say, publicly anyway, they were born that way. I’m not buying that. What, gay or lesbian, in your past caused you to reject intimacy from a person of the opposite sex?

In my unprofessional opinion, both issues have the same root cause: the breakdown of the nuclear family.

We are looking for love and acceptance in places that don’t give us, deep down, what we truly need.

We live life through our minds, and not through our hearts. Or vice versa.

We either bury our hearts deep inside our psyche (this is what I do), or we expose our hearts in unhealthy ways on social media.

Some issues are not meant for public consumption. We need to deal with them at home or in a counselor’s office.

Democrats and Republicans have seized on different parts of our sex-saturated society and turned abortion and same-sex relationships into political issues. Where can we compromise on either issue, that is, find common ground?

By pursuing the root causes.

By digging deeper than our culture permits these days.

Meaningless, but pretty

So far, this is a shallow post, and that’s my point. It’s easy to sit in my La-Z-Boy and point fingers at people who hold different views than I do.

Before we bought our house two years ago, I noticed there’s a star prominently placed on the front. I did a little research on that to make sure it wasn’t making a statement on an issue I couldn’t support. It’s not. It’s harmless.

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According to Wikipedia, a barnstar (or barn star, primitive star, or Pennsylvania star) is a painted object or image, often in the shape of a five-pointed star … used to decorate a barn in some parts of the United States, and many rural homes in Canada. … They are especially common in Pennsylvania and frequently seen in German-American farming communities. … Barnstars remain a popular form of decoration, and modern houses are sometimes decorated with simple, metal, five-pointed stars which the makers describe as “barn-star.”

I’m glad the star didn’t have a subliminal meaning. It’s just pretty.

We are pressed to construct our lives that way, too. Meaningless, but pretty.

Don’t offend anyone. Don’t get involved.

If you want to show your courage, join a political party. Just not a church. That’s off-limits, because churches are narrow-minded and judgmental. Except the ones that aren’t.

Actually, both political parties are more narrow-minded than any church is. Did you know that? No, because your mind is already made up.

Exactly.

Both parties want one-issue voters. That’s as narrow as you can get.

News flash: There’s more to life than sex.

But maybe not. As a friend is describing in short social media posts, pornography is pervasive, especially in the United States. It’s also a silent sin. We can, and do, hide it very well.

Sex and intimacy should go together. But often they don’t. That, in my opinion, is why pornography is so prevalent. We’re looking for intimacy in the wrong places.

And we aren’t finding it.

In response, we hurt ourselves and others. In many ways. Deeply.

We retreat or lash out

To protect ourselves, we stay shallow. We bury our hearts. We don’t risk emotional pain.

Either that, or we go too far the other way – put our emotional pain out there for all to see.

It’s numbing.

I’d rather hide. The #metoo movement just confirms for me that women are unapproachable, that they don’t want a deep relationship with a man. Women have been burned too many times, so they push us away.

As men, we either retreat or lash out. Neither response is healthy, but those are our options.

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but maybe not by much.

How do we reconcile? How do we overcome our differences, as men and women, introverts and extroverts, Democrats, Republicans and independents?

I listen to a lot of contemporary Christian music, and while the tunes are catchy, most of it is pop psychology and not true faith. It’s shallow.

Dear Abby and Ask Amy are shallow.

Social media is shallow. Does our president even know this? Why does he get so bent out of shape by what he sees there?

Where do we find true meaning in life? Is there a way to pursue root causes, to seek our purpose, without consequences that hurt other people?

I know the answer to that question, but that doesn’t mean I’ve found it yet.

The answer is the living God. Not your God or my God, or what passes for God in our culture (or any other culture). Truth is truth, whether anyone believes it or not.

The living God has our best interests in mind. And in heart.

God sees the big picture, which we do not. Many of us refuse to accept this. We want the big picture too. But we can’t have it. If we could, then we would be gods controlling the universe. But we aren’t, and we can’t.

We don’t want to admit this, so we stay shallow. We won’t seek truth because we don’t think we’ll like what we’ll find there.

Truth hurts. My heart has been bleeding for a long time now. I keep my deep thoughts private, so I won’t give you details. God promises healing, but am I willing to open myself up to that?

It’s not a simple question. It’s a very deep question, actually.

Maybe someday, I’ll have an answer.

Some of you have found the answer, and are living it. Most of us have not.

This is the struggle our world gives us.

One day …

Silent majority needs to be heard

The opposite of love is not hate.

Both are strong emotions. People with either love or hate care deeply about the issue at hand.

No, the opposite of love – and hate too, for that matter – is apathy.

I … just … don’t … care.

As a holiday weekend is concluding, I’m struggling with this. Perhaps I’m feeling emotional fatigue. Especially since I’ve never learned how to express my emotions verbally.

America the divided

Am I proud to be an American?

That’s a more complicated question than it used to be.

I am free to live where I choose, worship where I choose (or not), work in a career field of my choice (assuming someone would hire me), marry whom I choose, spend my free time however I choose …

Yes, this country offers many good things.

But not all receive those things equally.

This is the message of America today.

We hold up that ideal, but we aren’t close to it. We’re closer than we were a century ago.

Or are we?

Equality an illusion

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I just read a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond, which described the substandard housing situation in inner-city Milwaukee a decade ago. We on the outside think the long-term poor often choose to live that way, that if they would just get a job or education, they could pick themselves up by their bootstraps and improve their lives.

But that’s often not possible. The housing culture in the wonderful United States of America is designed to keep poor people poor.

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Rents are not much cheaper in poor areas than they are in the suburbs. The federal government subsidizes low-income housing for landlords, so they charge unaffordable rents in low-income areas because they can. And when poor people get behind on rent, far too often they get evicted.

The book follows eight families who faced this. Many of them made upwards of 90 or more calls and/or visits to rental properties to find a suitable place after eviction. Eviction is like a criminal record – often landlords make it difficult for the evicted to rent again.

And if the family, often led by a single woman, has children, that’s another strike. Kids cause damage. Teens do drugs and get into trouble. Claiming this, some landlords don’t want children.

And why are neighborhoods segregated racially? Because landlords make it so. They find creative ways to refuse renting an apartment or house to a minority in a “non-minority” neighborhood.

Us outsiders don’t get it. We can’t just throw a month’s rent at one of these families and think they are good to go. The issues run far deeper than that.

Are there any solutions?

The author suggests housing vouchers, which can be used in any neighborhood.

 

By and large, both public housing residents and voucher holders pay only 30 percent of their income on rent, with government funds covering the rest.

Evicted, page 302

 

Many poor people pay 70 percent or more of their income on rent, which means they often have to decide between rent and food, or rent and the utility bill. That’s why evictions are prevalent among the severely poor.

This problem is nationwide. In 2012, one in nine occupied rental households in Cleveland were summoned to eviction court (page 296). More than 10 percent of all renters in the biggest city near here faced eviction.

Do the rest of us even notice this? Even if we do, how much do we care? Enough to change public policy to improve the lives of the poorest among us?

Compassion helps, but compassion goes only so far.

Just ask the illegal immigrants at our southern border.

Standing for … what?

Pennsylvania Daily Life

And as we celebrated our nation’s birthday, I saw this at work in the way we treat our flag. Even the flag has become a racist symbol.

What does the American flag stand for, anyway?

Does it stand for all those freedoms we like to say we have? Does it stand for the bravery of our veterans and active military service people?

What else does it stand for?

And why do some people not stand for it at all?

When I see unbridled poverty, when I see far too much violence (there was a police shooting in our city last week), when I see broken homes as the norm … can I really celebrate living in the United States these days?

Are there solutions? Or have we given up the fight, given in to apathy?

We think only of ourselves. My rights. I can live with whomever I want, drive whatever speed I want on the highway, spend my money (or other people’s money) on whatever I want …

Without thinking of consequences.

Burying our dreams

We just don’t care anymore. There’s no bigger picture.

No ideals bigger than ourselves.

What is freedom, really? What did our forefathers live and die for?

Did they live and die to create the United States we have today? Is this the best we can do?

Can we learn to get along with each other again? To overcome apathy?

We like to throw around the word “hate,” but it’s often misplaced. Sure, there’s some hate out there, but I don’t think there’s as much of it as extremists on both sides of the political aisle think there is. Most of us, rich or poor, are just trying to live our lives.

Leave us alone, we are saying. Just chill out.

Maybe I’m mistaking this for apathy. Maybe we aren’t as apathetic as I think we are.

Perhaps we do care, deep down in our hearts.

We just don’t know how to show it.

Or, more likely, we’re not allowed to show it.

We get shouted down. The “hate” word is thrown at us if we disagree. The loudest voice is often the one that gets heard in this country.

Which is why I defended the United Methodist Church this spring for standing firm – as it has for more than half a century – to its convictions regarding homosexuality. As one voice swimming against the political correctness tide, I took some flak for that, but the discussion was excellent. Thanks again to all of you who participated.

The loudest, or even the most persistent, voice is not always the right one.

Sometimes, the silent majority actually has something to say.

We care. We really do.

But does that mean anything? Can the silent majority do anything with its passions and desires in this country?

Who’s listening?

Anyone?

Witnessing tennis history

My oldest son and I saw a piece of history last week in Mason, Ohio, 25 miles north of Cincinnati.

In between raindrops, we saw tennis superstar Novak Djokovic of Serbia struggle to win three-set matches on Thursday and Friday against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Milos Raonic of Canada, respectively, on his way to winning the Western & Southern Open title.

Dimitrov won the title last year. Raonic has a huge serve – he routinely topped 140 mph on his serves, the fastest we saw during our two days at the weeklong tournament.

The men

Djokovic won the Cincinnati title for the first time. He became the first player to win all nine Masters 1000 Series titles – a group of tournaments around the world that rank in importance just below the four major championships. (Djokovic has won all of those as well.)

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On Sunday he defeated Roger Federer of Switzerland in straight sets to enter the record books. Federer had won the Western & Southern title seven times, never losing in the finals until this year. In contrast, Djokovic had reached the finals five times previously, losing all of them – three to Federer and two to Andy Murray of Great Britain, who lost in the first round this year.

This was our third year attending the Western & Southern Open, a tune-up for many of the tennis world’s top players before the U.S. Open, the final major of the year, which concludes Labor Day weekend in New York City.

We have attended Wednesday and Thursday matches because we figure many of the top players will still be in the tournament, and there’s enough matches scheduled on multiple courts to make the days fun.

Of course, there always are upsets. We have yet to see either of the Williams sisters play. Last year, Serena was pregnant and didn’t come, and Venus lost early. This year, Venus didn’t play and Serena lost before we got there.

Maybe next year.

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The highlight of our week was seeing Federer play. He didn’t compete in Cincinnati the previous two years because of injuries. At age 37, the married father of four continues to play at a world-class level.

Federer was scheduled to play Thursday night, but for the second year in a row, the Thursday night session got rained out.

aretha

Unlike last year, it rained during the day as well. We walked from our motel to the tennis center, about three-quarters of a mile, in a drizzle that morning. Play was supposed to start at 11 a.m. but didn’t start until about 3 p.m.

During that delay, we learned that Aretha Franklin had died earlier in the day. A somber moment in a dreary morning.

When action started we saw less than one game of a match between Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and Hyeon Chung of South Korea before the rains came again – only for about 10 minutes, though.

But that was enough to drench the court, and it took the ballboys and others nearly an hour to dry the playing surface.

Eventually, we saw del Potro defeat Chung in the grandstand, then Djokovic play Dimitrov on Center Court. After a couple of rain delays, the public-address announcer said, at about 9 p.m., that the day-session match was postponed until Friday. (The Center Court seats got crowded as day-session and night-session ticket holders decided who would sit where. Since the match was considered a day match, even though it was well past dinner time, the daytime seat-holders took precedence.)

The rainout forced Djokovic, like many players – including Federer, for the first time since 2004, he told the crowd in a post-match interview – to play two matches in one day. Djokovic dispatched Dimitrov, rested for a couple of hours, then defeated Raonic in a late-afternoon match.

The women

Oh, yes: The women played as well. Last year, for whatever reason, the women’s bracket provided the better matches, while this year, the men’s side did. Each tournament is unique, for sure.

On Thursday, we saw two women’s matches. Elise Mertens of Belgium upset Sloane Stephens of Plantation, Fla., and Madison Keys of Rock Island. Ill., defeated Angelique Kerber of Germany.

On Friday – a day with no rain and plenty of good tennis – we saw two more women’s matches. Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic beat Mertens in a difficult three-set match; Mertens easily could have won.

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Later, Simona Halep of Romania, the No. 1 seed and top-ranked women’s player in the world, defeated Ashleigh Barty of Australia. Halep eventually would lose in the final to unranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, who won the biggest title of her career.

Takeaways

We saw del Potro play three times in two days – two full matches and a snippet of his middle match, against Nick Kyrgios of Australia, one of the more entertaining players you’ll ever see. He frequently hits the ball between his legs during a match – most of the time landing the ball in play. He also has a wicked serve, but del Potro managed to outlast him.

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After defeating Kyrgios early on Friday, del Potro had to play later that day against David Goffin of Belgium, who I didn’t know anything about until this match. He’s an excellent player and defeated del Potro, then retired in the semi-final against Federer with a shoulder injury. All those rain-compressed matches took their toll. (On Halep too, I would guess – she ran out of gas in the finale.)

In the past two years, we’ve seen far too much rain. This year, Cincinnati got 5 inches of rain on Thursday – shattering the rainfall record for the day. At that rate, I’m surprised we saw any tennis at all.

Rain affects all outdoor sports, tennis more than most because the court must be completely dry for the players. Even a drizzle halts play, making the surface too slippery for the running, sliding athletes.

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I’m always impressed how hard the players hit the ball, both men and women, and how low to the net they keep it. They hit the lines and corners routinely. They serve hard, and place their serves exactly where they want them.

It’s what they do for a living, so they practice a lot. It shows. Many of them get upset when they miss a shot – and give a fist pump when they nail one. Emotions remain just below the surface, until the point ends.

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Sportsmanship is paramount, for the athletes and the fans. As spectators we are to remain quiet during play. No cell phones or loud camera clicks either.

Respect for the game. World-class athletes performing at the highest level.

 

Especially in the grandstand and court 3, the spectators are very close to the players. We see their facial expressions, their muscles tense as play begins, the squeak of their shoes as they chase down a shot.

It doesn’t get any better than that.