The nation’s answer

Change comes from the inside out

Where are You, Lord?

It’s hard to see You sometimes. We just had a weekend with two – count ’em, two – mass shootings. As usual, emotions flared on both sides. Control guns. Improve mental health.

Where are You, Lord?

When we focus on our own issues and point words at each other, we miss You. We scream and yell. We blame. We get angry.

We despair, because we’ve seen it before.

Yet mass shootings are like plane crashes, aren’t they, Lord? They are few and far between, but they are dramatic and deadly, so they get the headlines.

Vehicle crashes happen far more often. People commit suicide far more often. People even kill each other, one-on-one, far more often.

Those situations may get a mention in the media, or they may not. They often are not front-page news.

Yet vehicle crashes and suicide affect far more people than mass shootings do.

I personally knew two people who committed suicide, one a few years ago and one about three decades ago. What if I had said something … if I only knew … perhaps …

Are You there, Lord?

You are.

People have reasons for doing things, good and evil.

Taking away the gun may prevent the mass shooting, but would it save the man’s soul? Would it change the trajectory of his life?

Are You there, Lord?

Is there a bigger picture here?

Can we change what we have become?

We can’t legislate that, can we, Lord? That’s what we want to do. Gun control. Improve access to mental health treatment. Let someone else fix it. Create a program that people can avail themselves of to improve their lives.

That will solve the problem, right?

Many mass shooters are loners, quiet people with few friends who stay in the background of life, exploding at the worst possible moment. I saw a report that 26 of the last 27 mass shooters were fatherless.

Is that the trigger, Lord?

We’re all about personal rights now, individuality, non-conformity, breaking the rules, love (my way) … we don’t hold each other accountable anymore.

Not even in our families.

Our broken families.

Or our churches, many of which are no different than society at large.

Where are You, Lord?

If following You doesn’t change us, what’s the point?

If I can believe whatever I want, then why believe anything?

Is there no right and wrong, Lord?

If mass murder is wrong, then what else is wrong?

Who decides?

That’s why we can’t agree on anything, Lord. We have no foundation in our lives anymore. No good vs. evil. That’s all fairy tales.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. Cinderella and the Evil Stepsisters. Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.

Fairy tales.

No respect for authority. No respect for people of a color or ethnicity different than us. No respect for people not born here.

We’re all just visitors on Planet Earth, aren’t we, Lord? We’re not as different as we think we are.

We say hi to our neighbors but we don’t take time to know them.  Some of us move around more than others, so we have to work harder to meet people.

We’d rather do our own thing.

And then we wonder why we can’t get along with each other.

Even if we follow You, Lord, that doesn’t guarantee that we will get it right.

Reading the book of Acts, the early church had just as many issues as the church in America does today. They had to call their leaders together to hash out some very divisive issues.

But they did it, Lord.

And the church grew because they followed You and Your Scriptures. They rejected the belief that “they have to do it our way.”

Why can’t we get this right, Lord?

In Your last prayer on Earth, You prayed for unity among the believers. You knew how crucial that was, and still is.

We blew it, Lord. Again.

Both sides think they have the right answer, but neither does.

Only You do.

Unconditional love is a phrase we don’t hear very often. Not love (my way). Unconditional love.

What You want.

What the other person wants.

Not my will be done …

Who prays that anymore? Truly prays that?

I’ve been involved with a Tuesday morning prayer group for a year now. (See photo above, taken by Jason Russ. Used by permission.) Not that I’m a “prayer warrior” or anything. But we cry out to You.

Imperfectly, because we are imperfect human beings. But we pray.

We ask forgiveness.

We have our wants and needs, and we pray for those, too.

We pray for healing. Our own healing. Our city’s healing. Our nation’s healing.

Again, we pray imperfectly.

But we pray.

Prayer changes not only our city and nation; it also changes us.

One person at a time.

Where are You, Lord?

That’s where You are.

You are just waiting for us, that’s all.

Waiting for us to pray to You.

To seek Your will.

Not my will, but Thy will be done.

On Earth as it is in heaven.

Oh, how we need You now, Lord.

We are lost as a nation. We can’t save ourselves.

We don’t need You as a policymaker, Lord.

We need Your unconditional love.

We know You love each of us that way.

Help us to love each other that way too, to follow Your example.

Nothing else works. We’ve tried.

Oh, how we’ve tried.

I can’t go to Dayton or El Paso and make everything right.

But I can do something right here, right now, right where I live.

Show me, Lord.

Lead me.

What my neighbor does is up to him (or her).

This isn’t rocket science, Lord, but it is radical.

Unconditional love.

Only You, Lord, know what that truly looks like.

Show us, Lord.

Because that’s the only answer than will work in the long run.

The silver lining to the ugly Kavanaugh-Ford hearing

Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford agree on at least one thing.

It’s terribly wrong when two men and a woman, inebriated in a locked room at a house party, engage in sex acts without consent by all involved.

Whether that actually happened depends on who you believe.

Either way, neither defends that as appropriate behavior.

This is the silver lining in the ugly nomination process for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and his “(I) believed he was going to rape me” accuser, Ford.

The sexual revolution in this country has gone too far.

Kavanaugh and Ford agree on that.

No boundaries

A man should not touch a woman’s private parts unless both have rings on their fingers and both consent to it.

Anything looser than that, and we’ve begun traveling a slippery slope from “he made me uncomfortable” to “he raped me.”

That’s why we need boundaries. We must talk with each other, and to listen to each other intimately.

Men and women are wired to desire each other. That’s in our nature, the way we were created.

When done right, physical touch is beautiful in every sense of that word.

When done wrong, we get Kavanaugh-Ford scenarios. And worse.

Who decides what’s “right” and “wrong” in today’s anything-goes society?

Young boys are by nature aggressive, touching, tasting and learning. Where are the parents to teach them boundaries, especially where young girls are concerned?

What are the boundaries, anyway?

This is the question no one is asking.

Loose morals vs. strict morals

We know what’s wrong when it happens, when a girl or woman feels uncomfortable or says no. Can we not learn from the mistakes of others and prevent harassment from happening in the first place?

No, we can’t, because we do not know what the boundaries are.

Your values are different than mine are. This is not a male vs. female question. This is “loose morals” vs. “strict morals.”

kavanaugh

If Kavanaugh and Ford attended the same party, either they were friends or they had mutual friends, which means Kavanaugh and Ford likely had similar moral values at the time.

If that locked-room incident happened, Kavanaugh crossed a moral line. But he (and Ford) crossed an earlier moral line by getting drunk first.

Why didn’t their parents prepare them for such scenarios by giving them a moral leg to stand on? (Parents do have the authority to tell their teenager he or she can’t go to a certain party. And parents should know who their friends are. That’s what good parents do.)

Second chances

Here’s another thing we don’t understand in this country: second chances.

If we are looking for perfect people to rule on the Supreme Court, we’ll never find them. If we’re looking for the perfect spouse or lover, we’ll never find that person, either.

Let’s assume that Kavanaugh is guilty of the harassment he’s being accused of 40 years ago. My question to him then is: Have you learned anything from that? Do you still do such things?

He’s married with two daughters. Has he earned their trust?

If he has, I have a question for you:

Does that count for anything?

I attended my school’s ninth-grade dinner dance, and never dated after that in high school. I wasn’t ready for relationship then; I was too naïve and immature, and I knew it.

I’ve had only one girlfriend, and I married her.

I haven’t left bits and pieces of myself with other women. For those of you who have: Could that come back to haunt you someday in the form of a harassment charge?

I’m not saying I’m completely innocent. Every man who’s ever lived, including me, has looked at a woman with desire.  Have I ever made someone uncomfortable? No one has told me so, but if I ever ran for public office, I might find out otherwise.

That’s the culture we live in today.

Innocence lost

Where is the innocence of life? Even our children lose this far too young.

 

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.

“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Page 90, To Kill A Mockingbird, copyright 1960 by Harper Lee

 

Where are the mockingbirds today? Harper Lee wrote that in 1960, the year I was born. In the book, a mockingbird was killed, figuratively speaking.

We are still killing them today.

Are there any mockingbirds left?

Where is joy in life, pure joy, just the feeling of happiness to be alive? Who has it?

Anyone?

Are there still one or two mockingbirds hiding somewhere, just waiting to come out?

Too often we hurt each other, not just in harassment cases but in other ways too. A harsh word. Selfishness. Anger. Theft.

No boundaries. No rules. Little compassion. No respect.

And we wonder why abuse happens.

We’re looking for love in all the wrong places.

Innocence found?

The right place is a man and a woman who give each other a ring.

We’ve looked for love in many other places since time began, and we’ve never improved upon the most time-honored team ever formed.

This is the lesson from Kavanaugh and Ford.

Neither of them learned that as teenagers, apparently.

Both of them are paying a very heavy price because no one taught them to respect the opposite sex, and as a result to wait until marriage for physical expression.

Perhaps we’re turning this corner as a nation.

If we finally realize the promiscuity of 21st century America has gone too far, then maybe we’ll learn how to get along with each other again.

Let the mockingbird sing.

Heroes are hard to find

hero

1aa mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability

ban illustrious warrior

ca person admired for achievements and noble qualities

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hero

 

Using 1c as the definition for a real (as opposed to mythological or legendary) hero, who are your heroes? Who do you admire for achievements and noble qualities?

Do you aspire to become like him or her, or them?

I don’t have any heroes. Never have.

Perhaps that’s my cynical journalistic attitude showing forth. Perhaps it’s my Christian faith taking center stage.

Probably both.

Easy to find flaws

No one is perfect. Everyone is flawed. (I know my own flaws very well, at least most of them, so I’m not pointing any fingers outward that aren’t pointing even sharper at myself.)

It’s easy in today’s America to focus on flaws and not on “achievements and noble qualities.”

  • President Trump has plenty of both, depending who you ask, and a thick skin required of all presidents to push his agenda despite opposition.
  • Pick an athlete who is a role model, any athlete in any sport, and it’s not hard to find skeletons in his or her closet. Same with actors and actresses, or anyone else in the entertainment industry. And musicians. And politicians. And church leaders. And … Sigh.
  • Bill Cosby had a wonderful career, but his reputation is now destroyed. Bill Hybels, a respected evangelical leader in the Chicago area for decades, just had his reputation tainted by charges of sexual harassment. (What is it with men named Bill? Not a good trend.)

No one is immune.

If I were to become a high-profile public figure for some reason, you’d find a skeleton in my closet too. Real or imagined. Perhaps real to you, but not to me. (Just ask the current U.S. Supreme Court nominee; I won’t be surprised if this is the end result.)

I aspire to be like …

Who is worthy of hero status?

Anyone?

It’s politically correct these days to revere U.S. military veterans as heroes. We give them standing ovations all the time.

Do we emulate them? Or, do we clap politely and then forget about them as we move on with our daily lives?

Many active-duty personnel find themselves in harm’s way across the world, and for that we do thank them, very sincerely. Back home, their families move every few years, meaning the spouses and children don’t get much of a chance to gain deep friendships and connect with the community where they live. Military families know this going in, but still it’s hard and the divorce rate is very high.

That’s not a lifestyle most of us aspire to.

This time of year, we cheer on our favorite football teams on Saturdays (college) and Sundays (professional). We cheer raucously when our team does well, and boo lustily when our team plays poorly.

Sometimes we do both in the same game.

The latest hero here in Cleveland is Baker Mayfield, who led the Browns to their first victory since December 2016. We see him as the franchise’s savior.

Until he has a bad stretch, when we will run him out of town and seek another quarterback to latch on to with unrealistic expectations.

That’s how we treat our heroes.

Don’t treat me like that

Not only do I not have any heroes like that, I don’t want to be one. Just leave me alone.

But life doesn’t work that way, does it?

Every one of us is being watched and evaluated. No exceptions.

Parents are heroes to their young children.

Our co-workers are eyeing us, with admiration or disgust, or with something in between. We are watching them too.

We evaluate teachers, police officers, other drivers on the road, those with an opinion on social media, the waitress at our favorite restaurant …

Who can pass such an inspection?

Anyone?

It starts with respect. I write about this all the time.

 

respect

transitive verb

1ato consider worthy of high regard: esteem

bto refrain from interfering with: please respect their privacy

2to have reference to: concern

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respect

 

Heroes are outsiders we emulate. Respect most often is given to people we know personally who earn it. We rarely respect public figures. And if we do, we easily take it away. See Bill Cosby.

It takes time to earn respect, and to give it. Most of us aren’t willing to spend that time.

Instead, we judge who and what we don’t know well. We have surface knowledge, so we think we’re experts.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

Even worse, we don’t care.

Two sides to every story

Instead of emulating possible heroes, we judge them and put them down, trying to elevate ourselves above them and failing miserably. We don’t respect anyone.

I’ll ask again: Who do you aspire to be like?

Who are your heroes?

If I said Jesus, you’d probably laugh. Because you likely have no idea who the real Jesus is.

The Jesus of the Bible isn’t anything like the vast majority of Christians portray Him. Many people reject Jesus for that reason. Instead of searching for the real Jesus, we assume we know, just like we assume we know all the facts about Judge Cavanaugh before any hearings or investigations have taken place.

Our pre-conceived notions prevent us from uncovering truth.

The real Jesus was not a white man with blond hair and a soft complexion who always voted Republican. He was crucified, which means he angered some people enough that they killed him. And he was Middle Eastern.

Do we know that? Do we care? Or do we judge Him based on what others say about Him, instead of doing our own research?

Is Jesus a worthy hero?

Do I really aspire to be crucified? Am I willing to defend truth that far?

Is LeBron James a worthy hero? To the children in Akron whom he’s promised a free college education, yes. To many Cavaliers fans, he was a hero but no longer is because he’s taken his talents to Los Angeles.

As with anyone, there’s two sides. Depends who you ask.

Many people have hero-like qualities, but a true hero?

I’m still searching.

Majoring in minor issues

My outlook on life is changing a little bit these days.

I’m much more detached when reading or watching the news. Politics, especially at the national level, doesn’t interest me much anymore.

I’d rather deal in real life.

Politics

For those of you who live and die by what the Democrats and/or Republicans do, I’m sure you won’t understand.

As a newspaper journalist for about three decades, I followed politics closely, because it sold papers.

Does it still?

Perhaps that’s one reason why what newspapers print isn’t the talk of the town anymore. Their editorial pages, as they have always done, focus on politics and not much else.

Not even government. Politics.

There’s a difference.

I rarely read any editorial page columns. They are so predictable. They say the same thing every day, using the issue of the day to promote their agenda.

Most of them these days slam President Trump. I get that.

But how many times do you have to say it?

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to have an actual discourse leading to a summit, where they would talk about nuclear weapons, among other things.

The summit apparently fell through.

That was interesting, though.

But decades of mistrust can’t end in a few short weeks.

Maybe someday.

For the most part, the national discourse majors in minor issues.

Is kneeling during the National Anthem before NFL games really an issue worth dividing the country over?

Are school shootings really about gun control, or is something deeper at work there?

Do thoughts and prayers actually work? Do they change our outlook on life?

Sex

What’s the point of the #metoo movement, actually? Is it women’s rights, or is there something bigger at work there as well?

We are a sex-crazed society. We are massively messed up, and we all know it.

Exhibit A: #metoo.

Exhibit B: The divorce rate.

Exhibit C: Sex outside of marriage, including among teens, is not only normal, it is expected.

Exhibit D: Pornography is out of control in this country.

Exhibit E: Rape, sexual bondage, date rape …

Exhibit F: Clothing choices. How much cleavage is too much? Only for women, of course.

Exhibit G: Gender identity. Just the fact that we’re talking about this means we don’t know who we are anymore.

I don’t even have to quote statistics. You understand all of this because you experience it, or you know people who do.

But we won’t talk about it.

Not in a way that actually solves anything.

How do we expect to resolve the #metoo movement without talking about the role of sex in society? If sex outside of marriage is normal, why are we surprised when many men (and women) push the limits?

Nearly every song on the radio is about sex, some more blatantly than others. That’s been true for decades. I frequently listen to an oldies’ station that plays songs from my teen years. Talk about politically incorrect …

And yet we still play them. And listen.

Escape

Why are video games so popular? And illegal drugs? And porn?

Those are escapes from real life.

Real life is full of anxiety and stress. We don’t know how to solve real issues. Relationships. School. Jobs.

I’ve done the whole job search thing, and it’s not designed to bring out the best in anyone. It’s not even designed to connect passions with talent with careers. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

Some people say there’s no jobs out there. I see “now hiring” and “drivers wanted” and “positions available, all shifts” signs all over the place.

On the other end of the spectrum, highly technical jobs go unfilled because not enough of us are trained for them.

Most of us would prefer a job/career somewhere in the middle, something more than minimum wage and something that doesn’t require an advanced degree that we don’t have time for or can’t afford to get.

Are most of us left behind?

Dreams

I mentored a fourth-grade student in inner-city Cleveland this spring. He has no concept of a long-term future. All he thinks about is getting dissed by a classmate, for which he gets in trouble. He lives with his grandfather. His mother and two older sisters also are in Cleveland, but he doesn’t see them often. His dad is in Arizona, and my student hopes to move out there with him this summer. Cleveland is too violent, he says.

People are people wherever you go, I told him.

If he leaves Cleveland, will his life magically get better?

I doubt it.

How does arguing about President Trump’s tweets solve my fourth-grader’s lack of focus and maturity? How can he learn not to respond in anger when things don’t go his way?
His family is broken. His school is trying, but isn’t reaching him. His teacher can do only so much.

He got suspended recently for cussing out the school principal. Seriously.

Seriously?

A good friend of mine is a Big Brother to a teenager in another nearby city. That teen also lives in a broken home. Some days, he doesn’t feel like going to school, so he doesn’t.

Is there no big picture in this life?

No goals to aspire to?

No dreams?

Respect

In the mentoring program I’m involved in, we’re not allowed to talk about politics or religion. Too divisive. Yes, they are.

But is that how we solve problems, by saying that certain subjects are off-limits?

I thought democracy meant all issues are on the table. By discussing, even debating, issues, we understand what’s too radical and what actually works.

We don’t know how to talk issues without talking personality. How can we talk about sex without condemning those who practice sex differently than we do? Can we disagree and still respect each other?

That’s what we’ve lost in this country. Respect.

For teachers. For parents. For the boss. For the mayor. For the police.

For ourselves.

I’m right. You’re wrong. The world revolves around me. I can set whatever rules for my life that I want.

And we wonder why we’re so messed up.

A motorcyclist passed me the other day in a right-turn lane. Another vehicle and I were stopped, waiting for traffic to clear before proceeding on to state Route 57, a 45 mph highway at that point. The motorcyclist passed us in the turn lane and roared onto Route 57 before the other driver and I could move.

So much for “look out for motorcycles.” It goes both ways, you know.

Or, I wish you knew.

Faith

So, what is the big picture? How is my outlook changing?

While I can’t talk about my faith in school (unless my student brings it up first, of course), that’s where the answer lies. Not in your perception of faith, or mine, but in real faith.

In a God who wrote the big picture. Who wants the best for us.

Discipline is good, sometimes. My student doesn’t understand that. Most adults don’t either.

Good parents do understand that. Children need boundaries. If you’ve had children, you know this.

So, why do we think that we don’t need boundaries as adults?

Political boundaries change all the time. You and I think differently, so the boundaries I set may not work for you, and vice versa.

If we don’t like them, we can change them.

Why will we not look up? Put the video games down, look away from the porn, turn off the music. LeBron James and Steven Spielberg make far more money than you and I will ever see, but are they the best role models? Do they have all the answers?

When I talk about faith, I don’t even mean in a pastor or the Pope. Their interpretations of faith aren’t always right, either.

The best role model? Jesus Himself. And we killed Him.

If Jesus walked the Earth in the flesh today, we’d kill Him again. I’m sure of it.

We still don’t get it.

We’re searching for love in all the wrong places.

Haven’t heard that song in awhile.

Daydreams, aggression and creativity: They are linked

I daydream a lot. Always have.

Most of the time, I play the hero in my dreams. When baseball season starts, I’m the star pitcher or the batter who gets the big hit to win the World Series. I’m the defensive back who busts up a wide-open play by the offense. I’m a war hero in a battle for the Middle East. I’m the dad in a big multi-cultural family who helps rescue kids from horrible environments.

I’m just a big kid, aren’t I?

I don’t know any other adults who dream like that. Of course, I’ve never had an “adult” conversation about daydreams with anyone.

I’ve never asked. Probably because it seems so silly.

Maybe that’s the point.

We take ourselves far too seriously.

Never happy

Look at all the troubles that fill the 6 o’clock news and the front page of the local newspaper. School shootings. Tariffs penalizing people trying to make a living (in other countries, true). Scandals in sports. Scandals in politics. Abortion. Sex everywhere, of all types, including harassment. Road rage.

We’re not happy with our jobs. Our spouses. Our roads. Our neighbors. Ourselves.

And on and on.

We’re always angry and never satisfied.

Will we ever be?

Perhaps we need to take a deep breath, look up, and realize that the world isn’t as bad as we make it out to be.

Or, perhaps it is. Because we make it that way.

Children know

Can we dream of something better? Instead of playing the hero, like I often do, can we dream of a better society?

Are such daydreams real?

Here’s where children can lead us – as long as they haven’t grown up yet.

I began mentoring a 9-year-old boy in Cleveland this week, who said his dad wants to move the family to Arizona because the inner city is too violent.

Wow. I’m sure this 9-year-old has seen things that I can’t fathom.

How is he supposed to dream?

I’ve been involved with an after-school creative problem-solving organization called Destination Imagination (DI) for more than a decade. I’ve been a regional “challenge master” for the Fine Arts challenge for two years now. It’s wonderful to see how creative elementary, middle school and secondary school students can get when solving problems placed before them.

This year, the students had to create a two-act musical that features a “spectacle” – combining two production techniques from a list that includes dance, pantomime, illusion and parody, among others – and design a set change into the 8-minute skit. They had other tasks to perform as well during their presentation.

The challenges – DI offers eight of them, with Fine Arts being only one – were announced last summer. Teams formed last fall, and students worked on their solutions for months.

The students dreamed up all kinds of solutions. They worked as a team to come up with the best skit they could.

Our regional tournament was last weekend, with the most creative teams earning the right to compete at the state level in three weeks. The national, actually global, finals are in Knoxville, Tenn., in late May.

No two solutions were the same. I didn’t get to watch most of the performances, because as the head honcho, I was dealing with logistics, problem-solving (there was very little of this; the event ran smoothly) and handing out scores to the participants.

The props and costumes I saw were awesome. I’m sure the story lines were as well. (I couldn’t share details even if I knew them because other regional tournaments are still being held, and we can’t give away secrets.)

Solutions must be creative

Wouldn’t it be cool if our corporate leaders and politicians could work together like that?

Yelling, screaming and pointing fingers are not options at DI events. Ever. That’s not how you solve problems. Our young people know that.

How did we adults forget?

Where did our creativity go?

The Destination Imagination Facebook page posted this story awhile ago, on helping older children develop a sense of imagination.

https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/50429/how-to-help-older-kids-develop-a-sense-of-imagination

It offers suggestions like tell collaborative stories, try improv (also one of Destination Imagination’s challenges) and lighten up.

Play. Get outside. Dream. Think outside the box. Get creative. Work together.

Releasing aggression

I’ve become too serious myself recently. A thought hit me the other day that might help explain that.

For more than 20 years as an adult, I played slow-pitch softball. For nearly 10 years, I also played Ultimate Frisbee – not in a league or anything, just for fun.

I haven’t done either for five or six years.

I try to walk/jog once or twice a week (with no headphones; I let my mind wander where it wants to go), so I’m still getting some exercise. So, what’s my issue?

I’m a guy. By definition, the male species has aggression. It’s the way we are wired, including extreme introverts like me.

With softball and Ultimate, I threw things. Literally. That’s how I released my emotions.

As an outfielder, I threw that softball as hard as I could into the infield. Sometimes I gave a loud “aaach.” My teammates sometimes asked, “Are you OK?” They though I hurt myself. No, I’m fine. I’m just letting out my aggression on that softball.

Or, I threw a flying disc (Frisbee is a trade name). Sometimes, I threw that disc as hard as I could.

Why do guys play with guns, race cars, take advantage of girls, hack computers and do all sorts of other inappropriate things?

We aren’t allowed to show aggression at all in today’s society. We have to play nice.

But we have to let it out somehow.

Seriously.

A better world

But if we could dream of a better world, a place where we had positive outlets for our aggression, seek creative solutions for problems …

We are all on the same team, really. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

If only we could respect each other, live with each other, work together, celebrate (not criticize) our differences …

That’s a dream worth pursuing.

The future of our country, and our very lives, may be at stake.

And our children just might hold the right keys.

Equal but different

Once a week, I drive into Cleveland to mentor a fourth-grader at lunchtime. His family situation is difficult and he has issues with a classmate or two. We talk about how to deal with these things.

He has some wonderful gifts and talents, and I encourage him whenever I can.

On another front, I drive for my work, often in city traffic. I frequently let drivers merge in front of me who are waiting to exit a grocery store parking lot or the local McDonald’s.

On yet another side, there are six of us at the “office” where I work – five women and me. The staff nurse is a woman, the boss’ boss is a woman, the boss’ boss’ boss is a woman …

And I get along with all of them just fine. I take directions well, and try to be as supportive and encouraging of an employee as I can.

I also have a social media presence, where it’s easy to hide my introvertedness and encouraging spirit to join the fray like so many people do.

A social media discussion

Quite a few of my closest friends avoid social media for this reason. It’s so negative. That’s all they see.

But social media, like any form of technology, is a tool. It’s inanimate. It’s what we make it. Pornography abounds here, but so do uplifting sites and pages with specific interests that I follow.

Social media is a wonderful place to connect long-distance with friends and former co-workers. But it’s easy for those of you who don’t know me well or haven’t seen me in awhile to misunderstand who I am or where I’m coming from. We hide behind the technology very well.

Social media often is controversial. I pick my battles carefully there.

I picked one last week that sparked an enlightening discussion.

BSA

The Boy Scouts of America announced that for the first time in their century-old history, they would begin accepting girls. On a friend’s post about that, I offered this comment:

Boys are no longer allowed to become young men. That’s what we’ve lost. We are raising a unisex nation, where boys and girls are not only “equal,” they are no longer different – despite their obvious differences. And we wonder why our nation has lost its way. This is the main reason right here.

I’ve seen articles saying the Boy Scouts’ decision to accept girls was a business decision, and not to make a social statement. But they made a social statement.

Different

I brought up a concept I wish this country understood. I first encountered this in college in the late 1970s, and it’s even more prevalent today:

Different doesn’t mean inferior. Or superior.

This is obvious to me, but not to many Americans.

I’m so sorry about the Harvey Weinstein saga and the resulting #MeToo hashtag, which is showing that sexual harassment in all its forms is far more prevalent than we thought it was. In no way am I defending this.

But by saying that different doesn’t mean inferior or superior, I’m branded as a power-hungry white American male who just wants to keep women in their place – a lesser place than where men are, apparently.

Power grab?

In the social media discussion I raised the concepts of love and respect, which several women in the thread rejected as a power grab. Men say they give love and want respect, but only to remain in authority.

I wrote that by love I mean Biblical love, not love as America understands it. The woman whom I had the best discussion with on this topic said she’s not a “believer” and doesn’t know about Biblical love. I said it’s worth exploring, and left it at that.

I felt the discussion was good and helpful, at least to me.

Others chimed in and saw me as the typical white American male who doesn’t understand the struggles of women. I can’t deny I am a white American male.

Does that automatically make me power hungry?

I know many men who do not fit that profile, and we raise sons who love and respect the women (and men – and animals, for that matter) in their lives as well.
But as I said on another thread, the men who truly are power hungry get all the headlines. They rape, they commit other crimes against humanity, they talk and live as ego-driven alphas …

I cannot defend them, nor should I. At times I am ashamed to be a white American male. Far too many of us abuse our positions of authority and leadership. It’s no wonder women are fighting back.

‘Lifestyle evangelism’

But not all of us guys are power-hungry egomaniacs.

How can I convince you of that?

By my lifestyle.

I don’t have to mentor an inner-city fourth-grader. I don’t have to let traffic merge in front of me. I don’t have to donate blood, which I’ve done for more than three decades and which benefits people I will never know.

I don’t do such things for your compliments. I’m not interested in a full trophy case. I don’t need the corner office or the big salary or the job title. If a woman attains those things, I’ll celebrate her accomplishments and do what I can to help her continue to grow professionally. I’ve had a number of female supervisors over the years, and nearly all of them did – and do – their jobs well. It’s not hard for me to respect a woman in authority, or as a peer.

Teammates

Equal but different? Why is that such a hard concept to understand?

On a football team, there are 11 players on offense, but only one is the quarterback. If the “big uglies,” the offensive linemen, don’t do their jobs, the quarterback can’t do his either. They need each other. Their jobs are very different. They have different skill sets and do different things.

But everyone on the offense, all 11 players, has the same goal: to score a touchdown. Each of them has to do his part well for that to happen.

Men understand this. We all dream of being the star quarterback, but in real life, we know better.

A power grab? No. Men and women are teammates in this game called life. Numerous books have been written on the differences between men and women. This is not rocket science.

We – men and women – ignore this to our own peril.

We’re partners in every sense of that word.

The other side of the story (and it’s always there)

Driving 65 mph on a 60 mph four-lane divided highway the other day, a SUV zoomed by me in the passing lane as if I was standing still.

That’s not unusual, unfortunately. But for once, I saw justice. Five minutes later, there the SUV was, parked on the side of the road with a police car, lights flashing, behind it. I twiddled on by, saying a silent prayer of thanks for the officer doing his job.

I think outside the box. I know what the rules are, and how to break them. I also know when not to break them.

Such as speeding 20 mph over the posted limit. That’s putting his life in danger, and mine.

So, what rules do I break?

As a driver, I frequently roll through stop signs. I’m constantly checking traffic in all directions and obviously if the coast is not clear, I stop. But if no one else is around, why waste gasoline by stopping? I slow down, but I roll through.

My wife doesn’t like that. I frequently do it anyway.

As a journalist, I fudged deadlines. If a reporter was cranking out a crime story as deadline was approaching, I waited, my heart often pounding but silently. Or, just as often, the reporter turned the story in on time, then came to me as I was finishing laying out the page and said he had an update – perhaps a crime suspect was just arrested.

Write fast, I said. My fingers fly on the computer keyboard when they need to. I’d get the updated story in the paper, with a new headline if necessary.

Every so often my boss lectured me about missing the deadline. I never apologized because I knew there was a fudge factor in there. The pressroom liked to have that flex time, but occasionally I tapped into it.

My job was to get the latest news into the paper, whatever it took. This was pre-Internet days, when newspapers were the primary source of community information.

As a copy editor, I became an “expert” on a variety of subjects. We had to communicate knowledgeably and in everyday language about taxes, school budgets, road construction, why companies hired or fired people, politics at all levels, and every other issue that came up.

If a reporter wrote a story that I didn’t understand, I assumed our readers wouldn’t either, and I would either re-write the story in clearer language or ask the reporter for clarification. This was my job.

I’m not a college professor, researching one topic for years. I learn about new topics nearly every day. I can research a subject for a couple of hours and write knowledgeably about it.

As a journalist, I never claimed to write the final word on any subject. No newspaper writer or editor does. The purpose of the newspaper was – and still is (or should be) – to get people talking. Not to provide all the answers, or even the “right” answer. To get you to think about an issue, and maybe do something about it.

I’ve tried to write this blog that way. When I express a viewpoint, I never claim to have the final word. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. Let’s talk about it. Respectfully. With dignity.

That’s what America has lost with the decline of newspapers and the rise of social media. Respect and dignity.

United Airlines is taking it on the chin and many other places over the forced removal of a passenger from a flight on Sunday. But the only person who actually broke any laws in that unfortunate scenario was the bloodied passenger.

You’d never know that by reading social media.

For the other side of the story, from a pilot’s wife:

https://thepilotwifelife.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/i-know-youre-mad-at-united-but-thoughts-from-a-pilot-wife-about-flight-3411/

Read it before you comment on any story regarding that incident.

Journalists understand that there’s more than one side to every story. Our editor in Saginaw, Mich., would ask for another viewpoint in just about every story we wrote. He drove us crazy. When will he ever be satisfied with a story? He rarely was.

We grumbled behind his back all the time, but because he drove us so hard, we were good. Very good. The public did use our articles as talking points. Community leaders were held accountable.

I came across the following sentiment recently:

 

“I’ve said this a million times before … I’ll say it a million times again before I die and I’ll be right every time.”

~ a Facebook friend

 

A journalist would never say this. Neither will I.

People say and do things for a reason, even things you or I don’t agree with. Get inside their skin and ask why.

Like nearly all journalists, I’m skeptical about a lot of things. I ask a lot of questions. With an open mind.

Sure, I have a bias. Everyone does. I see life through a certain lens; perhaps you see life through a different lens. That’s fine. We’re different. Not better or worse, just different. We can complement each other, if we both want that.

Here’s another sentiment I found not too long ago:

 

“Humility is terribly elusive, because if focused on too much it will turn into pride, its very opposite. Humility is a virtue to be highly sought but never claimed, because once claimed it is forfeited.”

~ John MacArthur

 

Because journalists are constantly learning, asking questions, seeking answers, we have a humility that we never talk about.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to hearing from you, today and in the future.

I have social media friends who are politically left and others on the right, and everywhere in between. I like that. Sometimes, you make me uncomfortable. That’s a good thing. I’ll challenge your position, and you have the right to challenge mine.

But again, let’s do it with respect. Argue my viewpoint, not my right to have that viewpoint. Stick to the issue. Don’t make it personal.

There are at least two sides to every story. No exceptions.

That’s how we separate “fake news” from what’s real. By talking it out.

With respect.

We might actually teach each other something.

Respect for the flag, always

Civil rights takes center stage with quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal last week to stand and honor the American flag during the national anthem before a preseason football game.

Reaction has been strong, on both sides.

Some say dishonoring the flag dishonors the freedoms he lives with and the wealth he has accumulated in the National Football League.

Others say Kaepernick, who is biracial, is using his platform as a public figure to elevate a crucial issue: the “oppression” of people of color.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick holds the football during warmups before a preseason NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick holds the football during warmups before a preseason NFL football game Aug. 20 in Denver. (The Associated Press)

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem

It’s hard to argue with his statement that “there are bodies in the street …” Whether this country “oppresses black people and people of color” is open to debate.

We certainly did in the past, no question about that. Has racism ended in 2016 in America? No, I’m sure it hasn’t. Yet I truly hope our laws at all levels – local, state and national – oppose racism in all of its ugly forms.

We can’t legislate morality, however. We have to live it out. Our hearts determine how far racism reaches in this country.

Dishonoring the flag

Is dishonoring the flag an appropriate protest for oppression, or any other cause? Perhaps, just because of the publicity it’s drawn.

There are other ways to dishonor the flag as well. I’ve long felt that whenever we lower the flag to half-staff, we are dishonoring those men and women who fought for our right to fly that flag high.

Sitting during the national anthem is a political statement. Lowering the flag is not, but it should be.

Our service men and women fought for our country SO THAT we can fly our flag high. Always. When we lower the flag, we are saying their sacrifice was not good enough.

The flag as a symbol

The flag itself is greater than any one person – including our presidents and soldiers. We need to find other ways to honor our dead.

Those of you who have served: Do you agree? Or do I miss the meaning of the flag?

The Star-Spangled Banner

To defend my position to keep the flag flying high at all times, I offer a short history lesson on how the Star-Spangled Banner was written.

Our national anthem is a war song. If you listen to the words, it describes a battle scene. I feel that very few singers understand this. It’s not a love song or feel-good piece, and should not be sung that way.

The battle scene was real. It took place during the War of 1812 at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md.

Resentment for Great Britain’s interference with American international trade and impressment of American sailors (men were captured and forced into service) combined with American expansionist visions led Congress to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812.

http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmah/starflag.htm

In August 1814, British troops set fire to our nation’s Capitol, the president’s mansion and other public buildings. President James Madison and his wife, Dolley, barely escaped.

With Washington in ruins, the British took aim at Baltimore, then the nation’s third largest city. At 6:30 a.m. Sept. 13, 1814, British ships began a 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry. Rockets whistled through the air, just like our national anthem describes. American troops refused to surrender the fort. By dawn the British gave up the fight.

Because the British attack coincided with a heavy rainstorm (picture that in your mind), Fort McHenry had flown its smaller storm flag throughout the battle. At dawn, as the British retreated, the commander, Major George Armistead, ordered his men to lower the storm flag and replace it with the big garrison flag.

‘Dawn’s early light’

As they raised the flag, the troops fired their guns and played “Yankee Doodle” in celebration of their victory. The banner could be seen for miles around – as far away as a ship anchored eight miles downriver where an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key had spent an anxious night watching and hoping for a sign that the city – and the nation – might be saved.

When Key saw “by the dawn’s early light” that the flag flew high, he knew the fort had not surrendered. He was so moved by the sight that he penned what later became our national anthem on the back of a letter he was carrying.

Give respect

Let’s fly the American flag high, and give it the respect it deserves. It represents perseverance, struggle, suffering – and victory. We should not compromise this. Ever.

Kaepernick also should find another way to make his point. The flag represents all that is right with this country. Its stars represent all 50 states – what could be more unifying than that?

We don’t always agree on issues, of course. We’re better off because we don’t, actually, because debate forces us to discover what we value most. What am I willing to fight for?

Can we rise above the issues that divide us?

In what other country could Kaepernick disrespect his own flag and live to tell about it? Who else besides an American would even consider doing such a thing?

Live respect

Can we overcome oppression by talking about it? How about focusing on the opposite: respect for all people?

Can we respect each other, even if we disagree with each other?

Why not?

That’s my protest.

To proclaim it, I say let’s stand side by side, all of us, of all races and colors, and live for the good in each other. That’s what the American flag stands for.

That’s why our veterans served, and continue to serve.

Enough with hate and all its ramifications.

We can’t legislate freedom any more than we can legislate morality. Let’s live it.