Bat571 brings the Anthem discussion to a rather thunderous pause with the following gem:
As a retired Navy Officer and proud member of a military family whose roots are similar to those cited by James Webb in "Born Fighting" (Scots-Irish (Ulster)), I believe I'm entitled to an opinion on this. My family has fought in every American war since those against the French and Indians. Outward show of patriotism as support for the government and the military is fine, but it is just as patriotic to point out the places the country needs to improve on, or where we fail to live up to our ideals as a nation.
I grew up and came to manhood in the Civil Rights era and the Viet Nam era. The trials of those years made America a better, richer nation, with more opportunity for everyone. Now, we no longer want to share that? Is that why my family has fought in America's wars - so we can keep all the blessings for ourselves?
Somehow, patriotism has beome associated with the nostalgia for a "simpler, better" time, (or even an earlier time with a white-dominated power structure). I grew up with Japanese-ancestry American kids whose parents had been "resettled" and Jewish-ancestry American kids who lost family members in the Holocaust. Was that a "better" time because my family was doing well?
The War fought by the "Greatest Generation" was fought by a segregated military. FDR knew of at least some of the Holocaust, but felt politically unable to do anything but win the European War as quickly as possible. Many feel the time of the 50s when America bestrode the world was the best of times. I think the best of times were expressed by MLK as "I Have a Dream".
To me, then and now, questioning whether we're on the right track, and trying to persuade the greater public to support change and to be tolerant of others we share this nation with are the essence of what it means to be an American citizen. Along with that willingness to change is a willingness to share the blessings we enjoy, both with our fellow citizens and with the greater world. And the greatest of these blessings are those freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, which the miltary vows to support and defend (N.B. - not to support and defend some potentate). Extending those freedoms and some of our prosperity to all we could has been what really made the "Greatest Generation" great.
My "name-line" family arrived in North America in the late 1630s (elected County Clerk in 1638 in Binghampton, NY). The other lines of my family, Portuguese Morisco seamen and Scots-Irish lumbermen, were here by 1715. So, other than Native Americans, I think we're as "old-line" White, Celtic/Lusitanic, Protestant/Mormon, as it gets. But that pre-revolutionary population did not make America great. All they could do is set the standard of being the "City on the Hill" that the Puritans spoke of, and that President Reagan re-invoked as the American destiny.
I think I understand how this country became great - immigration, trade, entrepreneurship, developing our resources - especially our human ones, and adapting politically as necessary, under a Constitution which was and is a human marvel. To resist change is human; to vilify those who feel change is necessary is, possibly traditionally American, but still not helpful. Even the Constitution has mechanisms for change; the Founding Fathers were incredibly wise. Would that we inherited some of that wisdom.
The Defense Department officials trying to cultivate support for the military - both recruitment and the military budget - are doing their best to encourage patriotic sentiment. But I heartily agree with Fallows; many times it's less than sincere among the political elite. Sometimes I think it also goes a bit too far. But this hoorah about the anthem is as "poseur" as it gets.
It's a funny thing; most of the military guys I've known have felt just about the same way. They roll their eyes just a bit at the "rah-rah" guys who take the National Anthem hyper-seriously. For them, love of country means far MORE than standing for two minutes and then forgetting about freedom until the next time a song happens to occur.
By the way: Cindy and I went to the game tonight and when the Anthem started, the server stopped taking our order. About half the crowd seemed to put their hands over their hearts and such. I'm not that type, but about halfway through I did put my cap over my chest, to show respect for them.
Bat571 brings up the fact that America is about the RIGHT to protest. Just so! And it is precisely here, in the territory of this point, where I personally wonder how much the Evergreen College socialist kids understand about the USSR, or Saddam Hussein, or Mao-Tse Dong, or the Kims, or what real totalitarianism is really like. Love Trump or hate him, I notice that the kids seem awfully unafraid of insulting this terrifying dictator.
The internet may prove the salvation of free speech. When the UK jails somebody for reporting on pedophilia, it gets out. Not because of 20th-century media, but because there is no way to herd the cats that are the YouTubers and bloggers of the 21st century.
Bat calls the Constitution a "human marvel." We're in our 3rd century now of living as a free people .... why? Essentially because our society respects a single document to such an extent that --- > those who try to gnaw at it, to call it an outmoded essay by old white men, those folks, --- > cannot gain traction. They can't even gain enough traction to amend a single clause in the Bill of Rights. .... again, with Twitter and the Kyle Kashuvs of the world playing a large role ...
Take away the guns, which is step one in any totalitarian evolution? (Research 1938-1944 and how badly any group of Jews coveted even five or ten firearms, and the difference they say the guns would have made.) In the comments, gentle Denizen, you can write about how much you believe the U.S. public should be disarmed. You have the right! Your problem is a simple one: others will argue the opposite. It's been that way since 1787, and God willing, it will be that way for another 240 years.
Take away the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure? Take away the right to a fair trial (as in the recent UK case), provided that the one being tried did something really wrong like disagreeing with you about the obvious? What ensues in America is: a public debate about the Constitution. And EACH time, Sisyphus' attempts to roll totalitarianism up the mountain gets kicked back down the mountain.
The system of government that you and I have is the worst possible. Except for all the alternatives. Including "anarchy," which evolves into "the survival of the strongest."
Thanks for the mini-essay Bat. Hope to see 50+ replies to it.
Apologies in advance, this doesn't have much of tightly-focused point.
Somehow, patriotism has beome associated with the nostalgia for a "simpler, better" time, (or even an earlier time with a white-dominated power structure).
My take on the nostalgia, the longing for a time when America was great, doesn't have to do with race or power structures. It has to do with the perception of a time when American society had more homogeneous values and how those who chose to participate in American society comported with those values.
Of course, most of those people are ignorant of the tumult of those times. The bombings, the firehoses, the racially-based internment camps, and the looming spectre of communism.
Still, the point is that they see change in American culture and they don't want American culture to change. They want a standard of attitudes and behavior that everyone who chooses to participate in American society acknowledge and align with.
I feel like a significant amount of the strife currently extant in American discourse today has to do with a misunderstanding or mislabling of the issues.
Heck, even Net Neutrality has sides and it's all a mis-labelling. No one is against net neutrality (small n's). Both sides agree that net neutrality is a good thing. Somehow 'Net Neutrality' became the label for the issue of reclassifying ISPs under a different title. The FCC took pains to ensure that the ISPs committment to net neutrality rules were still enforceable under the reclassification but the label stuck and an unnecessary divide took place.
Part of the strife of today has to do with those (including those who are born in America) being disinclined to the values that American society has held dear in the past. Things like privacy, individual liberty, manifest destiny (metiphorically speaking), and (like it or not) Christian values (I'm not a Christian myself but to deny the impact that Christianity played on the development of the values the founding fathers held dear would be a mistake).
To resist change is human; to vilify those who feel change is necessary is, possibly traditionally American, but still not helpful.
I agree that vilification of the person advocating for a given change is unhelpful. Still, some see recommended changes as genuinely vile.
Most conservatives I'm aware of don't malign immigration, they malign illegal immigration and the associated flaunting of the rule of law. They don't malign hispanics, they malign Mexican Nationalists who choose to live in America and advocate for change in America that benefits Mexico. They don't malign Arabs, they malign radical Islam and the severe human rights violations associated with it along with the enabling nature of moderate Islam. They don't malign gay relationships, they malign the over-sexualization they see in society and the impact that might have on its exposure to children. Unfortunately, these attitudes get labled as racist, xenophobic, and bigoted and, somehow, those labels stick.
The sides aren't talking to each other. Some of the best thinkers on the issue of American strife, today, have put their finger on the finger of the pulse of the unconcious body of America, paused for a couple moments, looked soulfully into the camera, and proclaimed this to be THE problem. Scott Adams has pointed out that each side is watching the same thing and seeing two completely different movies. Dan Carlin is having a political existential crisis because of this.
Thus, the service that this blog is providing, giving a platform to anyone on either side discussed under the firm hand of respect and genuine listening, is much MUCH more valuable than Jeff will ever let himself admit to in his own heart.
I don't know what measure of peace the words of a stranger could impart on your life, but I hope that they give you something 1/1000th as brilliant as what you've given me, and your many loyal friends here.
Thank you for so many things. Primarily for whatever it is that made you the person that you are. I have read your site faithfully for more years than I can remember, and it is one I enjoy more than any others I visit. Partly, it's the prose. Your writing style is smooth, intricate, dexterous, humorous, light. You are an intelligent, creative, and caring person - of that much I feel sure. And I want to thank you for that simple fact: for caring. For caring about our Mariners, for caring about our world, our community. And thank you for extending that caring into action - into all of these words. Thank you for the decency and open-mindedness that your essay here shows.
Thanks for finding novel ways for us to think about baseball, and about life. You have so seamlessly intertwined the two that I occasionally can't tell if I've read a game recap or an essay. I don't mean to gush, but you are my favorite baseball writer of any kind - even more enjoyable than Jeff Sullivan or Kate Preusser or Meg Rowley - and they are all indispensable to me.
You will never know all of the people on whom you've had a profoundly positive impact, and that makes me a little sad, as I'm very sure that number would astonish you. Just please know that you have done exactly that - had a PROFOUNDLY positive impact on the world, and certainly on me.
Years ago when I lived in San Diego, I was facing some tough times. I took a trip to the zoo one night when they stayed open until 11pm. I walked to the elephant enclosure where a single female elephant stood near the fence. The zoo was almost entirely empty, and very quiet save some soft music floating up from speakers hidden among the landscaping. The elephant closed its eyes and began to sway. It swung its trunk, lifted one foot, shifted to the other side and lifted the other. She was dancing. And I was there, the only one in the world watching her dance, slowly, gracefully, in perfect time to the music. It moved something in me, something deep. It made me feel very human for some reason.
Each time I come here I feel that way. And it was time I told you.
So thank you, again.
Except that your comments will stick with me the rest of my life. As a spiritual person, my hope is that SSI will have influence beyond baseball. Here you are, telling me that such is the case -- and thus "justifying" my entire 20 years blogging about a sillly game.
Thanks for taking the time amigo.
Ran across a summary of an anthropology study on the ethics of 60 cultures. It found seven morals that occurred in most cultures and were always considered good. There were no counter examples, that is, no societies in which any of these were considered morally bad. Here is their list: love your family, help your group, return favors, be brave, defer to authority, be fair, and respect others’ property. Being academics, they offer a theory to explain from where these common core values spring: ‘morality as cooperation,’ a collection of tools for promoting social cooperation. https://osf.io/9546r/
Despite these very strong, almost universal social conventions of morality and ethics, which should be driving us toward more cooperative behavior, we seem to be in an era of demonizing and discrediting those who offer opposing views. This is happening both on the ‘left’ and the ‘right,’ and examples from either side are not hard to find.
It is not that one side does not hear the other. It is that each side does not believe anything the other side says, even if it is backed by unassailable data or facts, simply because of who is saying it.
The Alex Jones theme ‘Sandy Hook Never Happened’ is one example. I ran across another example from the opposite side in, of all places, The Stranger, in a thoughtful article on the Evergreen College persecution of two professors who had the audacity to question a change in the “Day of Absence” tradition.
There was no attempt to persuade these teachers with facts about discrimination or inequality. The teachers are white and therefore they can’t be reformed or persuaded – make ‘em walk the plank as a warning to others who deviate from our ‘truth.’
I wonder what is driving this polarization, this rabid intolerance and fear of dissent? Whatever it is, I am glad it is absent from this community, where civil discourse is still possible among those with differing points of view.
The one outlier on that list is "defer to authority". There are so many examples of why this is often a BAD idea it's hard to know where to start.
But the American revolutionaries sticking it to King Geroge seems like a pretty good example. If you want to cite an imperative for a current need for a current form of "non-deference" in our times, I would be happy to join that group.
The issue of deference to authority lies at the heart of political philosophy: why should anyone obey anyone else? At the one extreme, total absence of deference, lies anarchy (n=1), where laws and courts are meaningless. At the other extreme lies slavery. Ultimately, the answer boils down to opinion (persuasion) or force.
I see your point. In America, at least in theory, we agree to defer to the authority that WE create. Part of that is the law...part is elections.
What I fear is absolute deference in all circumstances. But until I find someone who pledged absolute allegiance to BOTH Barack Obama AND Donald Trump, I guess I don't have to worry about that. :)
Thank you so much for the "The Stranger" link. What an amazing article. Evergreen College.....Bah! Humbug!
Can't tell you guys how much good those did me, though. I think we'd have five more front-page essays there.
Great letter Doc. Great stuff from everyone, in fact. A standing ovation is coming from this gallery. Where else do you find stuff like this?
Comments from me:
1. Bat, I never served in the military. Thank you for your service. You certainly bring a far more "earned" (in some important ways) perspective on patriotism than I do, but I disagree with your point on the about current patriotism/whiteness/white power-structure. Patriotism isn't a carte blanche acceptance of all the ills and errors of American history, now or in the past, but a pride in the great trend of American history (MLK Jr. used the term "moral arc," which I think can be applied here) and the founding principle's of the nation (even as poorly as they have been sometimes administered). If the founding of the American nation was done largely by white males that doesn't dilute the essential message of liberty, equality, freedom. Yet some argue just that. I fear that a loud voice in American politics and culture simply bundles "whiteness" and "wrongness" together. In my opinon, that is no more right than any other view that ties race or color to some sort of essential error. I also like to think that "change" isn't necessarly "progress." We are a tolerant nation. Where some have become intolerant is of opinion more than race or religion. Sadly, I find the left much more intolerant here than the right. The right to protest (through pure speech or symbolic) indeed exists but not to the extent where you prevent others from having their right to speak. As an example, the Westboro Baptist Church may (sadly, in the manner that they do, I think) protest American policy toward same-sex relationship, but it may not do so in a way that prevents grieving families from conducting funerals. Preventing others from speaking (rather than simply/separately rebutting their speech) is the most popular tactic of groups such as Antifa and college-attending youth. Antifa claims to want to resist/destroy fascism, yet they come closer to fascist tactics than any American group in recent memory, minus the Klan, perhaps. Joe McCarthy would be proud of them in many ways. Being tolerant of others doesn't necessarily mean you want open borders and unchecked migration. Nor are those somehow "American." My father came in 1948, a 20 year old logger from Canada. To come legally, he had to have a note from a bank establishing that he had $1200 in deposit. Was that somehow "un-American?" I see no real tragedy in such requirment, establishing and enforcing legal (and reasonable) parameters to immigration from all nations, with the flexibility to realize some limited amount of situations demand special concern. Extending freedoms and generosity to all who arrive legally is not a terrible thing. When the Greatest Generation extended those blessings it wasn't in the form of an open invite saying, "Y'all come!" OK, I know I have rambled and gone places you didn't originally write about. Sorry.
I think I am blessed because I know I can see America's ample great blessings every day. I think we would be a more blessed nation if we indeed looked back to the 50's in some areas and followed their lead.....and did the same going way back to 2017 in others. I felt that under 8 years of Barack Obama (who I did not vote for) and have under 500+ days of Donald Trump (who I did not vote for). Neither side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on good ideas; neither side is totally void of them. Trump's opponents have demonized him in a way that was not commonly done by Obama's opponents. I certainly believe that tolerance is a great thing. I live a life of such. But unlimited and unchecked immigration is not a good thing for any nation, nor is believing that a racist thing.
2. Doc, on the night of President Obama's election, I commented to my teaching mentor and closest friend that if the new president became the president he campaigned to be, acting as a great uniter, then I would be terribly pleased. I feared, however, that he hadn't the skill set. I called him an amateur, and I think I was largely right. Oh, not an amateur in the elective office arena, but in the ability to root about with political opponents and still come out friendly with them. The essence of the American political system is found in the skill set of negotiation. I can't remember who it was, perhaps me in some history class, who said the great genius of the American system was compromise. My mentor/friend, who was an Obama supporter, saw this in the man; I did not. Just three days into the Obama presidency, the new president ended the facade with his famous line, "Elections have consequences." Obama was a man of two great gifts; the 2nd was oratory, but the 1st gift he received came from the Chicago political system. Maybe no president since 1900, minus perhaps Harding, had less personal or professional accomplishment prior to becoming president. I do not say that to belittle the man, he was whip smart and a terrific campaigner, but he was a political creation of smoke and mirrors, not of past accomplishment. The give and take, tug and pull, of negotiations and bargaining was not his cup of tea. I always felt that he did not (or could not) connect with people and they not truly with him. His election was an historic thing for the American nation, certainly, but he lacked the likeability of a Kennedy or Clinton (and both had better political skills) and the political mastery of a Johnson. Mostly I think his presidency suffered from his aloofness, maybe even a coldness. While I disliked his politics and lamented his court nominations, I admired his ability to deliver the "Grand Vision" set piece speech and rooted I for him daily. He was an interesting man, but anyone who wants to essentially transform America better have the people skills to sell it. His political legacy rests upon Obamacare and the Iranian deal. Yet, within a year of his leaving office, both had been either ended or whittled significantly away. Given 8 more years in the deal making, slow moving crucible of the US Senate, he may well have found the political skills to match his oratorical ones. He had such in him. President Obama was a politician in a hurry,I don't think that served him well.
3. Bat is right, the Constitution is a "human marvel." It is rooted in the humanity (or imperfectability) of us all, and of our government. It was an incredibly bold document, but steeped with caution. It is (relatively) short and nuanced. It's particular and carefully chosen wording means something. Let us treat it lightly, interpreting what the framers intended, not what we wish they intended. Where we wish change, there is a (amending) process. It is worthy of a patriotic fervor.
4. Forgive my wordy, serpentine jaunt. I hope I have not offended. Such is never my intent: Several years ago, Oregon Business Magazine named me one of Oregon's 50 Great Leaders (not very deserved and they do it every year so eventually we all get the nod) for some leading-edge work I had done in an alternative energy field. They sort of said that I was a guy who knew everybody, was respected by all players, returning the sentiment and was able to get things done. It was something blathery like that but it was sort of accurate, too. I grew up in a family of politicos and one thing I long ago learned was that the most powerful words in the arena are (as you part and with sincerity), "Let me know what I can do for you." My dad, with a whole 6th grade education, taught my brother and I that. That lesson would play particularly well in the American political discourse today. My dad turns 90 in 3 weeks, he was and remains wiser than the average bear.
you prove yourself to be an intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate commenter. I applaud both that and your public service.
And I agree with 90% of what you say, and the other 10% isn't worth bringing up here.
But I do have a question for you (and Doc, and others here who may consider themselves 'mainline' conservatives--hope that characterization isn't somehow offensive). As you can correctly assume, the main topic of conversation when progressives are gathered in a hive is to bash Trump. I know, big surprise, right?
But with most of the conservatives I come across, when talk of 'politics' comes up, there is an almost absolute reluctance for them to talk to me about Trump. It's almost comically reflexive--the topic will go immediately to Obama or either Clinton or even (among the real old timers) to JFK. Which is fine, since there's a lot to discuss for any of them.
But when you guys get together privately--you good conservatives--do you ever delve into Trump? Or is he privately off limits, too? (Has there ever been a KK devoted directly to Trump?)
Maybe this is just an atypical experience for me...but I am baffled.
When I talk to fellow Republicans mostly the conversation isn't about the president at all, focusing instead on policy. I found that true during the Obama presidency, as well. Maybe it is just me and the folks I talk to, but I'm much more interested in policy then personality. Trump's wacky tweets drive me nuts as much as anybody else. Basically, I've learned to not pay attention to them (as much as possible). Asking him to not do it is like asking a fish to not swim. It is simply part of who he is. Even his shots across the bow in terms of trade are rooted in business-deal positioning, not hashed out policy. That comes later. So I focus on what he (and congress) delivers (or fails to).
So, when I talk to politically like-minded folks, there is little direct discussion of the president and lots of discussion of what has been delivered in the realm of policy and politics. But maybe that is just me.
I am a great admirer of Isaiah Berlin, and the following (though long) is I hope somewhat pertinent to this discussion. Berlin wrote this in the late 1950’s in describing “what has emerged from the recent holocausts.”
“Romanticism in its inflamed state – Fascist, [Nazi], and communist … -- has produced a deep shock, less by its doctrines than by the actions of its followers – by trampling on certain values which, when they were brutally thrown aside, proved their vitality, and returned like war cripples to haunt the European conscience.
“What are these values … and why should we accept them? May it not be true, as some existentialist and nihilist extremists have maintained, that there are no human values? … Men simply commit themselves as they commit themselves, for no reason. We chose as we chose, that is all that can be said; and if this leads to conflict and destruction, that is a fact about the world which must be accepted as gravitation is accepted, something which is inherent in the dissimilar natures of dissimilar men, or nations, or cultures. That this is not a valid diagnosis has been made clear by the great and widespread sense of horror which the excesses of totalitarianism have caused. …
[T]here does exist a scale of values by which the majority of mankind … in fact live, live not merely mechanically and out of habit, but as a part of what in their moments of self-awareness constitute for them the essential nature of man.
“[T]here are certain moral properties which enter deeply into what we conceive of as human nature. If we meet someone who merely disagrees with us about the ends of life, who prefers happiness to self-sacrifice, or knowledge to friendship, we accept them as fellow human beings… But if we meet someone who cannot see why (to take a famous example) he should not destroy the world in order to relieve a pain in his little finger, or someone who genuinely sees no harm in condemning innocent men, or betraying friends, or torturing children, then we find that we cannot argue with such people, not so much because we are horrified as because we think of them as in some way inhuman – we call them moral idiots … and sometimes confine them in lunatic asylums.
[T]he laws and principles to which we appeal when we make moral or political decisions of a fundamental kind … we regard as incapable of being abrogated; we know of no court, no authority, which could, by means of some recognized process, allow men to bear false witness, or torture freely, or slaughter fellow human beings for pleasure. [I]n other words, we treat them not as something that we, our forefathers, freely chose to adopt, but rather as presuppositions of being human at all.
This is a kind of return to the ancient notion of natural law, but for some of us, in empiricist dress – no longer necessarily based on theological or metaphysical foundations. Hence to speak of our values as objective and universal is not to say that there exists some objective code, imposed upon us from without, unbreakable by us because not made by us; it is to say that we cannot help accepting these basic principles because we are human, as we cannot help (if we are normal) seeking warmth rather than cold, truth rather than falsehood, to be recognized by others for what we are rather than to be ignored or misunderstood.
When these principles are basic, and have been long and widely recognized, we tend to think of them as universal ethical laws, and we assume that when human beings pretend that they do not recognize them, they must be lying or deceiving themselves, or have in some way lost the power of moral discrimination and are to that extent abnormal.
When such canons seem less universal, less profound, less crucial, we call them, in descending order of importance, customs, conventions, manners, taste, etiquette, and concerning these we not only permit but actively expect wide differences. Indeed we do not look on variety as being itself disruptive of our basic unity; it is uniformity that we consider to be the product of a lack of imagination, or of philistinism, and in extreme cases a form of slavery.”
-- Isaiah Berlin, “European Unity and its Vicissitudes” from The Crooked Timber of Humanity
Great thread, thoughtful comments.
There's a frequent disconnect from the important topics of respect for flag and Constitution or our military's sacrifices, from the motivations of the kneeling black NFL athletes.
They started kneeling after repeated incidents of young unarmed black men being killed by police. Many of them say they have experienced abuses of police power personally, and don't see anything being done about it.
Maybe the players could have found a better way to raise awareness. But we can't let those in power use our own patriotism to turn us against each other. It's easier to re-define why or how the young black athletes were protesting in the first place, than to listen to them.
Here I agree with the league. They are taking direct hits in ratings and revenue and (I think) it can be directly liked to the taking a knee during the anthem deal. So to the athletes, take a knee immediately upon coming on the field.
The symbolism is less offensive, yet the statement is still made.
They have a right to free speech (but not necessrily during hours of employment), the league has an obligation to protect it's brand.