Posts tagged ‘civility’

Baseball Calms my Soul and Makes Me Smile

Yes, I know. Many of you think it is too slow. Next time you get a chance go to a batting cage and if they will let you, turn up the machine to be throwing 100 mph fast balls. Still too slow? Once you understand how hard it is to hit a round ball with a round bat, the rest of the game starts to come into focus. What’s the pitch count? What’s he likely to throw? Based upon the pitch, where is the ball likely to go? What is going on on-base? Actually there is so much going on that it boggles the mind.

Last night I was in nirvana. The Dodgers were at the Giants and the Padres were playing Houston, both at the same time, both going into extra innings, both with amazing pitching and plays. I could not switch back and forth fast enough to get every pitch. Padres lost theirs in the 11th on a walk off infield pop up nobody caught. After all that, one little mistake…Giants won theirs in the fourteen with another walk off home run after one of the best at bats I have ever seen, fowling off pitch after pitch. I was exhausted. I like all those teams so there is joy and sadness when it is over.

Baseball is our spring, summer and fall game. It is not about busting heads, but great plays, great pitching, and great hitting. It is so summer to sit in the warm sun with a cold beer and no matter what is swirling around you, how screwed up the world is, here at the Park it is just great fun where the rules are respected, and so are the players. There is a civility about baseball that we seem to have lost in public affairs. Generally speaking we can go to the game with our friends who root for the other team and it is great fun for all of us. It is a game, not the end of the world.

The civility goes so much deeper than most understand. The players have for the most part climbed an arduous road to get to where they are. And they have to work hard to stay there, always learning. There is a great respect for each other. There are smiles and laughs between the players. There is the joy of young athleticism And then there are the unwritten rules. They are about respecting the game and respecting your opponent. If you are down by 7, it is the ninth inning, you don’t bunt into the shift. Doug Glanville wrote a great piece about them the other day.

The point is that it maintains our civility and perspective. It is an object lesson for what we have lost in politics today thanks to President DFF and his Republican friends whose new way of doing things breaks all the rules. Baseball reminds me of what we have lost, and that we can get it back. Watch these highly competitive young men play the game, and yet respect their opponents and honor the game, and it will make you feel good about yourself. It will make you feel good about the human race that could invent such a game and play it with such integrity.

Yes I love baseball and it is the end of my winter of discontent when spring arrives and they throw out that first ball. As I watch the boys of summer, I remember that the human race really isn’t so bad, maybe for a little while. Sit in the sun, get a dog and a beer, smell the grass, smile at your neighbor, sit back and just experience it. Yes, I love baseball.


I am having this conundrum today. I just read an op-ed piece by Author C. Brooks about how kindness is infectious. He cites studies that if people are exposed to acts of kindness, they tend to act more kindly. I have always kind of bought into that, but I have never been very successful at practicing it. Now Mr. Brooks makes this statement:

Most Americans rightly complain that our political culture attacks too much and edifies too little. But what do we really demand of the politicians we support? Humility, optimism and flexibility? Or do we excuse our own side for its ideological rigidity, preening self-regard and blame-shifting?

This is not a call for boring moderation or unprincipled centrism. Liberals should be liberals, and conservatives should be conservatives. But all should be expected to live up to a higher standard of civility than that displayed by TV loudmouths. The next two years are a challenge to our political leaders, yes — but also to us, to demand a climate of moral elevation as opposed to destruction of the other side.

Now, I have no doubt Mr. Brooks is correct, but I have no idea how to put it in action. How can one be civil to the Republicans on TV that are screaming for President Obama’s scalp. Has not Democratic civility been taken as weakness and abused by the Republicans and the voter? Has not the media yielded to the loudest shouter, and that is the message that gets out? Have you ever noticed how when you are being polite, some conservative inserts his/her conservatism into the conversation as though everyone must think that way, and we aren’t entitled to disagree?

I guess the answer is maybe to take a lesson from British dry wit. Maybe the answer is to destroy them politely with logic, reason, and humor. Socrates was famous for his Socratic method. He didn’t call his targets idiots. He let them demonstrate it by asking them polite questions. Of course, they made him drink hemlock, so maybe that won’t work either.

I think I can practice random acts of kindness and general civility in most of my activities and maybe that will help. But the Right has moved so far right as to be intolerant of any other point of view. I am not sure my tolerance of their intolerance will make the world a better place. I guess the best I can do is pick my moments. I will try to be more kind and civil in most dealings, but expect me to lose it from time to time.

Cause and Effect – Shooting in Arizona

We are an interesting nation.  Let’s face it, we are all about punishment.  It would seem that our institutions are all about getting that sorry …. for his atrocious act of violence like that will end the problem.  But two things keep cropping up in my mind.  As horrendous as his act was, was the gun man insane?  While we are busy throwing the book at him, is he really someone who just belongs in a mental institution?  The other thing that bothers me is that is he just the effect, and not the cause of this violence?  Sure we can quickly show how severe this crime will be punished, but are we really doing anything about the atmosphere, the root cause, of these murders?

Oh, I know.  Maybe he was just a deranged individual and well, shit happens.  I don’t believe it and neither should you.  We have an environment where the right has been inciting violence and hate for government.  They have been using apoplectic language and analogies to guns and violence.  This is not a both sides thing.  Democrats don’t promote overthrow of the government.  But there is some other things that we need to consider.  Sheriff Dupnik of Pima County elegantly stated our insane gun policy and where it is going (See Words of Wisdom).  Many of our video games and music are over the top violent. The plugged in (earphones and ipod/iphone)  nation is more and more isolated from the real world around them.  They don’t have to interact and be informed by reality.  They can withdraw into their electronic cocoon.

Look at our entertainment.  Shows are getting more and more gory to titillate.  Seeing the gore generally does not advance the plot, so why show it?  Note that many of our TV police shows glorify cops going across the line in an interrogation.  Violence is seen as an effective tool to get justice.  So what are we saying to people? Violence works?  It is the ultimate and most effective justice?  Why mess around with that messy political process when you can just man up?

No, I think it is time to really look at ourselves and ask if this is the direction we want to be going and I really think we should take a hard look at it.  But I fear that the media will reframe this as we need more civil discourse and define that as not raising your voice.  There is nothing wrong with anger, especially at lies put forward as political truth.  Sadly we have not had enough of that in the media or from Democrats.  What needs to end is the analogies to violent solutions like, “armed and dangerous”, “retreat and reload”, and “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants”.  Worse, this has been promoted/tolerated by leaders in the Republican Party.  So don’t be mislead to think that we shouldn’t have vigorous political dissent. It just means we need to take violent language and incitement out of our dialogue.  Listening conservatives?  I doubt it.