Bombs and Baseball

Pres Obama and Mrs Robinson

Coo coo ca choo!

So. It’s been a day. A bombing in Brussels, Belgium, and an historic baseball game in Habana, Cuba. President Obama was at the latter, and so was Mrs. Robinson (the one the song isn’t about). Set against the background of “Super Tuesday #4: The Continuing Horror” it all weaves an interesting tapestry of stark contrasts and lurid splashes of color.

Baseball and bombs. Diplomacy and terrorism. Policy and politics. It’s terrible and fascinating how the world offers so much hope and so much despair — all in a day. The best there is in people set against the worst there is in people.

So, it’s been a day.

What is there to say about the bombing? “Here we go, again?” It’s a sad fact that people who are free are also vulnerable to those who hate with a murderous heart. When we are open, we can be hurt, plain and simple.

One response is to stop being free, stop being open. It’s a very old equation: safe and secure is counter-balanced by free and open. Both individuals and states must decide how much security is worth how much freedom.

We the PeopleIf we are a country based on carefully selected principles, what does it say about modern culture if we so willingly surrender those principles because we’ve been hurt?[1]

Another response is embodied in the slogan: Don’t let the terrorists win!

Terrorism is utterly demoralizing; it’s meant to be.

The hardest part isn’t fighting the terrorists, it’s fighting the effects of terrorism. That is what takes true strength. Any fool can wage war. Waging freedom requires intelligence and education and true courage.

It’s depressing, but not at all surprising, how quickly this became political. All the usual suspects weighed in; no surprised there. (At least no guns were involved, so we won’t have to watch the gun-rights vs. gun-control circus again.)

With regard to how we respond, I would point out something. Terrorism is born of oppression.

Brussels bombingWhen the oppression is genuinely evil, we tend to see reactive terrorism against it as revolutionary and a fight for freedom.

The less we perceive the oppression as evil, the more we’re inclined to fully disavow terrorism against it. Ultimately it’s a value judgement (which means you have to have some to make one).

It’s wise to keep in mind that any terrorist position always sees the oppression as more evil (thus justifying their actions).[2]

What we want to avoid is seeing terrorism as oppressing us and thus justifying evil actions on our part. I’ll say it again, because it’s important:

If we are a country based on carefully selected principles, what does it say about modern culture if we so willingly surrender those principles because we’ve been hurt?

Nuf sed? (Heh. As if.)

§

Enough darkness; bring in the light, bring in baseball!

Rays v Cuba

Rays won 4-1. (I was so glad the Cubans got that HR in the 8th!)

There’s a famous baseball movie quote that: “There’s no crying in baseball.”[3] Of course, there is crying as well as lying and dying. What you don’t find is a lot of hate.

Well, no, that’s probably not exactly right, either. Baseball is a good analog for life, and the occasional hatreds are part of life. There are teams that hate each other and players, likewise. And if you watch enough baseball you do see it lead to the occasional brouhaha (ha! ha!).

These rhubarbs rarely result in actual injury. Mostly a lot of pushing and shoving and some badly aimed haymakers. Baseball, after all, is a game played by grown up children.[4]

The hatreds here, perhaps, aren’t the blind sort of bitter life-long rock-hard hatred adults are so very, very good at (a well-nursed grudge will last you a lifetime).

baseball Cuba

What it’s really all about!

But there is a tradition of class and sporting behavior that goes way back in baseball (not that it was always kept).

Generally speaking, the most respected players are respected, in part, for their high character (Robinson, Killebrew, Jeter, and many others).

Some of that is evolving in the modern era as the sport reflects popular culture (and its rampant self-indulgent emotionalism).

Not all baseball fans are happy about that.

Still, it’s definitely one of the gentler sports, both in tone and play. You can have a conversation at a baseball game.

I became a fan to escape the aggression and stress of modern life (which, as you know, I don’t think much of), and it continues to be a balm for my soul.

So, a historic baseball game in Cuba. A game that caps off and commemorates the opening of relations between Cuba and the USA. (Another little feather for President Obama’s legacy hat.)

§

So, yeah, it’s been a day. And now a night. Another night of voting.

The candy-corn-colored bag of Republican chickens come home to roost continues his blitzkrieg towards inevitable candidacy. He’ll add Arizona to his bundle of scalps. And the events in Brussels will no doubt add fresh snake oil to the campaign.

Platos CaveI’m not sure if this all makes me more depressed or angry. It makes me plenty of both, that’s for sure. I’m so sick of stupid people. Sick on every level.

That’s not new (either the stupidity or my being sick of it).

What’s new is that in this highly interconnected modern world, with such powerful tools of mind and machine, we can no longer afford to be this stupid. The peril is too great. As our knowledge and tools grow, we must grow to keep up.

I’ve spent a lifetime trying (oh, so futilely) to get people to realize this… But I was reminded recently that this also is an old story told by one of those infamous Ancient Greeks.

Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

One of those nothing new under the sun things is that we’re still that stupid.

Over 2,000 years later and we’re still that stupid.


[1] Not that it would be the first time. The Japanese hurt us badly in WWII, and our reaction was to incarcerate them in concentration camps here and toss a couple of nuclear bombs on them there. We pretty generally regard those camps with national shame, and many are also ashamed of the atom bombs.

FTR, I’m in the camp that thinks a demonstration of a nuke on, say a deserted island, or on one with just a military base, would have been effective without killing civilians.

[2] OTOH, some people are just thugs, plain and simple.

[3] Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own.

[4] I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Children can be better adults than adults sometimes. Mouths of babes, and so forth.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

4 responses to “Bombs and Baseball

  • Steve Morris

    Good words, Wyrd.

    You’re right that terrorism is often born of oppression, however in this case, it seems to be born of a bunch of criminals with a grudge against society, who feel alienated and value their own lives so little that they are willing to blow themselves up just so they can kill others. I don’t think they really represent a broad constituency.

    “What does it say about modern culture if we so willingly surrender those principles because we’ve been hurt?”
    I think that the main problem is that people are so awed by acts of terrorism that they perceive them to be an existential threat to civilization. Of course, the acts are specifically designed to have that effect. Here in the UK, people are standing up and saying we should close the borders with Europe because of terrorism. And yet the number of deaths from say, traffic accidents, or smoking, massively exceeds deaths from terrorism. But a terrorist incident like this is going to fill the headlines and make people afraid. Perhaps the real problem here is people’s inability to understand risk. Maybe this could be solved by having experts appear on the news and explain risk? Perhaps modern news reporting is half the problem?

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thanks. It was very weird bouncing back and forth between the coverage of the bombings and the game!

      “[I]n this case, it seems to be born of a bunch of criminals with a grudge against society, who feel alienated and value their own lives so little that they are willing to blow themselves up just so they can kill others.”

      True, yet I think that dangerously over-simplifies the situation. I think it’s a mistake to dismiss them as just cowards or thugs. There is absolutely an element of that, but there also is an element of religious insanity.

      Maybe you Brits don’t suffer as much as we do from the religiously insane, but it’s a definite problem in the USA. Something like 3/4 of our citizens believe in the physical reality of angels. Many, many others believe in bullshit like astrology, tarot, crystals, and so forth.

      There is an insular hatred such people develop because of the tension between their own twisted impossible beliefs and the factual world. They are exactly like Drumpf supporters in believing the whole world is against them and in being completely insensible to rational discourse.

      “I don’t think they really represent a broad constituency.”

      Agreed, but they attract far to many for comfort.

      The modern world has the problem of scope. With seven billion plus running around, if only 0.01% (one-thousandth of one percent) find it attractive, that’s still 70,000 people.

      “And yet the number of deaths from say, traffic accidents, or smoking, massively exceeds deaths from terrorism.”

      Yes, very true. People generally suck at risk assessment. I ran into this big time when I was into skydiving. People are scared to death to jump out of a plane, but think nothing of driving to and from the dropzone.

      But statistically, by a huge margin, it’s the drive that’ll kill you. (It’s hard to compare apples and oranges, but “per dive” analysis shows that many more people die SCUBA diving than skydiving.)

      “Maybe this could be solved by having experts appear on the news and explain risk?”

      We can’t convince them the world is warming up despite very clear and present direct physical evidence. The problem is a brand of willful stupidity. (The same sort of thing that leads to religious insanity.)

      In this country, people are explicitly rejecting the experts. It’s actually become a pejorative term! (Which is exactly how ignorance and willful stupidity push back the light.)

      It’s the old saw about the horse and the water. The trick is finding a way to make the horse thirsty.

      “Perhaps modern news reporting is half the problem?”

      Oh, very, very, very, very much so!

      • Steve Morris

        “It was very weird bouncing back and forth between the coverage of the bombings and the game!”
        Yeah, I actually skipped all that baseball stuff. 🙂

        “there also is an element of religious insanity”
        Yes, that’s a truly toxic combination. I actually think that religion might be the cure for these people. If regular Islam could draw them back, they could become normal citizens again. De-radicalization, in other words.

        “more people die SCUBA diving than skydiving”
        Yes both feel scary. It’s not always easy to assess risk.

        “In this country, people are explicitly rejecting the experts”
        Have faith! Not everyone voted for Trump!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I actually skipped all that baseball stuff.”

        XD But it’s the yang to the other stuff’s yin!

        “I actually think that religion might be the cure for these people.”

        Interesting point! I agree; that could work.

        I want to learn more about Islam. I took a class in college, but I don’t remember much of it. I’d like to understand to what extent, or not, it really is militant. I’ve heard arguments both ways, but obviously arguments from a strong point of view.

        It strikes me that Islam is young religion — starting in the early 7th century according to Wiki. When Christianity was young, it was also capable of being very militant (Spanish Inquisition (which no one expects), The Crusades, even burnings of witches).

        Maybe part of it is that Islam still needs to grow up. It’s trying to be an ancient religion in a modern world. Christianity (and Judaism) have had a longer lead time in reconciling (or trying to reconcile) doctrine with modern life.

        (And to be blunt and very clear: Any religion that insists on living in the stone age should be abolished from the surface of the Earth, IMO.)

        “Yes both feel scary.”

        Between skydiving and SCUBA, generally yes.

        Although the casual attitude shown at some resorts towards inexperienced guests SCUBA diving is one reason the fatality rates are higher. Many people don’t see them as equally scary. SCUBA is just swimming; how bad can it get? (Very. Fatally.) But jumping out of a (perfectly good) airplane? That’s fucking crazy.

        One reason skydiving is so safe is the recognition of how crazy dangerous it really is. People are very, very careful. It’s SOP to be inspecting everyone else’s rig on the way up (and they’re all checking out yours). Of course, you’ve checked your own several times before even getting on the plane.

        I was contrasting the perception of danger between the skydiving and the driving to and from the dropzone. You are far more likely to be injured or killed driving than you are skydiving.

        But people take driving trivially. Their risk assessment is way outta wack on that one! 😀

        “Have faith! Not everyone voted for Trump!”

        True. The GOP is a minority party in the USA, and Drumpf pretty consistently seems to be supported by about only 35% of them. Conventional logic — ha! — says he gets creamed in the general election.

        But he’s hardly the only symptom of the problem; he’s just a really visible one. (And one likely to affect the rest of the world.)

        There is also the matter of the Barrel of Wine and the Barrel of Sewage. A little bit of shit goes a long way, and shit usually wins.

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