Tag Archives: talk radio

Baseball, Perspective and Life

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Well my friends Opening Day is upon us after a long and at times brutal winter, and for that I am glad. So tonight after a very long day moving furniture and books getting ready for the contractors to come and install the tile on my living room floor I am basically doing a re-run but not calling it that. I was working on another article but it is too late and I am too tied to finish it, so I am reprising this article from 2011. Have a great night and catch you tomorrow.

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.” Bill “Spaceman” Lee

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a funny guy. A Major League pitcher who has long since retired Lee somehow in an often convoluted way was able to keep things in perspective. I love this quote because it is a reminder that a lot of the stuff that we take very seriously in the long run isn’t that important. In fact it reminds of just how little control we have and why it is such an exercise in futility to be anxious and worry about things that we cannot control. I’m pretty sure that Jesus had a word or two about this as well which his disciples thought was important enough to put in the Gospels.

Anyway, last night was another night where for the most part I took the night off from looking at the news about Japan and Libya. I watched for a while as I ate dinner and did laundry but when I began to put my platform bed together I decided I didn’t need to keep listening to newscasters, commentators, talking heads, politicians and pundits as they pondered, puzzled and piddled about the problems of the day. Let’s face it unless big news breaks in the middle of any news channels’ programming it is all the same information being repeated repeatedly by people who many times are paid huge amounts of money to sound ignorant. I guess that it beats real work. Oh well I have continued to take a mental break from this things because they will be there in the morning and will probably be worse than they are now. But to paraphrase what I said last night what is going on now needs to be kept in perspective because this nation and the world have been throw worse during the 20th Century then we are going through now.

Since I wrote about some of those things in my last essay night I won’t re-hash them. But I will say that our media machine both the old established media and the new media are the greatest producers of anxiety that the world has ever seen. These people have created an industry where news is packaged to create anxiety and keep views hooked wondering what terrible calamity will befall them, because if it happened somewhere else it will probably happen here too even if all the facts on the ground are different. David Brinkley said it well when talking about television news: “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were.” Thus even hypothetical issues become objects which are used to drive up anxiety, anger and fear and I think that pundits of all types and stripes are the worst offenders in this. It is simply shameful but I digress.

If we look at American History we see that while the media since day one has promoted anxiety and fear in one form or another that we have for the most part been able to keep things in perspective. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” he was absolutely on the money. Our problem today is that we live in a world where our ability to communicate information especially about bad things both real and imagined exceeds both our ability to absorb it and to cognitively and emotionally respond to any real threat vice the imagined threats. Branch Rickey once said “thinking about the Devil is worse than seeing the Devil.”

In such a tumultuous environment it is hard to keep to keep events in perspective. As I said in my previous article I was tired from hearing the constant barrage of bad news. Now I am pretty good about keeping perspective but even if I can cognitively deal with the news it can be hard to maintain a non-anxious presence if I am being constantly bombarded with disasters and tragedies of the magnitude that we have witnessed the past several weeks. Thus I turned off the news and put on baseball movies and decided to do the same last night.

Since I am tying baseball into the whole issue of keeping one’s perspective I want to mention the great baseball comedies Major League and Bull Durham. While they are comedies told through the lens of baseball they are great movies about life and keeping one’s perspective. I love both of these movies, they are not the emotional and spiritual tales like Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game they are great in using the medium of a baseball comedy to give life lessons.

Major League deals with a Cleveland Indians team that has not won a world series in over 40 years and whose owner is trying to lose so many games that she can move the team to Miami. The team is made up of has been players, cast offs and rookies of uncertain ability and maturity. In the movie which was set before the Indians renaissance of the 1990s dealt with a losing team that the owner purposely built to lose, but finds its pride to spite their nefarious owner and win the American League East. The character that I can relate to is the old catcher called up from the Mexican League, Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger who is the field leader of the team helping the young players to mature while holding the Indians together as they go through difficult times and then go on to win the East against the Yankees and in the process rediscover a love that was lost due to his own mistakes.

Bull Durham is another one of my favorites and once again my favorite character is the journeyman catcher, Crash Davis played by Kevin Costner who is sent back to “A” Ball to assist a young pitcher named Eby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh played by Tim Robbins. In the process Crash helps LaLoosh, assists his teammates as they go through hard times and discovers love even at the end of his playing career.

What I like about these films is how they show how to keep perspective in life. In the movies both Jake Taylor and Crash Davis are guys on the down side of their careers. They play on losing teams which they help lead back into contention and help the young players mature into winners. They simply concentrate in the things that they can influence.

Of course baseball is taken deep into the future in Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

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The way I figure is that in life we can worry about stuff that we can’t control and ignore the things and people around us that really matter that we can have some influence upon and that is not just a baseball thing. That is a life thing; it is a faith thing and a relational thing. Are these characters perfect examples? By no means, they are regular guys in situations that are not the greatest to be in and they make mistakes, sometimes on the field and a lot of time in relationships. That is why I think that they are good examples; they are real not some kind of untouchable perfect hero. I can relate to guys like that.

I know that I’m a Mendoza Line* kind of guy in a lot of ways. I’m a journeyman who has been able to be successful enough to hang around a long time in my chosen profession. I think that is how I keep my perspective, I’ve been around long enough to make lots of mistakes, experience a lot of bad times and having come through a really bad time after Iraq realize that no matter what happens things will work out. That was like being in a major slump but somehow despite everything I made it through those hard times.

So when I now talk about keeping perspective on life I talk about it from a vantage point of having failed in different ways but also having succeeded in others sometimes even in the same endeavor. So my perspective is now I know that I can’t control what is happening in all the world’s crisis points or for that matter almost anything, I need to take care of the people and things that I have a little bit up influence upon.

I think that is a lesson that baseball teaches us. It teaches us that so much of life is beyond our control and that just because everything isn’t okay doesn’t mean that we need to live in fear and in a constant state of anxiety. As Walt Whitman so eloquently put it “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Peace

Padre Steve+
*The Mendoza Line is named after Mario Mendoza who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit for a career batting average of .215 and the Mendoza Line is considered to be a .200 average which is the line below which players can pretty much be assured that they will not remain in the Major Leagues.

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A Break from Hate

It is all too easy in a divided country and a world in crisis to succumb to hate. Hate is easily stirred up by what I call the Unholy Trinity of Pundits, Politicians and Preachers. This Unholy Trinity uses the tools of the 24 hour cable news cycle and internet “news” services that are little more than the mouthpieces for foul ideologues to promote lies and propaganda across the political and religious spectrum. This is not limited to the United States but is now a world wide industry. The cycle of hate seems to be unending.

I wrote last night about those that pour gasoline on an already blazing fire. It was actually my second attempt to write the piece. I had started on Tuesday night was the news of the attacks on the American Embassy and Consulate began to unfold. I became very angry at both the attackers as well as the producers of the film that at least sparked the violence in Egypt. I actually began to feel hate toward the extremists of all kinds that thrive on this, the media that uses it for market share and certain politicians that try to gain a cheap political advantage of an unfolding crisis where American lives are at stake.

I find that those that trigger my anger the most are religious zealots or all types, but mostly those of my own faith that promote hate and fear in the name of Jesus. Religious hatred is perhaps the most evil hatred because those that spew it actually believe that God agrees with them. God is the ultimate trump card for such ideologues.

I am not going to go back into the embassy and consulate story now, but I began to write about it on Tuesday night. As I wrote I became more and more angry. I felt what Darth Vader so well described as “the power of the Dark Side.” My words were becoming venomous and I was becoming livid. Then I stopped writing realizing that something wasn’t right in me, I was being consumed by hatred of those that promote hate and so I just stopped and pondered what was going on with me.

I did a complete re-write of that article last night after I had spent some time getting more information about the attacks and then talking about the issue with someone that I trust. He told me something that I already knew, that unbridled hatred is poisonous and not only toward those that it is directed, but to those consumed by it. Since coming back from Iraq and dealing with PTSD I have had to deal with a lot of anger and many times I have felt hate rise up in me. It is a frightening thing to feel “the power of the Dark Side.”

Hatred is the fruit of fear. Buck O’Neal the legendary Negro League Baseball player and manager said “It makes no sense, Hate. It’s just fear. All it is. Fear something different. Something’s gonna get taken from you, Stolen from you. Find yourself lost.”

So today I have tried to unplug from the news cycle. I got a good workout in. I listened to music rather than talk radio in the car. I went to a local restaurant’s bar for a salad and a couple of beers with the old timer locals that hang out there. I spent time reading, watching baseball and walking the dog to the beach and back rather than surfing news sites or watching cable news pundits.

I needed it and since I will be traveling tomorrow I will get another chance to stay mostly unplugged for another day, and probably most of the weekend as Molly my dog and I go home to see Judy and Minnie our puppy. Maybe if we all took a day off once in a while from the propaganda mills of all forms that masquerade as news outlets we could step away from the abyss that our individual and collective is driving us over.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under christian life, faith, News and current events, Political Commentary, PTSD, Religion

Rushing to Irrelevance: Rush Limbaugh’s Free Market Problem

Rush Limbaugh has been the dominant force in conservative media for the past two decades.  His show the Rush Limbaugh Show is aired on over 600 radio stations across the country.  His show reaches and estimated 15-20 millions listeners not including those that listen to the show through web streaming or view his website.  His influence is such that very few Republican politicians dare to take him on or criticize him.

He is no stranger to controversy and seems to revel in it seldom apologizing for what he says and he has easily survived all previous controversies. Many liberals have called for him to be removed from the air joining their voices with those of his supporters creating the perfect cacophony of free publicity that drew in even more listeners and with them more advertisers.  For years his format and attitude worked well and launched a format that would see men like Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck to join him in catering to a segment of the population that is angry about the way that they feel the nation is moving.

However things have been changing over the last few years. Demographic surveys of Rush’s listeners show that he is declining in popularity in every demographic except for listeners over 65 years old. That said Rush and his fellow conservative talkers are still very popular but that could be changing especially in light of Limbaugh’s ill advised three day trashing of Sandra Fluke.  In the wake of that advertisers have been pulling out in droves, as of last night something close to 150 advertisers including major corporations have pulled advertising from Limbaugh’s show. Additionally Premier Radio which markets the show has pulled national advertising in what are called “barter” ads from the show for two weeks. Those ads are required if a station wants to air the show for free, thus making the show more affordable for local stations to air.  This does not bode well for Limbaugh as for the first time he is having “dead air” when no advertising is running in breaks and ironically much of the advertising now running is government sponsored public service announcements.  Companies telling Premier that they do not want to advertise on Rush or other programs “deemed to be offensive or controversial” include Auto Manufacturers GM, Ford and Toyota, Insurance companies such as Geico, Allstate, Prudential and State Farm; Banks like Capitol One and Restaurants such as McDonald’s and Subway.  Those are all heavy hitters and the impact of losing such advertising cannot be discounted.  Limbaugh’s claim that the numbers as compared to all of his other advertisers is “like losing a couple of french fries out of the french fry cup at the drive through” is so much bluster. Advertisers, Premier Media and local stations are concerned about the financial impact on them.

Bain Capitol, Mitt Romney’s old company may even have a deciding role having bought Clear Channel Radio, which is a subsidiary of Premier a few years back. They have trimmed costs and cut personnel at the media giant and may not be happy over the amount of money that they could lose as advertisers flee and stations drop Limbaugh’s show.

There are some liberal politicians calling for Limbaugh’s show to be shut down and lawyer Gloria Alred has even urged Florida to charge Limbaugh with a crime under an old law which makes it illegal to question a woman’s honor by calling them prostitutes or sluts and other such slurs.  Others are calling for his show to be pulled from Armed Forces Radio for the latest incident.  If the Left is smart it will let Limbaugh stew in the boiling pot of the angry free market and refrain from doing things to make him appear to be some sort of free speech martyr, which he is not.  It is fine to criticize him and even satirize him but smart thinkers don’t create martyrs out of people who are not.  Speaking of satire Saturday Night Live did a great opening last week with a Limbaugh parody reacting to his loss of advertisers.

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/rush-limbaugh-cold-open/1389919

Personally I don’t think that Limbaugh or any other talker should be shut down or censored except as the free market dictates.  Advertisers and listeners need to be the ones making those decisions. As for Armed Forces Radio it broadcasts shows from across the political spectrum so as long as there is balance he shouldn’t be pulled unless another similar show is aired in his place.

In the long run the market will decide if Limbaugh or others like him remain on the air or if people will change their listening habits. Perhaps this will result in local stations going back to finding local talent to host shows.  One reason that so many nationally syndicated shows including Limbaugh’s are one so many stations is because they were cheaper to run and brought in advertising dollars. However if the advertising dollars dry up and the costs to run syndicated shows outweighs local programing I would imagine a renaissance in local programing of various types to include political talk radio.  One of the more interesting local talkers that I have heard is Tony Macrini who broadcasts the morning show on WNIS 790 AM in Norfolk, I don’t always agree with him but he is entertaining, and deals with both local and national issues.

It could well be that this type of programming is running its course. Limbaugh has been on the air 23 years and others like him a decade or more. I cannot speak for others as everyone has their own reasons for listening to or not listening to a given radio or television program.  But I can say that I listened to Rush and others like him for years going back to when I first heard Rush in the DFW area in 1990.  However after I came back from Iraq in 2008 I found that I could no longer listen. Part was because what Rush and others were saying about the war bore no resemblance to what I saw and experienced. Part was when Rush had the nerve to call a soldier that was an Iraq veteran that disagreed with his view of the war a “phony soldier” in 2007 showed me that despite all of his “support” for the troops it was only for those that agreed with him and part was that the shrillness of his rhetoric in the 2008 Presidential election was a deciding factor.  It was as if he and others were inciting Americans to hate each other and having seen what such political, racial and religious hatred did to societies in Iraq and the Balkans I realized that I could no longer listen.

I figure that Limbaugh will survive this but think that his influence will really begin to wane. I expected before this that as his listener demographics changed that he would lose influence but this incident may speed that decline in a way that nobody expected.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word: Rush Limbaugh “Apologizes”

It’s sad, so sad

It’s a sad, sad situation

And it’s getting more and more absurd

It’s sad, so sad

Why can’t we talk it over

Oh it seems to me

That sorry seems to be the hardest word

After making a complete ass of himself in making personal attacks on a Georgetown Law School student named Sandra Fluke.  She testified before Congress regarding the provision of women’s contraceptives by insurance companies, including those that cover employees of ancillary organizations belonging to religious institutions.

Limbaugh called Ms Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” saying “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Of course that was not the content of Ms. Fluke’s testimony which focused on married women working at the University who needed the medications for conditions not related to contraception, something that is not uncommon. Limbaugh instead decided to attack the character of Ms. Fluke.  But this has become par for the course for Limbaugh who uses his show not just to confront his opponents but to humiliate and silence them.  I listened to his show regularly from the late 1980s until I returned from Iraq. It was then I realized just how abusive his tactics are and in the summer of 2008 I stopped listening to his program.

I guess what bothers me is that though Limbaugh is arguably one of the most talented radio personalities who has ever lived and certainly the most influential on the American political scene that he has become a bully. Limbaugh’s talent, especially his ability to use satire used to be humorous when directed at those in power has become a bludgeon to silence those without power as he has become a figure that Republicans are afraid to confront because he is the most influential Republican in the country.

Limbaugh has made personal attacks before, mocking Michael J. Fox who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease in 2006 for advocating for funding of Stem Cell research; calling a Iraq combat Veteran and career soldier and other soldiers who criticized the war as “phony soldiers.” I was in Iraq at the time and happened to hear about those comments in between missions in Al Anbar Province.  I found both episodes to be reprehensible.

With his rise in power has come a rise in vitriol and a hubris that comes from being so powerful and until this week unchallenged. Limbaugh has beaten up all comers and only on exceedingly rare occasions has issued “apologies” for his remarks.

What brought about this apology was not the criticism from Republican political candidates or elected officials.  There was little to speak of in that regard, however money talks even when politicians and fellow pundits refuse to do so. Limbaugh lost seven major advertisers in the past several days one of whom, David Friend the CEO of the online computer security and backup firm Carbonite said:

“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”

The only major figure in conservative media of any substance to condemn the lack of response by conservative politicians and candidates was George Will who said “Boehner comes out and says Rush’s language was inappropriate. Using the salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate. Not this stuff,…And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

Ron Paul did comment about the apology telling CBS’s Bob Schieffer “He’s doing it because some people were taking their advertisements off of his program,…. It was his bottom line he was concerned about.”

I completely agree with Will and Paul. If Limbaugh wanted to attack the policies he disagrees with that is one thing. Certainly there is room for debate on this issue as in all issues facing this country. If Limbaugh wants to attack those in political power with whom that he disagrees even in a personal matter, that is similar.  However to attack a women, a law student at that in this personal, insidious, crude, ungentlemanly and even I might say un-Christian manner is something that he should be condemned for doing.

As for me I wonder what Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan would think of the man whom many call the intellectual and philosophical leader of conservatism. I don’t think that any would have much good to say at the level that Limbaugh has sunk to in this latest episode.

The irony is that Limbaugh is working on his fourth marriage and has had to deal with addiction to prescription drugs and accused of doctor shopping. He also was detained by Drug Enforcement officials at Palm Beach International Airport returning from the Dominican Republic in 2006 for having Viagra which was not prescribed in his name. Limbaugh had the nerve to attack the character of a woman speaking for something that is legal.  What has conservatism sunk to?

The last irony is that at his last marriage ceremony Limbaugh had Elton John provide the entertainment. I guess that the title of Elton John’s classic “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” is in reality the theme of Limbaugh’s public persona.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Heresy of Thinking and Reason in an Age of Fanaticism

Note: I felt the need to republish this article in light of so many of the controversies that have been in the news lately, especially because some of the visceral reactions that I see from so many people about them. I just hope that people take the time to try to get as much of each story and controversy possible, examine them in the light of history and reason before jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions. The fact is that many of us do precisely this and that is in large part due to how terribly divided we are. However, that being said there is seldom any issue that is totally clear, most actually are quite opaque and clouded in the fog of many shades of gray, and what history teaches us is that we need to be careful before jumping to conclusions.

Peace

Padre Steve+

“Unreason and anti-intellectualism abominate thought. Thinking implies disagreement; and disagreement implies nonconformity; and nonconformity implies heresy; and heresy implies disloyalty. So, obviously, thinking must be stopped. But shouting is not a substitute for thinking and reason is not the subversion but the salvation of freedom.” Adlai Stevenson – A Call to Greatness (1954)

I had a Church History professor in seminary who was known for his attention to detail and his expectation that his students would master the subject.  His method was quite simple. A fellow student asked him during review for a mid-term exam “what do we need to study for the test?”  His answer was simple “everything.” The student restated his question “what do we really need to know?”  My professor paused and made a comment that did not make the student very happy.  He said something that I paraphrase here “it is the details that enable you to see the big picture, without the details you know nothing.”

A good number of my fellow students did not appreciate the fact that he was deadly serious.  It was not simply the ability to remember names and dates and events but to be able to connect them and see what was really important.  Many did not take him seriously and when the test came many failed it.  In fact some continued to fail every exam because they could not reconcile that details were important. The attitude of a good number of my classmates was that history, philosophy or even systematic theology were not important especially if they involved study of people or ideas that they did not agree with.

Unfortunately we now live in an age of anti-intellectualism and anti-historicism. Instead of trying to figure out what is really important and studying the details of the great questions of our day we have become lazy. We simply fall back on the dogmas presented by the Unholy Trinity of Pundits, Politicians and Preachers that cater to our ideology for reassurance.  And they are quite good at co. If you listen to talk radio or are a devoted fan of any particular cable news pundit you can see this on display daily and even more so by our political leaders and those seeking political power. What is presented by the Unholy Trinity is at best half-truth sprinkled with deadly venom of hatred to make the half-truth an absolute truth.  In such a world facts are only important if the “true believer” can use them buttress his ideological bias even if he has to take the completely out of context to in order to do so.  It is so much easier to call an opponent a Communist or Nazi, Fascist or Imperialist, Unbeliever or Heretic and connect them to the evil we want to demonize them as than it is to actually,  engage in a truthful debate and to see things in their historical context. Likewise when we use such labels against those that disagree with us we dehumanize our opponents thereby justifying any evil that we use to silence them.

It seems that we presume that if we repeat what we believe enough, even if it is unsound or erroneous that it will become truth.  As individuals, governments, institutions and businesses we settle for the easy answers that agree with our presuppositions and dismiss opposing views as heresy.  We allow people of little learning but great charm and salesmanship ability sell us myth in place of fact and this happens across the political, social, economic and theological spectrum.

The past few days I have been talking about the study of history as well as ways of learning.  The little things do matter, and the study of history, philosophy, theology, the sciences, economics in fact anything of any importance is based on understanding details, and things like precedent and context.  It is not enough to string together a series of quotations or citations if they are taken out of context, altered or intentionally misused to fit our ideology or doctrine.

This may comfort the true believer in whatever cause and even make them feel superior to those that disagree but such thinking. But it blind them to reality and not conscious of their own envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. The “wall of words” that flow so easily from the mouths and pens of the members of the Unholy Trinity that the faithful are unable to separate them from reality, truth from fiction, opinion from fact.  This “wall of words” serves as their protection against any thought, fact, presumption or doctrine that contradicts them.  John F Kennedy said “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” 

In such times it is important to take the time to learn from history, not just generalities that mix fact and myth but the little details that make up history and for that matter the sciences, philosophy, sociology, political thought and theology.  As a society we have ceased to do this and until we take the time to return to such study, dialogue and put aside our blinders we will be doomed to remain as we are no matter what political party is in power or ideology dominates the airwaves and cyber space.

There is a prayer that neatly sums up what I desire for me and for our society:

From the cowardice that dares not face new truth
From the laziness that is contented with half truth
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Be Careful…there is a point of no return and we may have crossed it

Be careful with your thoughts because they turn into words

Be careful with your words because they turn into actions

Be careful with your actions because they turn into habits

Be careful with your habits because they become your character

Be careful with your character because it defines you 

Ezra Taft Benson (former Secretary of Agriculture) quoted by Buck O’Neil

On Wednesday night I took a walk about our Nation’s Capitol.  It was a beautiful night and the buildings and monuments were illuminated in the most spectacular ways.  It was inspiring in a sense to see them, symbols of the greatness of the country and the people how sacrificed themselves to build it.  I can understand why so many millions of people have come to this country from all over the world to become Americans and be part of our dream.

In fact I became so engrossed I taking pictures that night that in the darkness I did not see an unilluminated ledge not far from theWashingtonMonument.  I fell from it onto the waiting sidewalk below and crunched my right leg pretty bad.  I had it checked out and x-rayed at the Naval Health Clinic at Joint Base Little Creek when I returned to Virginia. The doctor assumes that there is a good chance that I have a hairline fracture of either my tibia or fibula just below the knee and I am being referred for further tests when I return to Camp LeJeune Monday.  Until then I am on crutches and pain meds.

I fell over the ledge that I had no idea was where it was.  It was inadvertent and even when I got up and looked at it I had a hard time making it out.  However there are those in the country including many in the political leadership and media that seem to want us to go over a cliff because they perceive that it helps them and their agenda.  They see the ledge and they know the danger but they unfortunately enabled by “we” press on to the abyss.

For many years the political ideologues on the extremes of the Left and the Right in the United States have harbored the worst thoughts about those that do not match up with their ideologies. I have been writing for quite some time about how divided our body politic is and how dangerous the situation has become.

The contemptuous thoughts of the Left for the Right and Right for the Left first turned to words and those words became commonplace, so common that they became habitual.  In a sense they have become part of the political DNA of the most extreme among us.

The attitudes that we have formed and angry words which we now use so ubiquitously are reflective of a deep hatred that now is becoming what defines us as a people.  In fact the deep and abiding hatred which now permeates our society is now threatening the international standing and I would say the national security of the United States.  We have only ourselves to blame because through our actions and inactions of the past decade we have made our choice to be what we have become and there is no one group especially in our political, media and business elites that have served us well.  In fact we have as voters chosen this toxic mix of elected officials often more influenced by hate spewing pundits and our own self interests rather than that of the nation and future generations much as we would like to claim that we are looking out for the future.

We have chosen badly and we are paying for it.  We are being held hostage by those that we elected, men and women who supposedly know better than to destroy the country in order to save it as was about the village of Bien Tre in the Vietnam War… “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.” The Left and right have racked up massive debt over the past decade which has made previous debt pale in significance.  Each like to blame one another as “mostly to blame” but each has a major part of the responsibility for the mess that we are in.  However the amazing thing is that neither side nor we the electorate seems to be able to hold ourselves responsible.

Without going into the whole debt ceiling debacle which now has us on the edge of a default which we can only pray will not be as bad as real economists around the world say it will be; the fact is that we have made the mess and now our leaders are failing us. I have to say that all of them have used this made up crisis to some extent to further their goals and agendas at the expense of the country.  That is a shame and our elected leaders of all parties and factions are at fault and it comes back to character, theirs and ours.

You see it is about more than the budget or the debt ceiling. It is about hatred of fellow Americans which has been preached by hypocritical ideologues for decades on the radio, television and now the internet.  Much of it is as raw, hateful and disingenuous propaganda disguised as “news” as was Julius Streicher’s Nazi Der Sturmer and the Communist Party Die Rote Fahne were in Weimar Germany.  That poison has infected us and most of us line up on one side of the propaganda machine or the other.  We know what happened to the Weimar Republic, racked by bills it could not pay, massive unemployment brought on by the Great Depression and a desperate population led by politicians that intentionally used their misery to derail the efforts of government after government to try to manage the crisis.  They ended up with Hitler, the head of a large and vocal political movement which refused to compromise with anyone to bring down the Republic that they hated.

Whatever happens in regard to the debt ceiling and future budget negotiations the damage has been done.  The soul of our nation and our national character has been damaged perhaps irreparably.  Our leaders hate each other and the most influential media in the country, the talk radio and cable news pundits of all stripes throw gasoline on the fire every day. The social and political anarchy will reign until one side or the other has crushed their opposition.  Those in the middle lose either way as they will be crushed by whichever side wins unless they ally themselves with the winning side no matter who it is.

History teaches us that such times are at best tumultuous and at worst cataclysmic.  The consequences when great nations engage in such political fratricide it usually has grave consequences that effect it as well as nations and peoples far beyond its borders.

It is time for everyone to take a step back from the abyss before we plunge headlong into something that we will regret which will only benefit those that seek to benefit from it.  Or are we too stupid to see what is happening?

Thoughts, words, habits, character….be careful.

God help us all

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Political Commentary

Baseball and Life: The Importance of Perspective

It’s all about Perspective

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.” Bill “Spaceman” Lee

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a funny guy. A Major League pitcher who has long since retired Lee somehow in an often convoluted way was able to keep things in perspective.  I love this quote because it is a reminder that a lot of the stuff that we take very seriously in the long run isn’t that important. In fact it reminds of just how little control we have and why it is such an exercise in futility to be anxious and worry about things that we cannot control. I’m pretty sure that Jesus had a word or two about this as well which his disciples thought was important enough to put in the Gospels.

Anyway, last night was another night where for the most part I took the night off from looking at the news about Japan and Libya. I watched for a while as I ate dinner and did laundry but when I began to put my platform bed together I decided I didn’t need to keep listening to newscasters, commentators, talking heads, politicians and pundits as they pondered, puzzled and piddled about the problems of the day. Let’s face it unless big news breaks in the middle of any news channels’ programming it is all the same information being repeated repeatedly by people who many times are paid huge amounts of money to sound ignorant. I guess that it beats real work.  Oh well I have continued to take a mental break from this things because they will be there in the morning and will probably be worse than they are now. But to paraphrase what I said last night what is going on now needs to be kept in perspective because this nation and the world have been throw worse during the 20th Century then we are going through now.

Since I wrote about some of those things in my last essay night I won’t re-hash them. But I will say that our media machine both the old established media and the new media are the greatest producers of anxiety that the world has ever seen. These people have created an industry where news is packaged to create anxiety and keep views hooked wondering what terrible calamity will befall them, because if it happened somewhere else it will probably happen here too even if all the facts on the ground are different. David Brinkley said it well when talking about television news: “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were.” Thus even hypothetical issues become objects which are used to drive up anxiety, anger and fear and I think that pundits of all types and stripes are the worst offenders in this. It is simply shameful but I digress.

If we look at American History we see that while the media since day one has promoted anxiety and fear in one form or another that we have for the most part been able to keep things in perspective. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” he was absolutely on the money. Our problem today is that we live in a world where our ability to communicate information especially about bad things both real and imagined exceeds both our ability to absorb it and to cognitively and emotionally respond to any real threat vice the imagined threats. Branch Rickey once said thinking about the Devil is worse than seeing the Devil.”

In such a tumultuous environment it is hard to keep to keep events in perspective.  As I said in my previous article I was tired from hearing the constant barrage of bad news. Now I am pretty good about keeping perspective but even if I can cognitively deal with the news it can be hard to maintain a non-anxious presence if I am being constantly bombarded with disasters and tragedies of the magnitude that we have witnessed the past several weeks. Thus I turned off the news and put on baseball movies and decided to do the same last night.

Since I am tying baseball into the whole issue of keeping one’s perspective I want to mention the great baseball comedies Major League and Bull Durham. While they are comedies told through the lens of baseball they are great movies about life and keeping one’s perspective. I love both of these movies, they are not the emotional and spiritual tales like Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game they are great in using the medium of a baseball comedy to give life lessons.

Major League deals with a Cleveland Indians team that has not won a world series in over 40 years and whose owner is trying to lose so many games that she can move the team to Miami.  The team is made up of has been players, cast offs and rookies of uncertain ability and maturity. In the movie which was set before the Indians renaissance of the 1990s dealt with a losing team that the owner purposely built to lose, but finds its pride to spite their nefarious owner and win the American League East. The character that I can relate to is the old catcher called up from the Mexican League, Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger who is the field leader of the team helping the young players to mature while holding the Indians together as they go through difficult times and then go on to win the East against the Yankees and in the process rediscover a love that was lost due to his own mistakes.

Bull Durham is another one of my favorites and once again my favorite character is the journeyman catcher, Crash Davis played by Kevin Costner who is sent back to “A” Ball to assist a young pitcher named Eby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh played by Tim Robbins. In the process Crash helps LaLoosh, assists his teammates as they go through hard times and discovers love even at the end of his playing career.

What I like about these films is how they show how to keep perspective in life.  In the movies both Jake Taylor and Crash Davis are guys on the down side of their careers. They play on losing teams which they help lead back into contention and help the young players mature into winners. They simply concentrate in the things that they can influence.

The way I figure is that in life we can worry about stuff that we can’t control and ignore the things and people around us that really matter that we can have some influence upon and that is not just a baseball thing. That is a life thing; it is a faith thing and a relational thing. Are these characters perfect examples? By no means, they are regular guys in situations that are not the greatest to be in and they make mistakes, sometimes on the field and a lot of time in relationships. That is why I think that they are good examples; they are real not some kind of untouchable perfect hero. I can relate to guys like that.

I know that I’m a Mendoza Line* kind of guy in a lot of ways. I’m a journeyman who has been able to be successful enough to hang around a long time in my chosen profession. I think that is how I keep my perspective, I’ve been around long enough to make lots of mistakes, experience a lot of bad times and having come through a really bad time after Iraq realize that no matter what happens things will work out. That was like being in a major slump but somehow despite everything I made it through those hard times.

So when I now talk about keeping perspective on life I talk about it from a vantage point of having failed in different ways but also having succeeded in others sometimes even in the same endeavor.  So my perspective is now I know that I can’t control what is happening in all the world’s crisis points or for that matter almost anything, I need to take care of the people and things that I have a little bit up influence upon.

I think that is a lesson that baseball teaches us. It teaches us that so much of life is beyond our control and that just because everything isn’t okay doesn’t mean that we need to live in fear and in a constant state of anxiety.  As Walt Whitman so eloquently put it “I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Tonight is another baseball and life movie night with Game 6. The film stars Michael Keaton who plays an actor struggling with cancer, divorce and his relationship with his teenage daughter. He is a diehard Red Sox fan during the 1986 World Series. If time permits I’ll see what else I have on the shelf.

Peace

Padre Steve+
*The Mendoza Line is named after Mario Mendoza who played for the Pittsburg Pirates. He hit for a career batting average of .215 and the Mendoza Line is considered to be a .200 average which is the line below which players can pretty much be assured that they will not remain in the Major Leagues.

 

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Filed under Baseball, faith, philosophy, sports and life