Tuesday, October 27, 2015

World Serious

Rivalries and grudges often take on mythic and irrational proportions. Sports, family, and politics would be three areas where many of us have seen the boundaries of civility and decency stretched by absolute unforgivable behavior.

We understand Red Sox vs. Yankees or Giants vs. Dodgers or insert other professional or college teams where the animosity between either the players or the fans (or both) is palpable. I have a few close friends who are Yankee fans and, frankly, it doesn't matter much to me. One friend, though, never congratulated me in 2004 when the Red Sox finally won another World Series after 86 years of cursed futility.

Politics is another potent area, red vs. blue. We all know people who have un-friended or stopped speaking to someone who disagreed with their tightly held beliefs. I was holding a 'Bush Stole the Presidency' poster at a rally in Fresno in 2001 in anticipation of Bush's presence at a fundraiser, and one man, after he found out I had been a teacher, said to me, "I wouldn't want you teaching my kids."

And there are as many stories of intolerant people on the other side as well. But where does this almost maniacal hostility come from?

I didn't talk to my mother for nearly three years after she'd done something that was inexcusable. I had to defend my family against her personal attacks. We made up and all, and she apologized, but I know families today where communication is done via attorneys or where people simply just don't talk.

Sports is another arena for our internecine rivalries to fester. A few years, two Dodger fans nearly stomped Brian Stow to death outside Dodger stadium after the Dodgers played the Giants. I once witnessed several fights break out at the old Yankee stadium when the Yankees faced the Red Sox on a warm summer night in 1978.

My father and I always say we are happy as long as the Yankees lose. Recently, when the Cubs played the Mets for the National League pennant, he and I spoke on the phone about which team we were rooting for.

"I'm rooting for the Cubs," I said. "I can't forgive the Mets for 1986 (even though the errors and bungles that led to the Mets winning in seven games fell squarely on the shoulders of the Red Sox)." Plus two of Verna's cousins, her first cousin, Jim, and his wife, Jessica, are avid Cubs fans. They live here but have season tickets, and they deserve to feel the sublime joy I felt three times in recent years.

"And I'm rooting for the Mets," my father laughed, "because of Theo Epstein (the former Red Sox general manager who bolted for Chicago) and Jon Lester (the former Red Sox ace whom they courted in free agency but signed with the Cubs)."

Obviously I am only touching on this subject in a very superficial manner. Rivalries on a geopolitical and sociological scale are often deadly. The tribal warfare in the Middle East, Israeli vs. Palestinian, Shiite vs. Sunni, carries crises that seem beyond intractable. And the same goes for gang bloodshed, where wearing even the wrong color could get you killed.

But in our daily lives we often opt for the petty and mean-spirited allegiance to a team, an ideology, a point of view, or something else that in the whole scheme of life should matter very little.

I attended an amazing 20-year reunion  this past Sunday and Monday of the Association of Personal Historians, and one of my former colleagues shared this powerful quote:

"An enemy is someone's story we have not heard."

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