For decades now, I’ve heard the U.S. compared to an adolescent, so short is our nation’s memory, so selfish our individualistic, competitive, materialist goals, and so utterly, blithely unheeding of short and long-term consequences. Meanwhile, the “American Dream” is getting harder to keep propped up. How many people are on anti-depressent meds? How many regularly drunk, stoned, or otherwise distracted? Obviously, we must come alive. But can we?
Here are two recent posts that demonstrate this disheartening perspective, both stunningly descriptive.
With lakes, swimming holes, rivers, and pools beckoning, I went to a sporting goods chain store at the mall — where else? — seeking a new bathing suit (pardon the quaint locution). The store was curiously named Dick’s. All they had were clown trunks. By this I mean a garment designed to hang somewhere around mid-calf, instantly transforming a normally-proportioned adult male into a stock slapstick character: the oafish man-child.
The religious reverie—repeated in sports arenas throughout the United States—is used to justify our bloated war budget and endless wars. Schools and libraries are closing. Unemployment and underemployment are chronic. Our infrastructure is broken and decrepit. And we will have paid a crippling $4 trillion for the useless and futile wars we waged over the last 13 years in the Middle East. But the military remains as unassailable as Jesus, or, among those who have season tickets at Fenway Park, the Red Sox. The military is the repository of our honor and patriotism. No public official dares criticize the armed forces or challenge their divine right to more than half of all the nation’s discretionary spending. And although we may be distrustful of government, the military—in the twisted logic of the American mind—is somehow separate.
The heroes of war and the heroes of sport are indistinguishable in militarized societies. War is sold to a gullible public as a noble game. Few have the athletic prowess to play professional sports, but almost any young man or woman can go to a recruiter and sign up to be a military hero. The fusion of the military with baseball, along with the recruitment ads that appeared intermittently Saturday on the television screens mounted on green iron pillars throughout Fenway Park, caters to this illusion: Sign up. You will be part of a professional team. We will show you in your uniform on the Jumbotron in Fenway Park. You will be a hero like Mike Napoli.