The cave painters understood, just as Sun Tzu, Ben Franklin, and Georges Danton did, that effective communications (deployed using available technology) can realize extraordinary results. The Founding Fathers of the United States would have thrilled to the amplification and resonance realized by the advent of social media. I rather like the idea of #freedom having a permanent hashtag, equally so #4July, Tienanmen, Bastille, and so forth. Freedom has always required eloquence and foot soldiers – words only inspire, there has always been the need for those willing to be cannon fodder, to risk their very lives to foster the change. As Tacitus recognized speaking out against the sated complacency of the status quo can be both dangerous and necessary.
It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.
To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
~ Gaius Cornelius Tacitus c. 56 – c.117 AD (various translations)
And so, in this moment, Bulgaria, Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Tibet… and, also a world standing up to right the imbalances and ills which plague all of us – human trafficking, climate change, neonicotinoids, fracking, water and food (in)security, avarice, sectarian violence, violence against women, violence against our planet. Violence seems thematic and, I hate it. I believe in something purer. Something of the truest nature of our being, of consciousness and love.
Two evenings’ ago I had the blessing of sharing Fourth of July celebrations with my neighbors Cliff and Jennilee and her boyfriend Tim. And this, like a handful of 4 July celebrations standing out in my memory for being truly extraordinary, also involved baseball.
Come with me to Fenway Park, home of my beloved Boston Red Sox and attend a game many years ago now with my friend Juan Carlos, a Cuban émigré (via Hungary and Canada) now American citizen, and his Cuban brother-in-law. Here you ‘feel’ a 100 years (Fenway opened in 1912) of fellow spectators squeezed, layered together in the love of the game. The cherished Green Monster looms. The smell of baseball lingers—Cracker Jack©, hot dogs, ice cream and peanuts. Dads with their kids. “Cold beer here” chanted over and over to the point that even if you don’t really want one, you need one to complete your place in the montage. There is NO PLACE in America that resonates so sublimely about all that is great about this game and our country as Fenway Park on a bright blue day in July. When the Star-Spangled Banner played my eyes fill with tears of gratitude to be in this place with a man who took enormous risk to be able to sit here. Humbled to be born here and not have to claw my way, the long way around, to home. The seats, far closer to the field than Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones enjoyed in Field of Dreams© are along the first base line, sunshine spills over us, I can hear in my head the refrain of a pitch perfect soliloquy:
“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”
—James Earl Jones, as Terrence Mann, in Field of Dreams (1989)
But this evening I am watching baseball played between the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. These three friends have ‘treated me’ given the dearth of my current finances for such pleasures. In 85 degree temperatures my neighbor Cliff kindly shares the coldest top two inches of his beer, which will help to give me a frightful hangover to recover from on 5 July. Behind us a family of dad, a physical stereotype of a US Marine but not actually, his mom, wife/mom and their three gorgeous kids file in, in front of us, four women and two men (also a family) sit. It is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l, harmonious energy which surrounds us. In truth it is as perfect as it can possibly be, it is also humbling. That too much of this perfection is taken for granted by all those 10,000+ people present. I feel it, but intellectually come to understand this as the evening unfolds. I discover that the father of the dad escaped Eastern Europe by jumping from a moving train taking him to a work camp during the Communist era following World War II. From the family in front of me, the father in his late 80’s was among the Allied Forces at Normandy.
As fireworks light the clear night sky I find myself transported back to 1995 where I once stood on the flight deck of a United States Navy aircraft carrier a (rare, non-family member) guest on a July 4th Tiger Cruise. With absolute reverent silence amongst the more than 6,000 of us onboard, engines cut, that huge ship slipped into port in Norfolk, VA and, as our colors were solemnly struck, Lee Greenwood’s voice came over the public address system singing his anthem of God Bless the U.S.A. and my throat clenched, eyes filled, as it does now. The earmark of the evening is as the family behind us files out each of the children, encouraged in advance by their parents, stop to express their thanks to our World War II veteran. I cry harder as our elder neighbor, one of the diminishing numbers of The Greatest Generation, is so honored.
To all the “foot soldiers” who offer themselves as an instrument of disruption and change, whose efforts to make human dignity a real truth and who protect our planet with both passionate rhetoric and sometimes physical violence – my every gratitude and blessing.
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