In his book “Dealing,” author Terry Pluto detailed a pivotal moment in the rebuilding of the Cleveland Indians franchise. The team had begun rebuilding after a long period of prosperity, using young players and absorbing losing seasons in the process. The team adopted a vision statement that spoke of professionalism, positive attitudes and an “all for one” attitude. The message hung on the walls of the team’s offices and was a guiding principle for how the team conducted itself.
During this rebuilding process, General Manager Mark Shapiro acquired an incredible player named Milton Bradley (the fun line about him was “He’s a gamer!”). He was exactly what the Indians needed on the field: A young, inexpensive five-tool player who had unrelenting potential. Bradley was also a nightmare when it came to his personality. He was angry, brooding and virtually uncoachable. He had been suspended, reprimanded and more. In short, he was like riding a mechanical bull stuffed with TNT.
The situation came to a head in 2003 when Bradley lost his temper at his manager during a game. He screamed at skipper Eric Wedge, busted up the dugout, changed clothes in the clubhouse and took a cab home. Bradley had been told this was his last chance, so Wedge and Shapiro talked about what to do next. Wedge wanted Bradley gone, but Shapiro was concerned about losing the team’s best player. Wedge worried more about what this would say to the team as a whole if one set of rules applied to Bradley and another to the rest of the team. In his closing argument, Wedge pointed to the vision statement and told Shapiro:
“We could just take that thing off the wall.”
In other words, if we’re not going to do what we say we believe in, why bother having a vision statement at all?
Bradley was traded shortly after this. They lost a quality player but the Indians kept their soul.
It’s never easy to believe in something when it might actually cost you something. Theories are great, but actions are difficult and we as a people seem to be finding that out the hard way in this country. We like to say we’re “The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave,” but we haven’t been acting like it lately. The attacks on Paris have left us with little more than a new shade of color on our Facebook profile pictures and a “don’t hurt us next” attitude regarding Syrian refugees. The “bravery” we speak of is a false front that in one breath tells us that if we just have more guns, we’ll be able to fight off anything. In the next breath, we have people saying refugees can’t come here because, well, THEY might get one of those easy-access weapons we used to like…
We like to say we’re a melting pot of all people. But how do we square that circle with the 29 (and hopefully not counting) governors who have loudly declared that Syrians are not welcome in their states? Among those in the mix, is Adrastos’ Gret Stet leader Gov. Bobby Jindal, who noted, “We don’t want these refugees in our state.”
If only there were some kind of historical parallel involving Louisiana and the need to massively relocate people in a time of crisis that was not the direct result of these people’s actions and how people felt about them… Maybe then PBJ would be more easily able to see how important it is to have a place for people to go when disaster is befalling them on every front…
We are great at the idea that “all men are created equal,” although we’re also good at the “would you let your sister date one of them?” statements as well. We are fantastic at the origin story myths of “My great-grandfather came here from (Fill in the name of an oppressive shithole) and began a life for his family.” We’re even better at the “dirty, filthy Jose-Come-Latelies who will cram their low-riders with free healthcare” jingoism. When our families did it, it was called “coming to this country” but when other people want to do it, they’re “immigrants.”
(To be fair, not every group of people headed to our shores has the best of intentions. Castro famously claimed during the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980 that he had flushed the toilets of Cuba on the United States. If you watch the documentary “Cocaine Cowboys,” you get a pretty scary version of what happened after that.)
Theories are great, like the one posted on the base of the Statue of Liberty. A gift from France, the statue serves as a beacon to the nearly 4 million annual visitors who bask in the pride we feel about who we are. A bronze plaque mounted there reads, in part,
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It doesn’t have caveats or provide religious tests. It doesn’t say, “You must be at least THIS awesome to ride this country.” Instead, it welcomed all of us. It welcomed the English, the Irish, the Italians, the Germans, the Polish, the Czechs and more. It welcomed my great-grandfather and great-grandmother who met over here as “old maids” (they were in their early 20s) and spent the next 72 years married. It has endured generation after generation of Group A being suspicious of Group B’s arrival until Group B spent enough time here to become “normal.” Group B would then immediately become suspicious of the arrival of Group C…
If we don’t have enough food, shelter and work for these people who are seeking a better life, perhaps we can find enough empathy and courage to make up for it until we do.
If we are afraid they’ll get their hands on guns and other weapons, maybe we can start rethinking how we hand these things out like Halloween candy instead of barring the gates.
If we think that we’ve finally reached “maximum density” for our population, so much so that nothing from the outside can come in, maybe we could consider looking into a “king of the mountain” philosophy and start shedding some dead weight. (I’ll suggest Trump as a first cut…)
If we can’t do any of those things and let freedom ring a little bit around here, maybe we can at least take that thing off the wall.