Tuesday, December 4, 2012
There are somewhere in the area of 2,000, two thousand, an outstanding number when you consider how relatively few men have played professional football, former NFL football players suing the National Football League for failure to address the physical and psychological damage the game has done to them. Many former football players have publicly stated that they will not encourage their sons to play football. Why? Because it is too brutal.
Too brutal. Yet we as a nation encourage this activity.
What does this say about us as that nation? It is not something we care to dwell upon. Should we dwell upon it, it might cause us to ask questions which we do not want to answer, let alone ask. Such questions which may cause us to ponder whether we ought to feel as we feel on Sunday afternoons in the fall in the good old U. S. of A.
We don't ask, because it will harsh our buzz. We just want to be entertained. If that means watching grown men possibly scaring themselves for life, even when freely choosing to do so, it's okay. We need that, it seems.
Do we also need former players so messed up that they will not watch the game, a la Mike Webster? Do we care about that? After all, they chose to go down that road. Is that our problem?
Yes, quite frankly, it is. When we as a society encourage young men to behave that way, it is our problem. Their lives are on us. Lives like these: http://www.gq.com/sports/profiles/200909/nfl-players-brain-dementia-study-memory-concussions?currentPage=2
We can regret them, of course. Yet we can do more. We can question whether we ought continue to support a mentality which says this okay. We can question whether our values need to be prioritized better. We can do that.
But we won't. We're Americans, after all. We don't need to question our motives. We're the best.
What is left, then, is the penultimate question: who will explain that to Mike Webster?
Monday, December 3, 2012
Similarly, they say that men shouldn't legislate about banning abortion, because they can't really understand what that might mean to women. But they don't hold the same point with male lawmakers who vote for abortion rights, even though they presumably can't understand woman's needs either. Indeed, whenever a man supports a so-called woman's right in a way which women (or, should we say, liberal women) like, he is not condemned. But why should male affirmation mean any more than male denial if men cannot possibly understand a woman's position?
Two things come up here. One is that it is arrogant to assert that men cannot understand a woman's rights merely because they're men. Women sure don't mind respecting a man's opinion if it coincides with theirs; dismissing male opinion as automatically wrongheaded if it disagrees with a woman's is, simply, hubris.
Two, it is more likely that someone not directly involved in an issue would be more readily impartial than someone who wants a certain outcome. We have umpires and referees in sports precisely because, although they may not be the actual players, they are expected and indeed are more likely to be impartial than the players. An umpire says safe or out independent of the player, who would more likely rule his own way given the chance.
This isn't to say that all umpires are right and all players wrong each and every time. But it is to say that objective right is something anyone can grasp if they want it. Whether the rule maker or opinion giver is male or female means nothing to right and wrong about anyone or anything.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
The wish always survives. People will speak of it well after we're gone. In Detroit, we wish that Tyrus Raymond Cobb should be thought of as the greatest baseball player ever. But more than that, we wish that he was a better man than much of history portrays him.
This sort of enigma plagues us. We want our heroes to be larger than life; that much is understandable. Why worship them otherwise? Yet life gets in the way. We hear things, we read things, and even our conscience tells us we should think one way rather than another. Still, we want, very much in fact, to think another way.
The fact of the matter is we want heroes. Really, we need heroes. We need people to aspire towards. We need to know that there are others who care for others more than we do. So we overlay our needs across the imperfect.
So, enter Ty Cobb. The dirtiest player in all of baseball history. No one seems to dispute that. Yet there are many stories coming out which attempt to tell an alternate tale.
There's no point to going into the bad now. Cobb is dead and gone, and the dead deserve their good name. He was philanthropic in his private life, a demon on the diamond. An enigma; something we simply don't get. We wish that we were like the former. Yet we want to be the latter, even knowing there's something wrong with that.
We are of two such minds in America today. Does it drive us, inspire us, or condemn us? Does it make us all that we can be, or less than we should be?
Saturday, December 1, 2012
There are folks who opine that free speech means the right to say offensive things. They forget that there are two ways in which someone is offended: either when the listener is a fool, or when the speech in question is genuinely offensive.
No one has a moral right to voice offensive remarks solely for the sake of making offense; that is simply rudeness at best and insulting and vulgar at worst. To say that they have such a right under the guise of free speech is really only to hide irresponsible behavior behind a pretty face. As rights only grow from responsibilities, it is reasonable to argue that the right to speak freely comes from the obligation to speak truthfully, in the reasonable interests of ourselves and the general society, and considerately, so far as circumstances may allow.
Still, the only way to really stifle morally offensive speech is censorship, and the problem with censorship is that it is only good when good people are in charge. When bad people hold the reigns, then good and necessary free speech will be prohibited. It is a risk we cannot take.
In the end, though, no one has the right to say offensive things, but merely the practical option of expressing them freely. No one has the right to be wrong in the truest sense of the term, but only the free will to be in the wrong. Until we understand that, we really won't understand the importance of a well regulated freedom at all.
Rights must be viewed in their proper perspective. They are not, not a one of them, open ended and subject to mere personal interpretation. We may treat some select few of them as absolute, but only due to abject necessity. Actions which beg the true nature of free speech do not promote but instead denigrate the right. They make us less than we can be and less than we should be. We should be good and decent people.