Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Scene from the Ballpark

Here is a story of something that I witnessed at a baseball game this evening.  I was sitting out in the bleachers, which were almost deserted, so I could easily see everything that was happening.

There was a young boy, four-ish probably, who was being berated by this horrible old man, some sort of relative or acquaintance of the family; I didn't quite catch all the details, but it had something to do with him allegedly having tried to steal a toy car from another young boy.  This child was in tears, as he kept denying having done what he was alleged to have done, and HOM kept berating him, insisting that he did too take this toy car, and ordering him to "sit [his] ass down" and the like.  Eventually he did sit down, having scooted away from HOM, but HOM was just being an unbelievable dickhead, and would not let the issue drop, even though the child had no interest in continuing the "argument."  "You took it," he kept saying, over and over.  "Connor [the kid whose car he supposedly took] doesn't like you anymore."  "Nobody likes you."  "No!" the child insisted after his every outburst, but HOM was persistent.  Needless to say, the actual "truth" of the matter was at this point quite irrelevant, and I was wondering: should I say something here?  Get into a futile shouting match?  Is my silence rendering me complicit?  It's one thing to step in over physical abuse, but what about when it's "just" the emotional kind?  It was quite awful, and it was keeping me from enjoying what was an exciting game.

I never had to decide, though, because then the boy's father, who had been off getting food, came back, and asked, hey hey, what's wrong?  The boy tried to explain; HOM insisted to the father that he was lying, but this mattered not at all to the father, who took his son in his lap and comforted him.  HOM ultimately left--possibly left the whole stadium--out of disgust (I have to imagine he and the father Exchanged Words later).  The boy stopped crying, and you know what else?  Connor, whose family was leaving, came up and gave him a hug.  Obviously, HOM had been blowing this entire incident far, far out of proportion.  I found this whole thing incredibly moving.

(Then, after the game ended in a glorious victory for the home team, the father was carrying the son on his shoulders and he was bumping fists with the players as they emerged from the park.)

It made me think of the contrast between the two parents in Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, which in turn goes back to the contrast between Old-Testament and New-Testament Gods--ie, a God of justice as opposed to one of love.  No doubt HOM thought he was pursuing justice, and perhaps in some very narrow sense he was (though "justice" was clearly sliding into "vengefulness" here, as is its wont), but the father instinctively realized that justice was not the relevant concern here.  There's an important lesson here about how an excessive concern for "fairness" can sour and curdle a person (yes, I'm inferring an awful lot about HOM based on just this one interaction, but really, you shoulda been there--the guy was fucking awful).  And in turn, we can see how this corrupts our politics.  Let's pretend for a moment that it's accurate that jillionaire plutocrats have "earned" everything they have.  Well…so what?  When there are people living in grinding poverty, why would I be even a tiny bit concerned that we be "fair" to the ultra-rich?  To be sure, justice is not a concern that has no place in society, but relentlessly pursuing this value without context will make you into a horrible old man.


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