Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Nothing more American than. . ."

Last night on All Things Considered, Melissa Block interviewed attorney Norm Kent, who represented 12-year-old Jennifer Valdivia in her lawsuit against the Philadelphia Phillies. He sued, Mr. Kent said, to get Miss Valdivia back the Ryan Howard home run ball she'd caught and then given back to the Phillies in exchange for another ball and some cotton candy.  It  had been Mr. Howard's 200th homer, making him the youngest man ever to hit that many.  The lawsuit would have been for "in excess of $15,000."

If you want to know more about the story itself, here's an article about it from  the Philadelphia Inquirer. But right now, I want to get back to Melissa Block's interview.  When asked why Ryan Howard should not get the ball back, attorney Norm Kent replied that "...historically, there's nothing more American than a fan who captures a baseball in the stands keeping it."

I was immediately outraged. How dare he! I thought. How dare anyone ever use the phrase "nothing more American than . . ."

And then I was immediately curious about why I'd become so outraged

It took a while and a movie to figure it out. The movie was Motorcycle Diaries, the fine film about Che Guevara's 1951 trip traversing South America on a motorcycle with friend Alberto Granado. It was this journey that opened the eyes of a young, privileged medical student to the crushing poverty of most South Americans. To me, it was the story of someone learning that he can never learn enough about the complexities of his own people.

What had angered  me about Mr. Kent's presuming to judge what's more or less "American" was that he'd deliberately oversimplified the true wealth of this country which, in my opinion, is its diversity. Each of us carries in our heart an attachment to America that is based on our unique history, heritage and experiences, and no one's basis of attachment is more valid than another's.

Real Americans, schmeel Americans, say I!

All too often we hear politicians speaking for what "real Americans" want, or believe, or need. That, dear reader, to this reporter, is jargon, speak, bottom-feeding and pandering of the lowest order. Beware the politician who claims to speak for those of us who are more American than others.

By the time I went to bed last night I wanted to suggest to Mr. Kent that he spend a year on a motorcycle riding the blue highways of his country. Then see if he was still comfortable sitting in judgment of what's American and what's not!
FYI: the health care debate. As an educational  resource, I'd highly recommend this in today's N.Y. Times

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