Thursday, February 27, 2014

Newton's Third Law Applies to Politics

By coincidence, I watched the second half of 42 last night; it was on HBO and I caught an earlier showing.  For whatever reason, it seemed oddly applicable to to the situation in Arizona, this part, in particular.

At the time Robinson broke into the majors, Philadelphia was managed by Ben Chapman, who had a reputation as a racist.  In a very poignant scene in the movie, the Dodgers are playing the Phillies and Chapman is shouting every possible invective against Robinson, in an attempt to rattle him, knowing full well that Robinson was under marching orders from Branch Rickey not to retaliate.  The players in the Dodgers dugout can hear this invective and for a while they sit idly by, not knowing what to do about it.  Eventually, Eddie Stanky can't take it any more and goes face to face with Chapman, calling him gutless (in so many words). 

In a later seen in Branch Rickey's office, one of his employees is complaining to Rickey about Chapman.  Rickey smiles and says Chapman has done them an enormous favor.  By being so outlandish with his vitriol, Chapman created a backlash - sympathy on behalf of Robinson.  There was an either-or choice and if you couldn't be for Chapman, which no reasonable person could, then you had to be for Robinson.  Editorials in the press that railed against the racism in major league baseball helped, of course.  But it was the overt and highly visible nature of Chapman's barbs that did the trick.

Consider this when reading the Gail Collins piece linked below and from which the following paragraph has been excerpted. 

What do you think this whole scene means? True, Arizona is a rather strange state. But you don’t generally see a Legislature go out of its way to tick off its own moneyed power structure. And you hardly ever see a business establishment howling this loud about something that doesn’t involve tax hikes.
The State of Arizona

There remains the question whether the religious homophobes behind the legislation that Governor Brewer vetoed will ever change their point of view.  In the movie 42, Chapman is ultimately ordered by management to take a picture with Robinson, to demonstrate that there are no hard feelings.  Robinson says in response to being asked to take this picture that Chapman hasn't changed at all.  Indeed he hadn't.  He was simply swallowing some crow to keep his job.

But if you go to the link above to the piece in The Atlantic about Chapman, it appears that he really did soften in his later years and was genuinely conciliatory.  Might some homophobe religious types who are not themselves politicians do likewise, not because it is popular, but because it's time and because, in a phrase I wouldn't otherwise use, we are all God's children?

It is a relief that the Arizona bill wasn't passed.  But that fact shouldn't be treated as a victory, as Collins seems to do at the end of her piece (though probably that was tongue in cheek).  Real victory will happen only when some of the Ben Chapman types experience a personal awakening and a change of heart. 

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