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There’s a lot to like about America –– about baseball, too. In fact, baseball history may, in an odd way, be able to give us a unique perspective on United States politics. If you’ll just indulge me for a minute or two, I’ll be happy to explain it to you. It all started with a letter to the editor of the Manchester Journal that I read with interest (on June 24). Here’s how:

The writer encouraged readers to ‘Find out what’s being taught in schools’, and, for the record I could not agree with him more (although, perhaps along different lines). He goes on to posit within his letter that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is “not history, but rather a divisive theory based on Marxist ideology…” I would posit instead that many of the misconceptions causing so much divisiveness in our country, being spread so widely today via social media, are the lack of one other thing no longer being taught, or advocated for in our schools: Critical thinking. Teaching kids how to think for themselves.

I encounter this in HR on an almost daily basis, even in semi-retirement. Not too long ago, I engaged someone in his late 20s in conversation. He’s a bright guy, a high school grad, a rock-star of a baseball fan and a New York State resident, so; I wanted to gain his Empire State (and youthful) perspective on the tight spot Rudy Giuliani is presently wriggling around, much like a distressed dinosaur finding himself suddenly flailing about in a tar pit. “Who’s that?” the fellow asked innocently. The answer goes hand-in-hand with the moment the 30 (and 40-somethings) who make appointments to see me in my office and, upon arrival and signing the visitor log, absent their ever-present iPhones ask me: “What’s the date today?” or else ask (and this is my favorite): “What day is today?” Absent the phone’s ever-glowing screen with its monkey-chatter of Twitter and Facebook posts, faux-news and reminders, even when I ask them about their employment history –– they are lost to explain or remember anything, even in their own personal history.

Although I graduated from high school 52 years ago, I still carry with me the lessons learned in history, geography, and a favorite course of mine of my senior year, ‘Problems in American Democracy.’ Are there problems in American democracy today, you might ask? You betcha! (Heck; there always have been. At the extreme, far back along, in 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States, in a duel. Texas, not even a state yet, had nothing to say about that, for the record.)

One of the problems may well be the tendency to freely associate CRT (which I am not here to advocate for or against, by the way) with Marxism. Please consider that, for one thing, Karl Marx, 1818-1883, as a Russian (he later emigrated to England) was apparently not too awfully concerned with matters of white supremacy in his native country. Marxism, after all, grew out of his convictions that the proletariats, the working class, in their ceaseless struggles, would eventually overthrow the ruling class in his native country. Skin color was apparently not an issue. From what I have read of history, the eventual Marxist-Leninist overthrow of the Tsar had nothing to do with Russian white v. Black tensions. Although, of course, if somebody posts that I’m spilling Marxist lies on Facebook, that might change the game for some people gullible enough to believe it in the same way a trout gamely leaps and swallows a dry fly…

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As someone who served as editor and publisher of a regional state magazine for a decade, I quickly learned to know the difference between a fish story and the truth. I consider it possible that the folks who swallow the Marxism tag whole today may be confusing old Karl’s mantra with what was called the White Movement, which Wikipedia describes as “ … a loose confederation of anti-communist forces that fought the Communist Bolsheviks, also known as the Reds, in the Russian Civil war …”

Back in 1960, when I was all of 8 years old, I went with my father to Colburn’s Barber Shop in Manchester Center for a haircut. This was back in the day in which manly men placed bets on the World Series and would afterward have spirited barbershop discussions on who would win. There were also discussions on who would win the presidential election, Nixon or Kennedy. (For the record, there were no fistfights nor pistols drawn that I recall, regarding that issue; I didn’t have to duck and cover.)

Colburn’s was a basement enclave, and there was only one window, through which you could see only the shoes and trouser legs of people briskly walking by on the sidewalk up above. You could only wonder and guess at who they belonged to, only because the magazines on the table, the only other entertainment were so ancient you could get seriously drowsy from pawing through their tattered pages. (Then, you might politely stifle a yawn and fall asleep until your name was called.) Talk among my father and other men, as they awaited the attention of the barber’s clippers, turned to the series one day in October 1960. It was a fait accompli the Yankees would beat the Pirates in the final game, or so it was said. Bets were exchanged. But when the day came, the Pirates bested the Yanks in the ninth inning, a complete surprise. I don’t recall that the Yankee fans stormed the Pittsburgh stadium and threatened to hang Bill Mazeroski, or that they seized home plate, spirited it away and hid it in somebody’s basement in New York. The Yankee fans, the losers, paid up, and there was a series next year. Life went on. Nobody lied. The Yankees weren’t America: After all, America was America.

There’s a big gulf between those innocent days of long ago and those of today. A gulf of misinformation, lack of critical thinking, and the concept of the American dream sinking into a tar pit while guns are pointed in every direction and children are being killed. It brings to mind what Yogi Berra once said: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Philip R. Jordan is a resident of Arlington. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.


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