Saturday, August 15, 2015

Michael Sam is no Jackie Robinson

   As social trailblazing goes, any comparison between Michael Sam and Jackie Robinson is tenuous at best, and at worst an insult to Robinson's legacy.
   Gay rights had already gone mainstream when Sam came out as pro football's first openly gay player last year. There was no establishment backlash like Robinson faced when he broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947.  To the contrary, in 2015, anyone who publicly disparages the notion of a gay player in a pro sports locker room is fair game for mob shaming on social media and summary dismissal from their job.  
   Sam received overwhelming support from the football establishment, the media and the public through his journey from the US college ranks to NFL training camp to the CFL.  When he walked away from the Alouettes this week for the second (and probably last) time, it was because he couldn't handle the "pressure".  The pressure of what, exactly?  Of near-unanimous support from a gushing media and adoring public?  Of a two year contract worth a reported $100,000 per season when he still hasn't proven anything at the professional level?  Of the preferential treatment the Alouettes afforded Sam while he tried to sort out his personal problems?  The worst thing to happen to Michael Sam since joining the Alouettes - and it fits the timeline in the subsequent chain of events - was that his fiancĂ©e broke up with him.

   Jackie Robinson should have faced such adversity. Institutionalized racism in the form of official segregation was part of the American social fabric for two decades after Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Robinson endured open hostility from fans and players - including his own teammates - but he never quit.  His remarkable athletic skills were exceeded only by his character and resolve.
   I hope Michael Sam finds peace with whatever troubles him, but I'm not on board for the pity party.  He positioned himself as a social trailblazer and happily accepted the accolades, but he wasn't ready for the responsibility.  
   Michael Sam is no Jackie Robinson.  Hell, he's not even Caitlyn Jenner.

(Please note: anonymous comments will not be posted.  If you don't have the courage of your convictions to sign your name to them, you're in the wrong place.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Necessary Evil

   Every August 6th and 9th, the thoroughly discredited notion that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary in hastening the end of World War Two is trotted out by the usual suspects in the revisionist history and peace activist communities. It's frustrating for serious students of military history and insulting to the generation that had to face down and vanquish a brutal foe, but part of what was preserved by their sacrifice was the right to express even the most cockamamie opinion.
   The most important thing to remember in any historical analysis is that everything that happens, happens in the context of its time.  By August of 1945, the butcher's bill for a world at war was in the neighborhood of 50 million souls.  Japan was the lone holdout among the Axis powers.  A negotiated peace was out of the question.  The Allies were unflinching on unconditional surrender and rightly so, because international standards for justice demanded that Japan be held to account for aggression and war crimes that pre-dated World War Two by a decade.  
    Despite the inevitability of defeat and in contrast to the half-hearted opposition and wholesale surrender of entire German armies in the waning days of the war in Europe, fanatical Japanese troops continued to fight virtually to the last man.  The ancient Bushido code of "death before dishonor" was reflected in wave after wave of kamikaze attacks at sea and suicidal banzai charges on land in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in early 1945, and it was a code that extended to the civilian population in a highly militarized society.  With that in mind, Allied invasion planners whose only remaining target was the Japanese mainland envisioned upwards of a million more deaths if the home islands were to be taken by conventional force to finally bring Japan to its knees.  The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as horrible as they were, averted a prolonged bloodbath and reduced the estimated death toll by at least 80 percent.
   No serious debate about the morality of using the atomic bomb can be entertained without considering what would have happened without the bomb.  To approach it any other way is either intellectually dishonest or naive, which - not coincidentally - are the respective hallmarks of revisionist historians and peace activists.  
   As Don Rickles (of all people) once said "We all want peace; sometimes we just can't make a deal for it."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Big game, big egos

  Let's be clear about where I stand on the food chain, which is at the top with the rest of humanity.  As the most evolved species on the planet, we have the run of the place, and the other species serve at our whim - and often as our dinner.  Depending on their physical makeup and skill set, animals feed us, clothe us, work for us and provide us with companionship.
   That said, I'm as appalled as any herbivore by the wanton killing of animals by so-called sportsmen like Dr. Walter Palmer - the Minnesota dentist who became the world's most reviled person overnight by killing Zimbabwe's beloved celebrity lion, Cecil.  Even if there's an element of credibility to claims that recreational hunters perform a necessary function by "thinning the herd" and preventing certain species of wildlife from propagating beyond the resources required to sustain them, the argument comes off as a lame rationalization for bloodlust.  It rings especially hollow when a big game hunting hobbyist like Sabrina Corgatelli speaks about a "connection with the animal", as if  being hunted to their death is some kind of uplifting spiritual experience for her prey, as opposed to a cruel and violent end to their existence.  Rock star/crossbow enthusiast Ted Nugent is only marginally more convincing in his defence of hunting because he actually makes practical use of some of his kills, but at the end of the day, the Nuge's legacy would probably be better-served as the musical force behind the iconic rock ballad "Stranglehold" than it is as the nut job who shot several hundred hogs from a helicopter with a machine gun.  
   Big game hunters like Corgatelli and Nugent undoubtedly believe they're fighting the good fight by publicly flaunting their trophies, but they're doing themselves a disservice.  They'll never prevail in the internet age.  Their own sadism pales in comparison to the bloodlust of the social media mob who can enjoy a good shaming in complete anonymity without putting on pants or leaving their parents' basement, never mind spending 50 thousand dollars on an African safari.  If they can resist the temptation to post their kills online, hobby hunters can go about their bloody business with relative impunity.  The question is whether their egos could handle the obscurity.