Afternoon Baseball

Common-sense ruminations on baseball and culture.

Four years ago, I was in my second week of classes in college. I was starting my first day of work-study in the communication department at Loyola College. I had class at 9:25, but I showed up a little early to see what work would be like following the class.

I arrived just as the second plane hit. Welcome to Loyola College.

I immediately knew it was bad, but sadly, some part of me wasn't surprised. I had read for years about how a large-scale attack could occur -- and was probably going to occur. There was nothing detailed in the manner of the attack that morning, but the thought had run through my mind.
Baltimore was an odd place to be that day. We were far enough away from D.C. and NYC not to really be at risk, but perhaps too many people had seen or read Tom Clancy's (an alum, by the way) "The Sum of All Fears," in which B-more gets nuked or something. Maybe the movie hadn't even come out. I wander.
Lots of people have relatives who work in NYC. Some worked by or in the WTC -- one girl in a class of mine had her mom working in the WTC until about a month prior to the attack. Loyola was lucky. I believe a recent alum was killed, but I don't think anyone else was. With all the parents who have died for so many other reasons -- not to mention our class president, chaplain and unofficial historian/professor emeritus dying within 7 days of each other -- that was a gratifying relief for our community.

What have we learned in four years? One, that America, for all its regional differences, almost hatreds, responds in crisis. People want to help, if for no other reason than to help -- especially when the victims can so easily be them or at least imagined that way.
We're a people conflicted. Not the red/blue divide, which is most often ridiculous to the point of fanaticism. Rather, we're a people who are unsure of our stance in the world. Are we beloved or hated? World police or meddlesome? After oil and profits or trying to help others? Is X country an ally or foe in Y situation?
Too often, the answer to all those questions, and may more, is both yes and no. We're just more aware of it now, due to the attacks and the subsequent military campaigns, but also to the greater access to information and the much quicker assimilation of immigrants who can tell us firsthand what the world sees when they glance our way.

9/11 woke us up. Not from sleeping on the job, in many ways, though, but from a legitimate sleep while we were waiting for what the next big threat would be post-Cold War. That threat now may be different depending on the person and political ideology, but in the end it may come down to this: What is America, and what are we all about? Not just internally, but externally. And the puzzle greater than that? Can there be a "one" view presented? Can our pluralistic culture present anything cohesive to the world of substance? Can we even do that while looking in the mirror?

All that is the backdrop to the fact that horrifying death, destruction and the shattering of dreams and worlds was the cause and major influence of where we are now. May someday violent shocks not need to be the impetus to societal action.

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