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Sunday, October 30, 2016


The Cubs, Trumpism, and the Field of Dreams

by Tom Sullivan

Wrigley Field, Chicago, 7/30/2004, by Rick Dikeman CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

"When did they start putting a thousand days in a month?" one volunteer asked the other day. "I've never seen an election like this," is another frequent comment. Everybody wishes this election was over.

A friend sent this story yesterday about electioneering downtown:

While I was handing out sample ballots, some guy told me to go back to where I came from, even after I told him I was married to an American. I said maybe now he knows how Native Americans feel about white people taking over their country. He did come back an hour later to apologize and said that was why he had to stop watching so much Trump! I told him he had restored my faith in people by coming back to apologize.

Then while I was recounting the story to [a friend's daughter] at a massage school waiting area, this couple confronted me when [she] left and obviously had eavesdropped on my conversation, to say they were voting for Trump and that illegal aliens should not be allowed in the country and dared to question if I was legal or not. The woman especially was quite ugly about it. Not to go on & on but it made me realize that Trump's talk has really emboldened all these racists to question people who are not the same as they are.
My friend is from Hong Kong (I think). She had just told someone that in all her years in England and the U.S., she had not experienced any sort of racism.


Last night before the World Series, I watched an old clip of Steve Goodman playing "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request" from a rooftop on Waveland Ave. just over the left field fence at Wrigley Field. NPR's Weekend Edition did a story on Goodman Saturday morning. Clay Eals, author of "Steve Goodman: Facing The Music," told host Scott Simon:
I mean, if anything, that song is a hugely affectionate song. It's a fatalist song (laughter) saying that they never win. But he was such a devoted fan. He always hoped for them to win, and there is no way to listen to that song and not have just a tremendous respect and affection for Steve Goodman and for baseball itself. It has all of these references in it that are very specific that any baseball fan would recognize and also just anybody who is used to running up against failure. And it does it in this baseball metaphor that is just utterly charming.
The Cubs lost game four to Cleveland last night in Chicago. A smiling waitress there once told me, "They wouldn't be the Cubs if they didn't break our hearts."


There is tremendous, free-floating nostalgia in America for what for what people perceive they have lost. Civility, for one, probably even among those who show it least. Innocence, for sure. And confidence. September 11 killed that off. For people who always assumed (the way people once assumed the world was flat) that this is a country of, by, and for white people, Barack Obama's election shook their confidence in that. Obama came into office along with the Great Recession, so the two are inextricably linked in many people's minds. September 11; the first black president; and an economic downturn that turned millions of families out of their homes and into the streets. Three strikes, you're out.

People are pretty angry over what they perceive they have lost. When Donald Trump declares, "I am your voice," that's what he is talking about.

I wonder, do even bitter conservatives cry at the end of A Field of Dreams? I wonder, do millennials? Perhaps it is just a film for people of a certain age and a different America (and a different Chicago ball club). The 1989 film was, even then, about nostalgia for what America has lost. James Earle Jones (as writer Terrence Mann) gives a moving speech about that:
          People will come, Ray. They'll come to
          Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom.
          They'll turn up your driveway, not
          knowing for sure why they're doing it,
          and arrive at your door, innocent as
          children, longing for the past. 'Of
          course we won't mind if you look
          around,' you'll say. 'It's only twenty
          dollars per person.' And they'll pass
          over the money without even looking at
          it. For it is money they have, and
          peace they lack.

          They'll walk out to the bleachers and
          sit in shirtsleeves in the perfect
          evening, or they'll find they have
          reserved seats somewhere in the
          grandstand or along one of the baselines
          -- wherever they sat when they were
          children and cheered their heroes.
          They'll watch the game, and it will be
          as if they'd dipped themselves in magic
          waters. The memories will be so thick
          they'll have to brush them away from
          their faces.

          Listen to me. Tomorrow morning, when
          the bank opens, they will foreclose.

          People will come, Ray.

          You're broke, Ray. Sell now or lose

          The one constant through all the years,
          Ray, has been baseball. America has
          rolled by like an`army of steamrollers.
          It's been erased like a blackboard,
          rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball
          has marked the time. This field, this 
          game... it's a piece of our past. It
          reminds us of all that once was good.
          And that could be again. People will
          come. People will most definitely come.
But it is not why people come to Trump rallies. The mood is much uglier.

A friend observed years ago about electioneering in South Carolina what my friend above experienced on Friday:
... he could spot Republicans as they approached the polling place by the sour looks on their faces.

"They're not coming to vote," he said. "They're coming to f--k someone!"
Now, when training electioneers I advise them to treat their counterparts as opposing team members. You're out on the same field playing the same game in the same weather wearing different jerseys. Believe it or not, you share the same hobby. The unsportsmanlike conduct doesn't usually come from the other team's regulars, but from the bleacher bums.

During early voting in 2008, I shared the sidewalk outside a polling place with the 1st vice chair of the county Republican Party. He had a hunting and fishing show on public access TV, he said, so during the lulls I made chit-chat about hunting and fishing. (I do neither.) An older woman got out of her car, eyeballed my logos and went off on me.

"Blah, blah, blah, Democrats. Blah, blah, blah, Obama. I'm from the south side of Chicago. They destroyed the neighborhoods." Etc. She headed in to vote.

"Thanks for coming!" I said.

Five minutes later, she came out still ranting.

"Blah, blah, blah, socialists. Blah, blah, blah, hate America."

After she climbed back into her car, my Republican counterpart leaned over and whispered, “What's her problem?” We weren't having any.

A new friend who came over from the GOP two years ago teared up at the welcoming she received among local Democrats. "Y'all actually do things," she told a gathering. "You're not just sitting around badmouthing the other guys."

After she and her husband told their story to a community group last year, you could have given an altar call. She's out electioneering for our local candidates this weekend.

As with the Cubs, there is always hope. Even so, be careful out there.