Friday, May 27, 2011

By David Saltzer - Senior Writer

I know that this is a baseball message board, not a political one. But, baseball is a microcosm of America idealized, and sometimes that means that baseball and politics collide in ways that require commentary. Take the Bryan Stow case for example. What that horrible tragedy says about the society that we’ve created should make all of us upset.

We all know what happened. And, we all know that there was an arrest made. While the alleged perpetrator claims to have an alibi, and legally should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, what should get us all upset is his past criminal history and what that says about the society we’ve made.

According to an article printed on the Eagle Rock Patch’s website, Giovanny Ramirez, the alleged assailant, had at least three prior convictions, including convictions for attempted robbery, robbery, and firing a weapon in a public place. Furthermore, he was on parole at the time of the alleged assault. This background, filled with several prior convictions is similar to that of Andrew Gallo, who had been convicted of drunken driving, public intoxication, and disturbing the peace all prior to killing to Nick Adenhart. Like Ramirez, Gallo was out free at the time he killed Nick Adenhart, albeit on parole and with a suspended license.

I grew up going to baseball and football games. I remember running around the stadium as a kid feeling safe. My cousin used to take me to Dodger games, and again, I felt safe. But today, I wouldn’t take my sons to a Dodgers game—even to see the Angels play up there. The crowd has changed. The feel isn’t as good. While I’m not paranoid that something like what happened to Bryan Stow will happen to me or my sons, I also don’t feel compelled to put myself in a bad spot.

I’m upset by these crimes and these criminals. You should be upset by them too. In fact, everyone should be upset. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat, or belong to any other party. That’s because we, as a society, have made it possible for monsters like this to exist and roam free. We, as a society, have enabled such actions to occur because we, as a society, have decided that doing what is expedient is more important than doing what is right, have abandoned all sense of personal accountability, and have lost any sense of justice.

Imagine the following situation: you are being sued for something for which you are blameless. Your lawyer tells you that it will cost you $50,000.00 to settle the case, or $100,000.00 to clear your name. There’s no guarantee that if you spend the $100,000.00 that you will prevail in the litigation, so you might spend all that money on the legal costs and still have to pay a judgment. What do you do? If you’re like 99.99% of the public, you settle for the initial 50 grand because it’s expedient, even though it isn’t right.

The same is true with how we handle all aspects of our government. Complex issues get boiled down to 6-second sound bites. Solutions that scream out for nuance get boiled down to talking points and boilerplate language. Both the right and left are guilty of this. They’d rather be the first one to define an issue with a simple catch-phrase than to create a solution that works. It’s as if the whole country has political ADD.

This relates to crime too. Rather than looking to see if we have too many crimes on the books, building more prisons, or finding ways to cut the costs to incarcerate a prisoner in California, we just keep stuffing our overcrowded prisons with more and more people. Since no one wants to pay more to make a fully capable system, we just do what’s expedient: we let people off with slaps on the wrist. That only emboldens them to do more crime (because they are no longer deterred thanks to their previous light sentence) and leaves them out on the streets where they have more opportunity to commit crime. It’s like fining a baseball player making $20 million/year $500 for swearing at an umpire. The fine is hardly a deterrent and does nothing to stop the problem.

The irony of it all is, as we continue to go for expediency over doing what is right, we exacerbate our problems. When we payoff scumbags like Alfred Rava (the lawyer who sued the Angels over the denied Mothers Day bag) rather than proving what’s right, he doesn’t go away. He just keeps suing and suing and raising costs for all of us until someone (thankfully Mr. Moreno) stands up to him in court and says “no.” But, how many other owners just paid him off to make him go away, only to embolden him to continue to bilk the system?

Imagine if Gallo had served a year in jail for his first DUI conviction instead of 2 days. Would that have made a difference? Would he have learned enough of a lesson not to drive April 9, 2009? What if we, as a society, decided to punish criminals in a way to prevent and deter crime rather than just searched for an expedient solution? Would we have let Giovanny Ramirez out on parole with his criminal background so that he could be free to allegedly assault and seriously injure another person?

As for a lack of personal responsibility, that’s easy to see. Republicans blame Democrats for every issue. Democrats blame Republicans for every issue. Independents blame everyone. When politicians are backed into a corner on an issue, such as the national debt, they appoint yet another commission to “study” the problem so that they can blame the commission for coming up with the same solutions that they’ve known and proposed for the past 30 years.

The joke is, the real culpability is ours. We’re the ones electing the same idiots back to office. We’re the ones electing milquetoast candidates who won’t tackle big issues in society. And, when they make the problems worse, we’re the ones reelecting the same candidates. It doesn’t matter if they are Republicans or Democrats. We deserve the politics that we elect.

The same is true in crime. There are at least 2 people who know for certain if Giovanny Ramirez is the true assailant. There’s no more personal accountability. The alleged woman and other male involved know for certain what happened. And yet, neither one of them is willing to come forward, admit his or her culpability and stand up for what’s right. They’d rather let a wanton criminal stay free rather than do the right thing and take personal responsibility for causing brain damage to a dad in front of his kids. Look at the language we use to describe the situation: today we glorify people who protect the guilty rather than “rat them out.”

The same is true about Andrew Gallo. Where was the personal accountability there? He knew he was going out to drink. Aside from the lack of accountability for misusing his economic stimulus funds (I’m glad to know that I’ll be paying principal and interest on the tax dollars he used to buy the drinks he drank before killing Nick Adenhart—someone who would have made a much greater economic stimulus as a professional athlete than the bar received for selling the drink), he knew he was going out drinking and would have to drive home. He tried to argue that the only reason he drove home was because his relative was “more drunk” than him—as if he had no other choice! Talk about chutzpah!

Finally, where’s the sense of justice these days? Baseball, like society, tracks that too. Look at how many fans from every other team hate the Yankees and Red Sox. It’s as if the rules don’t apply to them the same way they apply to everyone else. We talk about the East Coast bias in the coverage. We hear players complain about the biased calls that happen in their stadiums. We complain as the Yankees and Red Sox buy up every major free agent and in the process drive up the costs for all the rest of us.

But, that’s just symptomatic of what’s going on in society. We no longer pursue justice. Justice isn’t expedient. It’s too hard to hold people accountable. There’s something tragically ironic that the player most known for cheating, Barry Bonds, is using the fortune he made by cheating to create a fund for Bryan Stow’s children in an effort to win back the public’s good grace and sympathy.

Today, if a person robs a bank and takes $1,000, he’s looking at a 20 year sentence. But, if a CEO of the same bank pays himself tens of millions all while causing the bank to take on hundreds of billions in bad debt and in the process ruins the economy, he gets a bailout. That is, he will get a bailout if he’s a friend of someone close whatever group is in power (sorry Lehman brothers).

If all of this doesn’t make you mad, I don’t know what will. We are at the edge of a precipice. Our country, our society, can go one way or the other. The time for action on many issues is now.

If, after reading all of this, you aren’t motivated to go out and change things, I don’t know what it will take to do so. Again, it doesn’t matter what your beliefs are: no party or viewpoint is blameless for today’s problems. No single party or viewpoint has all of the solutions. But, those who choose to ignore the problems and fail to get involved have an extra share of blame. They only make today’s messes worse because they are choosing expediency in their life over doing what’s right for the country and in the process enable all the negative forces to continue to fleece and bilk us all. Similarly, those who give their allegiance blindly to a party deserve an extra helping of blame as well because they fail to hold our leaders accountable for their mistakes and in the process, enable them to continue to ignore the problems that we must tackle now.

Just like the rules of baseball can change, our country and our society can change. It’s time for us to take a look at the game we play and fix it before it becomes so bad, that like Dodger Stadium, fans won’t want to go there anymore.
Love to hear what you think!

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