The Chicago Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. This is no knock on the Cubs; I am a Mariners fan, and intensely jealous that the Cubs have a World Series banner to hang at Wrigley. I mention them because no one says at the beginning of baseball season, “I think the Cubs are going to win the World Series this year because they won in 1908.”
Baseball has changed immensely since those halcyon years of Cubbie dominance. There are more teams, the mound has been raised and lowered, bats have grown heavier and lighter, there’s been dead ball eras and live ball eras. Fact is, it’s not the same game. The Cubs aren’t trying to win the World Series by playing the game the way it was played in the aughts.
The element that stood out the most to me watching the Republican National Convention last night (other than the nauseating hypocrisy, but that’s so expected it’s hardly noticeably anymore), was the mentions of immigrant grandparents who worked their way towards the American Dream. As Rick Santorum said in his speech, “In 1923 there were no government benefits for immigrants except one: Freedom!” (Note: Also, labor laws.)
First of all, as Rachel Maddow mentioned, 1923 may not be the ideal economic example. Most importantly, America is immensely different than it was in 1923. It’s not just because FDR implemented the New Deal and wiped his ass with the constitution. It’s because the country is a different place because it exists in the Western World, where change and innovation happen. (For a quick run down of the major changes that have happened in the last 89 years, feel free to crack open an elementary level history text book.) These changes have happened because that’s what happens during economic growth and becoming the hegemonic power in the world. The growth of business has been huge. In 1923, who could have dreamed of multi-national corporation like Nike? Or of a chain of fast food restaurants expanding grease and food-like products as far away as Hong Kong?
Maybe the ironic thing is that with all this business growth (which, if I’m not mistaken, Republicans like), upward social mobility doesn’t exist in any meaningful way anymore. It is not enough just to work hard. You also have to have the social status and connections to become a success.
This may be why families are so important. We learn our social skills and work ethic from our families. Values are passed from parents to children. The importance of strong family structures was talked about by Rick Santorum and Ann Romney. Santorum’s speech, though, made me wonder how he didn’t choke on his own hypocrisy right there on the podium. He said, “…if America is going to succeed, we must stop the assault on marriage and the family.”
I would have more respect for him if he had added the qualifier, “unless you are gay” to the end of that sentence. Because the official Republican Party Platform believes in marriage, unless you’re gay. It believes in strong families, unless they are gay. It believes in parents responsibly raising children. Unless those parents are gay. In the modern United States, as well as the rest of the modern world, you cannot have strong families without also having strong gay families. This is a fact of modern life and short of rounding ‘em up and exterminating them, you will never build a cultural ideal of strong families without the gays.
I believe in strong families and strong communities. I believe in hard work and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. I intensely believe in personal responsibility and think it’s a value that is largely absent today. Oddly enough, I believe in some of the major, broad points of the Republican’s platform like promoting families and creating an environment that allows business to succeed.
I don’t believe in brushing reality under the rug and pining away for a utopian past that never actually existed. If we’re going to build something, let’s build a future based on reality.