Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Echo chamber

They'll play a baseball game in Baltimore this afternoon, and the only audience will be a profound sense of the bizarre. The city burns, but the corporate prerogatives of our national game will be met, no matter how ludicrously. Unfocused rage in the streets continues to obscure real injustices, but the game, as they say, will go on.

With the city in turmoil and the National Guard called in to restore order, Major League Baseball made the curious decision to back up today's scheduled game between the Orioles and White Sox to this afternoon, and to play it in a ballpark devoid of fans. And so pitchers will pitch, batters will bat, and empty seatbacks will be the witnesses.

Baseball is its history. But it's likely never seen anything quite like this.

It will be weird and surreal, but the visuals will be great. And if we've not been reminded these past few days how important the latter is to the sensibilities of American media, we simply haven't been paying attention.

The networks largely missed the peaceful march last weekend that put 10,000 people in the streets of Baltimore calling for justice for a young man named Freddie Gray. But they've been all over the knotheads who've besmirched his memory by trying to burn down the city.

And so you'll see lots of fires and  various acts of destruction on the nightly news, but you likely won't see much about the numerous neighborhood citizens who, appalled by what was happening, stood between the police and the rioters. If it burns, it earns. A bunch of people just standing around, not so much.

What that leaves us with is mayhem without context, and there is some. If the application of rage is hideously misplaced here (not to say hideously counterproductive),  the rage itself is not. This cauldron's been boiling for awhile, not just in Baltimore but all over the country.

Too many African-Americans routinely going to prison for crimes for which whites never do time. Too much Shot/Choked/Beaten While Black. Too much exploitation of the working classes by a corporate oligarchy that grew fat not because it used the middle class as its private ATM, but because hefty paychecks and benefits made the middle class the engine of the economy.

The first two of those are unconscionable, the latter unsustainable. No nation can remain peaceful and prosperous if businesses don't provide jobs that pay enough to allow consumers to consume (or keep them off public assistance, for that matter). But that's our economy now. And for a variety of reasons, it's impacted black America to an inordinate degree.

The irony, of course, is that some of the very people who could do something about that are the people whose businesses are burning. It makes no sense, but rage never does. The trick is to do something about the sense of powerlessness from which it springs.

In the meantime, there will be baseball in Baltimore today.

Kinda. Sorta. More strangeness in a strange land.  


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