On the John
Baseball’s postseason began this week, and although the Seattle Mariners tied a major league with 116 wins, the team everyone is gunning for is the 3 time defending champion New York Yankees. The Yanks are the epitome of a sports dynasty: they’ve won 26 World Series and the players that have worn their jerseys are a who’s who of the Hall of Fame. New York is the bully who asks the kids if he can play, and then steals the ball. I am quite sure that had September 11th been just another day, no one outside of the Bronx would be pulling for a Yankee 4-peat.
In sports, a team like the Yankees is called a dynasty, and other teams have to wait for that team to run its course. But in business we have rules and laws set up to prevent such dynasties. We as Americans believe in “making your fortune” but when a corporation becomes a monopoly, we try to break it down. AOL/Time Warner, AT&T, and Microsoft are all businesses whose power frightens us.
This kind of backlash to a superpower comes from one of the turning points in American history: the Revolutionary War. After all, who would have thought that thirteen colonies would be able to defeat the massive force of a world power like Great Britain? This country was the biggest underdog of them all, but since 1776 we have grown into not just a world power, but the world power.
Like many American ideals, there is hypocrisy with this love for the underdog. We are the dominant sports franchise. We are the giant corporation. People talk about Roman times. Well we are living in American times, and it’s time to recognize what that means to those who are not American.
The Gulf War ended when we forced Saddam Hussein into a cease-fire and got him out of Kuwait, but he is still in power. Why did we fight that war? Because his interests interfered with ours when our right to Kuwaiti oil was threatened. We are now at war, and bin Laden is our enemy only because of what he has done to us. As the President of the United States, George W. Bush is has more power than any other man in the world. That means he has the most responsibility of any other man in the world. We share this world with many people, and when they have a problem, we have one too.
On October 1, Time Magazine put Osama bin Laden on its cover. The headline read TARGET: BIN LADEN. The media has made him the enemy, because he is the man responsible for some 6,000 deaths. He is someone we can point to and say “There is the enemy. There is the man who has caused us so much pain.” But what if we kill bin Laden and all of his present followers tomorrow? Killing Hitler didn’t end anti-semetism, but it did make him an inspirational martyr for every skinhead and neo-Nazi. Bin Laden is not the root of this problem, just someone who sprouted from it. There is an expression that talks about winning the battle but losing the war. This war we are fighting is just the battle, and I wonder how long it will take before we identify the war.
Copyright 2001, jm silverstein