Sir, I disagree

by Brian Keaney

I saw some football players running in the rain tonight, no doubt training for the upcoming season.  I have high hopes that this is the year the program will turn around, what with a new coach and new athletic facilities, and it was good to see them out as a team getting in shape.  By the looks of several of them without shirts on, this was not their first run of the summer.  In an entirely non-homosexual (and, more importantly, non-pedophile) way, I was quite pleased to see them.

I’m also hoping that a combination of a better team, a better stadium, and Friday night games will put more rear ends in the seats, particularly those of students.  I’d love to see as many or more students at Stone Park as I saw at Needham High’s gym for basketball games last year.

During those games I, and many around me, did more than chuckle when one or two of them would yell “Sir, I disagree,” at a bad call.  They were using the most respectful possible language, but the sentiment underneath it was the undoubtedly the same as mine when what I yelled at a ref was enough to cause a Franciscan priest – who, it should be noted, daily prayed “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” – to resort to physical violence.  It was funny because we all knew that when those kids called the ref “sir,” they really meant, “you asshat.”

I don’t know why I was thinking of this, but I did when Brian Keaney the writer mentioned today that his barber calls him “sir.” In a blog post that mentions the riots that ripped apart large chunks of Britain in the past few days, he writes

Nobody in London can talk about anything else. Western power is draining down the economic plughole but that’s too large a concept for people to really come to terms with. But a bunch of thugs in hoodies kicking in shop fronts and helping themselves to phones and watches – that’s something that everyone has an opinion about.

To the older Brian Keaney I must say, “sir, I respectfully disagree.”  Obviously I am far too removed from the barbershops of London to know what the local scuttlebutt is, so it is with his assessment of the first world that I take issue.  Sure, the Mexican standoff the Congress engaged in with our economy resembles a bloody Tarantino film more than, say, the filibuster of Mr. Smith (not to mention left our representatives looking unworthy of the venerable institution in which they serve).

Sure, the markets collapsed when one of the same companies that did such a bang up job determining the relative safety of mortgage securities determined that the Isle of Man posed less of a threat than US T-bonds (though, in a delicious irony, may have made them even safer).  Sure, we are still rebuilding a country we broke when we went to war based on lies, a war that has left us broke and up to our eyeballs in debt.

Still, I don’t see anyone rushing for the exits.  How many of those shopkeepers who had their livelihoods destroyed by some skunk smoking hoodlums are going to moving to Syria, or Egypt, or Tunisia?  How many of those who are privileged enough (in the same way that 56 men were privileged enough to put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on the line) to be making positive changes in the Arab Spring would give their left arm to get a visa to live in Greece or Portugal or another country dealing with a debt crisis of their own making?  Hell, even if Hollywood has given up, the nonsense they produce is still filling up theaters better than anything coming from Bollywood.

We know that history did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  That said, western states admittedly do not today hold the same power – diplomatic, military, economic, social, or otherwise – they did in the post-war period, just as NBC News and the New York Times do not hold the same power or influence they did in the pre-Twitter era.  Times change, and the world along with it.

This thought was hammered home last night when I finally got across the street to see Midnight in Paris. What I wouldn’t give to spend a night drinking at a Parisian cafe with Hemingway (who, unlike The Most Interesting Man in the World, I would have to battle the irresistible urge to thank should he punch me in the face) while Cole Porter played in the corner. As Picasso’s mistress illustrated so beautifully, however, there is no such thing as a Golden Age.

[Rather than give this blog entry yet another sharp right turn into a new topic, I’ll simply add apropos of Midnight in Paris that I watched Out Cold on TV again tonight.   It had even more Casablanca homages – right down to the white dinner jacket – than I had remembered, but for the first time I noticed that it had several actors who had minor roles in The Office.  I really hope David Koechner isn’t such a creep in real life.  I think I might like him if he was normal. Also, it took seeing Owen Wilson in a Woody Allen film to see the similarities between them.]

No, the type, way, and amount of power the president or the prime minster wields today is not the same as it was when the elder Brian Keaney was my age.  It won’t be the same when I am his age.  I don’t expect to find an empty basin when I get there, however.

My life is very different today than it was when I spent nights sitting in the bird’s nest rooting for the Cards.  Even at the outset of the China Century I wouldn’t trade those days for all of their tea, however.  With that in mind, I do not hesitate for a moment to say that whatever my personal or nation’s problems may be, no matter how severe the  setbacks we face are, I have no doubt that our best days are ahead of us.

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