Monday, May 04, 2015

Baltimore Orioles: league leaders in understanding the concept of empathy

Last Saturday, when violence began to erupt in the city of Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore Orioles Chief Operating Officer John Angelos (son of team owner Peter Angelos) responded via Twitter to local sportscaster Brett Hollander's criticism of the protests taking place in the city (also via Twitter)...

"Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans."
Then on Wednesday, manager Buck Showalter offered his two cents...
"You hear people try to weigh in on things that they really don't know anything about. ... I've never been black, OK? So I don't know, I can't put myself there. I've never faced the challenges that they face, so I understand the emotion, but I can't. ... It's a pet peeve of mine when somebody says, 'Well, I know what they're feeling. Why don't they do this? Why doesn't somebody do that?' You have never been black, OK, so just slow down a little bit.
I try not to get involved in something that I don't know about, but I do know that it's something that's very passionate, something that I am, with my upbringing, that it bothers me, and it bothers everybody else. We've made quite a statement as a city, some good and some bad. Now, let's get on with taking the statements we've made and create a positive. We talk to players, and I want to be a rallying force for our city. It doesn't mean necessarily playing good baseball. It just means [doing] everything we can do. There are some things I don't want to be normal [in Baltimore again]. You know what I mean? I don't. I want us to learn from some stuff that's gone on on both sides of it. I could talk about it for hours, but that's how I feel about it."
Good job, Orioles. This is clearly an organization that is not detached from the community where they play their games. What can we learn here?

  • Understanding why someone might feel the way they do doesn't mean you have to endorse or even agree with their actions or reactions.
  • It's not a good idea to form an opinion about a situation based on nothing but cursory, visceral reactions. 
  • Most things are bigger and more complicated than the parts of them that piss you off.

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