Oped: Our views of one another must change
My family was in York this Christmas for the first time in seven years. Living abroad and wading through divided news and social media forums, including opposing familial and friendship camps, I wasn’t sure what to expect in real-time post-election America.
I was happy to find face-to-face conversations were devoid of online poison and we fell into rhythm with the normal Christmas routines such as the lights at Rocky Ridge and ice skating at York Rink.
However, there was one experience which totally caught me off guard and which seems to sum up what I would like to say in regards to the unfolding events in our country, and in our world, including the reactions by some on both sides of the divide.
I had taken my two boys to the park in Zions View. After going down slides a thousand times, my oldest son asked me what the big sand areas were. I sighed as I realized my United Kingdom born children had never seen an American baseball diamond.
“C’mon boys” I said. “Mommy’s going to show you something really cool.”
Running through the grass we landed in the sand where my brother and I played as children. I explained home plate and how to bat. We jogged the line where bases would be positioned come spring. We had no ball so pretended to practice our pitch to perfection.
In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner hears a voice while walking through the cornfield on his farm. The voice simply says “If you build it, he will come.”
Through a series of events and dreams Costner cuts down several acres of his crop to build a baseball field where legends of the past come to play, including his own father, who had been dead for many years and with whom he had held a longtime grudge.
The decision puts Costner in deep financial trouble and he must choose between the field and players and keeping his farm.
In a rousing speech, James Earl Jones, who plays writer and activist Terrance Mann, prophetically exhorts Costner that people “with plenty of money but lacking in peace” will come from all over and pay to see the baseball field which will bring back memories of their youth “so thick they will have to wipe them from their faces.”
I stood on the pitcher’s mound, winter gone, and my mind’s eye filled with summer’s full bloom. Memory and imagination mixed to recreate the crack of bat against ball and the aroma of Smittie’s soft pretzels smothered in mustard and cold cherry slushies. I was a child again, surrounded by friends, my parents in the prime of life.
The imagination is a powerful force for good or for evil. So are words. We can build each other up. Or tear each other down. Whatever we choose, we must accept the consequences of what comes.
In his essay “Some Thoughts on Mercy” in The Sun 2015, Ross Gay writes of the corruption of our imagination through misuse of the media, which turns us against ourselves and against each other.
News stories, built on fear, slander, and half-truths blow our differences out of proportion to profit media outlets because division, war and suffering sell.
Thinking the worst we fall into suspicion and fear. I’ve read comments such as “We used to be good friends, but now that I know they voted for (fill in the blank) I just don’t know if I can trust them anymore.”
Mr. Gay writes “And in this way moments of potential connection are fraught with suspicion and all that comes with it: fear, anger, paralysis, disappointment, despair. We all think the worst of each other and ourselves and become our worst selves.”
With so much getting torn down in this world, I believe the greatest destruction of all is the negative, even hateful, view we are creating of each other, the damage we are doing to our own hearts and minds when we choose to believe the worst about our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
Mr. Gay goes on to say “What if we honestly assessed what we have come to believe about ourselves and each other and how those beliefs shape our lives? And what if we did it with generosity and forgiveness? What if we did it with mercy?”
“What’s this, Mommy?” my son asked as he pulled his discovery from the thick grass of the outfield.
“It’s a baseball son!” I said as we smiled at each other in wonder.
A baseball, I couldn’t help but believe, created from the power of my words and his imagination.
— Nicole Watt is a York native. She lives in Northern Ireland with her husband and children. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org