CULTURE
Deja Vu All Over Again
by Gordon Kamer
2015-12-09 08:00:00
With Yogi goes a lifetime's worth of wisdom, captured in bite size sentences, so simple yet so revealing. On a different note, perhaps the world is seeing a little bit of deja vu all over again.

On September 22nd of this year, America lost one of its greatest icons. The fat lady sang her last tune for the 90 year old baseball legend, Yogi Berra. For many, Yogi was so much more than just the all-time leader in world series victories (amassing more fall classic wins than 28 of the 30 MLB franchises); he was an ultimate symbol of classic America. And his death maybe couldn’t have been more timely.

Before baseball, Yogi worked in a shoe factory in St. Louis. He never took much interest in school, and if it weren’t for baseball, Yogi likely would have carried out his years working in that same shoe factory, the menswear department next door, or Ruggeri’s restaurant. His talent was on the field. And, so it turned out, in rhetoric. Yogi was perhaps just as famous for playing baseball as he was for talking about the world in ways everyone could understand. If you attended Brunswick’s middle school, you might have seen a quote of his on the wall of the cafeteria: “You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” Yogi’s quotes often veered into the humorous, but you cannot ignore those “yogi-isms” which carry infinite wisdom disguised in simplicity. He once remarked, “You can observe a lot by watching.” With the classic rags-to-riches, everyman narrative attached, it’s hard not to be reminded of another time - another time, which seems to have such relevance today.

About seven years ago, the world descended into what we now refer to as “The Great Recession,” named such with obvious reference to a time of much greater economic uncertainty. One can look at the death of Yogi as the end of an era - but another may see that era’s return.

The Donald, the current front-runner in the Republican party, has had great success with his campaign slogan, “Make America great again!” But, what does he mean, “again?” When did America become great, and when did it become not so? I think any of his supporters who reads the slogan answers those questions without thinking. The answer to the first being somewhere in the mid 20th century, and the answer to the second being precisely January 20th, 2008. The White House even made clear in a number of statements recently that America never ceased to be great, contrary to Mr. Trump’s assumption (well, it’s also possible that a person in the White House never thought America was great to begin with, but that’s another topic). Trump recently made statements in front of a crowd criticizing the leaders of the military and their willingness to appear on television talking about what they would and would not do in the war on terror. He said, “I liked McArthur. You know, in the history of West Point, he had the highest marks. . . He would get off his plane with the corn cob pipe and the high hat and he’d say ‘Here I am, you mess with me, go ahead, mess with me.’” As Trump’s success has made clear, there is a desire amongst many Americans to relive much of the 20th century. There is also a desire to relive history in the heart of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.

Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union, “the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.” He claimed in his 60 minutes interview that he was referring to how millions of Russian people suddenly found themselves living outside Russia’s borders. And of course, his takeover of the Crimea as well as the ongoing battles in Syria and Ukraine are all an attempt to aid the suffering “Russian ethnic minorities.” Dead soldiers in the Sudetenland roll over in their graves. This past summer, Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated a deal with a country that has sworn to systematically destroy the Jewish state. It seems as though Donald Trump had been the negotiator from Iran’s side - Iran’s building a bomb, and America’s paying for it! The deal gives billions of dollars to Iran, and the checks on Iran’s nuclear program are extraordinarily weak. For example, the deal does not allow for anytime-anywhere searches. If your parents had to give you a week’s notice before they searched your room, do you think they would find anything? The White House’s response to that was, “What are we supposed to do, go to war?” And maybe they’re right. America probably shouldn’t go to war. But, a Republican might respond, “What if Reagan told the Soviets America would never go to war with them?” Anyway you slice it, the Iran deal does very little to ensure peace in our time.

In all, the world seems to find itself now in a situation too reminiscent of a time on the eve of an event no one, I’m sure, would like to repeat. And while that fact remains, the “yogi-isms” that painted the world in black and white are refuges from today’s reality of there being many shades of gray. The world perhaps isn’t as simple as it once was, contrary to some candidates’ rhetoric, and while we can’t simply classify our enemies as an axis of evil anymore, we shouldn’t make the same mistakes we’ve already made. Now with a generation in nursing homes and graves whose wisdom had guided humanity through so much, so much is now left to a new great generation of Americans.



Deja Vu All Over Again

On September 22nd of this year, America lost one of its greatest icons. The fat lady sang her last tune for the 90 year old baseball legend, Yogi Berra. For many, Yogi was so much more than just the all-time leader in world series victories (amassing more fall classic wins than 28 of the 30 MLB franchises); he was an ultimate symbol of classic America. And his death maybe couldn’t have been more timely.

Before baseball, Yogi worked in a shoe factory in St. Louis. He never took much interest in school, and if it weren’t for baseball, Yogi likely would have carried out his years working in that same shoe factory, the menswear department next door, or Ruggeri’s restaurant. His talent was on the field. And, so it turned out, in rhetoric. Yogi was perhaps just as famous for playing baseball as he was for talking about the world in ways everyone could understand. If you attended Brunswick’s middle school, you might have seen a quote of his on the wall of the cafeteria: “You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” Yogi’s quotes often veered into the humorous, but you cannot ignore those “yogi-isms” which carry infinite wisdom disguised in simplicity. He once remarked, “You can observe a lot by watching.” With the classic rags-to-riches, everyman narrative attached, it’s hard not to be reminded of another time - another time, which seems to have such relevance today.

About seven years ago, the world descended into what we now refer to as “The Great Recession,” named such with obvious reference to a time of much greater economic uncertainty. One can look at the death of Yogi as the end of an era - but another may see that era’s return.

The Donald, the current front-runner in the Republican party, has had great success with his campaign slogan, “Make America great again!” But, what does he mean, “again?” When did America become great, and when did it become not so? I think any of his supporters who reads the slogan answers those questions without thinking. The answer to the first being somewhere in the mid 20th century, and the answer to the second being precisely January 20th, 2008. The White House even made clear in a number of statements recently that America never ceased to be great, contrary to Mr. Trump’s assumption (well, it’s also possible that a person in the White House never thought America was great to begin with, but that’s another topic). Trump recently made statements in front of a crowd criticizing the leaders of the military and their willingness to appear on television talking about what they would and would not do in the war on terror. He said, “I liked McArthur. You know, in the history of West Point, he had the highest marks. . . He would get off his plane with the corn cob pipe and the high hat and he’d say ‘Here I am, you mess with me, go ahead, mess with me.’” As Trump’s success has made clear, there is a desire amongst many Americans to relive much of the 20th century. There is also a desire to relive history in the heart of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.

Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union, “the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.” He claimed in his 60 minutes interview that he was referring to how millions of Russian people suddenly found themselves living outside Russia’s borders. And of course, his takeover of the Crimea as well as the ongoing battles in Syria and Ukraine are all an attempt to aid the suffering “Russian ethnic minorities.” Dead soldiers in the Sudetenland roll over in their graves. This past summer, Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated a deal with a country that has sworn to systematically destroy the Jewish state. It seems as though Donald Trump had been the negotiator from Iran’s side - Iran’s building a bomb, and America’s paying for it! The deal gives billions of dollars to Iran, and the checks on Iran’s nuclear program are extraordinarily weak. For example, the deal does not allow for anytime-anywhere searches. If your parents had to give you a week’s notice before they searched your room, do you think they would find anything? The White House’s response to that was, “What are we supposed to do, go to war?” And maybe they’re right. America probably shouldn’t go to war. But, a Republican might respond, “What if Reagan told the Soviets America would never go to war with them?” Anyway you slice it, the Iran deal does very little to ensure peace in our time.

In all, the world seems to find itself now in a situation too reminiscent of a time on the eve of an event no one, I’m sure, would like to repeat. And while that fact remains, the “yogi-isms” that painted the world in black and white are refuges from today’s reality of there being many shades of gray. The world perhaps isn’t as simple as it once was, contrary to some candidates’ rhetoric, and while we can’t simply classify our enemies as an axis of evil anymore, we shouldn’t make the same mistakes we’ve already made. Now with a generation in nursing homes and graves whose wisdom had guided humanity through so much, so much is now left to a new great generation of Americans.