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Wed March 20, 2013
Herbert London: Starting Over
The baseball gods regard spring training as a time of renewal. There aren’t any losses. All teams have the same record and players abound in hope for the future. Young pitchers are promising and Las Vegas odds are meaningless. Baseball heaven has angels dancing over the outfield.
It is not surprising that baseball is thought of as America’s game since it is filled with second acts. When the San Francisco Giants lost its best player, and at the time a leading hitter in the National League, its chance of making the World Series seemed a long shot. But the Giants defied the odds and went on to become World Champions. That is a story for Spring Training where hope springs eternal.
In a real sense, “wait till next year” or “starting over” are the calling card of the American creed. As difficult as it is to shun the past, we make that effort in literature and life. The mutineers on the “Bounty” didn’t merely rebel against an autocratic and arbitrary commander, they burned the ship to avoid discovery and attempted to create a new life on Pitcairn Island.
Renewal is what Americans seek. The drug addled rocker who pulls his life together to find success, e.g. Johnny Cash, is a source of admiration. Even though one out of every two contemporary marriages ends in divorce, most divorced people marry again, a clear indication of hope trumping experience. Will the new relationship work? Since personalities are not likely to change the odds are long, but at the same time the spirit is strong. Americans long for that Second Act.
The same is true in politics, Richard Nixon was considered down and out when he lost a gubernatorial race in California, but he rose from the political ashes to become president. In fact, the one way street to success without detours is what is truly unusual. Abraham Lincoln ran 15 times before getting elected.
It is not as if Americas admire Sisyphus. What they do admire is the willingness to start again, despite defeats and failure. Each new start is a psychological tabula rasa. We can forge identify change by beginning anew or seeming to do so.
America encourages second chances. Poor performance in school is not the end of the line as it is in Europe or Asia. There is always a way to redeem yourself in the classroom through evening classes, general education programs and on-line courses.
Sunk in the mire of depression? Beat it with drugs that offer a new beginning. Lost and lonely? Find companionship on-line. Lacking self confidence? Plastic surgeons are on the ready to change your appearance. There is a waiting audience of service providers to enhance Act Two.
Of course, these superficial changes, never alter the real you. But the deception can be meaningful. We want to believe in starting over. It is an American industry that yields hope continually.
Even the repeat criminal is believed to be a candidate for rehabilitation, notwithstanding the poor record on this matter. Starting over is a national religion. In Florida as baseball players round into shape for the Summer season, every hitter is batting .350; every pitcher can win 20 games and every team is in for a winning season. The days are bright, and the season ahead is filled with promise. Next year is here and we are about to start over.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America).
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