Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Working Together

Like many other sports fans, I watched the NCAA Men's basketball final a few nights ago.  Of course, in addition to being a fan of March Madness, I was eager to see if Villanova, a team from a suburb west of Philadelphia (I live in a northern suburb of the same city), could knock off another number 1 seed and perennial college basketball powerhouse North Carolina.  It had been an impressive run to the final game for Villanova, who rolled over 4 of the five teams it had played, including a record setting 44 point victory in the Final Four semifinal, while also beating the overall number 1 ranked team in the tournament, Kansas, in a thriller last weekend.

My feeling before the game was that North Carolina had the better players, but that Villanova was the better team.  As it turned out, this was true.  While there are a few players on the North Carolina team who will eventually play in the NBA, there are most likely no players on the Villanova team destined for the pro league.  Yet, Villanova won the game in story book fashion on a 3-point basket as time expired.  Their swarming defense in which all five players on the court worked as one, kept North Carolina from playing their game, and from showcasing their better athletes.

As is so often the case in sports, the team with the best players sometimes wins the championship in a given year, but more often loses out to the team which is playing the best.  (As the NHL playoffs approach, let this be a warning to the Washington Capitals, arguably the team with the best players in the National Hockey League).  Of course, a team needs excellent players to succeed.  But the ability for those players to meld into an effective unit and create a team greater than its parts can lead to success even when the individual players are less talented.  A good coach or a good scheme can create the framework, but in the end, the players themselves must "buy in" to a coach, or to the concept that they can win by playing as a team even when the other team has superior players.  ,

Which brings us to politics, and governing.  As any one knows who has read my posts, I am not a fan of the current political bipartisanship, and particularly not a fan of the current political philosophy of the GOP.  While both parties have lost sight of the goal, to govern so as to improve the daily life of the majority of Americans, the Republican party seems to have taken spitefulness to a new level, most recently as reflected in their refusal to hold hearings and vote on the president's nominee for the Supreme Court. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, this election cycle pits an establishment candidate against a "change" candidate in each party.  Without overstating the obvious, when the actual presidential candidates are chosen at the respective nomination conventions this summer, it will be the "team" that pulls together its players which will win the White House.  It won't matter for the Democrats if it is understood that Hillary Clinton is the better presidential candidate, if those who support Bernie Sanders don't work together to elect her.  And, even more critically, it will result in a landslide DEM victory, if the those behind Donald Trump don't work together with the candidate that emerges from what will surely be a brokered nomination process.  Teamwork that emphasizes the stark differences between the overall party platforms, regardless of who represents that party, will win the day, just as teamwork enabled Villanova to win on Monday night.

All this being said, one might say, DUH, Joe, all you say is obvious.  Yet is it so obvious that cooperation is the best process for success?  Especially when a component of cooperation, compromise, is such an evil word in today's politics?  Whether one uses the example of immigration reform which was agreed to by the president and the GOP leadership then scuttled by the extreme right wing members of the House, or the recent example in Pennsylvania when newly elected Governor Wolf had a budget agreement in place with the GOP leadership of that state only to have it rejected by a small but vocal minority of GOP reps and senators, it seems that the "my way or the high way" mentality has become a rallying cry for those who have decided that the opinions of the electorate are only to be honored when those opinions have put them in office, not someone of a different viewpoint or political party. 

Make America Great Again is a wonderful slogan, not withstanding the fact that when pressed for an answer most Americans would rank the United States as the best country in the world, and not forgetting when President Obama was taken to task by radio and TV pundits for answering a question about America's "excellence" by saying that most people in every country think their country a great place.  But if we agree that America was at her greatest in defeating Hitler, and in the few decades after WW2 in our efforts to rebuild Europe, create a thriving middle class, and truly making those words, "all men are created equal" be more than a platitude, we might want to remember that cooperation was at the root of that success.  Opportunity was abundant, whether through government programs like the GI bill that enabled millions of veterans to advance their education without debt, or the rise of small businesses which were community based, and which assumed fair pricing so all in that community could afford the services and products offered.  It was a time of doctors making house calls, athletes having an off season job, and entertainers, politicians, and business owners living a good lifestyle without the trappings of obscene wealth. 

If it is true that we will be judged by our treatment of the least among us, then wall building, ID cards to prove citizenship, institutionalized racism in our justice and penal systems, marriage discrimination, and ever increasing income inequality will not only impede our goal to make America great, they will prove just the opposite.  Cooperation is inclusive; remember that when you next watch a presidential debate, or enter a voting booth,


The American Dream was never abou 


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