A couple of days ago, I took my eleven year old son to his first Little League game of the year. His team lost a double header. He made an amazing catch of a sinking line drive in center-field in the first inning of the first game, then threw to second base to complete a double play, thus snuffing out a big rally. I shouted, Thats my boy. The other parents in the crowd giggled. What more could one ask? How about a base hit? In the second inning, he hit the ball, a slow grounder to the second base side of the pitchers mound, the pitcher fielded the ball and made a wild throw over the 1st basemans head. My son scampered to second. He scored on another error two batters later. The bench erupted with glee, my son was excited and happy. Daddy was proud and happy. Ok, they lost both games.
Upon arrival at the game, a racquetball buddy of mine had introduced me to his father from Toledo, Ohio. We talked. The father told me he had coached youth baseball for over 20 years. He was critical of the Coaches; why does the pitcher throw from the stretch when there are no base runners, why does the coach let the first baseman (his grandson) stand on first base before the pitch, why does the little boy have a big bat, why did the right-fielder throw to first base instead of second base, etc. Good points, perhaps a bit too critical, but he wasnt shouting or interfering.
Little league games are dominated by two frustrating facts, walks and errors. The games are extraordinarily boring, except for those episodic moments when ones son is involved in the action. So this man and I turned to other topics. This elderly man and I turned to the war. We found we agreed that the War on Terror was necessary, that the Bush administration and our armed forces had performed brillinatly in Iraq, etc.
He talked about the various things, he and other veterans at the American Legion in Toledo had done recently. I asked him when he had served in the military. He was 18 in 1945, 76 in 2003. In 1945, he was stationed in California on his way to the Pacific War. He and his fellow soldiers had been told by the Army to expect a very high percentage of casualties in the impending battles. He expected to die.
He hated war, you could see. He knew WW II was necessary. He did his duty. He didnt have to go to Japan to fight. He was grateful that Harry Truman had dropped the atomic bombs. It saved his life. He gestured toward first base and his grandson (he has five or six grandkids) and then gestured to his wife and son (he has three children). He and they wouldnt be here but for Truman. He was persuaded that Truman had saved a million American lives with the decision to nuke Japan. He was sorry Japanese civilians had to die. He was certain that many more Japanese would have died if the war had continued via conventional means. I mentioned Paul Fussells writings, including Thank God for the Atom Bomb. He simply nodded. We watched the game.
I guess, especially on Memorial Day weekend, we ought to be grateful that we live in America, where we can watch our children and childrens children play ball in peace, surrounding by extraordinary prosperity, in freedom. We need not fear suicide bombers crossing over from Toledo. People from Michigan and Ohio need no Roadmap to Peace. Remember 150 years ago or so, Michigan and Ohio almost went to war (wasnt there a battle) over Toledo. Imagine. Lets be grateful for the rule of law and the genius and prudence which established that rule of law.
Just as importantly, we must remember the hard decisions which have to be made to perpetuate that liberty. Shakespeare illustrates this in Henry V. Washington did it in the Revolutionary War. Lincoln did it in the Civil War. Churchill did it in Oran, Dresden, and elsewhere. Truman did it. W does it now. Just as important, we should be grateful that our political tradition, while seeing the necessity of war, sees war as means to a higher end. The higher end is peace with liberty. This gentlemen (and would have been warrior)understood all of this. Play ball!