February 22, 2020

On the Same Team in the Game of Life

Last Shabbat, I went for a walk with my wife and son in the area around La Cienega Park. As we were strolling, I spotted a Little League game about to begin on one of the smaller fields. The stands were filled with excited parents; the kids in the dugouts were chanting and crowing in anticipation. Then the kids lined up on the third base and first base lines, and repeated this mantra: “I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best.”

The Little League ethos is an American ethos. And it has an impact. This week, a beautiful viral video went around of a high school baseball playoff game. The pitcher faced down the batter with a trip to the state championship on the line. The pitcher struck him out — but as his teammates rushed the mound to celebrate, the pitcher approached the batter and hugged him. The two were childhood friends, and the pitcher wanted to comfort his friend before celebrating with his teammates.

These are small moments of light in a time of division.

America needs communal spaces. We need places to come together and remember what unifies us. And these things do unify us: trust in God, love for country and the Constitution, playing fair, and effort. 

And yet it seems that too many of these elements are undermined day after day for partisan purposes. 

Trust in God doesn’t mean compulsory religion; it means that as a country, we have to trust in a God who values us as made in His image. The Ten Commandments lie at the root of our civilization. That doesn’t mean everyone in the United States has to believe in the Judeo-Christian God. It does mean that our foundations mean something, and that attempts to encroach on the religious freedoms of others undermine those foundations.

Love for country, too, has been undermined. On the right, some people boil down love of country to signaling about the flag. Common symbols are important. But love of country is obviously about much more than that: It’s about love of what makes America unique, our principles of God-given freedoms and limited government and communally cultivated virtue. And on the left, patriotism has been demeaned as jingoism. Those who treasure the flag have been mocked as narrow-minded anti-globalists. That’s wrong, and it’s nasty, to boot.

How about playing fair and making an effort? We’ve been told by politicians on both sides of the aisle that our own failures can be blamed on the society around us. For many on the right, lack of competitiveness isn’t due to personal failures, but to foreign countries and immigrants; for many on the left, personal failures are due to societal racism and bigotry. We live in the freest country in the history of the world — abiding by the rules doesn’t mean equality of outcome; it means that if we try our hardest, we deserve the results we receive. One of those Little League teams lost. But that doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth playing or that somebody cheated. 

Little League reminds us of the most important thing in life: the values we wish to teach our children. We can teach our children that they should trust in God, love their country, play fair and try hard — or we can teach them the opposite. We can teach our children that they share the playing field with opponents, but that at the end of the game, we’re all on the same team — or we can teach them to spike their opponents and spit in their eyes. That’s our choice.

I know which one I want to teach my kids. n

Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”