When Politics and Pleasure Clash

Politics is about priorities.  For example, those that affiliate with the Republican party generally tend to prioritize certain economic issues, or perhaps small government principles, over certain social issues.  And those that affiliate with the Democratic party tend to generally prioritize certain social issues like healthcare or free education for instance, over certain economic issues.

As Americans living in an ostensibly “free democracy,” we have a right to choose our priorities as we see fit and to vote for the candidates who most align with our priorities in the ways we feel most comfortable.  And that’s perfectly okay.

As humans, we’re imperfect beings.  We’ll all admit that.  Sometimes, that means we change our minds about our priorities—for better or for worse, depending on who we’re asking.  That, too, is perfectly okay.  Yet other times, we allow outside forces to pollute our priorities, misaligning them or turning them off completely.  And we are typically blissfully unaware of this phenomenon.  That is problematic.

The most obvious outside force that influences our priorities is our entertainment, our pleasure.  Too many of America’s smartest and strongest fighters for their beliefs allow—and even empower—blissful ignorance when personal pleasure is at stake.  Their politics and pleasure clash.

One need look no further than recent events in our country to see what I mean.  The juxtaposition of the 112th edition of the World Series this year with the campaign for, and election of, the 45th President of the United States is all too revealing that people can push aside firmly-held beliefs when personal entertainment and pleasure is impacted.  How American.

Let’s briefly go over the Cubs’ World Series victory and 2016 Presidential race to draw a clear picture of what I mean.

The Chicago Cubs & the 112th World Series

On July 25, 2016, the Chicago Cubs organization traded four of its players to receive the notoriously fast pitching Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees.  It was widely known and accepted that this trade was a play call by the Cubs to heighten the team’s chances of winning the World Series after a championship drought lasting longer than a century.  If Aroldis Chapman were just an incredibly talented athlete, this would be no problem.

But, Aroldis Chapman is not a just an incredibly talented athlete.  Aroldis Chapman is an incredibly talent athlete who had just served a thirty game suspension for violating the Major League Baseball (MLB)’s domestic violence policy.

The incident sparking the suspension took place in October, 2015 when Chapman’s girlfriend and baby-mama called 911, claiming Chapman choked her and fired seven to eight shots out of his hand gun in the garage while she hid in the bushes.  Chapman responded that he had used his fingers to poke his girlfriend to remove her from his personal space during an argument, and that she fell and started screaming.  Oh, and that his gun did get fired at some point.  More than a dozen police officers were dispatched to the scene.  The authorities chose not to press charges, citing conflicting and changing stories among family member witnesses.

Regardless, the MLB, empowered by its domestic violence policy to conduct investigations, decided to impose a thirty-game suspension on Chapman, which began in March and ended in May.  When commenting to the New York Times on the incident after his suspension, Chapman stated, “I didn’t do anything wrong. . . It was just an argument with your partner that everyone has.  When you are not in agreement with someone, we Latin people are louder when we argue.”

aroldis chapman

Ron Cogswell — Flickr

Less than three months later, the Cubs traded to receive Chapman.  There were protests by some fans about the trade due to the domestic violence issue.  However, the Series began, and the Cubs started to win, advancing to the final set of games in the Series.  They were down in the finals 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians.  The Cubs achieved the near impossible and won three games in a row to clinch the highly coveted and ever elusive title of World Series Champions. Many sources championed Chapman as a key reason the Cubs won, and applauded Coach Joe Maddon’s “aggressive use” of Chapman in Games 6 and 7.  On November 4, 2016, Chicago hosted the Cubs’ victory parade, which reportedly drew crowds in the millions and went down as the seventh largest human gathering in history.

But no one protested the Cubs’ victory.  At least there was no response significant enough to be newsworthy.  Where were the protesters?

The 2016 Presidential Campaign & Election

Donald Trump shocked the country when he entered the race as a Republican candidate for the 2016 Presidency.  Donald Trump continued to shock the country when he beat out fifteen other candidates and actually became the Republican nominee.  And most shocking is that he pulled it off: Donald Trump won and will be the next president of the United States.

I haven’t been alive for more than thirty years, and I’ve been following politics for even a shorter time than that.  However, I can say with confidence that we as a nation will be hard-pressed to find a candidate as controversial as Donald Trump.  He’s been compared multiple times by various sources to Adolf Hitler.  He’s been called a racist, a bigot, and a sexist.  He’s been accused of bragging about sexual assault.  He’s been called evil.  I don’t need to go on—we’ve all heard it.  Anyone who reads or watches the news or has any form of social media has seen and heard the controversy surrounding this man.

On the other side, he’s also been called America’s savior, its great hope, the one to fix the brokenness, an American hero.

Being a millennial, one major way I see and interpret the social and political temperature of the nation is by scrolling through the newsfeed on my various social media applications.  Social media is used more and more as a medium for people to express their thoughts and beliefs on any issue.  And more people are becoming less shy about doing so.

What I have overwhelmingly seen is the high numbers of posts that not only oppose Donald Trump, but threaten to defriend/unfollow anyone who supports or votes for him.   I researched broader social media outside of my personal circles to confirm this was a nationwide trend, not merely one within my personal circles.  Just search on Twitter for #defriend or #unfollow, and you’ll see what I mean.  Facebook has a group called “Unfriend Trump Supporters.”  Websites like New York Magazine and the Huffington Post have published articles encouraging such behavior.

donald trump and melania

Boss Tweed — Flickr

To be fair, it goes both ways—there are articles discouraging and criticizing the act of unfollowing/defriending Trump supporters.  And there are plenty of Trump supporters who brutally attack Hillary and/or Bernie supporters and unfollow them too.  But, a quick Google or social media search demonstrates that there appears to be much more unfollowing/defriending Trump supporters, and labeling Trump supporters as sexist, racist, homophobic, and the like than the reverse.  So many people hold so strongly to their beliefs of prioritizing these social issues over anything else that they do not want to be affiliated with or exposed to people who do not hold the same priorities.  That is quite a statement.

The Problem

Many have already drawn the comparison between the Cubs’ unlikely victory with Trump’s.  Namely, that two events that no one thought would happen have indeed happened.  And in isolation, there is nothing problematic about either of these events.  On one hand, the Cubs prioritized winning the World Series title over taking a more proactive approach in denouncing domestic violence, and many of their fans did the same.  That is perfectly okay; American freedom means we get to prioritize how we choose.

The problem comes in when those same fans, who didn’t bat an eye at the acquisition of Chapman—a documented, though not convicted, domestic violence perpetrator—are the same people who choose to criticize and defriend anyone who supports Trump because he “stands for” or “promotes” racism, sexism, homophobia, and sexual assault.  On the other hand, all of a sudden, priorities change, and the value is placed on these social issues above all else.  Where were the protesters when the Cubs won, literally with the hands of a documented domestic violence perpetrator?

There is a banner of hypocrisy over these two attitudes, when they come from the same people, that is disturbing.

A few caveats and responses to the inevitable counter arguments rising in the minds of readers who have lasted this long before we reach the main point:

(1) I am aware of the many protests, discussions, and criticisms by Cubs fans related to the team’s acquisition of Chapman.  I give those people props, and quite frankly, they can defriend everyone in the world and there would be no issue with that decision; they are consistently upholding and representing their chosen priorities.

(2) There is obviously a major difference in seriousness between a presidential election and a sports championship.  The consequences look very different in both situations, but the effect is the same; a message is still sent.  The point is something that should have ended Chapman’s career, according to the priorities espoused by many people during this election, actually made him a more marketable trade in the other, less serious scenario.  The vast chasm of differences of priorities (measured by public response) is disturbing, even if a sports title is admittedly less serious with less long-term implications.

If we can’t hold fast to our beliefs in “minor” situations, why do we deserve to put them on the highest pedestal in more serious situations, to the extent that we actively disassociate with people who believe differently?  If we can’t be consistent in the small exercises of our beliefs, why do we get to nearly impose them on others in the larger ones?

(3) I realize many who cheered for the Cubs perhaps had no idea about Chapman’s history.  This is not directed to them obviously, but it proves my point: you didn’t hear about Chapman’s history because it wasn’t nearly as heavily protested as it could have (or should have) been, according to the rates of protests in the election due to issues with Trump’s alleged treatment of women and sexual assault.

And that’s my point.  Why did so many people ignore their priorities?  Why did so many people turn a blind eye to Chapman’s past, or the Cubs’ choice to trade a player with a documented domestic violence incident not even a year earlier?  Why did some of us not even hear about Chapman’s past?

Because we as people are willing, subconsciously or consciously, to ignore our priorities and beliefs for the purposes of our personal pleasure or entertainment.  Did people care about whether Trump was sexist or racist while he was on “The Apprentice”?  I haven’t seen any record of that.  Do people care that Jay-Z, who performed at Hillary’s campaign, has rapped lyrics like “You know I thug em, f*ck em, leave em, cause I don’t f*ckin’ need em” in one of his Billboard hits?  I haven’t seen record of that either.

  1. R. Kelly is another illustrative example of this issue with our culture. He is well known for his fetish with teenage girls, and yet instead of public disgrace, Saturday Night Live made it a funny joke about how R. Kelly likes to pee in teenage girls’ mouths—a skit based off his criminal indictment for filming child pornography and the ensuing trial, in which he was acquitted.

The point is that the juxtaposition of these events is a new manifestation of the old problem with our culture: re-prioritization of our values for personal pleasure.  Aroldis Chapman has documented actions of domestic violence and still attests he did nothing wrong.  This actually made him a better trade, and only a minority of baseball fans spoke against the trade because the trade increased chances for a World Series victory.  Donald Trump has said inexcusable, hurtful, and ignorant words, but they are words alone—not actions.  And we are so fired up about this that we actually refuse to interact or associate with anyone who supports him.  We congratulate the Cubs for beating the odds and winning, and we condemn Trump and his supporters for beating the odds and winning, as being bigots, sexists, racists, and the like.

It’s a new manifestation of something old: priorities matter less when personal pleasure comes into play.  We can either acknowledge and own this inconsistency, and stop shutting out people with different priorities, or we can become consistent in what we prioritize in the little things as well as the big things, and choose to not associate with people who prioritize differently.  But we cannot do both.

To those who are self-aware enough to admit you care more about policies that discourage sexual assault in politics than you do in sports, I do not take any issue with that.  That is you exercising your American freedom and choosing where your values lie, and that is your prerogative.  But, implicit in making such an acknowledgement is the understanding that other people may have other priorities in politics or sports, and they can’t be shut out or belittled for making such a choice.

In the opposite scenario though, when we prioritize policies that discourage sexual assault in politics so fervently that we exclude people with other priorities, and then cheer without protest for a man who was violent enough to his partner to warrant the MLB’s first suspension under its domestic violence policy, and for the organization who traded quadruple players for this man mere months after his suspension, we are dividing the nation, and we are dividing ourselves as individuals, basking in our cognitive dissonance.

I suppose that is also our prerogative in a free democracy like America—to re-prioritize based on personal pleasure and exclude anyone else who does the same.  That is a choice we get to make in our society.  We can allow our politics and pleasure to clash.  But that is the worst part of democracy; our hypocrisy is far more divisive than different priorities.  And that makes me want to move to Canada more than the rest of it.


Featured image by Arturo Pardavila III via Flickr.