THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY

1. It’s Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

2. Today is a big days for history buffs. It’s the 155th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. It’s the 71st anniversary of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. It’s the 55th anniversary of the launching of the first man into space by the Soviet Union.

3. Anyone amused by Hillary Clinton’s travails with a New York City MetroCard has never used a New York City MetroCard.

I’ve stood at the freakin’ turnstile waving that damn thing through three and four times, each time getting the “PLEASE SWIPE AGAIN AT THIS TURNSTILE.” It triggers the fear – not unfounded – that you are on the verge of losing $2.50 off whatever balance is on that card if you don’t stand there and keep swiping until the damn thing lets you through.

I don’t think Clinton worries about the $2.50. I think it’s just the frustration that you’ve invested time and money into this stupid piece of plastic, and it’s not goddamn working.

You can mock her for giving six-figure speeches on Wall Street. You can mock her for the way she tends to step on applause lines when she gives a speech. But when you get on her for struggling with a MetroCard, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

4. It’s stupid for Donald Trump to complain about the Colorado delegate process, just as it would be stupid for Ted Cruz to complain about the Florida delegate process. Everybody knows the rules before going into these things, and if even they seem unfair and unrepresentative, they’re what’s in place.

Cruz’s advantage over Trump is his organization. Deal with it.

5. What is it like to be on the wrong side of history?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since watching the first part of Ken Burns’ terrific documentary on Jackie Robinson. This is one of the better Burns’ effort, filled with the trademark sweeping shots of old photos and some good interview subjects.

And, of course, as a baseball fan and former Brooklynite, the subject matter interests me a lot.

But what I’ve thought about since last night is not Robinson, whose courage and conviction make him an American hero. 

Instead, I’ve been thinking about the people who tried to obstruct Robinson on his Herculean task of integrating what was then the national pastime.

There are names that have emerged, both in this documentary and other tellings of the Robinson saga. We’re about two years removed from “42,” a noble film about Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers, and there were clear bad guys in that, too. Ben Chapman, the Philadelphia Phillies manager. Kirby Higbe, a Dodger pitcher who signed a petition saying he wouldn’t play with Robinson – and was traded. Dixie Walker, a Dodger star who also signed the petition but wasn’t traded and begrudgingly came to appreciate Robinson’s contribution to his bigger paycheck.

What I’m struck by is how fate or history or God or whatever intervened with these guys. Their bigotry was not a whole lot different than that of millions of other Americans. But because these guys played baseball, and were in a certain place at a certain time, they’ve become villains, as much a symbol of rottenness as slaveowners and rural Southern sheriffs.

At least guys such as Chapman don’t have to listen to the opprobrium anymore. They’re dead. But they had families, and every time there’s a tribute or presentation about Jackie Robinson, they get to be reminded about what Grandpa did to be the bad guy in this tale of good and evil.

They can’t walk into New York’s Citi Field without seeing Robinson memorialized in the ballpark’s rotunda. There’s a parkway named for Robinson. No one on any team can wear the number 42.

You can’t say that about Grandpa. In fact, Grandpa’s the obstacle, the treachery that made Robinson a hero.

It must be hard. I can’t say I’m sympathetic, because in a fair world Jackie Robinson should never had to go through what he did.

But I go back to the original question. What is it like to be on the wrong side of history? I imagine it’s painful, if someone you loved screwed up badly, or makes you angry, if one of your ancestors was so much of a jerk that he hurt you more than he would have had no one even known him.

Or perhaps you’re like Grandpa or Great-Grandpa. You don’t think integrating the major leagues was such a great idea. Why did baseball need Henry Aaron or Willie Mays or Ken Griffey Jr. or Andrew McCutcheon?

Fortunately, at this moment, I can’t answer that. I don’t know if something I believe will be thought to be bigoted in the late 21st century. I hope my children and, as of now, unborn grandchildren and great-grandchildren won’t be able to answer that, either.

6. One other thought: All this should be a precaution to anyone who takes a strident stand on a social issue. 

Those who believe in God would say that only God can judge. But that’s not completely right. Yes, there might be a divine judgment. But there is one of history, whether or not you believe in God. And it will follow you beyond to your grave, as long as there is someone related to you in the world.

Be careful.

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