It’s Monday, March 23, 2020.
Today is Pakistan Day, the 64th anniversary of the nation’s becoming the first Islamic republic in the world.
This mention is a gift to any of my future news editing. March 23, 1956 is the correct answer to the fact-checking assignment question about when Pakistan became a republic.
Tetsuharu Kawakami was born on this day a century ago.
Kawakami’s claim to fame was managing the Yomiuri Giants of the Central League to 11 Japan Series baseball championships – including nine in a row.
According to Robert Whiting’s three-part 2013 obit in the Japan Times, Kawakami was what Americans would likely sum up as a Zen hardass.
He believed in teamwork over all and pushed his players’ training to the limit. And he messed with the minds of players he thought didn’t display the proper respect and dedication.
One example: A star pitcher whose attitude Kawakami found lacking was on the mound when the Giants had a 10-0 lead with two out and nobody on in the fifth inning – one out from getting credit for the win.
Kawakami took him out. No W.
The lack of “wa,” the team harmony that was Kawakami’s guiding principle, is profoundly felt in the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020.
In some ways, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings on the crisis are an attempt at achieving that harmony.
The idea is that, by giving people facts and leavening them with his wit and being straight forward, Cuomo tries to unify the people of the state in combatting the biggest crisis we have ever faced.
Does it work?
Somewhat. Cuomo wasn’t a particularly popular governor before this crisis, but even his critics believe he’s done a good job.
The problem is that we are addicted to polarization. It’s the operating engine of our society.
It’s why Trump is useless in a situation that requires the nation to be united.
Forget the fact that he failed the nation by not heeding the warnings about the coronavirus when this year started.
He could have overcome that by being a unifying force. By doing the hard stuff like making sure the government was actually functioning.
A competent president would have coordinated testing for the virus. He or she would have commanded American industry into making the stuff needed to keep people alive.
Trump also failed to do the stuff that makes legendary presidents – bringing the country together in a crisis to defeat a common enemy.
Leaders inspire. I thought Ronald Reagan was a godawful president, but his speech after the Challenger disaster is a brilliant example of bring a nation together in grief.
Trump’s incapable of any of that. The constant effort to be the one to come up with the heroic solution for which he has no training or aptitude.
The attempt to link this virus to being Chinese – it’s not just to China. It’s the suggestion that there’s something about these people – and, by extension, people from that part of the world – that creates these viruses that kill.
In the process, he creates the disharmony. The anti-wa. He thinks that what his supporters want – and he might be right.
But the price is ultimately failure. A situation that’s far worse than it needs be – and threatens not hundreds of lives but thousands and maybe millions.
There has never been a time in our life – and maybe only twice in American history, the Revolution and World War II – when our nation has been more in need of unification, of coordinating help for every single American with the force of every single American.
It’s why there’s such opposition to the solution offered by Trump and the Republicans.
Instead of giving aid to everyone, regardless of economic status – instead of committing to the whole team – they’ll see if the business gods they worship want to step up and help.
Which they’ll do – but many of them only when it’s 10-0 with two out and nobody on in the fifth inning.
Alas, there’s no Tetsuharu Kawakami to take out the pitcher.
That’s going to have to be our job. November can’t get here fast enough.