The Fresno Grizzlies, the Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate, need to find and fire the employees who failed to monitor and prevent a video shown at their stadium on Memorial Day that placed an image of a duly elected member of Congress alongside photos of dictators — all of them characterized as “enemies of freedom.”
If the Grizzlies don’t do it, then the Nats, who had nothing to do with the hate-fomenting message — directed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — must intervene with their minor league team. The big club must big foot: Investigate and pink-slip those who were responsible, whether by negligence or malice.
If you’re the one who hasn’t heard, the Grizzlies ran a tribute video honoring military veterans as patriotic words by former president Ronald Reagan were played. As he denounced “the enemies of freedom,” pictures flashed of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and former Cuban president Fidel Castro . And Ocasio-Cortez.
Leave aside the irony that the current president poses for photos pumping paws with Kim. As vicious as American politics is, it still cries out for popcorn.
What matters now is that the Grizzlies — and the innocent-bystander Nats — handle this controversy just as properly and evenhandedly, as if the politician who was singled out for potential violence had been a similarly controversial person on the opposite side of the aisle, such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).
The Grizzlies’ current position — that they have found a “remorseful” but unidentified employee and are studying the matter — can be only a beginning. Even though the video was pulled from YouTube, the Grizzlies showed it to a crowd on a military holiday — and identified a congresswoman as an enemy of freedom. Someone is responsible. And someone’s got to go. If it’s the top executive of the Grizzlies who must say “the buck stops here,” then fine — so long.
In a Tuesday tweet, Ocasio-Cortez correctly identified the central and extremely important issue. “What people don’t (maybe do) realize is when orgs air these hateful messages, my life changes bc of the flood of death threats they inspire,” she wrote. “I’ve had mornings where I wake up & the 1st thing I do w/ my coffee is review photos of the men (it’s always men) who want to kill me.”
Americans are sometimes terrified by ideas that are normal around the world but unfamiliar to them and thus easily demonized. It’s a lousy national trait.
The point is not the specifics of Ocasio-Cortez’s political or economic views. It is her absolute right, under our Constitution, to hold them, fight for them and be elected to Congress to champion them. And just like any other person who holds views at the poles of our political spectrum, she should not be called “an enemy of freedom.” Those are fighting, even killing, words.
You can call her or anyone in politics a fool. And lots of other mean things. That’s our democratic system.
But we are entering deep water when we go one huge leap further — and hardly notice that we have done it. We now impugn entire groups of Americans who simply disagree with us on politics, acting as if they want to overthrow our country when they just want to mold it more to their preferences — within the law.
What happened at this minor league game is different but just as dangerous as conventional forms of hate speech with which we are more familiar: attacks on a person or a group based on race, religion, ethnic origin, sex, etc.
For decades, the political right has tried to appropriate every symbol of America, patriotism, freedom and democracy as its property. Even apple pie and baseball. That’s not illegal. It’s politics. The left tugged back — mostly ineffectively.
It’s the next step that is so pernicious. Once wrapped in the flag, one political party can pose as the only authentic valid party, and those who disagree with them suddenly become “enemies” of freedom or “the people” or even enemies of God as viewed through a politicized theology. Examples are available worldwide.
That is a place America has never wanted to go and successfully has resisted at times. That resistance, that leaning back toward basic democratic constitutional principles, is often a mundane, daily task, not some dramatic act.
Sometimes it’s as simple as the Fresno Grizzlies saying, “That’s a mistake — whether it’s an oversight or an intention — that you can’t make here. Explain to your next employer how it happened. But you’re fired.”
And if the Grizzlies are too tame, the Nationals shouldn’t be.
For more by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.