I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. When I was a kid, we had a major league baseball team, the Senators, who were the worst professional baseball team. As Shirley Povich, the sportswriter for The Washington Post used to say, ‘Washington - first in war, first in peace, last in the American League.’
But what did I care? I was a kid, and on weekends when the Senators were at home, my mom would give me a dollar, I would walk down Georgia Avenue to old Griffith Stadium, buy a seat in the left-field bleachers for fifty cents, twenty-five cents got me a hot dog, fifteen cents got me a program, and ten cents got me a drink.
It was the time of my life. I once saw Mickey Mantle hit a home run over the left field scoreboard which as far as I know is still flying through the air. I was even there on opening day one year and watched President Eisenhower throw out the first ball.
Many, many years later, maybe fifty years later, I saw a photograph of the left field bleachers at Griffith Stadium taken from behind home plate. I realized looking at the photo that the bleachers were the only seats in the ballpark where Blacks could sit.
I had absolutely no idea when I walked down Georgia Avenue to the stadium that I was going into a segregated, public space. Segregated in the nation’s capital city, no less.
When I happened to mention this memory recently to a young man who was twenty-five years old, he stared at me in disbelief. A segregated major league baseball park? What was I talking about?
I am telling this story about my childhood as a way to put yesterday’s Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision into a proper perspective. Or at least a perspective which can be framed by the life experiences I have had over the past sixty years. Which happens to be a span of years that is usually considered to cover two generations, more or less.
If someone had told me sixty years ago that my African-American son-in-law, who is coal black, would wind up as President of a major, national bank, I would have thought that person was out of his mind. If someone else had told me that my daughter would end up as a Vice President at another national bank, I would have thought that other person was nuts. If someone had told me that my local Wal Mart would be managed by a guy who came here six years ago from some country whose name I can’t even pronounce, I would have known that person was crazy for sure. And if someone told me that I would be a guest at the wedding of my wife’s office-mate to her husband who is also a woman, it would have been proof that the person talking to me was out of his mind.
Even if you are one of six Supreme Court justices who truly believes that America is going to hell in a handbasket because of how this country has changed over the past two generations, and even if you can pronounce something about some law which you believe will somehow get the country back to where it used to be, I got news for you.
You can’t stop the world from changing whether you like those changes or not. So, a woman who wants to get an abortion needs to drive a couple of hundred miles to get it done? Big deal. Yesterday I drove a hundred miles each way to have lunch with my son-in-law and his wife.
I can just see the Planned Parenthood website which will let a woman make a reservation for an abortion at a facility anywhere in the United States. Put in your zip code, click ‘submit’ and away you go.
There will always be people who don’t want anything to change. There will always be people who believe that life was better in the ‘olden’ days, and sometimes those kinds of people wind up in positions of power and authority which they can use to try and keep things the way they ‘should be.’
But if I got in my car and drove down to Washington, D.C. today, I wouldn’t be able to find old Griffith Stadium. The ballpark was demolished in 1965.