- The Latest
from the Appalseed Newsletter January, 1996
I remember when I was my son Will's age, thirteen, back in the spring of 1966...I got my first lesson in American business. The Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta. Now, I'm sure someone could explain the economics involved in this move. Or they could have correctly pointed out that this same team had moved to Milwaukee from Boston a mere thirteen years earlier. But at that time I felt lost, confused, and betrayed. They were my team. And I didn't have one for a long, long time. So I read with absolute empathy the stories of the migration of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. There was no mention of tradition or loyalty or fairness. It was business. Period. And by this brand good business we mean the ends justify the means, profit is paramount, and economic blackmail is the order of the day: "You build me that new stadium or..." All the stuff we're taught in school, in church or temple, in our homes is out the window. "This is business, kid!"
The ironic thing is that factories and business do exactly the same thing everyday. It's the American Way: "You take this wage concession or..." NAFTA and GATT, for example, are not about "free trade." They are about the free flow of capital across national borders. Development is not about expanded opportunities...it's about profit. And like our sports franchises, the money is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and we workers and drones get stung.
When Wal-Mart moves in and the locally owned department store goes under the wages stay but the profits migrate. When McDonald's muscles out Mom and Pop's Diner those of us who eat (and we're a big group!) lose any chance to influence the menu. Understand, I'm not talking about nostalgia. I'm talking about economic democracy. And democracy is participatory. We have to patronize those businesses we hope to see flourish. Every Big Mac sends a message. I'm not advocating doing away with the "big boys"...though sometimes that might seem a decent solution...I'm talking about choice. And fairness and loyalty and tradition...all virtues that seem to be in short supply these days. The alternative is living in some cookie-cutter Anytown, USA governed by whatever economic forces wield the biggest stick.
The Braves aren't coming back to Milwaukee, I know. But then, neither am I. And the powerful will continue to abuse the powerless...until we don't give them a safe or an easy place to go. See, Baltimore is not Cleveland's enemy. Just like underpaid workers in, say, Guatemala aren't our foes. The people who move our hometown companies there are. When we remember that we are communities, not merely marketplaces, then we might begin to put our money were our mouth is... Until then, give me some good, slow food, hometown baseball, and a boss who not so rich he can afford to forget my name.