Maybe this is simplifying things too much.
Intentional or by mere habit I see life through the eyes of a coach. Few if any successes are the product of a singular person. Teamwork and cooperation, whether it is within an organization or the support structure that made us who we are, determine successful outcomes. None of us really do it on our own.
Team America is currently in turmoil, but we have been here before and I am confident we will once again find our way out. You see I believe with certainty in the power of teamwork and the character of the American majority.
Building a team culture that has a chance to experience success takes steady moral leadership based on several key components. Like a house, the construction must be incremental and sequential. The foundation must be laid first with the key pillars of character, communication, trust and respect as the cornerstones. In the political arena of our society today, none of those exist. We talk down to or yell above each other. Trust is non-existent and respect has been replaced with disdain. Our personal agendas have become so polarized that we completely refuse to see another point of view.
The moral code that guided this country since its inception is under attack. The core values we have long stood up for and defended are now literally being trampled over by a radical minority. We have declared war on our own history, the very same textbooks we have been warned to study so as not to repeat. And at the same time, incorrectly trying to apply today’s standards to events that happened long before any of us were born as if it were the same or we can change it. Silly symbolic gestures aimed at cartoons or band names might make us feel better, but they are ineffective solutions. I trust a survey of most would conclude that the majority doesn’t know what Antebellum even means.
It is time Denzel Washington assigned us all new seats on the bus and took us on a midnight run to that foggy cemetery in Remember the Titans. Much like a horse and water, you can lead a team toward unity, but only they can make it happen. It is one of the challenges of coaching that I enjoy the most because it is so difficult to achieve, but so rewarding when it does happen. This is a “we the people” moment, a time to have hard, respectful conversations, and a true moment to choose courage over comfort.
The problems that are tearing us apart are not as much about color, race or extreme political platforms as they are about simple human decency. We have always had differences; isn’t diversity one of the great things about our culture? Why do we suddenly seem surprised by this? The core of our problems is about respect for each other and the collective moral responsibility to be caretakers of the greater good of our country. The law breaking minority that is terrorizing our cities has failed to take advantage of the opportunities our great country provides everyone. They have eschewed personal responsibility for their lives and assigned blame to everyone except themselves. They have lost faith in our team.
Morality by its simplest definition is: the extent to which an action is right or wrong. It cannot be legislated through the creation of task forces or laws and certainly not fostered by rationalizing wrong behaviors with more wrong behaviors. It must be taught, modeled and passed on from generation to generation. It is the good that everyone has within them, but it must be diligently cultivated and acclaimed.
How have some become so confused that they no longer understand the difference between right and wrong? The polarizing nature of our society has disabled the moral compass that is essential to our survival. There is no logical argument to support the abuse of power or trust, the looting, burning and destruction of innocent businesses or the condemnation of an entire profession based on the actions of a few, regardless of how heinous those acts might be. These are morally wrong acts in any circumstance, by any definition. Awful people have existed since the beginning of time; they con us, lie to us and do whatever it takes to perpetrate their evil. We when fight evil with more evil the cycle continues. Sadly there will always be the next Charles Manson, Dylan Klebold or Derek Chauvin.
Morality and character are the pillars of society that must stand tall in the face of wicked behavior. These wrongful acts we are debating and witnessing are being carried out by immoral and ill-informed criminals. We cannot allow this microscopic and irrational faction of citizens to dictate knee-jerk reactions that will deeply affect the rest of us. Respect for legitimate and necessary authority has eroded into the lawlessness and mind-numbing destruction of our cities. Meaningful 1st amendment protests have been overshadowed by the evil of hateful rhetoric and devastating riots.
As coaches we deal with morality and character issues on a daily basis. We deal with a microcosm of society as we lead our teams. Thankfully we did not blow up the coaching profession when we discovered there were “bad” coaches abusing their power and the trust of their athletes. Peacefully we brought those criminals to justice and in the process increased awareness about the issue. We did not condemn the entire coaching community; instead we instituted background checks and required them to take more training. The idea that the people of New York City could turn on the NYPD after the heroism of 9-11 is beyond comprehension to me. That act alone should be worthy of a lifetime of trust.
Success as a team is dependent upon strong relationships built upon trust. It is about sacrificing individual agendas for the greater good of the team. There must be character driven leadership and followers who understand exactly what their role is. There is positive enthusiasm and also a tolerance for individual differences. Good coaches, who run good character driven programs, create productive future citizens who can persevere, adapt and contribute to the greater good. It is why I believe so strongly in the value of the athletic experience.
The struggles we face as a society right now can be attributed to the two very different visions we have for Team America. Our sights are not set on the same target anymore. When that happens on a team there is abject failure. Compromise, which at one time was seen as an act of compassion and progress, is now viewed as weakness or defeat. No longer do we seek collaborative answers, some choose to ignore our moral compass and blindly support actions that are clearly illegal and wrong. On both sides we loath stereotypes yet allow them to exist and then shamefully use them when they fit our narrative. Until we can restore some modicum of respect and civility, success of the greater good will elude us.
I am not naïve enough to believe conflict can be avoided on a team or in America, but it must be done respectfully. I suppose when the leaders, the grown-ups in the room can’t treat each other with respect, it will be difficult to get the rest to do it. Conflict can be good and very productive. It can be an opportunity to try and understand a different point of view. Teammates do not have to be best friends, but they must respect each other and find a way to pursue similar goals. Right now some are trying to heal tragedy by inflicting more tragedy on more innocent people.
We have some of the greatest minds and people in the world here in America. We have achieved greatness over and over again. If we were a football team, we would be the hands down pre-season favorite to win the Super Bowl. Our talent is off the charts, but no team wins on talent alone. Team unity continues to be the most elusive and powerful force in the formula for success. For nearly 250 years, United we stand, divided we fall has been our motto. It has never more true.
We are part of the greatest team in the world. It is made up of an overwhelming majority of hard working, law abiding, moral people who love their country. The vast majority is not racist, but widespread racism did exist 150 years ago and we have since made incredible progress. Unfortunately racist individuals do still exist, but are clearly a minority themselves. Moral, character driven people are not racist or evil. It is time for that majority to show their character, stand up and be heard.
When I honestly look at what is happening I don’t see black and white, I see good and evil. What is on the inside has always been more important than what is on the outside, and the majority does judge others by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Don’t believe those that are trying to convince us otherwise. If we all take responsibility for the content of our character, the color of our skin will truly become irrelevant.
On Team America, character is red, white and blue.
Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org