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Friday, January 8, 2016

Does The Movie Concussion Paint A Picture Of The NFL Only?

The wife and I saw the movie Concussion a few days ago. I told my friends that the movie can make one better appreciate baseball. The movie contains a sad story of how a rich, powerful organization, the NFL, tries to suppress the truth about how the game tragically affects many players, from whom it profits, when it tries to discredit, among other things, a forensic pathologist who found a link between the hard hitting of the game and a brain disease: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). In fact, questions about when the NFL knew that players were being hurt by the game arise and thus these questions begin to draw parallels between the NFL and some of the actions of the Tobacco Industry. 

Of course, many had reason to defend the NFL against the findings of the pathologist, Dr. Bennett Omalu. After all, the NFL provided jobs for many people some of whom were able to escape poverty because these jobs, the organization contributed to charities, its product united communities and cities and gave people something about which to commune with each other, and it contributed to part of our national character of learning how to be tough and how to overcome obstacles. So there were plenty of reasons to either ignore or even attack the evidence found by Dr. Omalu.

Certainly, the movie does not put the NFL in a positive light over the issue of players becoming brain damaged by the game--not that the positiveness of the light has any bearing on the validity and importance of the story. But before jumping on the NFL, for which there is plenty of time to do, we might want to ask ourselves whether other groups, including our own favorite groups, try to ratoinalize or minimize their own sins and exploitation of others by their contributions to others. A favorite whipping boy of many of my fine, fellow flaming fundamentalist friends and family comes to mind here: Planned Parenthood comes to mind here. 

There is no doubt that Planned Parenthood provides many important services and help to women. And in so doing, Planned Parenthood contributes significantly society as a whole--something that should give us pause when asking for Congress to defund it. But Planned Parenthood also performs abortions. And in each abortion, an unborn child is killed and the significance of the child's death is often mitigated by focusing solely on the dilemma and circumstances faced by the mother involved.

Or one could also think about our Capitalist economic system. There is no doubt that this system relies signficantly on exploitation: exploitation of both the environment and some of its stakeholders such as workers. But then we minimize how the exploited have beenj suffering by turning our gaze to Capitalism's beneficiaries and the benefits it has wrought. Where would we be without Capitalism is the question that becomes the water in the firehose that puts out the flames caused by questions about those who suffer because of Capitalism's dependence on injustice.

The same kind of questions also call into question America's foreign policies. But these questions are put in their place by our foreign policies apologists with other questions. For example, quite often those who criticized Bush's invasion of Iraq, which was based on faulty information and destabilized the region as well as destroyed the lives of millions of people, often heard the following as a retort: Would you rather have Saddam Hussein in power? Of course, that question overlooked the fact that up until the invasion of Kuwait, our government supported Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath party. And the same kind of response is given when questioning other mistaken and even immoral policies. For example, the coups in Iran ('53), Guatemala ('54), and Chile ('73) as well as our support for the terrorist war waged by the Contras against the Sandinistas in Nicaraqua during the 1980s were all justified in the name of preventing the rise of Communist tyrannies and the spread of Soviet influence in our hemisphere. Nevermind the fact that each of those coups installed brutal dictators in the place of democratically elected governments that leaned to the Left and that the United States supported a brutal dictator in Nicaragua prior to the rise of the Sandinistas. Many other examples could be cited as well.

In short, just how many groups have imitated the NFL in rationalizing the harm it lets come to others by pointing to its contributions? While the movie Concussion lets us see the failure of one organization that seemed to be more concerned with the generation of wealth and the maintenance of prestige, the NFL does not have a monopoly on these sins. And whether we are willing to see that or not depends on our willingness to let our own sacred cows be tipped.




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