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I spend considerable time discussing and writing about what is wrong with our country, our government and Republicans (Shhhh don't tell anyone, but Democrats too!)  Today, Christmas eve, I played tennis with our gang at a public park in Southern California near San Diego.  We are a motley crew, and it's so much more than just the sport of tennis like you may see on T.V.

It's mostly older guys, some women also, who gather together during a time period of 7:30 to 11 in the morning.  Some for the early period for an hour or two, and some like me after I've spent time writing my emails and essays that are vital for the survival of our world!  I take my responsibilities quite seriously.

This tennis group manages to be a celebration of what our country is.  Sure, we are in a sort of upper middle class area, and most of the people are retired, not struggling.  But not all.  One guy lived out of his car, a few others work at hand to mouth jobs, and there are those from the other extreme.  One was a highly successful international lawyer who enjoys this more than the games at various private clubs he belongs to.  And then there is our diversity of backgrounds and religions.

We often get together at the local McDonalds for coffee and discussion afterwards, led by Norm, now 92 who is a retired public school teacher.  He is of Jewish heritage, as am I and H., but while Norm is an FDR liberal Atheist, H. is a AIPAC conservative and a Republican.  He had been an atheist, but when his daughter was dying of cancer in Israel he made a deal with a God he hadn't believed in.  "If you let me be with Rachel when I die, I will accept and acknowledge you." He has never gone back on that deal and fully expects the other party will do the same.  

And there is John D who is a serious Catholic, who tries to say that Mussolini wasn't so bad to Jews, and I can't convince him of the reality, that many Italians of the era saved Jews from extermination in spite of Il Duce.  A very rational retired government executive, who enjoys life and actually reads my blogs, even asks when the next one is coming.  And then there is B., an African American who is proud of his heritage, yet has a sense of irony over the contradictions in life.  He is bi-racial, not genetically but in that he relates to blacks as comfortably as whites-both real if somewhat different.  What I can never share is not a source of conflict, since we both appreciate how much we can empathize, how even though he and I would have been on different sides of the Jim Crow line when I was a kid in 1940s D.C,. it doesn't matter, and it is even more sweet that now we can enjoy each, play together, unlike what was prevented in my childhood.  B. happens to be a true believer in Christ and in miracles, describing one by a transient minister that convinced him forever that God is real.  We respect each other in our atheism and our faith.  

Perhaps it's our advanced age, our playing the same sport, our having lived through a lot of life, but there is both enjoyment and understanding for each by everyone.  And this can grow, not by intentional effort, but by bantering, conversation and bruises.  O.K. not all the time, as this is reality folks, and we can get pissed off.  But it goes away.   I actually can be more honest with this group than I can here, as there are no taboo subjects or viewpoints that would make me unacceptable to this crowd. No danger of HRs or Banning, as we know each well enough that the affection now runs deeper than any possible hurt.  There is so much diversity, from hard core admirers of Sarah Palin, to a few whose values were formed when their messiah walked the earth in the form of Franklyn Roosevelt, whose 1944 State of the Union Address proposing an "Economic Bill of Rights," is something they still are expecting    

We do get into these heady things, along with sports, dumb jokes and talking about cars.  It is a melange that can only occur in an open setting with no authority other than each other. Rather than this Christian holiday being a source of conflict as one would expect by the Fox created "war on Christmas," there is a sense of hilarity that some people can make this into a battle.  We enjoy each other, and our differences are what makes our interactions both rich and enjoyable.  

I think this is appreciated more this day since one of the old timers recently had an injury, a series of falls, so that his wife just wrote us all that Ralph will not be playing tennis anymore, since one more fall and the doctor says it could fracture his hip, which would mean a nursing home.  She also said that he is emotionally spiraling down since the last accident.  I know how he must feel.  I wrote telling him to drop in and I will hit some balls right to him so he won't have to run for it.  I don't want him to feel that he lost his friendships.  

This day was good:  after tennis a happy lunch and then a walk along our greenbelt with the dog. While this may be a Christian country, it is also one that accepts, and even relishes our differences.  I wouldn't fit in Israel or in the burgeoning newly Orthodox communities of young Jews in the Upper West Side of N.Y.  Nor would I fit into a Seniors Community where people talk about their grandkids and doctor visits.

On days like this I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have been born in this country, where rather than killing people over our differences in religions or politics, at least in this little group, at this time, this can be a source of laughter and affection.


Originally posted to ARODB on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 06:23 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Atheists and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Lovely diary, thanks. nt (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MsGrin, ladybug53, TXdem, annan
  •  I was reminded after a trip abroad... (5+ / 0-)

    that despite the flaws of America, and everything we bitch about here every day, that this is not a third world country - even the reddest of red states.

    Are there days when I wish I was some place else?  Absolutely. I still dream expat dreams.

    But the evening I landed in Miami after an extended stay "south of the border", and cleared customs and immigration without a hitch -- and then proceeded to spent a sleepless night in the terminal waiting for a flight further north --

    I knew I was home.

    It will not get easier before it gets harder. But the harder it gets, the easier it will be.

    by Richard Cranium on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 07:43:33 PM PST

  •  Merry Christmas, fellow Americans! :-) (7+ / 0-)

    And to our fellow citizens in the world. ;-)

  •  Oh! you are describing a version of my tennis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arodb, Vatexia

    group here in the Midwest. We recently had a going away party for our coach, who has been coaching many of us since 2007. We hate to see her go, but she has a great opportunity in the DC area and we know she will work her magic there as well.

    I marveled at the diversity of people who showed up to say goodbye and had a similar burst of gratitude as you are expressing in this diary.

    What is it with tennis players? We're not all club people, that's for sure.

    Over the years I have grown to love this motley crew. Nearly 100 players from beginners to USTA National champions. Eclectic, fun and competitive. At the party there were players from 21-65, men and women, straight and gay, all faiths, all political persuasions, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Anglos, Latinos and Heinz 57. Tradespeople, artists, several doctors and lawyers, students, homemakers, educators, musicians, an engineer - several that I have no idea what they do - mixing it up on the courts several times a week and hanging out at local craft brewery.

    I actually get a lot of hope from this diverse slice of my life. Thanks for writing about this!

    "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

    by annan on Wed Dec 25, 2013 at 08:20:41 PM PST

    •  Competitive sports can be a great solvent... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Vatexia, annan

      to diffuse those things that divide us.  And how you play the game which for me is doubles, betrays a lot about who we are.  We all would like to win, but for some making the other players feel good, enjoy themselves and not take a lost point or lost set as a personal defeat is a greater pleasure.

      One guy who plays with is is a mean spirited and often angry guy, now 80 years old.  He tells the story of playing father son doubles some 65 years ago, with a father who was a bully, On one occasion when he missed a shot, his dad fired a ball into his gut.  The referee got out of his chair to stop the game and castigate his dad, but the harm had been going on for years.

      Now, when he misses a point, he must have an excuse, or he berates himself, and I know why.  Even if I'm the one who is being rebuked, are ridiculed, I often, not always, am able to understand the source.  

      I did advance work in psychology, but I feel much emotional easing can only be done indirectly, without working things out intellectually, but in sharing different feelings, which in Tennis can be without words.

      It can be almost magic  A few weeks ago, I asked the coffee guy for my senior discount.  He softly asked if I had some identification.  Now I'm close to ten years past Medicare age, and I thought the guy was kidding.  

      It was the fun of playing had transformed me from an old man to someone with the vitality of one the guys that the coffee fellow sees as a peer.  At that moment my vibes and being a senior didn't compute for him.  He soon realized his error when I joked with him about it,  but this explanation is the only one I can think of.

      •  What a delight to meet a fellow traveler ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I also play doubles and also have an advanced degree in psychology (as do several of my friends on the court). I tell people that many, many important lessons I've learned about life have been on the doubles court.

        Very cool about the ID. I'm about a decade younger, but have similar experiences. Particularly when I play mixed doubles with younger partners, especially younger men. Playing with younger players gives me great hope for the future.

        The coach we are losing has had an amazing capacity to build a very competitive program that didn't yield to drama. No temper tantrums, no bullying, no angry outbursts against your partner. It became our culture. If someone showed up with an attitude they didn't last long. She listened to her regulars and wouldn't put players in the lineup if they acted out, so they moved on. That was particularly impressive since her livelihood depended on numbers.

        We lost our courts and our coach, so we're scrambling to stay together. This may have been a magical moment in time for this particular group but it was certainly a window on how the world could be a better place.

        One last important point for my experience is the fact that our coach is an open lesbian who is more open than most about diversity across the full spectrum, including conservatives if they are willing to show up. At a final gathering at the brewpub last week I noticed that another female player brought her girlfriend. They were sitting directly across from a very conservative couple who seemed to realize for the first time that our tennis friend was gay. Like you said, team sports can be a great solvent and perhaps also a great lubricant.

        "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

        by annan on Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 08:09:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Another thought about age ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I stopped playing senior USTA tennis several years ago because of the generational differences I see on the court and it's not just about athletic ability.

          The younger players - perhaps 45 and under? - tend to have better self-awareness and communication skills. There are certainly exceptions in both directions but I rarely see or hear the same harsh judgements, anger and blame coming from the younger players.

          Although "politically correct" culture is ridiculed and maligned by the right, it's creating a totally different court culture that is apparent to those of us with eyes to see it and ears to hear it.

          That give me hope.

          "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

          by annan on Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 08:30:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary. Also, tennis is... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annan, arodb

    ...the greatest worldwide sport!

    Failure to Publicize Acts of Hatred Only Allows Them to Fester and Metastasize.

    by BoxerDave on Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 11:08:56 AM PST

  •  this is beautiful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sorry some may have missed it because of the holidays. I hope my older years allow me to be so active and that I have such a group of friends. I am glad for your example of appreciating your blessings.

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