Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The attention that Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers National Basketball Association team got during the week of April 28 over publicized racist comments he made to his girlfriend really tried my patience with this American fetish. For me, race is nothing. Language is everything. American culture pushes its obsession with race to distract its citizenry from other, more important social divisions - like wealth distribution, for one. This whole race thing in America is largely theater. Heroes and villains play their roles with Shakespearean scope. But now it looks like theater of the absurd. It’s Harold Pinter. Americans seem sincere, which only means that they believe their own mythology. And why shouldn’t they?
Mr. Sterling made some heinous-sounding racist comments about black athletes. Corporate sponsors, politicians, media commentators, the White House, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reacted swiftly and severely (“NBA bans Sterling for life over racist remarks,” Japan Times, Thursday, May 1, 2014). But American and international law allow him freedom of conscience, which means freedom to think anything he wants, even if it is wrong, stupid, immoral and illegal. Despite attempts by government to shape our thoughts through cognitive dissonance, stimulace-and-response and reward-and-punishment schemes in school and the work force it remains true that we are all free to think wrong, stupid, immoral and illegal thoughts to our hearts content. And in America, freedom of speech laws protect his opportunity for voicing his opinions much more than in many other countries.
Mr. Sterling is not a public official. He is a private citizen who happens to be wealthy and owns a professional sports franchise. Operation of the team as a corporation is governed by American corporate law and by the rules and regulations of the professional league of which the Clippers are a member. He has not been charged with any crime, although I’m sure some are studying it. There is nothing at all important about sports. Now, if Mr. Sterling had voiced wrong, stupid, immoral and illegal thoughts about something that really mattered then I might be upset.
There is outrage all around. I don’t care about people’s outrage. Their outrage is their own business. But I resent how outrage is used as an excuse to bring the American drama into our homes every day.
Published on Thursday, May 8, 2014 as “Storm in a Pinteresque teacup.”