Grilling season is typically a time of July 4 fireworks, baseball, and Hot Dogs. Still, this year many Americans feel that the eternal sense of American optimism that has kept us grounded and united as a people in this extraordinary democracy is diminishing.
Decades ago, a Hindu and dear family friend told me that every time I bit into a juicy burger, she saw me as a murderer. That thought was so utterly perplexing at the time, that I wrote her off as a bit of a wack-a-doodle. Today many of us can empathize with her, primarily because we’ve evolved and are increasingly willing to grapple with nuanced and complicated perspectives.
Vincent Price, known for his villainous roles in horror films, was a great lover of both Hot Dogs and baseball, specifically the Dodgers. Price was also a man of contradictions. As a younger man, he became enamored by both Hitler and Fascism. Still, over time he gradually shifted to the left politically, even becoming an HIV/AIDS activist and early proponent of gay rights; a remarkable stance at the time.
Price also loved going to a game at Dodgers Stadium, a ballpark built on Chavez Ravine, a predominantly Mexican-American area of Los Angeles that, during the 1950s, was being forcibly seized for public development under eminent domain.
None of the 300 families and property owners residing in Chavez Ravine and forced to relocate, received the required ‘just compensation’ or promised replacement housing, not even season tickets to Dodgers games. In 2005 the Supreme Court further broadened the constitutional interpretation of eminent domain under the Fifth Amendment to allow for the seizure of private property for private economic development. Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)
Maybe we could all use a little Hot Dog Diplomacy to help us find our way back to each other this summer. One might argue that political issues are never about rights but rather who currently yields the power, regardless of the consequences or the collateral damage. Deep political divisions, corruption, injustice, and inequality are nothing new in this country, and the pendulum is always swinging between extremes before (hopefully) finding its way back to the middle again. I hope we can teach our children that the value of history is not found in ridiculing our forebears, or each other, but in anticipating how our descendants will judge us for our own inhumanity. We’re all flawed and complicit, but should we all be collectively stoned at the city gates? As a country and as individuals, we’re constantly evolving and self-correcting. Our democracy and our deeply-held values are worth protecting because we are always stronger when we stand united.