When I was a kid, my father set up a small basketball court in our backyard just off the alley running behind our little house. He “planted” a pole, secured a backboard brace, constructed a rectangular backboard from wood and, of course, attached a sturdy rim and net. The court itself had a dirt surface. One side boundary was our clothesline, precursor to indoor clothes dryers.
It was not fancy. We had to scrub up after playing.
The basketball “facility” was somewhat unique in our neighborhood, and it attracted a good bit of attention. Dad may have built it for his own sons and daughters but it attracted lots of area children, teens and, on occasion, young adults. It was a good way for my stay-at-home mother and my dad to keep an eye on their own offspring. Others were welcome as long as we all got along — a bit of a relative requirement considering games usually were competitive and involved a predictable amount of physical contact.
I have great memories of our makeshift court and all the time I spent back there.
On the rare occasion that things got a little out of hand, our parents could call a halt to the action and clear the court. One of the ways of doing that was to confiscate our basketball(s). Or, if another kid with a basketball became upset, he might say something like, “Well, I’m, not going to play anymore; I’m taking my ball and going home.”
Kids have been doing that sort of thing for ages. If things don’t go the way they want, they gather their stuff and go home, presumably gaining control of the activity by removing the equipment everyone else might need to continue.
The attitude is not limited to children, however. Never has been. Interestingly, in America, by the estimation of people worldwide the most desirable place to call home in the world, threats to “take my ball and leave” seem to regularly precede elections — particularly national elections — if a candidate, or several candidates, from an opposing political party wins (or win) an election.
It has been a trend in elections over the past generation or two. Sometimes a few vow to relinquish their citizenship if Candidate A prevails, either because they detest the candidate or the party’s platform, or both. They threaten to head to Canada or somewhere else. Those threats were in abundance this election year.
I read a piece quoting an attorney in Canada whose firm specializes in helping American expatriates do just that. Disgruntled American voters inquire, he said, in large numbers but rarely go any further than making the single phone call of inquiry. Why? He claims that Americans tend to be too patriotic to follow through on their threats. I suspect they simply come to their senses.
More of these threats were made on the eve of the Nov. 6 election this year. Most who made them didn’t particularly want to be reminded of their threats the morning after the election, particularly if they favored the Republican presidential candidate this year. This morning I learned that now the talk is about organizing secession movements in various states. Both Texas and Missouri were mentioned in the news blurb that I overheard.
This suggests to me that a lot of people have too much time on their hands.
It may be time for Christian citizens, all of them, — whether pleased or anguished by the election outcomes — to be reminded that the real power in our nation dos not rest in Washington, D.C., or in any state capitol. It rests in the Creator and Sustainer of our world.
We nod and smile when ministers remind us to pray for our enemies, and then have trouble praying for leaders whose views differ from our own. The Apostle Paul, who urged the believers of his day to pray for Roman emperors, some of whom targeted, persecuted and killed Christians, probably would have little patience with a lot of us.
We believers like to be called salt and light in our world but often would rather push politicians to be our salt and light through laws and legislation rather than personally influence our neighbors and other acquaintances with the truth of the gospel and the example of godly living that can truly effect change.
When I was a youngster, the trouble with the kid who became angry, grabbed his ball and went home in a pious huff is that he made his statement but he never really solved anything, with one exception. As long as we still had a basketball available, the game continued with less conflict once the exasperated kid left.
Rarely, if ever, has the world, a nation, a community or a neighborhood been transformed for good because someone blew off steam. Anybody can do that. And we all have.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.