TigerBlog was talking to BrotherBlog last week when the discussion turned to the current national health care debate. BrotherBlog lives in Seattle, and he and TB are further apart politically than they are geographically (though BB keeps drifting towards the center; by 2050, he should be a moderate like his brother).
"I'm not having this conversation with you," BrotherBlog said.
TigerBlog then mentioned that he was mostly impressed with the hypocrisy of it all, how those who were appalled that town hall meetings were being disrupted were the ones leading the anti-war protests and anti-Bush movement not so long ago, while those who are disrupting the town hall meetings were the ones who were recently playing the "appalled" role.
As BrotherBlog continued to avoid the issue, TB finally asked him this question:
"Who in the government inspires you?"
BB didn't take the bait, and the conversation ended shortly after that. TigerBlog, though, kept considering the question.
Who does inspire you in government? On either side of the aisle?
It is TigerBlog's contention that President Obama was elected not because of his policy ideas or political bent but instead because a huge segment of the country was crying out for someone to inspire them (as an aside, it is TB's belief that Mr. Obama's current difficulties are due to the fact that he's misread his mandate to inspire and is instead viewing it as a call for fairly left-of-center governing).
It's not just politics. Look around every segment of society. Who inspires you? Bernie Madoff? Some movie star? Michael Vick? Forget Vick, how about David Ortiz? TB really wanted to believe in a larger-than-life clutch athlete (one who tormented the Yankees on top of that), and then he turns up on some murky "list" that calls his accomplishments into question.
TigerBlog has always always found greatness to be inspirational, and TB has always looked at two people as the greatest of the great. In athletics, it was Michael Jordan. In music, it was Bruce Springsteen. TB has great admiration for how hard they practiced to make their performances as close to perfect as possible, and TB has always thought they looked like they were having for lack of a better way of putting it great fun doing what they were doing.
TB has never met either man, but if he did, he would not tell Jordan how he appreciated his greatness even as he was destroying TB's favorite team (the Knicks) or would not tell Springsteen about how he's listened to "Born to Run" or "Thunder Road" or any number of other songs a millions times each and has never tired of them.
Instead, TB would simply say "thanks." That would sum it up. Thanks for being such inspiring forces over such a long time.
TB was still contemplating the concept of inspiration when he stumbled over two articles over the weekend. The first was about a woman named Elissa Montanti, who with no training and no "dog in the fight" suddenly began to devote her life to helping children who were innocent victims of wars come to the United States and get proper medical treatment.
The second was about a man from a local man whom TB had never heard of until yesterday, Ed Bettino. A veteran of World War II, Bettino lost both of his legs while fighting in Italy and then spent more than a year in a German POW camp. Upon release, he had to his legs "re-amputated" because they weren't done right the first time. He went on to life a very ordinary life in Mercer County, and he is now retired and living in Ewing. He downplayed losing his limbs and the sacrifices he made, and his friends and family mentioned that he never spoke about experiences.
Perhaps the answer isn't to look for inspiration in grand terms from elected leaders and such when there's so much inspiration around all the time. At Princeton, there are inspiring people everywhere, from coaches who aren't afraid to aim for the top to people who work so hard every day behind the scenes to enable those who represent Princeton to have the best chance of competing and the best experience possible.
And then there are the athletes themselves. TB often finds himself wondering if Princeton athletes realize how unique they are, and he has said this anytime he's asked to speak to recruits.
"Do you understand how lucky you are?" he asks. "There are millions of high school kids out there, and only a tiny handful have the academic ability to get into Princeton and only a tiny handful have the athletic skill to play a Division I sport. Even fewer have both. Understand how blessed you are, and please don't waste this opportunity."
Fortunately, few of them do. When it comes time to talk about candidates for the Art Lane Award, given by the athletic department to honor excellence in sport and society by a Princeton undergrad, TigerBlog is amazed at what these people do on a daily basis.
Even those who aren't nominated for awards are able to compete athletically and academically at an extraordinary level. How could they not inspire those who watch them?
Maybe that's part of why such a high percentage of the fans at Princeton events are families with young kids. Yes, the events are affordable, but maybe it's also because parents are saying to their kids "be like these people. Commit yourself to achieving and being good citizens at the same time."
Lack of inspiration? Not here at TigerBlog HQ. We've got plenty of it.
You just need to know where to look.