Root, root, root for the home team
WASHINGTON -- I am OK with watching a Woody Allen movie, start to finish, and not just the goofy ones where he dresses up like a giant sperm or walks an enormous chicken on a leash.
If Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" comes on the radio, I won't dive into the nearest swimming pool to make the sound stop. "Pulp Fiction" remains one of my favorite movies, even though it was produced by, basically, Satan. When I hear that hilarious old Bill Cosby routine about slipping a woman an aphrodisiac in her drink, I ... OK, no. You have to draw the line somewhere.
But by and large, when it comes to works of art, I have always been willing and able to compartmentalize -- to separate performance from personality. These days it is not fashionable to do this -- and I respect those who make that principled decision. But it does put you on a slope as slippery as a seal slathered in vegetable oil and Vaseline.
What are the rules? Is there a statute of limitations? Do we boycott Caravaggio -- reject even the very concept of physical perspective in art -- because of the somewhat tawdry fact that this particular Renaissance man once killed a pimp by accident while he was merely trying to castrate him to win the affections of a prostitute?
I was thinking about this the other day when I remembered my single most egregious act of personality/performance compartmentalization, and that got me thinking further, and that gave me the first step in a solution to the political hatred dividing our country. Bear with me here.
My most shameful act of compartmentalization occurred when I was a young man and I came across a troubling accusation about my favorite player on my favorite baseball team. A certain member of the Yankees was said to be a virulent anti-Semite. And so the following situation presented itself as a challenge to me:
1. On the one hand, my favorite player on my favorite team was apparently not just a bigot but one who allegedly hated me, personally, and my sainted ma, and probably any children I would ever have, and all for the same reasons the Nazis had committed genocide: scapegoating, ignorance and blind contempt of the innocent Other.
2. The player in question was an excellent fielder. He could stop a baseball if it had been fired at him from a bazooka at point-blank range. He would bravely take the blast off his chest and, while stoically bubbling up lung blood, could whip a frozen rope to first base to nip the runner by a half step.
Plus, he hit with power from the left side.
I resolved this problem by continuing to root for my guy. And yes, the Yankees won the World Series that year; ergo, I was right. The hell with my sainted ma.