In the most inspiring news story I've seen in months, residents of the devastated Northeastern coastal areas of Japan have given authorities somewhere between US $65 million and $78 million found on beaches and in the ruins of their towns and cities. They turned the money in so it could be given to the families of the fallen. Many of those who did so have lost everything and everyone that they cherished, but they knew what to do with that money.
I really hate to write this sentence, but if millions of dollars washed up on American beaches, the moral bottom feeders of our society would be out there with bulldozers, trying to scoop it up ahead of everybody else. There would probably be riots.
It's also sobering for me to remember that there was not one recorded instance of looting in the long, disoriented weeks after the water surged ashore. People went into abandoned stores and left money on the counter for the goods they took. Sometimes they swept up before they left.
All this comes to mind again because of Hiroki Kuroda, my new hero. Kuroda played baseball in Japan and, like many Japanese ball players, dreamed of the American big leagues. His wish came true four years ago when he joined the LA Dodgers.
Kuroda is a wonderful pitcher with a terrible record. He allows fewer runs per game and strikes out more batters than all but a handful of National League pitchers. But he's something like 8 wins and 12 losses these days, which puts him into duffer territory. He is, in fact, the first Dodger pitcher to lose more than 13 games in two consecutive years since 1993.
And why? Because when he's on the mound, the Dodgers don't score runs. They almost never, and I mean never, cross the plate more than twice. It's hard to win a game if your team never scores.
Here's the thing: the Dodgers' failure to score for Kuroda robs him of the recognition he deserves and keeps him from earning anything like the amount of money he "should" earn by contemporary American sports standards. He should resent it. He should be trying to get traded to a winning club where he can be the major (and very, very rich) star he deserves to be.
So, during the trading period this season, a much better club made an offer for him. He would have had a good shot at pitching in the Series. He'd finally get the kind of money his agent would love to demand. But when the Dodgers went to ask him how he felt about it, he said no. The Dodgers were the team who brought him to America, Kuroda said, and they were the team that had his loyalty.
He put the team first. Hear much of that any more?
We Americans have always prided ourselves on our individualism. We like to regard America (at least until the last decade or so) as a place where rugged individuals could carve out a corner of the world and claim it. Claim it for themselves. There was a certain amount of American scorn for people in other cultures who dressed alike, behaved alike, and--for all we knew--thought exactly alike. "Sheep" was a word that got some use. "Conformists" was another.
But you know what? I'd like to feel for most American behavior the admiration I feel for many Japanese these days. I'd like to see more American examples of selflessness, of instinctively moral behavior, of putting the well-being of society ahead of our personal wants and needs. Of acting for the larger good. I'd like to read in the paper next week that a store in, say, St. Louis was left open unattended a day or two and people went in and took what they needed and left the money behind. And maybe swept up on their way out.
But, as much as I hate to say it, I doubt that I will. And that makes me sad for my country.