If there's one thing I get sick of, it's politicians, no matter what their stripe, repeating the mantra that the American people want this or that or the other thing.
In this season of health-care madness, I don't think anybody knows what the American people want, even though the last few months' town-hall brawls have been dominated by those who make their opinions perfectly clear. Glen Beck does it, and so does Ed Schulz--when they argue their positions, they all say, "The American people want. . ." as if they've got a scientific reading on their own personal political barometer.
Well, here I go. The American people ought to read Outcasts United, a wonderful book by Warren St. John, the tale of a scrubby soccer team named the Fugees, in Clarkston, Georgia, a hardscrabble lot of refugee kids from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe. They're a fruit basket upset, really, a multi-cultural grab bag of kids who can't understand each other's languages, each of them equally bewildered in a country and culture they don't begin to understand.
They're led by a driven maniac of a coach, Luma Mufleh, herself a Jordanian immigrant, a Muslim, who makes it her calling to take these kids through the paces, not only on the soccer field, but also in their schools, and in their lives at home. Luma is no soft touch. Far from it--she expects sincereity and moral behavior and dedication to task, and when she doesn't get it, she snaps out the lights. Once, when one of her teams threw in the towel, so did she--she simply canceled the season.
Liberals will love the book because it's unsparing in its documentation of racism in the Atlanta suburb where the kids play their soccer. But there's more to cheer for progressives--after all, we've got a Muslim superhero in Ms. Mufleh and rainbow of kids with unpronounceable names and violent histories in their native lands. Outcasts United is a profoundly moving portrait of the new, darker America.
But conservatives will love it too, because Luma, who may well be a Muslim, adopts a playbook strategy right out of the Autobiography of Ben Franklin. If these kids are going to make it in this new country, she insists, they'll have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, by their own hard work, and their dedication to teamwork and task. No handouts from their Jordanian coach. She cuts the kids who don't play her game; she can be ruthless. Conservatives will love her.
And that's why I say that the American people will love this book. Or should. It's a great tale, even a bit of a feel-good story, with something to love for every last corner of this immensely polarized culture of ours. Even if you've never heard of a corner kick or a header, I'm betting you'll like Outcasts United.