Sitting in the grandstands of Havana’s historic baseball stadium as the MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays took on the Cuban national team on Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama discussed his decision to attend the contest just hours after terror and tragedy struck the city of Brussels.
His reasoning had to do with fear. And with fortitude. And with refusing to cower in the face of a bully -- refusing to let groups like the Islamic State dictate the rhythm and actions of the rest of the world.
"It's always a challenge when you have a terrorist attack anywhere in the world, particularly in this age of 24-7 news coverage," Obama explained in his live mid-game interview with ESPN. "You want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation. But the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people's ordinary lives."
Obama went on to cite Red Sox star David Ortiz’s April 2013 on-field, pregame speech, during which -- just days after the Boston Marathon bombing -- he raised the microphone to his lips and slowly uttered the words, “This is our fucking city,” to the roar of the Boston crowd.
That moment, Obama said, typified “the kind of resilience and the kind of strength that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorists.”
“They cannot defeat America, they don’t produce anything, they don’t have a message that appeals to the vast majority of Muslims or the vast majority of people around the world,” Obama said on Tuesday. “What they can do is scare. And make people afraid. And disrupt our daily lives and divide us. And as long as we don’t allow that to happen, we’re going to be OK.”
So in the face of such terror -- in the wake of such brutality -- Obama spent his Tuesday afternoon practicing what he preached. He went to a baseball game that from conception to first pitch was billed as the symbol of the newfound solidarity between these two formerly feuding nations, thus taking what he believes to be a stand against the terrorist groups of the world by taking a seat in the bleachers of that Havana stadium.