By Tom Ehrich
I'm sure basketball star Kevin Durant meant it as a throwaway line. But it hit me like a lightning bolt of clarity.
Asked whether he would consider returning to his hometown Washington Wizards, the Oklahoma Thunder player hemmed and hawed. Finally he said, "I'm going to do what is best for me."
There it was. The reason that trumps all other reasons: "what is best for me."
I understand that basketball players, like other athletes, tend to have short careers and need to manage them well. Having suffered through Knicks' star Carmelo Anthony -- Pass me the ball! I want to shoot! -- I know Durant's attitude is common.
Problem is: it is ruining sports. Even more, this attitude is corrupting our common life.
For this is what it says: There is no "you" in "me." There is no "team" in "me." You don't exist for "me." You don't matter to "me." There is only "me."
This is the attitude tragically on display at US borders, where heavily armed phony-patriots declare war on desperate children. It's the attitude that encourages the wealthy to seek short-term political gain, at the expense of undermining American democracy.
It's the attitude that makes some citizens root for the demise of affordable health care, minimum wages, unemployment benefits, anything that would help people other than themselves.
It's the attitude that underlies suburban parents' insistence that their children get quality public schools, no matter what happens to other children in other schools.
It's the attitude that enables industries to dump toxic chemicals in water that others hope to drink.
It's an attitude found even in churches, when longtime members demand special consideration at the expense of new constituents and new needs.
The results of such selfishness are consistently negative. Ball-hogs cause their teams to lose. Community values lost to me-first don't return easily. Income inequality, school inequality, employment inequality end up hurting everyone, even those who think they benefit in the short run.
The only durable team, family, neighborhood, church or society is one where people sacrifice for each other and the values of team play are paramount. Jesus called it "oneness," as opposed to "me-ness."
If you live for yourself, Jesus said, you will die. If you die to self and live for the other -- from passing the ball to sharing the benefits to making stiff sacrifices -- you will live.