Exit, Exit, Enter


Nationalism and American Football
November 7, 2012, 11:23 am
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , ,

Watching the American presidential election is really similar to watching an American football game. Everyone at the game is struck with fervor and insistent that their side is clearly superior to the other. Both team’s fans are also curiously confident that something – whether the colors blue or red or the apparent name of their team – definitively distinguishes the two teams from one another. As though both teams represent two concurrent paths to the truth, with one being surely wrong and one being surely right. This last point may hold true for sports, but I don’t think that it holds true for politics.

Watching the election yesterday as the votes were tallied was fun. I was at my University where a watch party organized by ABC gathered and unanimously, as I would imagine happened at most higher institutes of learning (not compromised by religious ideologues), cheered as the votes came in for Obama. I was with a friend who is studying here from Japan, and we both found the process interesting – 面白かった as I would say if I was talking to a Japanese friend today. My friend was enthralled by the apparent enthusiasm with the election – with how the American presidential election is so engaged and participated in. I was enthralled with how enthralled we all were.

Is this the kind of blind, us-vs-them nationalism that possessed our country during the world wars? I am curious as to what that was like. What kind of delusional, self-righteous xenophobia that obsessed the American psyche to the point where such world destruction in the name of American progress and security was deemed a necessary triumph. If that nationalism is any similar to the nationalism we experience on election day then I am glad that we have left that behind. That kind nationalism does not engross me at all.

I find it so funny that there are people in both parties who inexorably insist, upon accruing the necessary votes on the first Tuesday of November of every 4 years, that this win is a win for their country. They wave their flags, in their red, white, and blue clothing, and ensure one another that this option was more patriotic. It as though people who are Republicans, exclusively because they embrace the label “Republican”, do not wish to see that America succeeds in the long run.

I have not meant to say that I do not enjoy the enthusiasm of the modern-day American on (presidential) election days. We elected our first openly gay Senator in Wisconsin, legalized Marijuana in a bunch of states, and legalized gay marriage in a bunch of other states. We are a generation increasingly showing ourselves to be more liberal (see: sophisticated, nuanced, intellectual, compassionate…) and understanding. We obviously care, and it is great to see so many people exercise their right to understand what is going on in our government – to understand who the politicians, who influence everything that affects us Americans and many other countries, are.

Maybe voting for incumbent Obama was the best and most patriotic thing for our country this year. But, the blind enthusiasm has to exist beyond more than every 4 years to get the system changed; it has to exist beyond ubiquitous nationalism, punch lines and the colors red and blue. How about some modest, continuous, and intellectual engagement on the issues? How about voting every 2 years, regularly keeping up with what our crooked politicians are doing, and getting the money that screws up everything in the first place out of politics? How about realizing that just because someone identifies as another group does not necessarily mean that they are of the devil?

Yes, Americans can be passionate and intellectual and engaged, and when we channel that spirit we are the envy of the world. But, when we blindly use that passion only every 4 years, for a couple of months at a time, we are but an emulation of what the United States was. We look like the fat over-zealous, shirtless football fan in the stands on TV before a commercial of Doritos airs. Let’s work out a little, chastise some of our commercialism.. oh wait, how about we just not look the fat American football fan on election day?

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