What a crazy title.
These are topics that have been on my mind for some time and are consistently brought up in the media. I’m not even sure exactly where to begin but let’s start with the comfort and camaraderie that come with being part of a group.
No, even better to start with self identity and our search for one. One caveat however, there is much more to adolescence and I’m just going to generalize here in order to get to a more important point.
When we are kids we aren’t exactly concerned with “self-identity” but instead want to be part of a group which makes us feel secure. Then around middle school one often wants to differentiate themselves a little bit in order to be “cool” and “special.” So we pick our favorite teams, buy cool sneakers and listen to certain music. If others pick the exact same things as another offense could be taken and it becomes “you can’t like them because I like them!!” Of course a certain amount of sameness is inevitable and others are allowed to like a few of the same things you do which then forms sort of a quasi-group and the feeling of being included. A good example is “boy bands” such as New Kids on the Block, Jonas Brothers etc. If a youth did not like them then they might feel excluded which is not desirable.
This post is not about adolescence however. Moving on to high school being part of a group has serious consequences and depending on which group one joins really determines a large part of the social life for four entire years! Continuing on, in college the former H.S. groups are broken up and we all get a “re-do.”
Now that we are adults we find ourselves without a constant circle of friends but still find the need to be part of a group. The first and easiest way is to enthusiastically support your favorite sports team. One wears the uniforms, goes to tailgates and this is comforting because you can be surrounded by people who like the same thing you do and makes us feel included. Then there are those who in determining their identity find it would be useful to support the rival-team even though there is no apparent connection or affiliation but does serve the purpose of being “different” or unique.
In the USA most people do not bother to research exactly why this social phenomenon takes place. The easy answer is the team is supported because it actually supports the community and is part of the community. Being part of the community ourselves it only follows that we would support the community we happen to be in. But looking further we must look back to our roots in England. Villages would support their lords, and during jousts wave the banners of their villages against another. (Very brief explanation there). In America we find those bonds severed and turned to our universities as pillars of the community thus fulfilling the need to be part of the community. However, I believe we are more tolerant here in America of opposite teams and do get along better unlike the Hooligans and national soccer matches. For them, there is much more at stake then simply loosing a game but is rather taken as a match to show National/Community superiority.
However, sports teams are not enough. Soon our interests may turn to politics which used to be rather staid and boring except for the upper class which could actually make things happen and further enrich them. The common man got to vote but they were pretty easily persuaded one way or another and could be manipulated. Now, due to the media and race for ratings politics has become something where everyone can participate and is divided neatly into two camps, Republican and Democrat. Even those that are not politically astute can participate as current beliefs will fall neatly into one camp or the other. The lines do blur quite often, but the media would have us believe that you must be for or against, “with us or against us,” a Republican or RINO (Republican In Name Only).
This does serve a great purpose in that the simple minded can be easily divided and that all difficult answers have an easy solution which is to simply join one party or the other. Again,the lines do blur but the media would not want us to think so. The extremes are on both sides but the Republicans gain more notoriety as of recent because most “middle-of the road” folks have voted Democratic leaving only the “hard core” Republicans who have hijacked the mouth peace of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh, Savage, and so on have been called “the mouthpiece of the Republican Party.”
This only serves to damage American politics as a whole since it is my view neither side should gain too much power and that extreme right further damages Republican credibility and takes away from even-minded Republicans. On a positive note for Republicans, Americans in general will go “middle of the road” and the pendulum will swing back eventually. However, I do believe Obama is doing a good job even if the Democratic Congress is not. Don’t agree with the Obama statement? Read on…
The Democrats on the other hand are being degraded by Nancy Pelosi who has done a spectacularly awful job as Speaker of the House. Bush divided America quite enough and now Nancy is doing the same but on the other side. It is my view that Obama is much more of a “uniter” than George W. ever was but is being sucker punched by Pelosi who is too arrogant to let Obama tell her what to do and thus we simply have a political pissing contest.
Getting back to being part of a group, it is curious that we now wear our political affiliations on our sleeve just like we do our sports teams. I’m also surprised that we do not yet have team like uniforms to show which political party we support! What we do have is the sports like mentality where should the other side have a point of view, there is a knee-jerk reaction to oppose it because it’s from the other team!!!
It is quite evident in that should the Democratic President make one tiny misstep the media will pounce and everyone goes up in arms. There really is no way to win in this type of mentality. If Obama encourages debate, the other team will say he is not bold enough to make decisions. And if he makes a decision they will all be considered wrong by “the other team.”
This could be simple push back after 4 years of criticizing Bush. In any case, thoughtful, rational debate has long fled from America and now it’s all sensationalism. When I listen to arguments from both sides it is simply regurgitating arguments that people hear on the media and is really not very sophisticated at all. Take the stimulus for example, it does stink but what are the other options? One side will say “he put us all into debt forever, get him outta there!!
Yes, we are in debt forever this is true. However, without it our economy will cease to function and the very people saying this will probably lose their jobs for which they would blame Obama for that too!! Again, it’s true that the stimulus stinks but it’s simple minded to blame one side or the other for the current mess, rather it is simply convenient! Why not have the government do nothing. endure some serious pain, then everyone can blame Obama for the pain. AND it’s easy to blame only one person or another regardless that the office of President is subject to political lobbies, various state and politician interests and does need to rely on an army of advisors. No need to dig into all of this though as the media would have us think we can just blame the President which makes things so simple.
The simplification of every complex issue does nothing to strengthen the nation. Sensationalizing every issue does not advance the merits of issues either. Now we see people getting angry in the media when there is disagreement. This is extremely childish in my opinion. It is like saying; “Wow, you are very angry, I can see your point so much more clearly now. If you got even angrier I might even agree with you.” Or perhaps it is just to show the level of loyalty to one team or another. After the broadcast those in question can retreat to their team clubhouse and all the comrades will say “You the Man!! You go so angry over there, but on point X, I think you could do kick the anger up a notch.”
The anger could also stem from a very self-centered society and if we don’t get what we want we become angry. Just like a child throws a tantrum remember this tactic and believe that since we are angry we have more of a chance to be pacified. “Look at me I’m angry, please let me have what I want and agree with my opinion!!”
If there was a show which showed calm rational debate it is one I would absolutely watch. I don’t really want to hear the same mantras regurgitated over and over. Yet, this is unavoidable because if we really dug into the issues they would quickly become boring. It’s much easier and attracts more followers if the media appeals to emotions and keeps things lively. I’m just waiting for a political reality show where a Democrat and Republican are forced to live together, decide which OC queen to date and who can sing the best. Then we could just support the coolest one and not worry about these troublesome issues!! “Well, the Republican gal is a hottie and dates the strapping David AND she can Tango!!!” What is not to support???
So being all grown up but still needing to be part of a group the political parties can serve this purpose. It also has the added bonus of making us feel smart and sophisticated when we talk about such adult things as politics. Yet, there is another group and is the main issue of this post.
Being regarded as “American” or part of any nation for that matter is the ultimate group and has been used by various governments to legitimize themselves and advance goals. Not so long ago you were un-American if you didn’t support the war. This is extremely powerful because people generally like America and when you call them un-American it might strike a deep cord. It basically boils down to “agree with me or else you cannot be part of your own nation anymore.” This is the dumbest thing I could think of to tell someone. America by nature is made up of immigrants with different points of view and it is exactly this fact which makes America great! To make something stronger it takes people to come in, not conform share opinions and then seemingly by magic things improve!!!
Sports teams know this and will steal a player from another team to become stronger. They will NOT simply gripe and moan about the other team being stronger. However, in politics it is a very difficult thing to actually consider the other side, and really take it in. It is much more fun to simply get emotional then to truly study, keep an open mind and consider why the other side could be right.
But now to my grand and final point. I long for the day when we can truly do this among nations. Currently, we think it fashionable to be “international” and travel. But what hasn’t happened is we do not have the ability to truly understand and simply look at them from the bedrock of our own culture and compare and contrast from the prison/prism of our own culture. Of course there are major obstacles such as language, proximity and so on but for everyone to make an honest effort to truly understand each other would be nirvana. (Diversity courses should be banned though).
Unfortunately, this curiosity is not there in this country and we’ve become more of a “agree with me or else” society. This is my team, if you wear the other color I automatically dislike you because you are not like me. This is my political affiliation and if you do not agree you make me uncomfortable. This is my country and we never make mistakes. You on the other hand are from a far away place, speak a strange language and I really cannot relate to you so either become like me or else.
I long for the day when we can break down all of these barriers but we are not even close yet. In America, we broke down the tribes which was a great feat. Yet, we set up new barriers in politics and by using Nationalism.
The people I admire most are those whose opinions I do not share but can explain calmly and rationally why they think the way they do. These people can also be persuaded to actually abandon their own viewpoint when presented with logical arguments. I admire people who can go to other nations, immerse themselves in it and thus seem almost indistinguishable between the two cultures. These are people I can really learn from and I hope is the direction we are headed.
Again, I think we have broken a major barrier by mixing all types of people here in America. The next step would be to consider ourselves humans and global citizens and even do away with national boundaries!
Now that last point probably seems absurd but I ask why? Individuals became tribes, Tribes became Nations, Nations became Empires and they have all been broken down and rebuilt throughout history. Yet, we become hardened with our sports teams, hardened with our political affiliations and God forbid think of switching national identity ………………………………….. unless the individual in question is switching to an American then it’s ok!
But why is this? The national identity is so strong here that even mentioning the topic probably seems blasphemous. An example of how strongly we think of our national identity goes like this.
– An American consular official asks if my wife wants to become a citizen of the USA
– I tell him No, she is Japanese and wants to stay Japanese
– The official is taken aback as if he cannot comprehend why someone would not want to be American.
I can even sense some readers being appalled at this and that proves my point. It’s ok to get out and explore and not be bound by anything limiting, sports teams, political affiliation and yes, even nationality. If we harp on Freedom so much then how about the Freedom to be completely free? Could I have a global passport? Or how about a passport to let me into countries I’m curious about and promise to learn the language and history. Is that such a bad thing? I feel in the current environment this is extremely taboo which is a shame.
Break down every boundary and set your mind free!