The World Cup, National Pride, And Mutual Respect

Jul 6, 2018


The United States, built upon principles of equality and pragmatism, champions identities based on what people do --- not upon where they were born. Until recently, in older civilizations, the career question “what are you going to be when you grow up?” sounded strange for its equation of occupation with Being. You already were what you were. 


Yet identity by ethnic affiliation plays a large role here too, especially lately. Tribalism can be an enemy to justice, love for neighbor, and self-understanding.   


Still, a tug for the familiar is natural, and it finds positive expression through international sports events. 


The United States is absent from the World Cup, so halftime ads enjoin Americans to “Root for their Roots”: cheer for your Swedish, Croatian, or German heritage. 


These instances of support for other nations are superficial, but when passions for birthplace are shared with others, the goodwill feels pure and strong.  


For example, I was in my birth country for its 2010 World Cup victory. In Miraflores, Spain, we jumped into a pool with shirts on, followed by Spanish, French, and American kids screaming their heads off in successive splashes. The nighttime uproar, with happy dogs barking, echoed amid the steep slopes of the mountain village, where nothing slept but the wildflowers. The next day, the team waved from atop a bus that crawled through Madrid amid an ocean of Spaniards and foreign tourists peacefully celebrating together. 


Sharing joy and acknowledging our affinities, good and bad, fosters generosity and empathy. Viva el fútbol! 


I'm Bill Gahan and that's my perspective.