The other day I was walking through a parking lot and spotted a suburban with a Nimitz football sticker on the windshield. My first impulse was to find a rock and smash the window in.
I didn’t, of course — there weren’t any rocks big enough around — and wouldn’t have smashed anything if I had. Probably. I mean really. I’m reasonable, and I walked to my car and drove away peaceably like a reasonable person.
I haven’t gone to school at Bonham Junior High since 2002, I went to Permian with people from Nimitz and have many friends from there. Where a person went to junior high hasn’t even been a meaningful thought to cross my mind in quite a few years. Yet somehow those three years of conditioning have stayed with me in some form or another.
Bonham is Us. Nimitz is Them.
I had a friend in college who claimed he didn’t ascribe to any artificial division between people. Geographical, national, racial, whatever. Maybe he was telling the truth, well-traveled and easy going fellow that he was. Yeah, I’ll take it at face value. But if so, he’s denying himself one of the fundamental aspects, and I say joys, of the human experience.
Nimitz is a small thing, and no less or more artificial a boundary than a lot of the ones we draw between ourselves and others. But in another way, the lines are as absolute as anything gets.
“We’re playing Nimitz, and we hate those guys.”
For all our individuality, our diverse backgrounds, and adolescent sub-cliques, what we have in common is that aren’t Nimitz, and we hate those guys. What is Bonham? Owls? Blue and gray? Who can really get excited about that?
We’re familiar with ourselves, and we know there’s not much great or special about Bonham, but what we’re unfamiliar with, all sort of things can be attributed to them, and we aren’t them. We’re us.
You can trace at least one strain of identity through sports loyalties. Odessa High vs. Permian. Odessa vs. Midland. West Texas vs. other regions of the state. Texas against all other states. The South vs. the North and West Coast. America versus the rest of the world.
When our alien overlords arrive and want to play a game of basketball, humanity will hate them, too. Hopefully Michael Jordan will still be able to save us.
To come together for anything, we need something outside. What’s the point of being in a political party if there’s only one of them? What’s the good of being religious if someone isn’t going to burn in hell? What value is there in Aryan heritage if you don’t have a Jew or gypsy to compare yourself to?
It’s nice to belong, to know who you are because of who you’re not. And when you’re part of a group, you don’t have to succeed or contribute anything to be a success. Obviously there’s more of a draw to this as an 14-year-old than a 40-year-old, but there’s still a lot of a draw at 40.
Nimitz hate may never leave from inside, but I want to cut people’s tires when I visit Midland, too.
“Us and Them” feels awful nice a lot of the time.
And it’s not a bad number by Pink Floyd, either.