I was walking through a parking lot the other day and spotted a suburban with a Nimitz football sticker in the wildshield. My first impulse was to find a rock and smash the window in.
I didn’t of course–find one–and wouldn’t have smashed anything if I had. 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 and even had friends from Nimitz, and where a person went to junior high hasn’t even been a meaningful thought to cross my mind in at least four years. Yet somehow those three years of conditioning have stayed with me in some form or another.
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 there’s not much great or special about us, but what we’re unfamiliar with, all sort of things can be attributed to them, and we aren’t THEM. We’re US.
It’s crude, but I really do think you can trace at least one strain of identity through sports loyalties. Odessa High vs. Permian. Odessa vs. Midland. West Texas vs. East Texas. Texas against all other states. The South vs. the North and West Coast. America versus the world. When our alien overlords arrive and want to play a game of basketball, humanity will hate them, too.
It’s nice to belong, to know who you are because of who you’re not. Obviously there’s more of a draw to this as an insecure 14-year-old than a hopefully mature 40-year-old, but there’s still a lot of a draw at forty. When you’re part of a group, you don’t have to succeed or contribute anything to be a success.
“America is the greatest country on earth.”
The vast majority of people who say that have never been to more than a handful of other countries, if any. Luxemborg may be a wonderful place. I don’t know. I’ve never been. But America is number one. We can’t hear you above all the freedom.
And there are those on the Left who say patriotism is irrational and ignorant. That’s probably true, but if their chests don’t swell with pride seeing an American flag raised, if something doesn’t stir in them to hear the Star Spangled Banner or God Bless America or America the Beautiful, they’re missing out on their humanity because that “something” that stirs is wonderful.
And so long as it remains private or at least doesn’t come at the detriment of someone else, who can complain?
Marxism ceased to be relevant about the time I was getting potty trained, so correct me if I’m misunderstanding something here. When Karl Marx called for workers of the world to unite, he expected them to choose class differences as their identity. If so, he was incredibly foolish in his understanding of masses of people.
In the American South, who did poor white trash have more in common with just before the Civil War, slaves or their white masters? Economically, they were closer to the slaves. Economically, they, and the slaves, would be better off if slavery didn’t exist in the South, and all labor was free and competitive. Oh, but their human interests, their human interests lay with the fact that they were white and the poorest, dumbest, ugliest, most worthless white man in the South was worth more than any black person was or could ever be. Worth more than all of them put together. The poorest white was still white, and that made him like the richest plantation owner, if only in his own mind. That is a mighty consolation prize for having to scrape around in the mud. That’s US being winners, and THEM being losers. If your situation as a loser is better than as a winner, that’s poor consolation for winning.
The relationship between myself and Nimitz is not that. I’m not a Bonhamedan anymore, for whatever it really meant that I was then. But at a time when identity was really taking shape, it meant something not to go to school at Nimitz, or Bowie, or Crockett, or Midland Lee. Any real success of my school meant I was, and I enjoyed the illusion of superiority because everyone who went to Bonham was superior to those others schools, including me. And the hostility programmed, intentionally and otherwise, hasn’t, may not ever fully dissipate.
In all the ways I break down my world into US and THEM, surely Bonham and Nimitz are the least significant. I wonder how I’m affected by those divisions that seem more important.