Monday, March 8, 2010

Patriotism and Sports Pride

It was a strange providence that the Lord timed my oath of citizenship to coincide with the Vancouver Winter Olympics and, at the end of that, the great hockey showdown between my new country and the old country. It stirred up some surprising sentiments.

What was also suprising was that my Yankee wife "supported" the Canadian team for the gold medal, even though she is fiercely patriotic. She caught some jesting grief for this from a friend or two. The next day, a student confronted me over where my heart lay in the contest with Canada, making it clear to me before I answered that this was the litmus test for the sincerity of my solemn affirmations at the naturalization ceremony. So the two of us gave some thought to the relationship between patriotism and internation sports competition.

Here is part of my essay that came of it:

I have suffered a few aspersions because, though I am now an American citizen, I nonetheless felt an affinity for the Canadian Olympic hockey team, and even thought it was right that they should win the gold medal. Someone went so far as to suggest that the direction of my allegiance in this contest was the test of my fidelity to the oath of citizenship I took. But patriotism, the healthy love of one’s country, has nothing to do with international sports.

...[I]f a patriot is one who loves his country and seeks what is best for her, then he may withhold his cheers for an unworthy national team, and even direct his cheers elsewhere if he thinks his country’s victory in that case would be bad for the national character. So why turn against the U.S. hockey team?

...An Olympic gold for the United States in hockey would have encouraged a belief in manifest destiny that does not bring out the best in this exceptional people to whom, on firmly held principle, I have chosen to join myself.

Read the whole provocative thing: "Patriotism is not Boosterism."

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