Walk into any American high school on a Friday afternoon. You won’t have to wonder what the school’s colors are—half the students and staff will be wearing them. If there’s a game that night, you’ll know it by an air of excitement and cheerleaders carrying pom poms to classes. It doesn’t really matter if the home team is winning or losing—there’ll be a general sense of unity, optimism, and support for the team. If the coach happens by, people will bob their heads in acknowledgment and call him by his title of respect, “Coach.” All differences are put aside on game day, and all hearts are focused on winning.
Not every day is game day, of course, but that spirit of pride, togetherness, and belonging to something bigger than oneself is part of what motivates everyone in the building to do their day-to-day work. It helps individuals believe in their institution and what it stands for and to value their place in it. Educators know that school spirit is one factor that helps create a positive atmosphere, a sense of mutual cooperation and support, and high achievement.
In a good school—as in a good company or even a strong family—there’s a general sense of pride in belonging. That’s true of countries, as well. And I submit that in America, the Dysfunctional Family, that spirit of pride, ownership, and support for the home team is tragically, and even dangerously, lacking.
The day after an election is game day in America. And for months, now, our coach and our team have been playing to largely empty stands on the home field. Our improbable national cheerleaders—the Limbaughs, Becks, and Palens—have been rooting for the other teams. People who call themselves Americans have been cheering when the others score points. And those of us who want to cheer for our coach and our team often feel that we have to do so quietly or risk being mocked, criticized, or even threatened by the allegedly “loyal” opposition and those who support them.
When Chicago was not chosen as the site for the 2016 Olympics and Rio de Janeiro was, some so-called Americans cheered. Never mind that the United States has been privileged to host the Olympic games a dozen times while the entire continent of South America never has. Never mind that practically the entire population of Rio turned out to show their support and enthusiasm and willingness to work for the honor of hosting the games, while in America, as usual, cynical and negative voices turned the entire process into a mean-spirited “debate.” Never mind that the selection process had been going on for years. America behaved as though the entire matter revolved on a single speech by our president, a last shout just before the final touchdown. And when America wasn’t the winner of the game, the loudest voices were cheering the so-called “failure” of their country.
And when America wins—as when an international committee awards our president one of the world’s highest honors—crowds on the home side boo. When America wins, they shake their fists at the referee.
What’s wrong with this picture?
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