Sunday, July 29, 2012

Irrationally Bipartisan

Imagine you have a brother (maybe you actually do). Now imagine you hate your brother (again, maybe you actually do). You don't hate him to the extent that you are overcome with deep, dark thoughts about clunking him in the head with a shovel and burying him in the woods. You don't dream of dispensing rat poison into his tap water or planting PCP on him and calling the cops. This is not a crappy slasher flick, Edgar Allen Poe story, creepy Phil Collins song or reconstructed tale of Cain and Abel. You wish no unmitigated harm or tragedy on him. You simply don't get along, don't want him to triumph or succeed. Despite how similar and connected you are in so many ways, your opinions differ on too many topics. Your personal beliefs are not kindred. Your viewpoints are virtually opposite.

You've grown further and further apart as you've gotten older over the years. Your interactions are limited to snarky back-and-forths and contentious squabbles. You don't actively avoid contact, but only because it still allows you to trumpet just how right you truly are and just how wrong he always is. And yet for whatever reason, you find it within yourselves to come together in support of hometown pride every so often. There's something special about the place you grew up, the place your childhood will always live. And for you and your brother, this allegiance remains among the ruins of anything else you ever shared.

Now imagine that the younger members of your native community just happen to compete amongst their neighbors in some quasi, winner-take-all contest every few summers. It's like a battle-of-the-bands, but for small towns as opposed to angsty teenagers who spend their weekends boosting their parents' booze. The aspects and qualifications of this tournament aren't important – in fact a great deal of it is downright trivial – but that's not the point. It's important because of what and who you're choosing to support. Which is why you and your brother, that wretchedly brainwashed chowder head, can always find a way to put aside your differences and direct your loyalties to a common goal, collectively and positively. You both recognize how odd and somewhat shocking this cooperation is – even if it's on a subconscious level – but you both also realize, almost implicitly, that it would be much weirder and much more reprehensible if you did not come together in this manner. You do it not for appearances or out of any joint obligation. It's completely genuine, even if for very superficial, archaic and unalterable motivations.

You are – for this brief period of time, every so often – on the same side, pulling for the same horses. You don't particularly stand to gain or lose much of anything other than your civic pride and the small bits of your heart that go out to those from your old stomping grounds. Victorious or not, there is very little tangible worth that can be measured in gains and losses from the inevitable outcomes. As fiddling or petty as the usual incongruities between you and your brother may often be, the very same could be said for the events that have now brought you together. Yet you seem to show far more respect for these fleeting moments than you ever do for each other. If it were in any way possible, you'd hitch your fates together to aid the efforts of your roots, selflessly giving of yourselves for the glory of the place you forever call home.

You know that any successes your allegiances obtain will be more or less temporary; largely forgotten, regardless of the notions of immortality you boast and attach to them. You're intrinsically cognizant that as soon as this brief and sunshiny intermission is over, you'll go back to hating your brother for the comparable (and in your mind, twisted) allegiance he happens to cast on everything else in his life. The abbreviated sentiments you shared will essentially be dismissed, just like the hometown subjects those sentiments were directed toward. You'll be indignant and defiant and cruel, and you won't even care, because your brother with mercilessly act the exact same way. The things that separate you will once again be your most defining qualities, while the things you share will return to the scrap heap of unimportance. You won't always be right, and neither will he, but that's not what matters. What matters is selfishness and stubbornness, your personal preferences challenged only by a desire for the failure and shortcomings of his. It's narcissistic, childish and pathetic, but you embrace it anyways, because in your mind, it's better than losing. The price you pay for your gains is favorable to the cost of the contrary.

It is oddly ironic how we as a country come together for the Olympics. It is admirable how unabashedly patriotic and proud we are to be Americans, how irrationally unified we become in pursuit of medals the vast majority of us will never touch and podiums the smallest fraction of us will ever get to stand on. Our eyes swell with tears at the sound of the same National Anthem that we constantly daydream through at high school basketball games and major league ballparks. We root against the French merely for being the French. We work ourselves into a lather over archery and water polo and words with “athalon” tacked on to the end of them. We vault teenage girls to the ranks of national heroes for nailing their dismounts. We buy Wheaties boxes and Subway sandwiches in the name of athletes who spent their lives training for an activity that we do for fun in our spare time. Our loyalty is pure. Our pride is communal. Our respect is reciprocal. Suddenly, everyone is rooting FOR LeBron James. All at once, we're all on the same team. It's weird. It's beautiful. It's weirdly beautiful.

It's also fleeting. In seemingly no time at all, it will be cast aside in light of our differences, tossed back on the scrap heap of unimportance, disregarded for personal preference – worthless, because the price to gain is far more favorable than the cost of the contrary.

It's what makes the Olympics special. Though I'm not quite sure what it says about everything else.

Thanks for reading

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