my national team woes

I wrote this at the height of World Cup Fever and sat on it until now out of respect for all of the soccer fans following it. I didn’t want to shit on anyone’s party. Now that it’s long behind us. I’ll shit freely.

The problem I have with supporting any US national team is that I conflate supporting the team with supporting what my country represents, what actions it takes and how those actions affect the world. I realize this is not fair. I realize that the athletes that represent our nation don’t have anything to do with actions taken by our government, or by the ruling class. But this doesn’t matter to me when it comes down to it.

It sits so wrong with me to be watching an event where the stadium is chanting USA USA and everyone is covered in red white and blue at the same time that domestic terrorists are burning black churches in our country. When domestic terrorists are murdering black people in our country. When police officers are torturing and murdering people – primarily people of color. When we are holding women and children in tiny deportation centers and cells because they were trying to make a better life for themselves here. When the leadership of my city of Chicago is attacking public education and turning it over to private companies wherever possible. When our government continues to support, materially and morally, the apartheid government of Israel in their oppression of Palestinians, and their general bullying of their neighbors. When our government continues to use our massive military as a unilateral global police force and conducts declared and undeclared wars on anyone who stands in our way somehow. When these wars continue to destroy people’s lives. When our government continues to deny support to veterans of these military campaigns once they come home.

The list goes on and many people much more articulate than I have written about these things.

But this is the problem. I cannot in good conscience support the national team without all these things – these current events – popping up in my mind. I am inundated with these things. Every day. What happens in my country and in my name sickens me. And when I see people say things about ‘Murica and Go USA it actually causes a visceral reaction of disgust. It feels jingoistic, tone deaf and divisive. I can’t be all nation happy about any nation that oppresses people and has a long history of genocide, slavery, racism, sexism, intolerance, hatred and injustice. A nation that continues to refuse to own up to its history. Yes, that is probably the majority of the nations on earth. I have conflicted feelings about supporting most national teams for some reason or another.

I am conflicted about this, especially with the women’s national soccer team, because I want to support them as players and people. If they were the club in my city or something, I would support them. It has nothing to do with them as people or players. It has a little to do with US Soccer being US Soccer and my negative feelings towards them as an institution. But nothing to do with the players involved.

I also have intensely negative feelings about FIFA and the world cup and the Olympic Committee and the Olympics. In general they are very destructive agents. You can read all about it elsewhere. I read about the behind the scenes news about what FIFA is doing, what the sponsors involved our doing, what the nations involved are doing. I try to be aware and then I try to treat the actual games as just a spectacle, as a soap opera drama, without getting caught up in who is actually winning. I go with supporting the underdog in general and players I like. But even so, at some point I find myself having extremely negative reactions to watching the US team. I do end up viewing them as complicit representatives of what we represent as a Nation. And I do end up viewing the loud supporters, the ones who dress up, the supporters groups, American Outlaws, et al, as representatives of what we represent as well. And I feel what we represent is ugly. Is violent and destructive. It’s not something I love at all.

I love the people in my community, I love my community. I think there are a lot of good people in my neighborhood, in my city, in my country. I think there are a lot of amazing people working for positive change in this country but they are not those in power. They are not the Nation. The Nation has almost always been on the wrong side of history, only making progress when the people at the bottom demand change.

All of this is just an expression of how I feel. I’m not telling anyone how to support or not support their team. Or what to think or anything like that. I don’t think less of anyone as a person for supporting their national team at all. I make no judgments. This is a personal feeling, for me. This is just something that has been festering for a while that I needed to get off my chest.

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