Monday, March 1, 2010

Nationalism ?

There were times in the not too distant past that I was reticent about disclosing my country of origin while travelling. I think it may have been shortly after the 911 terrorist attack that Americans did not always feel safe or welcome in some foreign lands. I warned my family as we travelled to "act like you are Canadian". I realized it is probably rather difficult to hide the fact that you are an American because apparently we are easy to spot, sometimes not for the right reasons either.

While watching the Olympics on television over the past week or so I began to reach the conclusion that besides it being about sports and athletic achievement it appeared to reflect a nationalistic appetite which was sometimes bloated and gluttonous. ( I've heard that said about us Americans.) I think athletes have a right to rejoice and celebrate when they have won their event but as a country should we really take collective credit for their achievements. This sense of nationalism has grown exaggerated, misplaced and tiresome.

The amount of money dedicated to supporting the various teams, coaches, equipment and travel is obscene. Why is it so very important for Russia to prove they are a great country by winning a medal in figure skating or for South Korea or China to prove they are superior by winning or going fast around an ice track or bobsled down a dangerous course? That does not necessarily prove they are a great country ( especially when it comes to their record on human rights).Don't misunderstand the point of my message. I am not suggesting we abolish the Olympics. I just think it needs to be put in the correct context. The competition should be about who is the best athlete not necessarily the best country. However, I think it is rather embarrassing trying to justify the amount of money spent on all of this when you consider the economic climate around the world and the existence of poverty, war, terrorism and the recovery from the disaster in Haiti.

I found myself glued to the TV set on Sunday afternoon watching the USA vs Canada hockey game. It was an exciting hockey game and Canada seemed to need to prove they are superior to the US in hockey and the bragging rights associated with it. It was just a hockey game folks. I think some of us are a little bit mixed up about expressing our nationalism through the athletic activities associated with the Olympics.

I am not a flag waving anthem singing resident of the United States and thankfully, I no longer feel I have to hide the fact I am an American while travelling.


Nota Bene said...

Yes..there was a time when being an American Abroad was the worst thing you could be...but no longer so...and I found it strange when the Amy Williams won, and it was glorry all round for Britain...well done for her, but not sure I contributed in any way!

Madame DeFarge said...

I do find the patriotic excess from any country rather irritating, not just the US. Like NB says, it's not like any of us have anything to do with it.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hello my friend,

For as long as I can remember watching the Olympics, the athletes have represented their respective countries. I think that during the 60's and 70's when it was a purely amateur competition, there was a greater sense of comaraderie between athletes and countries.

I believe three things greatly impacted the shift from open competition to winning:
1. Performance enhancing drugs
2. Elite athletes sponsored by communist bloc countries.
3. Munich massacre by the Arab terrorist group Black September.

As far as the national pride one feels when an athlete from their country wins a medal goes, I see no difference between that and the passion one has for a professional sports team that wins a championship. I grew up a Cubs/White Sox fan, so I cheer for them. When I moved to Texas, I followed the Texas Longhorns.

I don't believe that winning in sports (professional or amateur) includes fan pride as a legitimate factor for success. Still, fans will cheer anyway.

I'm going to remind myself of this post the next time the Black Hawks meet the Bruins.


Murr Brewster said...

Patriotism and nationalism are silly and dangerous on such a small, dentable planet. I cringe. And yet sometimes I cry when I hear The Star-Spangled Banner. Even when I'm not trying to sing it.

On the other hand, I go all to pieces during the scene in Casablanca where they start singing the Marseillaise, too.