From my latest for WorldMag.com:
Two groups of people face off. Each sports a color representing their team. Members of both sides are loyal but for varying reasons. For some, it’s geography, where they grew up or currently live. For others, it’s simply following in the footsteps of their parents. Some made a conscientious decision because of specific values. Some are loyal mostly out of spite to the opposition, while others are there for little definable reason at all and just seem to have stumbled onto the team.
Both groups are rabid in their defense of their side, even to the point of abusing anyone not on it. They abhor opponents for little reason other than they are the “rival.” Such rabidity often crosses the lines of decency, but so long as they are draped in team colors such behavior is deemed acceptable.
Neither side can really converse with or engage the other side. Every conversation is a nonstarter. No common ground exists. Interaction is instant conflict.
Am I describing Carolina-Duke, Packers-Vikings, Red Sox-Yankees, or Michigan–Ohio State? Or am I describing two teams that wear red and blue respectively and are currently filling up every news broadcast and Twitter feed in the country during this election season? It could be either or both. The similarities are striking.
My point is not to question anyone’s affiliation to a team or party (except the Yankees—I question loyalty to the Yankees). Rather, it’s worth noting the absurdity of how political rivalry resembles the shenanigans that go on at Cameron Indoor Stadium or Fenway Park. It’s one thing to revert to slobbering and snarling over a game; it’s another thing entirely to do so over the direction and future of our country.
. . .
Are we even able to credibly articulate our loyalties? In sports, one needs little reason to root for a team, and that’s OK. But there’s more riding on a political affiliation. It’s not enough to have been “raised Republican” or to live in a “Democratic-heavy district.” Those work for football and basketball, but not politics.
Can we find a way to be diametrically opposed and still maintain respect and dignity for our opponents? In sports, this is a matter of perspective, putting the person above the game, but can we do it as easily in politics? Can we put a person above their stance on tax reform or gay marriage or abortion? Can we treat them with dignity regardless?
Most importantly, do we define ourselves by that to which we’re loyal? Do we find our identity in it? Is our hope and happiness wrapped in the color we wear?
. . .