I went to a Portland Trailblazer game this week. The strangest part of sports, for me, is the pageantry. The singing of the national anthem in particular has been as ritualized as any religious dogma. I understand the idea that people think they are honoring our freedom, but for me freedom means far more than empty rituals and unthinking patriotism. To draw a probably pretty obvious parallel, the ritual of singing the national anthem always reminds me of Orwell’s two minutes of hate.
I also feel that, regardless of what our country represented in the past, it’s not currently worth glorifying for many reasons. I am critical of the US government in a lot of ways. I hate what they’ve done in Latin America, South America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia. Crushing populist movements and installing puppet rulers who help our bottom line may be realpolitic, but it doesn’t make for a nice country. I hate that the top half a percent have the mechanisms of election tied to their puppet strings and use our supposedly democratic process as a way to increase their billions. I hate that our politicians would oppose something as humane and sensible as universal healthcare.
That said, traveling has taught me new ways to appreciate our government. Being in the third world, where power is not a constant, trash is burnt rather than collected, pavement is often a rumor, and water is far from drinkable has taught me to appreciate our infrastructure in a whole new light. I still think a more equitable society is necessary, and for US foreign policy to stop being about the bottom line to our big corporations. But I no longer take the infrastructure for granted. As far as travel epiphanies go, this admittedly wasn’t too high on the epic scale. But it’s sometimes to appreciate the small things.