: love for or devotion to one's country
(via Merriam-Webster online)
With the World Cup kicking off in just a little over three weeks, the concept of patriotism has been weighing on my mind. Along with apple pie, baseball, and Euro-snobbery.
And as flags start to fly and anthems are sung, as crowds gather elbow to elbow in pubs sporting their nations' colors, a chill runs down my spine. Because I am Benedict Arnold, and my countrymen might like nothing more than to measure me for a noose.
I wish I understood patriotism. I wish I could comprehend the feelings that cause someone to stand up and say, "Yes, I will give my life for my country." I wish I could feel kinship with my compatriots as we all paint our faces with stars and stripes. Heck, I even wish I liked apple pie.
Before you jump down my throat and leave a comment along the lines of, "If you hate America, why don't you just leave?", please understand--I don't hate the United States. I feel utterly fortunate to have been born here. But at the same time, I somehow don't possess the gene that connects and grounds me to spacious skies and amber waves of grain.
And without this innate sense of patriotism, I am unable to don a USMNT jersey and cheer on Donovan, Dempsey, and others as they try to battle their way into World Cup glory. Instead, on June 12th, I will be wearing a jersey emblazoned with three lions and graced with a numeral 8. And when I open my mouth and my American accent falls out, I will be met with accusations of snobbery, treachery, and unfaithfulness.
Please understand--I am not doing this because I believe in the unerring abilities of the England squad. If I wanted to hitch my wagon to a star, I'd be showing up in a red kit with Xavi on the back. It's also not because I believe that American soccer is woefully inadequate. I think that Donovan's time with Everton and Dempsey's displays at Fulham proved that the Americans can shine at high levels. I firmly believe that a strong showing at the World Cup will help advance the sport in the United States.
I would love nothing more than to be one of hundreds in a pub on June 12th who are singing, chanting, and singing their team to victory. I covet the goosebumps produced through that feeling of unity. But I just can't fake it. When I fell in love with football, I fell in love with the English footballers, complete with their quirks, foibles and inadequacies. I tried my hardest to break away from the relationship. I focused on USMNT news, found blogs to read, watched highlights of the squad. But I felt like a fake, a phony. I just couldn't form an attachment. The attraction simply isn't there.
Call me a traitor if you must. But if patriotism is as American as apple pie, I'm afraid I just don't see the allure.