In My Words: In the World Cup, 32 nations comprise one tribe
After watching parts of the World Cup from where he's lived this spring in Costa Rica, Professor Tom Arcaro writes for regional newspapers about common humanity on display in the largest global sporting event of the year.
The following column appeared recently in the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald, the (Burlington, N.C.) Times-News, the Roanoke (Va.) Times, the (Charlottesville, Va.) Daily Progress and the Gaston Gazette via the Elon University Writers Syndicate. Viewpoints are those of the author and not Elon University.
In the World Cup, 32 nations comprise one tribe
By Tom Arcaro - email@example.com
As an American expat living for the past five months in Costa Rica, it’s been impossible not to feel excitement when the U.S. and Costa Rican men’s national soccer teams take the field in World Cup competition. Never have I been prouder to wave the red, white and blue, and here that does double duty since the U.S. and Costa Rican flags share the same colors.
The World Cup is an example of how we are emotionally united to the rest of the world, sharing in the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” These connections transcend linguistic, political, religious, racial, ethnic and national barriers.
No matter where we call home, the citizens of 32 nations know what it feels like this summer to win or lose in Brazil.
Yet what I noticed as goals were scored and flags were waved is the subtle evolution of our present political identities as separate ‘nations’ to a more descriptive ‘clan’ driven by global connections and common values.
The iconoclastic Greek philosopher Diogenes - the man credited with defining “cosmopolitanism” and branding himself a “citizen of the world” - was famous for his assertion that fundamental values were more accurately revealed through action and behavior than through mere rhetoric and theory.
Though we Americans talk much of patriotism, Diogenes would be the first to describe our behavior as more representative of true cosmopolitanism. We influence the world by our products and politics, to be sure. Perhaps our best export is leadership we show when we behave as “citizens of the world.”
After all, the United States is the most diverse of nations. We are a mixture of virtually every race, ethnicity and religion on the planet.
We are economically interdependent on the rest of the world in ways impossible to list. The way we behave as consumers links us to all corners of the globe.
Through the media we are interconnected spiritually as indicated by our extraordinarily high levels of charitable giving and international service work.
Our Facebook accounts, Tweets and YouTube videos are seen instantaneously everywhere, irrespective of national boundaries.
Our scientists collaborate with others everywhere, doing research and presenting findings in pursuit of knowledge about our world – not specific to our nation but to all humanity.
British novelist George Orwell was right in making a distinction between patriotism – love of country, a more historically organic entity – and devotion to nation, which are human political creations. What Orwell could not envision nearly a century ago is a planet that at some point itself would become one “country.”
We are all members of the human tribe. While our clan membership will always remain important – even I can’t resist chants of “USA! USA!” – our united futures are a fact to be celebrated. Americans must lead the way by our actions, accepting and expecting the best from those sharing our freedom as we collectively face a complex and challenging future.
So proclaim your pride in the United States. At the same time, keep in mind that patriotism and cosmopolitanism are becoming one in the same. The World Cup, after all, is perhaps the best illustration of clans coming together in sport and festivity as part of one global tribe.
Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University.
Elon University faculty with an interest in sharing their expertise with wider audiences are encouraged to contact Eric Townsend (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Office of University Communications should they like assistance with prospective newspaper op/ed submissions.