America's Own Goal
"I am immensely sorry for all of us."
Warranted though it would be, this is not a quote from the president of the United States. (I can dream, can't I?) It's a quote rather from the president of Brazil, written on Twitter, in the aftermath of that nation's brutal and apparently existential loss to Germany of -- what? -- a soccer game. (See quote from the Sydney Morning Herald here.)
An article in today's British Daily Mail Online is instructive about those who put their misplaced and obsessive faith in ultimately unavailing and empty constructs. Like linking personal and national identity with a chimera. But more about that below. A third article, in the New York Times, describes a "Nation in Despair".
Brazil's national team having badly lost the game, its legions of soccer fans are, according to the articles, apparently despondent, "devastated," fighting in the streets, rampaging, and even suicidal. Riot police were deployed, and there was brawling, "national mourning," gunfire, and despair. Buses were burning, and there was public weeping, gnashing of teeth, and attacking and robbing of tourists by "groups of youths." “We are playing in our country and they are fighting for our nation.” "We ask for forgiveness." "Worst day" of my life.
Over a soccer game, mind you! By golly, that is the sport we need a lot more of here in the U.S. How do you say "low-information" in Portuguese?
Fast-northward to the USA, where our fond national hopes on behalf of Team America -- painted in 2008 for safekeeping, nurturing, and healing, onto the imaginary and fanciful "blank screen" of one would-be savior and political genius named Barack Obama -- have yet to achieve anything like the kind of longed-for triumph and fulfillment now beyond even the most wistful dreams of loyal Brazilian soccer fans.
In fact, it is becoming clearer by the hour -- as the day grows late -- that America is also running a significant points-deficit against an increasingly insolent and cocky opponent. One who's scoring one body-blow, goal, pin to the mat, and chokehold after another, employing a blend of "mixed martial arts" never before used against Americans. Still, it won't be any other nation that beats us in the final elimination round of this particular game. Because the name of this game is not soccer, but tyranny, and Obama vs. America are the contestants.
Brazil can pin its loss on the absence of an injured star player, and a suspended captain, and on the training and grit of the German team. Yet our disadvantages are far more debilitating than the absence of any two athletes, or the strength of any foreign nation's preparedness. We've thrown away many far more valuable treasures in one error after another -- errors unforced, even willing -- and we're headed for grave danger in the fourth quarter of this opponent's game. And the game seems to be his to lose.
We have lost sight of the lodestar of the Founders' vision behind the dirty smoke of bogus and toxic social "causes." We have abandoned the touchstone of American self-reliance for an unholy and demeaning dependency on an increasingly unfriendly government. We have foolishly ceded our vaunted hard-won freedoms for sneering, spurious promises of "security." These have given us only lying, spying, vulnerability, and burst borders for our trouble. We have relinquished the bulwark of honest education -- grounded in classics, and in timeless verities, and in true inquiry -- opting instead for the trendy, the immoral, the official, the doctrinal, the ephemeral, and the downright bogus. We have wandered off the bedrock of American fairness and respect for one another as citizens, and into marshes of ad hominem cruelty, mistrust, derision and scorn. We have left the erstwhile firm footing of coherent American foreign policy, and been led stumbling onto inimical foreign quicksands. And we have beat the sword of impeachment into the ploughshare of endless, bootless "hearings."
Who knows whether the Brazilians are either way too into soccer, or are acting out over some sublimated other anguish? It's difficult to believe that soccer -- qua soccer -- can be that important, or that so much hope is pinned on it. And either way, theirs is a pretty destructive after-the-fact catharsis. But America did pin her much weightier hopes on a particular man with a particular narrative. And he's not who anyone wanted to think he was.
Yet America's liberties -- and her continued existence in this world as the anchor of freedom and truth -- very much are critically important, to us and to an unstable world. Will we move to safeguard them now, while we have a chance? Or will we cast about in confusion a little while longer, as the clock runs out, and while we are intentionally overwhelmed with cascades of the very woes so many of us uneasily told ourselves we were voting to be free of? And if we don't preserve those freedoms, what will we do when, Heaven forbid -- unlike the bus-burning, rioting, despondent, fighting, suicidal Brazilian sports fans -- we have real cause to weep?
Richard Kantro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org