Americans celebrate in Kansas City's Power & Light District
© Kansas City Star
C 2014 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.
Every once in awhile, it happens. We argue, fight, divide ourselves over issues social and political to the point where you think that the whole thing's about to come apart. The "United" part of the title "United States of America" becomes a dark joke. The divide widens as people have seemingly lost the will to be one country.
Then, out of that darkness, a chant begins. One or two voices at first, then more pick it up. And suddenly, we are all standing shoulder to shoulder; arm in arm, our differences forgotten, shouting "USA! USA! USA!
For two weeks, that was us. America was in the World Cup of Soccer, and winning. We made it all the way to the round of 16 before losing a heartbreaker to Belgium despite a heroic superhuman effort by goaltender Tim Howard.
But for those two weeks, America was spellbound; entranced. People gathered in public places all across the country, watching the matches on huge televisions. Even people who were completely clueless about soccer (you mean we LOST and yet we STILL advance???) were drawn in and caught up. In Washington, politicians continued to bicker endlessly. But for two priceless weeks, none of us cared. Team USA was our passion.
Now, the tournament, at least our part in it, is over. The incessant blatting and bleating of politicians and pundits has returned to center stage. And sadly, our moment of unity has been lost in a roiling sea of discord.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Whenever the olympics roll around, we get that national fever, and names that were lost in the crowd become national heroes. Remember Gabby Douglass? Mary Lou Retton? How about Michael Phelps? These were the people who made us proud, and more importantly, brought us together.
Sports is rigidly democratic in that favorites are not played. Two entities, either teams or individuals, go head-to-head in competition for which they have spent years preparing. There is only one winner, the one who was simply better than anyone else. There's nothing political about this; you are either are good enough to win, or you're not.
Those athletes are there to represent the United States; you and me. Again, no politics. Perhaps that's why those times are so special. When the competition begins, there's really only one side to choose.
And we embrace that. And them, lifting them to pedestals high above the rancor of our normal existence.
It would be nice if we had a measure of that unity around a little more. We are faced with serious issues, ones that deserve discussion and debate. But even that could be done with a little less vitriol; and a lot less hate.
Perhaps someday we will grow up a little more, and learn to find ways to come together, rather than methods to drive us further apart. But I, for one, will treasure those times when we drop our divisions and shout our love for America to the heavens with a fervent chorus of "USA! USA! USA!"