Unity, Soccer, and the Fourth of July

Rob Schwarzwalder | Family Research Council | Thursday, July 3, 2014

Unity, Soccer, and the Fourth of July

As we celebrate the Fourth, we are awash in news reports of Americans experiencing a newfound interest in soccer, not just because of a sudden love of the sport but because the U.S. national team has generated patriotic fervor.

People have dressed in exotic red, white, and blue outfits as they have thronged to public venues ranging from sports stadiums to downtown plazas to watch America’s team play in the World Cup.  Fans of all kinds have showed great enthusiasm, empowered in part by steady streams of alcoholic beverages.

“Over the past two weeks, the soccer gods have brought us both elation and disappointment,” writes commentator Edgar Mendoza.  “Yet, in spite of this roller coaster of emotions, we, as Americans, are much more united.  It’s odd how soccer, the most un-American sport, can bring our country together.”

“Most Americans … aren’t paying close attention to the World Cup, but it has given many people and particularly young people an opportunity to unite behind Team USA. That’s not a bad outcome for the fourth of July,” note American Enterprise Institute Scholars Karlyn Bowman and Jennifer Marsico.

Agreed: Not a bad outcome. But what are we really celebrating?  That some of our fellow citizens have achieved athletic excellence while representing our country?  That’s very nice, but why should we care about such representation of our country if we are divided, deeply, about what our country means and should be?

For the record: I played soccer in high school (even lettered) and practiced with the JV team at my college.  I like the game.  And it’s always nice to see one’s countrymen do well in any international forum.

With that established, the larger issue remains: About what are we united as a people?  What is it about our country that inspires devotion, even devotion unto death as so many of our fallen military heroes have demonstrated?  

Beer-fueled flag-waving is hardly true patriotism.  Love of the land where our fathers died has to be about more than bread and circuses – or beer and soccer.

Witness the reactions to this week’s entirely reasonable decision on whether firms like the privately-held, for-profit Hobby Lobby crafts chain can be forced to include abortifacient contraceptives in the health insurance plans they offer.  By a one-vote majority, the Supreme Court said no.

From the New York Times to Hillary Clinton, the Left is apoplectic, claiming that the Court has put great barriers between women and the health care they need.  First, let’s ignore the underlying question of where the federal government finds its authority to mandate that a private firm provide a certain type of benefit to its employees (hint: it’s not the Constitution).  

Second, since when is an abortifacient – a drug that can cause abortion – “health care?”  It is destructive of what inarguably is a human life, and can adversely affect the health of the woman taking it.  

Yet critics of the decision have pulled out every rhetorical stop, not engaging with the logic of the decision but fomenting fear and rage.  “Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will,” said Senator Patty Murray, announcing she would try to legislate mandatory abortifacient distribution through private health plans.

Writing in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin captures the mindset of the received liberal elites elegantly:

To assert that the (Hobby Lobby) decision burdens women is…flat wrong. It does, however, burden “progressives” who want no exceptions to (their) edicts, no matter what the damage done to people of conscience. The reaction to the case suggests desperation to cook up a 2016 issue and maybe some measure of embarrassment that a law they passed with nary a peep should have done in contraception absolutists. The reaction on the left also highlights the totalitarian impulse that now routinely afflicts the left.

Amen, and back to the original point: About what are we united?  What stirs the patriotic impulse?  

Should we not be united around the belief that all of us our equal in value before God?  That He is the author of our rights, and government only their protector?  That the Constitution, as written and intended by its drafters, should define what the federal government can and cannot do and be? That moral truth exists and can be known and should determine our political and social life as a nation?

Most Americans, perhaps the overwhelming majority, are patriots, with a loyalty to and love for our country that, while perhaps intellectually unsophisticated, nonetheless is genuine and deep.  We appreciate our freedom and the cost it has demanded of so many for so long.  This is not the same as a careful grasp of the principles of our Founding and the Republic that has grown from it, but is real and honorable and to be cherished.

Still, on basic matters of belief and political practice, we are a fissured people.  We are country of chasms and divides.  That’s painful, and maybe that pain is one of the reasons we throng to sporting events to wave the flag and paint our faces with the colors of Old Glory: such events are emotionally satisfying and politically undemanding.  

So, on this Fourth of July, let’s let our innate patriotism rip and cheer for heroes in soccer uniforms and police uniforms, for our fireworks and our freedoms.  But let’s also remember that sentiment is not the same thing as undauntable resolve, that emotional release not the same thing as unswerving conviction, and that Americanism means more than a hoisted beer and a hearty whoop.

Rob Schwarzwalder is the Senior Vice-President at the Family Research Council.

Publication date: July 3, 2014