It's that time of year again, for school colors to come out, pompoms to wave, dress-up days, skits...a.k.a., the decadent pageantry during Homecoming Spirit Week. It occurred to me today that school spirit isn't all that different from patriotism. We have yells and chants, rousing music, we dress up in our school colors like people wear the flag on the 4th. And like patriotism, it's something almost everyone at least pretends to have. But I wonder if, like with patriotism, there's questioning underneath.
Because the thing is, at some point you realize that you ended up in your country not because of any awesome membership in the elect chosen to reside there, not because of some predestined fate, not because of anything that makes you uniquely American or Chinese or South African or what have you, but because of luck--because of accident of birth. And luck is something that is very difficult to be proud of.
To me, it makes little sense to have pride in such accidental membership. It justifies pride based not on the actions that should evoke it but rather because self-preservation dictates that you support your own group. Is this to say that we should disavow our allegiances because of what petty cause we have for them? Not at all.
Just, instead of rah-rah'ing for our mascot or our school's name or (in the case of patriotism) our country, we should celebrate ideals. And if in the process we find that our ideals may be more universal than our school spirit cheers or our patriotic sentiments, that's a good thing. (Guess what, it's easier to get someone to agree with "freedom, justice, and equality" than "I love America!") So why be divisive when we can unite around the things that really matter? I don't know about you, but I really care more about what we stand for than our name, our colors, or (sorry!) whether our football team won at the HC game tonight.
I think we should be proud of our schools. But I think we should have better reasons than, "because I go there." I'm proud because the amazing friends and classmates who performed at the Homecoming assembly today had creativity and drive. The folks who created clubs and rallied members to raise awareness and fundraise today inspire with their leadership and dedication. These kinds of strengths provide ideals we should celebrate.
Sure, it's hard to use face paint and pompoms to cheer on something as abstract as an ideal; but if we hope to give a glimpse of who we truly are, whether as the people of a nation or the students of a school, we will always have to go far deeper than a name.