Thursday, June 21, 2012

I pledge allegiance

I remember the year the Angels won the World Series. Suddenly there was a county-wide outcry. The OC was finally the winningest county in Major League Baseball. We were represented by a team with a "Rally Monkey" and fans wielding "thundersticks" that made you go deaf within 15 minutes of entering the stadium. Pride was the order of the day. Everyone was ready to pledge allegiance to their team, caps over hearts and eyes blind to the rest of the world.

It's a standard procedure.

We, as Americans (and I guess in other parts of the world too, though I don't speak for them), love to pledge allegiance. Not just to our sports teams. And not just to our flags, either. But to everything. To our schools, to our companies, to our products, to our food. Everything we have we make a big deal out of, putting down the rest of society as if its inferior simply by being a competitor.

Somehow we've all become our own personal advertising machines. As naturally opinionated people, we come up with perspectives on everything that is anything. In the process, we become dogmatic and conceited about our critiques. Just ask me, I want to be a critic. There's no one more conceited about their opinion than a critic.

Still, despite my terrible need for proving the worthiness of my opinion, I have never quite understood allegiances. Mostly because they're so very arbitrary.

I grew up as a kind-of enthusiastic Yankees fan. I took on the title because my dad had grown up in New York and therefore become an avid fan of the team as a child. But I was from Orange County. The only time I'd been in New York was to see the Statue of Liberty or the various times I went to New Jersey to visit family and my dad and I would say "We're going to New York" to our friends instead of mentioning the Garden State.

Maybe geography doesn't seem an entirely arbitrary reason for becoming a fan of something, but fandom by association (in my case through my father's geographical history) doesn't make much sense. And if you think about it, your region is an association.

For years I've protested against patriotism and overt pride at being an American. Living in the United States can be one of the most excruciating experiences when it becomes a source of unwarranted pride and foreigner-bashing.

As annoying and petty as people can be about their teams, they're a million times worse about their geographic affiliation itself. In my own town there is a level of superiority lorded over neighboring cities. The state of California may not fancy itself so much better than the other states in the union, but the union as a whole doesn't hesitate to proclaim its greatness against other countries.

Pride isn't the problem, in my opinion. Like in Pride & Prejudice, we might ask whether pride is a fault or a virtue. But in the words of Mr. Darcy, "That I couldn't say."

The real issue is pride where pride isn't due. Or pride where pride is due, but where it is due just by fate rather than success or superiority.

I've been working at CBS for almost a week now. I like my internship. It's fun and unique every single day. In such a short amount of time, I've already found myself placed into various interesting situations that I could never have imagined I'd be able to take part in as a first time in-person intern.

But one thing that I knew I wouldn't understand or appreciate going into this internship was the allegiance to a network.
I go to a famous university in the Midwest. Within the school there is pride in our mascot, pride in our colors, pride in our name, pride in our traditions. But I am not a prideful person. Sure, I have a jacket that has the name of the school printed on the front, but I don't also wear caps and sweats and shirts with the insignia all over the place. I don't paint my face different colors for football games or anything like that. The commitment doesn't make sense to me.

I could have very well gone to some other school and wanted to represent them. Just because I love the place that I study doesn't mean I want to constantly show off my pride to everyone I encounter. (That being said, I did once see a man at Disneyland wearing a sweatshirt from my school and I screamed at him happily without thinking.)

The same goes for my network. Sometimes my lack of excessive enthusiasm makes me feel like a bad person. While everyone else goes on about how they prefer CBS shows to the shows on other channels, I cower in the corner with my published blogs on The Office, Glee and Downton Abbey. I shy away when they talk about the shows they see because they're the spawn of CBS sister networks and I'm still hanging out on NBC, FOX and PBS. It's not that I dislike the network I work for, but just because I enjoy them doesn't mean I feel an undying devotion to them and a subsequent hatred for their competitors.

It's just something I've never quite understood.

There was one time when I was around 12 or so that I got really into baseball. The Yankees were in the Playoffs and I was really excited about the games. I stood in my room watching one of the most important games of the season. My dad was not home, so it wasn't just an act to impress him (if you were wondering). I started cheering, making up actual routines on the spot and chanting for the team like my enthusiasm had some value in promoting their success.

Looking back, it's a funny picture. And looking forward, the whole concept of allegiances is a pretty comical one.

Loving something shouldn't mean needing to have a special day just for wearing Angels merchandise like my elementary school had back in 2002 when the team won the World Series. It shouldn't mean having to tell others your affiliation is superior to theirs.

Being passionate does not go hand-in-hand with one-upsmanship. And even though I may feel an affinity for certain things in my life, I realize that even I have fallen victim to this trap. But no more. I'd rather pledge allegiance to no flag than fly mine so high that it gets in the way of others'.

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