My brother and I were waiting to catch the light rail after watching the US men’s soccer team win their sixth Gold Cup. Soccer is one of the things that brings us together as siblings—along with being lifelong Democrats. While the former made for a great day out, the latter ruined the patriotic buzz I had going on. “Time to go home, go to bed, and see what fresh hell Trump has visited upon us tomorrow morning,” he said.
As my boyfriend will tell you, every morning begins with me groaning at my phone as I check my twitter notifications. Steve was right about there being a new fresh hell, which isn’t saying much considering that there is almost always some morning presidential tweetstorm or White House shenanigans to groan over as I roll out of bed.
And yet, when the US national team comes to play, no matter what the sport, I am there for it in my red, white, and blue. I am screaming “USA! USA!” and meaning it. Being a hyphenated American is great because I have two national teams to cheer for and twice the (mostly) harmless athletic nationalism to indulge in.
I am proud to be Portuguese-American because while my soul is Portuguese, my heart beats because I am a red-blooded American. My parents are American by choice and that means something to me. I believe so much in what this country represents, even when it doesn’t live up to it. Even when I feel like it’s rejecting abrasive women like me.
When I say things, I mean them. I mean it when I’m screaming “USA! USA!” because I am proud of seeing my fellow American athletes when they’re playing at the highest level of their sport. I mean it when I jump up and down and chant “I believe that we will win!” because I don’t think winning is limited to the scoreboard.
But here’s the thing; we have a long history of America’s greatest athletes not exactly being America’s favorite people. I know this as an SJSU alumna because, during my long gaps before classes in Clark Hall, I used to nap in the shadow of greatness. I’m talking about Tommie Smith and John Carlos, my fellow Americans, Spartan athletes, and discontents.
I’ll let Wikipedia give you the tl;dr version, but it’s definitely worth a read. For those of you heathens who want the quick and dirty version, Smith and Carlos won gold and bronze in the 200-meter track event at the 1968 Olympics and used the podium as a literal platform for their ideals. They didn’t just perform the black power salute. Everything they did was laden with symbolism. For blue collar workers, for slaves killed in the middle passage, for human rights. These men were some of America’s greatest athletes but they weren’t blindly patriotic. You can represent your country and criticize it. That’s one of the reasons I believe in this country so much.
These men were some of America’s greatest athletes but they weren’t blindly patriotic. You can represent American excellence and be critical of America. That’s one of the reasons I believe in this country so much.
Now Smith and Carlos are Spartan heroes and every freshman learns about them at orientation, but they caught hell for their actions at the time. I’d say that it’s because the 60s wasn’t exactly a great time to be black and stand up for yourself in this country, but ask Colin Kaepernick how he feels about that. And I’ll admit that it’s easier for me to believe in this country because while I might be a woman and have immigrant parents, I’m fine because the world still sees me as white, cis, and straight.
But (cue the Journey background music) I can’t stop believing that we will win. That even in the face of fresh hell every morning, a majority of my fellow Americans voted against it. That the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice. That while I might be tired and sweaty and cynical, I’ll still eventually chime in when my countrymen spontaneously start singing the national anthem a crowded train.
I stopped writing The Darkest Timeline series because there was just too much to cover and it was too demoralizing to make into a regular part of my routine. It’s also fundamentally against my generally hopeful worldview.
This is the Darkest Timeline because it’s our only timeline. There is no going back and fixing it so that Hillary is president. There is no leaving this country for me, not for long. Not when I’m honest with myself. I do have moments of weakness when I entertain the idea, but luckily for me, I have a wise younger brother to snap me out of it.
So, if I can’t change the past (old sport) and I can’t leave, then all I can do is look forward and do my part to help all of us win.