Navy vs. Air Force (An Account of a “Football Game”)

I took my three-year-old son to a college football game approximately a week ago. It was between the United States Naval Academy (Navy) and the United States Air Force Academy (Air Force). I would like to say that the premise of the event centered around a football game, but viewing the event through the eyes of my three-year-old son made it apparent that it was so much more than that. Before the game started, a squadron of fighter jets flew over the stadium. This was followed by five paratroopers that jumped out of a plane and gracefully landed on the field about thirty yards away. The entire Navy football event was centered around patriotism, nationalism, structured inter-institutional competitiveness, and social habituation. That may sound vague. Frankly, the whole event felt like a vague expression of traditionalist nationalism.

I people-watched most of the event. I loved seeing the general trend of the attendees (straight-edge conservative types) with a dash of hippies, a sprinkle of underage patrons who had yet to fully assimilate, and a wide variety of characters who didn’t quite fit the mold. My son and I walked around in relatively outspoken Hawaiian shirts that were commented on repeatedly. I assume the lack of conformity made people uncomfortable? Or, perhaps they truly were “rad” shirts. I will currently assume the former. Either way, it was fun to stand out in a way that subtly ruffled feathers indirectly.

It was interesting to explain the acts and actions surrounding the opening ceremony in particular. Explaining why 4,000+ people were wearing the same outfit and walking in unison onto the field was another piece altogether. I dared not explain that it was an impressive show of brainwashing and coercion on the part of our federal government, but rather, a collective expression of our innate human need for meaning, purpose, and affiliation. I doubt he understood most of it. I figured that it was worth the effort regardless of his apparent inability to comprehend why everyone was standing up as a piece of multi-colored cloth rose slowly up a massive metal pole, why everyone put their hands across their hearts, why a small group of teenagers yelled “Oh!” during, and why everyone could sit back down afterward.

I thought, “Wait a second. Why do we do all of these things?” I have been doing these things my whole life. I marched onto that field over ten years ago. I wore that white uniform. I bought into everything that I had been told. I was convinced of the prestige. I had taken part in the collaborative effort to extinguish the Middle East’s influence on our sovereignty. I had been a cog in that massive wheel that perpetuated the belief in “something more”. I am still a cog in an even larger wheel that supplies the funding for both institutions essentially just from being alive and a law-abiding citizen in this relatively peaceful and democratic society.

I began to once again question the socially constructed habits. I began to view the Navy football ceremony and all of its pieces as powerful pageantry; and nothing more. The belief in those symbols is what gave those actions power. It is that same belief that gives power to institutional symbols, colors, and culture. It is that same belief that provides the infrastructure that supports those institutions through tax dollars generated by the belief in cultural norms and habituations that perpetuate the cyclical motion of economic turnover. Nothing new. Sociology is riddled with reasons for this behavior. Seeing all of these events through the eyes of my toddler reminded me that so much of life happens unconsciously (especially as we get older).

Not all of the Navy football game seems extraneous, useless, or superfluous. Not by any means. Those powerful constructs provide so much meaning and purpose to lives that may have been riddled with incongruity, listlessness, and a lack of motivation. They are the bulwark against a life lived without a sense of purpose, however, it seems rather trivial to say that any of it should exist, to begin with. That is not to say that if you begin to unravel the reasons as to why they won’t lead you to rational and objective reasons that make sense based on historic events. I guess answering his rather trivial questions allowed me to see the entire event through a new lens. However, the more it changes, the more it stays the same.


On “Race”

Until the late 19th century, race was typically based on language and nationality. Following Darwin’s published research, however, humans began to look at themselves as they would other animals. This sparked a new argument of “race” as heredity. The fundamental results were a classification of their fellow humans as “lower” and “higher” races. These ideas were proposed by Caucasian males who argued that those with Nordic traits (blue eyes, blonde hair, and fair skin) sat atop the human totem pole. They claimed that these humans were largely responsible for order, civilization, and social progress. This inherently categorized those with dark skin and dark hair as the “lower” races.

Are we supposed to believe that Caucasians with Nordic traits are genetically superior? If so, I don’t buy it. I am convinced that social history has played out the way it has by chance. Some groups have been exposed to ideas, tools, and conditions that have perpetuated the expansion of “modern” civilization. Whether or not modern civilization has been progressive (especially in terms of its ethical implications) is debatable. We are where we are today because of environmental factors that have given certain groups an advantage in exploiting their environment and other humans.

I understand this is a hot-button issue, and I am merely trying to get my tumultuous thoughts out in the open. My opinion is that hereditary superiority is a fallacy. One’s cultural environment is the sole determining factor (withholding genetic disorders) of their ability to adapt to the world. A person’s genetic traits are beneficial, or not, based on the current trends of social constructs. Unfortunately, the roots of racial bias run so deeply in the United States, that I am unsure if we will ever resolve the issue. This nation was founded by an aristocracy that exploited other human beings. It seems as if social equality was doomed from the start.

Does this mean that I have lost hope? No. I have faith that I will witness legitimate social equality in my lifetime. We have come so far since the founding of our nation, but we certainly have a long way to go. Racial, economic, and gender inequality are still rampant. Until the institutions in place undergo drastic changes, or are overthrown, systematic inequality will remain a factor for all Americans. I am not preaching anarchy or violent revolution, but changes must be made, and they must be made quickly. We are at a critical juncture in the life of our young country. We are teetering between social progress and social regression. It will be a difficult road to navigate, but I am convinced that Americans will come together to create the changes that need to be made.

The color of our skin, hair, and eyes should be a non-factor. We are all earthlings. We are all riding on the same organic spaceship, and we are (so far as we know) the only intelligent beings capable of maintaining a peaceful and ecologically sound existence on this planet. We must continue to work towards social and economic equality, clean and renewable energy, and the conservation of our natural world. We must return to living in harmony with Mother Earth and each other, or we will surely be the authors of our own demise. Be kind. Spread love. Preach peace. Together, we will make it through these hard times.

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