The United States is a great country for a number of reasons. But when political bipartisanship turns into Super Bowl-esque celebration, I think it’s time to look in the mirror.
I didn’t run to the White House last Tuesday night; frankly, I’m surprised so many people did. As a sports fan, I’m always the first one to find new reasons to celebrate: a broken record, a historical performance, a win over a rival — whatever it is.
But at a time of high unemployment, surging debt and increasing hardship, the celebratory nature of American politics seems more suited to a Redskins-Cowboys clash at FedEx Field than something in the corridors of power that impacts millions of people.
I’m not going to undersell the importance of sports. From the Berlin Olympics to ping-pong diplomacy to the South African Rugby World Cup, there are copious examples of how sports can bring nations together as well as tear people apart.
It may be more than a game — in some cases, much more — but a large part of what makes sports so appealing, especially in this country, is that it allows for a distraction from the rigors and hardships of everyday life. It allows people to forget about the struggling economy, and, frankly, the corrosive political environment.
Cheering, booing, parading: They are all acceptable in the context of sport but only because the population has come to terms with how relatively unimportant it all is and that its place in society goes only so far. People understand that such practices aren’t defensible in other areas.
You might cheer loudly for a monster dunk at the Verizon Center, but would you scream about a well-delivered presentation at work? You might clap or pat your coworker on the back, but anything else would be considered taboo. You would be forgiven for honking your horn at three in the morning after a playoff win, but would locals trying to sleep be so forgiving if it was due to the stock market reaching a monthly high?
Sport is great because it allows people the illusion of a greater quality of life. Politics, on the other hand, affords no such thing, so why do people continue to react like it does?
The difference between whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney had been elected president last week would have been immense. All you need to do is listen to five minutes of a debate or read two paragraphs of a political column to realize the huge gulf in ideology and policy between the two candidates.
For months, all we saw were attack ads, hate speech, scandals and threats. It wasn’t a pleasant time to be around anybody with strong political feelings. The fact that Obama got an estimated 50.6 percent of the popular vote — barely more than half — shows the incredible divide that pervades this country.
Unlike in sports, where division makes everything more fun, division in society only leads to conflict — not battles on the field but rather battles in the political arena, on the streets and sometimes on the battlefield.
Tuesday night shouldn’t have been a time for Obama supporters to cheer in front of the White House — a symbol for all of America, not just the Democratic Party. Instead, it should have been a time for relief on their part, reflection on the cost to society of such division and forward thinking about how the country can be brought together.
Not “brought together” in a false sense but brought together in a meaningful way.
The fact is, no matter who the president is, the United States is in trouble in many ways. I’m not a political expert, so I couldn’t tell you all of them. But as a sports columnist, I can tell you that politics is not a game, no matter how much confetti you drop or how many horns you sound.
Obama may have won the election, but that doesn’t mean that the Democrats won or even that the Republicans lost. That will be determined by how much of a recovery this nation is able to make over the next four years.
In sport, you win the championship, and that’s all there is. In politics, winning the election is only the beginning. That these election results were celebrated in such a way shows that too many Americans see winning the election as being more than half the battle, rather than only the first step on the road to recovery that it truly is.
Arik Parnass is a sophomore in the College. CANDID CANADIAN appears every Tuesday.