Fortunately for me, the drudgery of packing has been against the backdrop of the World Cup. For Americans, the arrival of the World Cup is a bit like Girl Scout cookies. After finishing that last Thin Mint from April’s month-long cookie binge, life goes back to normal and the brain moves on to other priorities. Then, January comes around and you catch a glimpse of that cookie order form and it’s as if Girl Scout cookies were the most important thing in your life.
So it is with the World Cup. The drama of the most recent World Cup ends and we go back to our sports cycle of baseball, football, hockey, basketball. . .rinse and repeat for three years. Then, the world flags start to emerge at the local bars, the commercials start to play(Volkswagen really nailed it this year) and we’re sucked back into the excitement as if it had never left us.
There is a bit of irony to this World Cup as it is the first to take place in the era of Trump. For starters, for the first time since 1986, the United States Men’s National Team did not punch their ticket to the show. The road to defeat started with a loss to Mexico in the November 11, 2016 qualifier. . .a mere 3 days after Trump was elected as the President of the United States. Given all of Trump’s bloviating about Mexico, its citizens and the like, you might say karma acted pretty swiftly. Trinidad and Tobago landed the knockout punch about a year later.
The more poignant irony is that while this wonderful celebration of the countries and peoples of the world is going on, the US President is taking brown children away from their families, criminalizing their mothers and fathers as if neither they nor their children have a meaningful contribution to make to the world. It’s beyond disgusting. I spent my days cheering for Iran, Mexico, Iceland and Nigeria and my nights in tears seeing the trauma that was being inflicted on these babies by my own nation.
And beyond the celebration of the diversity of nations that the World Cup inspires, the cultural representation on many of the leading squads is a sight to behold. The French team alone has players with roots from the Congo, Mali, Algeria, Senegal, Togo and Cameroon, to name a few. Athletes that hail from countries that Trump would consider “s**tholes” are bringing joy and beauty to one of the few sports that unites our nations. Perhaps Trump will send our own USMNT player, Jozy Altidore, packing next year; he is the son of Haitian immigrants.
My point is pretty simple. Xenophobia and racism are just stupid. They don’t make any sense at all. And thank you to London for that big Trump baby balloon and your spirited opposition to hosting a racist and a monster.
I had the extraordinary opportunity to participate in a Masters program overseas that included a cohort of people representing 17 different countries from 6 continents. I was just texting this morning with one of my closest classmates, a German woman married to a Pakistani man living in London. They happen to be visiting one of our other classmates in Singapore right now. We were discussing how cool it is that there will always be somebody we know wherever we go. It really is a gift. But she said it best when she said,
“If you only know your own front steps, you’ll never get over your fear of change and people who are different to you. Only exposure and friendships can bring us closer.”
Maybe it’s not possible for everyone to travel the world, but a tournament as spectacular as the World Cup really does say it all. And if you find yourself cheering on Lukaku or Pogba, but you don’t want their brethen crossing your borders, then perhaps you’re not getting it.
Now on to the Final!! Allez Les Bleus!!!
Reflection #2: Longing for the Days When We Held Music in our Hands. . .