Friday, August 3, 2012

Being a homer…

As I type this, I notice that the US women’s gymnastics team has just won Olympic gold. Cue chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” It’s always fun to watch a winner, amen?!

Being unable, alas, to see the competition for myself, I can’t say whether I agree with the judges. But being a loyal American citizen, and thereby assuming the Olympians’ victory reflects glory on me by proxy, I’ll assume they deserve the lauds and praises they received.

Of course, I imagine that patriotic individuals in other countries, whose own athletes competed fervently too, might be grumbling now about, “Having been robbed by biased judges.” We hear such comments every Olympic Games, and sometimes, they’re warranted (see: French Judge, Figure Skating, 2002). By and large, however, I believe most such complaints are simple “homerism.”

For those uninitiated into sports journalism lingo, “homerism” describes a common phenomenon. A “homer” is a fan who can’t see past her own biases, who always assumes that her “home team” is better, whatever the situation. Thus, any loss isn’t because your preferred team/athlete proved poor competition. Oh no, it was cheating, or missed calls, or “Having a bad day.” A true homer, therefore, will watch each match with passion, informing anyone within earshot why his team is truly The Best. Further, a frequent consequence of “homerism” is that every other participant must be rationalized into inferiority. “The Denver Broncos have the best quarterback, winning tradition, plus their locker room smells like peonies. Whereas the Oakland Raiders can’t be trusted to babysit children, let alone win.” It’s alleged that a certain Plymouth pastor has said before something like that before. He would be, ipso facto, an out-and-out Homer for the Denver Broncos.

And the Olympic Games, it’s been noted, produces such reactions abundantly. In fact, life itself, I would argue, yields homerism of many varieties. From the trivial- Sports loyalties- to the dangerous- say, Racism. For some reason, it’s a common human experience to identify with certain ideals or persons, and then make disparaging comments of those not included in your designated ‘in-group.’

But does that need to happen? Can’t we prefer what we prefer, choose our loyalties for whatever reason, while at the same time respecting the goodness of those we oppose? For example, the other day I read, “Only 100 days until the Presidential Election is over.” I thought, “Thank you, Good Baby Jesus, only 100 more days!” I reacted this way because I, like many, am distraught by the nastiness of modern politics. Mind you, I care deeply about politics. I love our democratic system, recognizing that how I vote has power to harm or help others in significant ways. Yet if ever there’s a modern example of “homerism” at its most petty, it’s how many politicians treat others of opposing views. Lies are developed, crafted into TV ads, sold to viewers as reasons to despise opponents. Therefore, substantive exchanges of views descend into zero-sum battles of nasty sound bites. It’s like tribalism funded by specially interested homers.

And lest we exonerate ourselves, the truth is- It’s our fault. I mean, we’re a democracy, right? Our elected officials, theoretically, respond to our wishes. Which is to say, I believe the homer-mentality of modern politics starts with us. If “We the People” didn’t reward divisive political behavior, wouldn’t our national/state/local leaders stop backbiting and name-calling? What if we, in daily conversations with folk who don’t share our political values, decided, “You know, this person, whom I don’t agree with, does care about society, and while I wish her views and vote would change, I value her as person, and fellow citizen.”

So let that be my wish for the final 100 days of this election season: That everyday people- the republic’s true power- reject political homerism. Indeed, throughout our lives, let’s resolve to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Even those we see as ‘adversaries,’ folk whom God calls, “Beloved.”

And, while I’m at, Go Team USA!

Grace and Peace,


P.S.- This week’s spiritual practice- Scripture Memorization. Find a favorite Bible text, and memorize it by Sunday! Suggestions- Micah 6:8, Ephesians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 13:13, Psalm 23. And send me your favorites!

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