Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pride, Tribal Style

Tribalism and its grander form - nationalism - have long been known to be a cause of collective pride and unity as well as a destructive force that considers "outsiders" inferior. In contrast, I am an anarchist by temperament; even at age six in first grade, I refused to say "the pledge of allegience to the flag" because in my little brain it didn't jive with reality. My sense of belonging expressed itself to animals (especially my beagle Floppy), and to the jack-in-the-pulpits that popped up by a stream every spring in the woods surrounding my house.

As a teenager, that allegiance went to the riding stable where the great honor was being allowed to muck out the stalls and flirt with the stable boy, whose confidence in the barn gave him a kingly stature. But despite anarchistic tendencies and the impulse to walk to a different beat than the masses, I was shocked to discover that I am indeed tribal.

The New York Times reported today that a horse named California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby. Bred on a parched California ranch by first timers, this animal won the race against the blue-bloods of Kentucky fame. Having lived in this balmy and sometimes boiling climate for 39 years (with no desire to move anywhere else), I was amazed to feel my heart swell with pride that a California horse had won the race. My state, my people.

Is it the old rivalry between the state of New York, where I grew up, and the giant country called California that caused this tribal feeling stirring in my gut? Is it a sense of retribution against the South for its racist past and present? A superiority that I live and work in the place where dreams are concocted for the rest of humanity via movies and TV?

Whatever the cause, the smug glee and pride that swept through my mind/body surprised this old anarchist, who must have grown some deep roots over the last four decades.

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