peace through football

(Before you read too far, the football I mention in the title of this blog is “soccer”, not American football.) One of the next books on my reading list is a slim volume by philosopher Immanuel Kant entitled Perpetual Peace and Other Essays. I read Kant in college and grad school but never this work, so I will be interested to find out what he has to say about this intriguing subject. It might have been Gore Vidal, or someone else who came up with the phrase “perpetual war for perpetual peace.” The notion that we have to keep fighting for “freedom” is one that runs deep in this country. I saw it distilled into bumper-sticker wisdom yesterday: “Freedom Isn’t Free.” But I don’t believe that just because humans have been fighting wars since before the beginning of recorded history, we have to keep fighting them long into the future. Politicians often speak about “the enemy” in very general terms. We hear this phrase quite frequently nowadays. This excites people and gets them reaching for their guns. But who exactly is “the enemy?” The enemy is ourselves, and the false distinctions we create that separate us from our fellow human beings. At the risk of getting too philosophical, I want to express my joy at the victory of the Iraqi national soccer team a few days ago in the Asia Cup competition. The national team is composed of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds, all lining up together on the pitch. Their victory brought the country together, at least for a moment before the joy was shattered by yet more suicide bombings. But this victory, and the role of the game of football as the world’s only true global game, reminds us that nations can compete against each other peacefully, and that ethnic and religious groups that are supposed to be sworn enemies can join together under the banner of sportsmanship. When you strip away all the commercialism and sports-pundit cynicism, competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics show us what humanity is capable of. At least in this respect, the ancient Greeks knew what they were doing. If I ever open my often-dreamed-about British-style football pub, my business’ motto will be “peace through football.” I really have to believe that perpetual peace is possible. I’ll let you know what Kant has to say on the subject, too.

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