The following post is from John Lawes.
So I’ve been following the tussle here, and elsewhere, about the league and the Timbers FO labeling the “Iron Front” symbol “political speech” and insisting on a ban on organized displays such as flags or tifos of the three-arrows-in-a-circle symbol. And following, as well, the ongoing conversation — largely through the looking-glass-window of social media — about whether this is a good thing (“Politics doesn’t belong in sport!”) or not.
So. Okay. First, politics.
Politics is simply a way of deciding, as Conan gets asked in the movie, “What is best in life?”.
Politics is deciding who gets what, and how, and how much, and when. Politics is involved when you decide to spend your paycheck on a soccer ticket instead of a charity, or a donation to an electoral faction, or giving it to Safeway to give to Proctor and Gamble for some detergent soap … and which kind of detergent soap. You buy “organic” soap rather than “regular”? That’s “politics”: You’re choosing to fund one group of manufacturers and suppliers and distributors over another.
Politics is part of your life. The only way you can separate “politics” from the rest of your life is if your politics are so mainstream that your freedom of action is not constrained by political activity. So, sorry, but insisting that politics and “everything else” be separated is your privilege talking.
So — other than the comfort of not being reminded that your politics are comfortably mainstream and that those of others may be much more precarious — there’s no particular reason to insist that “sports” is politics-free any more than any other aspect of life be politics-free.
And let’s not even get started on sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup that are positively soaked in “politics.”
Now … you may not like the politics that the other person brings into the stadium, and that’s as much your right as it is anywhere else in the public square. But to argue that a soccer stadium is some sort of magical place where everyone should just forget their political differences and share a big old hug?
C’mon. That’s your comfort talking, and there’s no particular reason that you or I or anyone else has any right to stroll through life in comfort.
The “get politics out of sport” dog won’t hunt.
Now. The “Iron Front”.
Frankly, if you’re going to label one particular set of politics as less desirable than another, the notion of anathematizing the politics of anti-fascism seems on it’s face ridiculous in a nation that still celebrates the fact that it built entire air forces to carpet-bomb fascists and burn their cities to the ground. THAT’s kind of the definition of shoving your politics in someone else’s face, and the U.S. is still gleeful about it.
MLS likes to tout its policies — politics — of inclusion. Well, fascism seems pretty much like the ultimate in line-crossing, so to be against it? That would seem about as safe a sort of political activity within an MLS venue as any imaginable.
So why the fuss? Could it be that in this country, right at the moment, there are certain people, or groups of people, who may be becoming … let’s be polite and call them just “fascist-curious”?
And that they’re making a fuss about the three-arrow symbol because it’s a way of reminding them about the whole “8th Air Force” thing and how fascist-curious is not just a spit in the face of that history, but pretty much a flat-out betrayal of the promises made by the whole American Experiment? That being anti-fascist is to support the fundamental premise of the best ideals of this nation, that all Americans deserve equal justice under law, not just the ones that meet the fascist criteria of inclusion?
Every time we go to a match at Providence Park we go through the ritual of reverence for a hank of cloth and a reworded cover of “To Anaecron In Heaven.” Damned if I know why we pick the occasion for that; a meaningless sporting event seems like an odd venue to celebrate the politics of nationalist pride. But we do, and it seems like MLS has no problem with that.
But if MLS has no problems with those politics, how can it have problems with then celebrating the symbol of a political ideal that is based on the idea of fighting against the very sort of politics that would seek to destroy the ideals of that cloth and that song? Doesn’t seem to be a very coherent way of thinking to me.
So as far as I’m concerned, you go on to the soccer stadium and get some flag out there, Iron Front.
Me and the boys of the 8th Air Force got your back.