Allegiance and Valentine love
So what makes those rabid Lobo fans paint the team’s logo on their naked skins and whoop like wolves? Hysteria and insanity are two words that come to mind, but there must be something more. On Valentine’s Day this year, we can ask ourselves that. Maybe it’s love.
Allegiance, it turns out, isn’t just something we pledge to a flag or to a sports team. It’s what draws us to bond with our nation, our race, a political party, or any group of folks whose goals or qualities we share — and we’re not just talking about friends on Facebook.
The Pledge of Allegiance to our nation and flag invites us to place the right hand over the heart and to stand at attention — which I have to admit I rarely do when I’m slouched on the couch for the big game.
Community organizing guru Saul Alinsky used to stress the importance of the strength of numbers to accomplish community change, to align with others in their quest for the common good. Professor René Girard of Stanford University says that imitation is the root of human cultural ties. And then there’s my backyard skunk, who once wanted to cement our common connections, by chasing me around the yard with something like a smile on its face to express its friendship — maybe even to imitate me.
The word “allegiance” derives from the Latin word “to tie” — the same root as that of the word “religion,” where it’s all about the alignments of love. We need to be tied to others for power (Alinsky), for the sake of the species (sex and marriage), to achieve the common good (national allegiance), to reduce our loneliness (all right, that skunk), and to build our sense of belonging — Go Lobos!
Though we have rightly been preoccupied by the massacre in Tucson, the thousands of civilians killed by our own military escapades in foreign lands attract scant attention. Whether this is because of the tribalism and racism by which we value our own group and undervalue others, or to the new American way of waging an air war from afar, it’s out there for all to see.
Christians in the Western world have long accused Muslims of violence, but some historians insist that Muslims have not been any more violent than was the Christian world. We’ve had our own brand of tribal excesses, and we still do.
Cultural and social bonds within a group are often far more important than other factors in determining one’s identity. Asian Americans, for instance, live longer and are better educated than others — simply because of belonging to their group.
Canadian researchers did a study and found that people were more willing to enter into a relationship with another person if that person was generous or altruistic — volunteering at food banks, for instance. That’s rather obvious, of course, but researchers need to make a living, too.
Another study found that, for women, men dressed in red are more appealing and have higher social standing than others. I’m going to do a research study, to see if researchers are more ap-pealing when they’re peeling apples or oranges — a new kind of allegiance.
Oxytocin, the brain’s so-called love hormone, helps a mother nurse her offspring and dad to stay monogamous. It helps us to trust not all humanity but those in our in-group, and could play a big role in our allegiances. More than chemicals, though, it’s the allegiance of love that we crave and that mystics and poets attest as the energy that must drive us and the goal of all that is.
To love is “to will the good of another” (Aquinas), and to actively care for them. The chemical urge of oxytocin helps us to bond with the family we love and with special groups to which we belong. Love itself goes even beyond, and is not just the energy of positive vibrations — its test is the deeds we do to care for the poor. Love is the reason we’re alive. On Valentine’s we all dress in red. That’s Lobo fans, appealing men and, well, just about everyone.
Kozeny works for Socorro Mental Health Inc. His views are not necessarily those of his employer. He can be reached by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.