Muhammad Ali was a world class boxer. That’s indisputable. He was also a draft dodger and embraced an organization known for their extremist ideology. Heroic figures deserve heroic flaws, I suppose. What’s struck me most, though, is that in the coverage of his death I’ve heard at least 647 times that he was a “citizen of the world.”
I’ve always been a bit bothered by that phrase. Some of my favorite places on the planet are far from our golden shores. Although I have an affinity for the close at Salisbury Cathedral or the spectacular blue waters of the Caribbean or Rome’s ancient Forum, I don’t think I could ever consider myself a citizen of England, or Barbados, or Italy – and certainly not all of them.
While it’s impolitic to say such things now, I’m an American first and always – a Citizen of the United States born of the blood and of the soil. As whackadoodle crazy as we can be nationally I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would want or seek any other… and if anyone has the audacity to challenge that once I’m dead and gone I will find a way back and haunt them to the end of their own days.
Being engaged is important. Knowing about the wide world is important. Having an educated interest in events beyond our own farms and cities is important. But I’ll never be ashamed to hold myself apart from those other places. I will never confuse my interest in the world with my true loyalties. If that makes me an anachronism in the modern age, well, I’m sure I can live with that.