What makes a community? To get a better handle on this question, it may be useful to analyze a specific encounter between the individual and his community(s). Let's take, for example, the much-publicized soccer match between Mexico and the U.S. in the summer of 1996. This game received a great deal of media attention because, even though the match was held in Los Angeles, on U.S. soil, the vast majority of fans were cheering for the Mexican team. The U.S. team members, on the other hand, were greeted with a chorus of boos and were pelted with various objects on the field. This trend in urban areas of largely Hispanic support for the teams of other countries was hardly new for U.S. soccer; the players and coaches had been complaining for a long while about the lack of support they received in their home country. And this match against Mexico was one of the most extreme instances of support for non-U.S. teams by U.S. citizens, which, as a result, generated much debate in op-ed sections around the country.
Some lamented Americans' lack of patriotism and suggested that those who supported the Mexican team didn't take their oath of citizenship seriously enough. Others argued that the game didn't signify too much because, hey, it's just a game. People can root for whichever side they want without committing any acts of national treason. Divided loyalties are a fact of life because we all belong to different communities simultaneously. However, many of these same it's-just-a-game people added that, had the choice between countries had any higher stakes, it would have been a different matter altogether. For example, if war broke out between the U.S. and Mexico, and some U.S. citizens chose to support or even to serve in the Mexican armed forces rather than the U.S. military, then there would be a definite conflict of interests with serious consequences. And most of the editorials agreed that when it comes to armed conflict, citizens should support their country of citizenship or have their privileges of citizenship revoked.
With this event as a backdrop, let's explore some of the more difficult questions relating to community. What level of obligation should we have to the several communities of which we are a member? We are all affiliated with more than simply the national community. We may include ourselves in other communities by virtue of ethnicity, religion, gender, and the like. What, then, does it mean that our relationship with the national community is formally, contractually-created, while our relationship with non-political communities may be more organically-conceived? We often feel that our membership in certain communities is more essential than our membership in the national community. So which of these competing claims to community is more legitimate? Should we necessarily privilege one set of obligations simply because it is formally contractual, while the other has arisen organically? And also, what...