Saturday, July 28, 2012

England Olympics: A Time of Reflection and Acceptance

The Olympic torch was lit last night and the cheers from the crowd are the same at every Olympic venue; Hopeful, joyful, and exciting.

It means something to know that that flame burns brightly for us, regardless of country of origin or ethnic background. Regardless of ideology, political views or gender.

For some, their own aspirations to an Olympic medal or simply participating in a future event, fuels their determination to continue training and making the necessary healthy choices that one day, will get them there.

For others, the notion of a united and peaceful world becomes more tangible when they see that all nations are competing in the same games and do so with grace and civility.

There are those who are competitive and can't help but to compare previous venues and criticize the current planning, opening ceremonies, or complain about international judges.

It is worthy to note that these people have never had anything positive to say about present or past venues unless the games were held in US soil.  The commentary on forums from previous Olympic games are horribly charged with ethnocentric, and often, racist vitriol.

One of the worst I had ever seen where the running commentary on a few forums during the Winter Olympics in Canada.

The Americans participants bashed everything about the opening ceremonies while the Canadian participants responded politely or not at all. Several Americans with an obviously more expanded world-view, responded in the same manner as the Canadians, while others felt it was more productive to retaliate against the embarrassment of their own countrymen by going straight for the jugular.

It got ugly.

It quickly became political. The shame of having these people show their ignorance and hatred in public was a National embarrassment. More than most could bear.

There were apologies on forums to the Canadians with disclaimers that all Americans do not fit that profile. Fortunately for us, Canadians are well aware of that.

Unfortunately for us, a great number of Americans are not.

Now the Olympics are in Britain and many wonder if the British, due to their distance from our shores, are aware that all Americans are not as clueless, arrogant and offensive as Mitt Romney. Specially in light of British newspapers and commentary comparing Romney unfavorably to another American production and disaster: Sarah Palin.

The short answer is yes. They are fully aware that we are not all the same or are as uncouth and insecure as Mitt Romney.

Fortunately, they know we have a much better and positive side because their educational system  teaches them about the world, not just their own history.

Ours? not so much. Our kids' lessons are all about American Revolution, American history, American supremacy... How can we expect the adults in the aforementioned forums to be civilized and understanding of other cultures when what little they have learned, has been slanted in such a manner that superiority is no longer a complex to be ashamed of, but to brag about viciously?

This has obviously been going on for a very long time, here is an excerpt from Mitt Romney's book and he is no Spring chicken:
England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth's land and a quarter of the earth's population.
Bob Costas
Our media reinforces these insecurities by providing us with coverage from the same people we have come to associate with Olympic coverage.  Every two years, there is an Olympic event, and every two years, the American public is bombarded with stories about our own well-heeled, pampered athletes.

We rarely hear about the likes of a Jamaican bobsled team unless it is to make a joke or dismiss them outright as not medal worthy.

Not everyone is blood thirsty. Many know a medal is not within their grasp but they want to participate in a peaceful world event because they too, want to represent their country in its best light.

What is it about this notion that is not sexy enough for the media? Why is this not more than enough for us to cheer each participant's struggles and achievements regardless of country or ethnic background?

Time to reflect and think.

Jamaican Bobsled Team - 1988
What did it take to be a group of people from a tropical island to be competitors in a winter event? How hard was this for them without the financial support of mega-corporations willing to brand every piece of equipment,  and dish out lucrative contracts on the athletes afterward?

It took a lot. It took passion and determination for the Jamaican Bobsled team to get to the Olympics. Their goal was simple: They wanted to participate and join the rest of the world.

Nothing to laugh about. Certainly something to admire.

A movie called "Cool Runnings" brought these people into our collective frame of reference, but how many of these teams and individuals have we missed? How many great human stories have we been denied learning because they were not Americans? - Our loss.

Our national hero seems to be Michael Phelps this time around again. He is a phenomenal athlete and surely he will win some medals. He will be hailed as a god if he gets them all in gold, but degrading commentary from our own media will soon follow if they are silver, bronze... or heaven's forbid, none at all.

Michael Phelps
The media will make comments about enhancement drugs and will vilify the athlete's country of origin of whoever, rightfully, earned the medal.  They will also say Michael Phelps was too old or jaded. Someone will bring up again the photos of him and a marijuana bong.

The beat goes on.

These events are multi-billion dollar events and not everyone is competing on a leveled field. I hope we take the time, and have the opportunity to get to know the athletes from American Samoa, Andorra, Senegal and those other places most of America can't find on a map.

It is truly worth it for our own edification and personal growth.

In the meantime, I predict, we will have to be embarrassed by our own media coverage and feel compelled to apologize to the world for comments on blogs degrading Britain and its people. So without wasting anymore time, here is a preemptive apology:

To all our international readers and citizens: I apologize for those Americans that offend you. We want you to know, we are not all like them. They are the reason we just can't have nice things or travel outside our own country.

Best wishes to all participants in the Olympics. This is your moment, your time, and our pleasure.

Thank you for keeping HOPE alive.

PEACE to all

1 comment:

sandinbrick said...

I didn't stay up to see all of the opening ceremonies. Why? Because there were too many commercials. I wanted to the entire opening, I loved it. But to see maybe 2 min. then the Ads came on. But in your response to your blog. You're right, most Americans think that we are the greatest. But who really came over, a bunch of misfits who thought they wanted their freedom. From what? Well, religious freedom, then there were those taxes and then we went to war with Britain. What was the result. Did you see in the opening ceremony. The part of universal Healthcare. Romney was sitting there. He did not get. Meredith finally got it. Though she was silly, with the sentence. "the kids don't look sick." Gawd I was so embaressed, (sic) but then she's nice. So I gave a pass to her. In the end, I hope that people read this because we are not better than anybody in fact we're getting worse. I hope that when I'm gone, so will those that hate. Maybe then there will be understanding. Cheers to the Canadians. Thanks Olivia, when I get my check. I will donate, but until then. Thanks for sending me a link. God Bless you and your family.