LIBERAL COLUMN: What Americans can learn from the Olympics

BY JOSH MERLO
Liberal Columnist

The pomp and majesty of the world is on display in Sochi, Russia. Over the next few weeks, the athletic prowess, endurance, strength, and power of the world’s athletes will be similarly displayed. Medals will be awarded, surprising newcomers will upset the established favorites, older competitors will seek one last victory, and the world will watch with bated breath. Many will rise to the heights of glory, listening to the anthem of their country while feeling the weight of a few ounces of gold around their neck. And, at the end of it all, another Olympics will close, and another chapter of goodwill and peace among men will be concluded — or so we are told.

Why are the Olympics so special? What is it about them that makes millions of people across the globe, unconnected and unknown to each other, stop their lives and watch other strangers thousands of miles away go skiing, sledding, skating, or curling?

It is, of course, the renowned “Olympic spirit,” described by the International Olympic Committee itself as that “… which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play.”

We are drawn together by the great fiction, the filthy lie, that an entire world can let peace descend so that friendly competition can reign as the new sovereign.

It is much easier to think things can get better because of some ethereal “good feeling” toward mankind rather than to actually try solving the problems of a country. The “Olympic spirit” is nothing more than a diversion and a travesty.

Case-in-point: Sochi. Perhaps readers have visited the search engine Google recently. Underneath the search bar, there appears a quote from the Olympic Charter. In part, it reads: “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit…”

What is this but a blatant condemnation of Russia’s laws forbidding any expression of “non-traditional” sexuality? Is government-sponsored censorship, particularly censorship of private moral views, something that is supported by the “Olympic spirit?” Is corruption in line with the “Olympic spirit?” After all, fair play seemed to be lacking in the government contracts handed out during the construction of the Sochi venue; of the over half-hundred-billion dollars spent, much went into the pockets of those friendly with politicians or mobsters.

Where can solidarity be seen? Let us not forget the rebellion that is brewing about one hundred miles from Sochi. A veritable civil war is underway, with Islamic insurgents battling the strong arm of the Russia law. Suspected terrorists — suspected, mind you, not actually accused or verified — are being killed in their homes by Russian security forces. In a style reminiscent of the old KGB, political dissidents are disappearing, being taken away to places unmentioned in polite dialogue. Is anyone concerned about the possibility that security in Russia still means silencing anyone who disagrees with the Kremlin?

“What does the farce of the ‘Olympic spirit’ in Sochi have to do with America?” you ask. Its meaning to us lies in the analogous message that Americans enjoy propagating. “Freedom, liberty, and justice for all!” is the common refrain spouted from every citizen of the United States, but how much is it really meant?

What about freedom and liberty for political prisoners in Gitmo, for the falsely convicted on death row? What about justice for immigrants who deserve amnesty because of the amount of work they have poured into the economy; justice for women who suffer employment and income inequality; justice for nonconformists and counter-culturists everywhere who are silenced, ignored, or abused for not fitting into the slots traditional society has reserved for them?

Sochi’s lesson to America is one of warning — if we are not careful, the “American dream” might become an unreality comparable to that of the “Olympic spirit”.

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