Like so many Americans, I've been periodically tuning in to the Olympic Games. I'm not a serious sports enthusiast, but I pay casual attention -- and when I do, I, like you, instantly scan the screen for the American flag icon among the competitors so that I know which athlete to cheer on. This, no doubt, is one of the appealing qualities of the Olympics. In a world of "asymmetrical" threats and shifting geopolitics, Olympic fandom is a haven for the simpleton in all of us. That Old Glory icon next to an athlete's name distills the games into the good-versus-bad terms that are so elusive in the real world. Get that? You're a simpleton for seeing how the US does in competition, not like Sirota, who merely entertains his inner simpleton.
And yet, as I've grown older, I find my "U.S.A.!"-chanting reflex increasingly interrupted by pangs of discomfort, and not because I'm ashamed of our country or our Olympians, but because the relationship between American nationalism and the Olympics has been slowly infused with a different -- and politicized -- meaning. He didn't just infuse a different -- politicized --meaning , did he? I believe he did!
In short, chanting the initials of our nation seems less like it did in 1984 than it has since 1992. Hint: He's trying to sell a 2011 book on his personal thoughts on the 1980s
The former, held in Los Angeles, was a Cold War spectacle of hyper-patriotism deliberately orchestrated to give the big middle finger to the boycotting Soviets and their allies. As ESPN's Michael Weinreb recounted, "Spectators quite literally wrapped themselves in the flag" and "chants of 'U.S.A.!' became so jarring for the foreigners present that IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch wrote a letter complaining about ABC's unabashedly patriotic coverage of the games." How awful! That does it. Next time, no spectators, that'll fix their bitter clinging asses, won't it?
Such (legitimate and prescient) concerns aside, Weinreb notes, "This was precisely the purpose of the '84 Olympics -- it was a one-sided showcase of American superiority." And as a child, I proudly joined in with the flag waving and fist pumping. In the heat of the Cold War, blatantly mixing sports enthusiasm with not-so-subtle saber rattling felt entirely legitimate and righteous -- especially to my 9-year-old mind. Get that? When they hold the Olympics in Beijing or London, it's about international sports and goodwill, but in the USA, it is only about flag waving and fist pumping!
Then came the 1992 games -- the first after the fall of the Berlin Wall. America was at its geopolitical and economic zenith, able to claim the title of "world's sole superpower." But instead of projecting a ray of humility in the "with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility" spirit, we instead used the Olympics to spike the ball in the end zone -- or, more accurately, 360 windmill dunk over the rest of the planet. That was the year we used a change in Olympic rules to deploy what Sports Illustrated called "arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport" -- the 1992 Dream Team. How horrible!
While the NBA fan in me was certainly excited to see some of the greatest pro basketball players of all time play on one squad, I also felt that first twinge of doubt when the competition turned into an international version of the Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals. Why, I wondered, do we have to rub our strength in? Why, when we are so dominant, do we have to preen on the world stage in such cartoonish fashion? Because we can?
Since those games two decades ago, those questions have transcended sport and become bigger than ever.
Whereas 1984 turned Julius Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vici" into an Olympic posture and a comedic Ghostbusters riff, post-1992 has seen that posture and that comedic riff become both a grand self-image and a dead-serious foreign policy doctrine. From presidential taunts of "bring it on," to televised "shock and awe" campaigns, to flag-draped statue spectacles, to "Top Gun"-style aircraft carrier celebrations, to the rip-roaring parties and pompous political declarations that accompany our escalation of foreign wars, we present ourselves as Caesars -- but with none of Peter Venkman's self-effacing cheekiness and all of the Dream Team's arrogance. Translation: It's all Bush's fault
Predictably, such an attitude has infected our political vernacular to the point where the parameters of the discourse are now narrowly defined by a reductionist argument over "American exceptionalism" -- that is, a Colbert-ian throwdown over whether America is great, or the greatest. This has, not surprisingly, led us to assume not merely that American hegemony is permanent and meritorious, but to further assume that specifically flamboyant, in-your-face, happily-pressing-my-boot-to-your-neck dominance is warranted. Indeed, as Frank Rich notes in his must-read New York magazine piece: "We're not Greece. We're not even post-empire England. But if we were to slip into so much as a tie for No. 1, that would drive many Americans nuts, because if anything is baked into the national character, it is that we must be the alpha dog, the leader of the pack, the undisputed world champion." Translation: Something is wrong when Americans want to be the best.
The hyper-patriotism surrounding the modern Olympics, then, is just a reflection of that national character. When that TV screen flashes the list of athletes and we inevitably profile the competitors by nation, we do so not just because we experience natural feelings of solidarity with fellow countrymen. We likely do so also because of that deeper desire to publicly showcase American preeminence -- a desire we've been programmed to haughtily express since the end of the Cold War, a desire we're led to believe we must express in this "love it or leave it" era for fear of being labeled traitors. Get that? It's fear that drives Americans to be patriotic, not love of country. Sirota wouldn't know love for one's country if it boned him hard up his six.
Missed in the ensuing red-white-and-blue hoopla, of course, is the fact that we are not so exceptional outside the Olympic village. While Wall Street 24/7 is accurate in reporting that medal-wise, "the United States is irrefutably the most dominant participating country in Olympic history," our athletic victories seem to have an inverse relationship with our standing in other measurements of national success.
For instance, we are not gold, silver or even bronze medalists when it comes to healthcare; sadly, we are 39th for infant mortality, 43rd for female mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality and 36th for life expectancy. Likewise, we are not champions when it comes to basic equality; we are one of the most economically unequal nations in the industrialized world. In fact, if we do stand atop a dais anywhere other than at a sporting event, it is for military spending, carbon emissions and incarceration rates. Yet, immigrants from the world over seek to come to the USA to better their lives. Wonder why that is? Maybe it's because those people are sick of living under governments that pursue those false metrics for national success? Maybe they want to live in a nation that extols free enterprise, military might and a deep driving desire to reign in our out of control governments' size and scope.
In this sense, the shrieks of "USA!" for our athletes take on a "doth protest too much" quality. Our shiny medallions and our patriotic braying reassure us that, despite our slipping world standing, we at least still kick international ass in the competition that gets the highest Nielsen ratings. Meanwhile, the downward standard of living trends persist at home and anti-Americanism festers abroad among a community of nations that often perceives us to be more trash-talking aggressor than humble friend. As if deliberately perpetuating the cycle, our Olympic victories -- and celebrations of those wins -- then (wrongly) convince us of our ongoing superiority, while robbing those weaker nations of any wins that might give them a fleeting feeling of self-empowerment or sovereignty against us. In other words, we are further distracted, and they further emasculated by us militarily, economically, geopolitically and, every four years, athletically. And so the cycle continues... Sovereignty is a condition, not a feeling, you jerk.
Noting all of this isn't to pretend I'll be rooting for some other nation. A boy can mature beyond his infantile displays of hyper-patriotism, but the sense of American solidarity will always remain. That means in every individual contest I watch, I'll almost certainly be pulling for the red-white-and-blue (and probably with the occasional "USA!" outburst). How brave of you not to root for another nation, even an ally! Siorta needs to grow up. I root for Florida, but I live in Oklahoma. The same for Georgia.
More liberal crap at the link
Perhaps it takes an "asymmetrical threat" to know an "asymmetrical threat".
From his on-line bio:
Sirota has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, Wired, Salon and The Nation. He is also senior editor at In These Times magazine and Huffington Post contributor, and appears periodically on CNN, Comedy Central's Colbert Report, MSNBC, and National Public Radio.
Just listened to "Only a Game" on The Commie radio station (should I admit that here?) One segment credited the 1992 Dream Team with helping spread the popularity of basketball around the world, and increasing the number of countries represented in the NBA to 75. Or is that another example of US hegemony?
If the US Olympic team were performing poorly, we'd see all manner of articles from people like this guy saying it was a symbol of US decline, our national malaise, the ability of China to get things done better etc. So, let's extend the sportsman's hand of friendship to the Chinese athletes and kick their little Commie asses.
Well right now Lithuania is staying with the U.S. basket for basket. The decline has begun!
Posted by: Steve White ||
It's liberal Americans' Olympic dilemma: How do they root for their countrymen without being jingoistic?
Oh Dave, buck up. You really are just another little postmodernist moth that's drawn to the paradoxical flame aren't you? Perhaps you can take comfort in the knowledge there's others out there that share your sensitivities. For instance, take one succinct reply from the comment section.
How do you root for the USA without being jingoistic? You can't, because the USA is jingoistic. Yes, I am ashamed for my country. I just wish a lot more US citizens were ashamed too. Then things might start to change for the better.
See... you've managed to harness your self-loathing into something positive -- collective guilt. Feel better now?
KAMPALA, Uganda -- Doctors were slow to respond to an outbreak of Ebola in Uganda because symptoms weren't always typical, but a World Health Organization official said Friday that authorities are halting the spread of the deadly disease.
Joaquim Saweka, the WHO representative in Uganda, told reporters in the capital Kampala that everyone known to have had contact with Ebola victims has been isolated. Ugandan health officials have created an "Ebola contact list" with names of people who had even the slightest contact with those who contracted Ebola. The list now bears 176 names.
"The structure put in place is more than adequate," Saweka said. "We are isolating the suspected or confirmed cases."
Ebola was confirmed in Uganda on July 28, several days after villagers were dying in a remote corner of western Uganda. Ugandan officials were slow to investigate possible Ebola because the victims did not show the usual symptoms, such as coughing blood. At least 16 Ugandans have died of the disease.
Delays in confirming Ebola allowed the disease to spread to more villages deep in the western district of Kibaale, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said.
"The doctors in Kibaale say the symptoms were a bit atypical of Ebola," Museveni said in a national address Monday. "They were not clearly like Ebola symptoms. Because of that delay, the sickness spread to another village."
Saweka said that organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are helping Ugandan officials to control the spread of Ebola.
This is the fourth outbreak of Ebola in Uganda since 2000, when the disease killed 224 people and left hundreds more traumatized in northern Uganda.
It was right there on the label of the white tuna salad, an outlawed ingredient: "partially hydrogenated soybean oil." A customer filed a formal complaint with the authorities. A Montgomery County (immediately northeast of D.C.)
health inspector arrived on the scene. He reviewed the evidence and handed down his verdict: The fish was guilty. "Wrote them up for a labeling violation and made them aware that Montgomery County is a Trans Fat Free county," he wrote in his report. This time the deli would get off with a warning.
But is Montgomery County any healthier? Or safer? Or more equitable? The results are mixed. There have been significant improvements. The bag tax on plastic bags, I guess
is generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for water-quality programs. Major traffic collisions are down, according to county police, and federal studies show that the rate of diabetes is decreasing in the county. I think traffic incidents are down everywhere, for at least two reasons - safer roads, and less driving.
There are troubling signs as well. Obesity has worsened in the progressive county compared to the rest of the state, and federal data show that fewer residents feel healthier than just a few years ago. That because the progressives are winning the propaganda war.
But the effect of much of the legislation remains a mystery, in large part because the county often does not measure whether the laws have any impact. Many of the health regulations "were put into place without much thinking about evaluation," said Ulder J. Tillman, the county's health officer.
Another problem is that, while the county has spent a lot of time and resources passing these regulations, there has been little to no enforcement of some of them.
Take the law passed in 2008 requiring residents to offer domestic workers a written contract. At the time, Council member Roger Berliner (D) said he was worried about "whether we would be deemed to be the nanny government of all time."
Still, the bill passed unanimously.
Since then, it's been enforced once. California here we come!
I think traffic incidents are down everywhere, for at least two reasons - safer roads, and less driving.
You forgot the assholes, I count st least four per trip around her, their favorite os cutting in front and dragging their ass slowly.
At least they don't cut in front and slam on the brakes.
Posted by: Redneck Jim ||
RJ, my #1 worst driving without causing an accident goes to this little gal driving a large vehicle in Denver, CO, who thinks nothing is wrong with driving 80 and merging into the Interstate while texting.
On a day that some gay-rights activists are planning a "National Same-Sex Kiss Day," a Chick-fil-A in Torrance was vandalized overnight with hateful graffiti.
Chick-fil-A employees were greeted Fridays morning with the words "Tastes like hate" scrawled in large black lettering mimicking the chain's advertising across the back wall of the restaurant at 182nd Street and Hawthorne Boulevard in Torrance.
With media helicopters hovering overhead and police officers on the scene, one employee said, "I'm just trying to sort everything out."
The most interesting take I have heard was from a spokesperson for a gay church, Hope Cathedral, who said to a reporter that they had no comment because some of their members were employed by Chick-Fil-A. So much for so called hate at CFA, but the left lives in lala land, not in the real world.
One of the Right's problems is that we "posture" as hypocritically as the Leftists, only in a different way. If this had been on a known Gay bar instead of a Chick-Fil-A, the left would have gone full throttle on this, totally ignoring the fact of its solitariness: an argument that you KNOW they will throw at us concerning THIS if WE go Alinsky on THEM. Thus, we will "nobly" ignore this insult and turn the other cheek, ignoring the fact that Jesus only allowed the wicked ONE slap. Rightist, christian "posturing" in the face of Leftist "posturing".
I am not arguing here that we "go Alinsky" with this, not letting this "crisis" "go to waste": I think we should, but I'm going to argue something different: that Reason and debate as a means of resolving differences, getting buy-in and cooperation works only as long as both sides are committed to the process to the point of ACTING contrary to their previous position if the process goes against them. The left simply does not do this when it comes to debate, so there is no reason to believe they'll acquire integrity when they lose when the stakes are high. One must think of the Left being the Philistines, promising to be the slaves of the Hebrews if Goliath was beaten if the hebrews would agree to be slaves if Goliath won, only to refuse to follow through with the deal when David slew Goliath. What we need to be like is David, not only the man with the RIGHT to destroy the Philistines to the last man because they welshed on their "deal" when he put his life on the line against such odds, but who FOLLOWED THROUGH and did it so effectively that they weren't around to bother Solomon.
I have been reviewing how the Left worked in my case, and the thing that keeps coming up is the outrageous claim, the Big lie, the OFFENDING act. Poop on the police car, because it is so outrageous and irrational an act that your defenders will claim it is too outrageous to be believeable if there's adverse blow-back. Biden succeeded in flustering Palin not because of his brilliancy, but because she was not prepared for the eventuality that he would LIE on national TV. The next GOP VP candidate must NOT be prepared for the eventuality that Biden, or his replacement, will LIE on national TV: They must be prepared for the eventuality that biden, or his replacement, WILL DO WORSE.
Sometimes, the left is predictable enough so that a Bush can smack a Rather with a little pre-preparation, but Tit-for-tat isn't gonna work in these days. What we need is someone to go for the jugular in the way that The Gipper did to Mondale: the left MSM was setting up Reagan on the "oldster vs. youth" issue, framing the debate to prompt Mondale to openly question Reagan on his qualifications due to his age. Reagan's solemn promise not to make an issue of his opponent's "relative youth and inexperience" was, of course, unkind to Mondale because he had been in politics many years and thus wasn't inexperienced, but THAT WAS THE POINT: The previous years of hate and ankle-biting and unreasonable criticism was itself unkind to Reagan, and thus prepared him to respond in kind, but in his own personal style and way.
I have heard this self-defense tip: if you elect to strike at your attacker with the heel of your hand against his nose, don't go for the nose, but for the back of the head. If one aims for the nose, there is a tendency to pull back just before impact that does not exist when aiming for the back of the head.
Go for the back of their head. It won't hurt since there's nothing inside.
Iraq made a formal protest to Turkey's envoy in Baghdad on Friday after the Turkish foreign minister made a surprise visit to an oil-rich Iraqi city claimed by both the central government and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region, Todays Zaman reported.
The episode, the latest in a series of diplomatic spats and tit-for-tat summonings of envoys between the neighboring countries, is likely to worsen already strained relations.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had travelled to Kirkuk on Thursday after visiting the regional president in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
But Iraq's foreign ministry accused Turkey of violating its constitution with the visit, saying that Davutoğlu had neither asked for nor obtained permission to enter Kirkuk. A junior minister at Iraq's foreign ministry had handed Turkey's charge d'affaires a protest letter on Friday, a strongly-worded statement from the foreign ministry said.
"The note also included a demand by the Iraqi government (for an) urgent explanation from the Turkish government," it added.
Relations between Iraq, close to Shi'ite Iran, and Sunni Muslim regional power Turkey, were tested after US troops pulled out of Iraq last year and the government immediately tried to arrest one of its Sunni vice presidents. He fled first to Kurdistan and later to Ankara, where he was given refuge.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan then traded public insults.
Baghdad's Arab-led central government and ethnic Kurdish officials are locked in a protracted dispute over who controls territory and oilfields along their internal border. Kirkuk, which possesses huge crude oil reserves, is one of those areas.
Iraq and Turkey are also at odds over the worsening conflict in Syria. Turkey has become one of the main backers of the rebels, while Baghdad has refused to support calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
Iraq is Turkey's second largest trading partner after Germany with trade reaching $12 billion last year, more than half of which was with the Kurdish region.