Every four years Americans remember just how strong and awesome we are, standing on those podiums more than any other country. Olympians who look like us. Really in shape versions of us. They are black, white, Muslim, Jewish, silly and shy.
Olympics, sport in general, reminds us of the power in excellence; of the rules of engagement and fair play. Cheaters are shunned. Hard work and commitment sometimes pays off in gold but always in pride. Underdogs are welcomed, celebrated even.
The Olympics are about the best-- the most perfect-- what we can control within seconds or inches.
How fantastically satisfying that these Olympics fall just before a United States election. An election mired in narcissism, paranoia, fear and the 24 hour media coverage of their symptoms.
The juxtaposition of elite sports and government could not be more stark. We as a nation, a people--humanity-- whether in America, Britain or Zambia-- are still trying to craft that more perfect union between our realities and our ideals, and the results are far from perfect.
It is so easy to get despondent and cynical. Just glancing at the news sends me into a rage cycle.
The blame must be shared though. We seek personalities whom we respond well to. We are misinformed on the process and policy and have not fought back hard enough against the powers that be. But I don't wake up to a security briefing every morning, do you? I don't know anything about how this country actually functions.
I know when gas prices are too high or when rising rent exiles me from my community. I know that black children do not deserve to be shot and killed and I want very much for people to stop that from happening.
I do know that as a Member of the U.S.A Board (ie. a Voter) my responsibility is to elect the best person for the job-- I'm not obliged to agree with every choice they've ever made or like their face all that much. Perfection is a false promise in politics. Sometimes a vote is the best choice between "meh" and "WTF!?"
Voltaire is quoted as saying: "Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good."
Compromise, showing up, accepting good enough, getting better, being aware of our "areas for improvement" and having the patience to see it through. That is all we can control.
Commitment and vision are what politics and sport do share. But let's reserve perfect for Simone Biles and Michael Phelps this year.