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Friday, October 2, 2009

Plumbing the depths of the mean and petty

The most significant aspect of the choice of Rio de Janeiro as the site of the 2016 Olympics is the way it was played in the press, both traditional and internet.  Because Obama made a pitch in behalf of his hometown, the press went into one of its mindless frenzies of speculation about whether the choice represented a world rejection of Obama, whether it represented a huge failure in his presidency, and if it took another notch in the presidential tree in the conservative effort to make it fail.

The Olynpics are a judged sporting contest.  And the performance and judging begins with the site selection.  There were four finalists.  One had to win.  The others had to  lose.  As it most athletic contests, winning or losing does not represent any great measure of power and status.  Playing the game with full effort and honesty and fairness is the purpose behind the Olympics to bring the best competitors into contest with each other.  Losing has no great moral or hierarchical significance.  Losing simply means one did not win.

The U.S. did not win the 2016 site selection.  That is not really too surprising to those who mind the tote boards  and place wagers on the outcomes. Rio de Janeiro has been a favorite from the outset, largely because it will be the first South American country to host the  Olympics, and many;, many people in the world community have thought it was time to bring South America into full participation in the global  good will ceremonies.  Many in U.S. diplomatic circles have said as much,  and thought that Rio, despite its need to do some massive infrastructure building, was too attractive a choice to turn down.

Some have said that the Olympics will do for Rio what the World Columbian Exposition did for Chicago in 1893.  But instead of seeing the choice as the inclusion of a developing country into the community of nations, many prefer to find the most negative possible interpretations of  the selection as a personal degradation of Obama's presidency and a great national embarrassment.  That thinking shows the perverse stupidity that has gripped cultural and political discussion in America.

Like those town gossips who drive promising and aspiring people away from the small towns in America, America itself has become a nation devoted to back-biting, birching, slandering, and spreading ill will. 

It's enough to make one pack one's bags and trek off to Rio.  Or maybe Winnipeg or Vancouver.  America in its mean and petty state gives plenty of reasons for disapproving and disliking it. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States