Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Future of Sport is not Team America

Putin on the Ritz via Dru
Watching the ceremony this week, I looked at all the people - almost every nation of the world represented - and I felt proud to be an American, proud to identify with such an excellent people. My friend Sandra had invited me to share the moment that she became a US citizen along with more than 200 others in a Brooklyn Federal court; and if the Judge is to be believed, those new citizens represent almost as many nations as marched into the stadium at Sochi. An average morning for the Brooklyn swearing in ceremony. I wish I felt as proud of our role in the Olympics, but I don't. I feel ashamed.

I find the flag slathered triumphalism of "Team America" boorish, but more so, I'm turned off by the way the Russians are being ridiculed as rubes. I get that Putin is a thug, but the Russians aren't thugs. Putin has embolden plenty of thugs with his homophobic crowd baiting, but we have politicians doing the same things here. I am very glad to see that international visitors have stayed away from Sochi, and that Google and other companies are showing their allegiance to gays and lesbians in the face of Putin's bigotry. But I am not happy to see the Russians belittled, especially by Americans.

When I visited Moscow and saw all the absurd civic art and architecture that the Putinani have built around Red Square, I had already seen enough of Russia and enough of Moscow that I wasn't alarmed. Muscovites have weather far worse than the neoliberal pseudo-Eastern Orthodox Fascism of the Oligarchs. Everyone I met is Russia was smart, and funny and engaged. Every where I went I saw young people and young families; making good lives for themselves despite the obvious chaos of their politics. I was deeply impressed by the Russians.

So I when I watched Seth Meyers and Kate McKinnon mocking a "Russian villager" on SNL this week - two wealthy New Yorkers, imaging a poor Russian woman's life as one of deprivation and stupidity, I felt ashamed for my country. We "won" the Cold War. After a bloodless revolution the USSR slipped from the world without violence - am I the only one who sees that peaceful change as a moral victory of the Russians, Polish, Estonian and other Soviet peoples, rather than a ideological victory of Reaganism (more a fog of small minded jingoism than a true ideology)? The American victory was to push a package of predatory draconian economic "reforms" on the states of the former Eastern Block. No other nation in the world is more responsible for Putin's kleptocracy that the US.

When I met Russians my age I was struck by how different they were from me. In their twenties they had lived through a period of arbitrary violence and economic austerity while my American cohort went to college, Lalapaloozas, and enjoyed the pleasures of their first economic bubble (please God, just one more bubble, I swear not to squander this one). My Russian counterparts were kind to me, but I understood that there was an air of something between us; not quite a distancing, as a distance. In some cases it manifest itself as distaste - and even contempt - but mostly just something wane. As if they worked with the knowledge that I would never really understand. And I am sure they are right, I'm not sure I ever will.

I take pleasure the athletic success of others, but watching the reports of "American Gold" - I am reminded of a bully who wants to gobble all the cookies. That makes me sad, and maybe a little uncomfortable, but not ashamed. That this same bully simultaneously mocks his host as poor and stupid, that's the part that makes me ashamed. It doesn't seeming sporting.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I wonder at what point did America go so wrong, what event or series of events lead to what we have become?