I don't know why the opening ceremony of the Olympics sort of gives me the shivers. Maybe it's the color wash of pomp and nationalistic display that just seems so out of touch with the dull and miserable reality of the less fortunate population. Puerto Rico is neglected; starvation and disease are rampant in so many places worldwide; the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots has never seemed so hideous. The Korean culture itself--- the military parades and exhibitions of the North like a braggart's bluff-- the singing girls and the happy marchers... the reality of repression and forced obedience... the apparent moratorium on human rights that welcomes athletes from a hostile and hideous regime for what-- the spirit of competition? I just don't get it. It feels opportunistic and juvenile... some kind of #metoo madness.
Not to mention the pall cast over the gymnastic community which has colored yet another sport almost permanently. Who protects those of our children who have been deemed special or uber-talented and marketable-- whose natural skills and talents have been parlayed into industries and fortunes not to mention a kind of national heroism? As a young aspiring dancer, I could sense the thorns and perils even before I understood abuse and boundaries. We each have instincts, but our ambitions so often triumph better judgment... as well as that of all those people on our path who close one eye when there is a huge pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. Until the whistles blew.... and how many sports are now tainted by cover-ups, pay-offs, cheating, doping? Does the best man/woman win? Look at our elections. Not only did we get the dark horse but we got a non-qualifier. If politics was a sport our president would be limping at the starting-line with an ill-fitting uniform and no sponsors but his own sad brand. Eisenhower might have been a good golfer but he was also a 5-star general.
What version of America shows up at these international competitions? The athletes are still young players in a kind of dream-- individuals with the drive and stamina to be the best they can be-- who put their skill on the line internationally for their nation-- but who are we? A disorganized country with little focus except money-- an untrained leader whose familiarity with the 50 states came from watching the Miss America pageant. And now he wants a military parade-- this man who never fought a war or trained for one-- who throws around threats and battle-language like some kind of cartoon character. The Monopoly president whose claim to office is an affirmation of the sad state of pop culture and the negation of human values. We won't see his image on a bill or coin, but on a game-piece-- a gambling chip. The man himself to me is an ever-expanding hot-air balloon-- the latest float at a Macy's parade... to bring him down will take some strategy because he is not just a player but a cheater. In the end, in my personal American dream--- to ultimately deflate the high-flying symbol of bloated greed and cartoon quackery will take a simple pin.
I can't help blaming the current flu epidemic on a certain emotional malaise among my American peers. My friends and I have been mostly depressed since Election Day 2016. Anything could take us down. Few of us trust the medical system to protect us against disease or to give a whit about healthcare beyond what profits the insurance and drug companies. We do not get vaccinated; we get sick. We are watching these games and athletics through feverish eyes, wondering at the lingering inequality of women in some sports, and worrying about the fate of the Korean cheerleaders and delegates. Will they be punished? Will there be defectors? Why is South Korea so apparently recently solicitous of its evil Northern sister?
To me the two Koreas seem like a dysfunctional family; the South-- a beautiful place, ranked No.1 in the world in technological innovation-- so there is obvious talent and brilliance concentrated there-- a thing which might create envy in any family. In the North-- repression is standard; starvation is rampant. Students reputedly must buy their own desks and chairs to attend class, etc. It is not a place that fosters creativity or joy... one pities the athletes who cannot possibly reap the rewards available to other nations-- win or lose. It parallels my own sad family, in a way.... love has become impossible.. and although I neither respect nor admire my sister, she has used threats and fear to further alienate and weaken any family attachment I might have had. She has forbidden her children to befriend me, although they have attempted defection... and now through force and might has conscripted the core and remaining fortune of my nuclear family so that even my own legacy will be withheld. It is a game without rules; a rigged contest where the judges are the contestants, and there is one pre-arranged winner.
In this upside-down Trumped world where the jokers preside and justice sits on a bench with yesterday's stale sandwich, well... these villains will continue to steal the pie. But for my true sisters of musical voice-- of pen and pencils and paint-- the filmmakers and innovators-- my teammates in life-- we will dance on their graves one day. We will speak and write and sing and continue to raise our children with unconditional love. We are out there-- on the streets-- in cornfields and in small homes... some of us coughing and barely able to board a public bus... we wave to one another-- with some hope-- in our old clothing, with no medals or trophies but underneath it all, a still-ticking American heart.