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American declinism, its purveyors, and the Olympics

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More  August 3, 2012 02:55 PM

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Whenever there is some international sporting event, whether it's the Olympics or the World Cup, some hand wringing Debbie Downer has to pen a column about how we shouldn't wave the flag and get all U-S-A! U-S-A! during the competition. Here is David Sirota in Salon complaining about how the athletic nationalism surrounding the Olympics covers our shortcomings as nation:

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

The smug American declinism just oozes off the screen, doesn't it?

In Sirota's world there is an unemployed lady that has had her faith in American totally restored because Michael Phelps can swim really fast and we won gold in ladies team gymnastics. The machinist that has been out of work and, somehow wasn't saved by the stimulus, is screaming "U-S-A!" at his television when we're blowing out every country in basketball. We're all just a nation of athletic nationalist zombies, completely ignorant of the somewhat dire straits our country is in because Team USA is playing water polo.

Ug. At some point condescending declinist commentary will be our largest export.

If you've spent any time watching NBC's dreadful coverage of the Olympics you've probably seen a political ad. They're endless and they smash the notion that the summer games are a distraction from the problems facing the country. You just can't get away from them. Some of the ads are even about the Olympics.

The idea that we are "robbing...weaker nations of any wins" doesn't really pass the smell test when you look at the countries that are usually top the medal count: China, Russia, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, South Korea. Not exactly a collection of "weaker nations." If we were not participating the medals would go to these other equally strong nations.

If, like Sirota, you're ashamed or troubled by the nationalism surrounding the Olympics or the celebration of success at the games, well, you clearly don't understand the point of international sporting events.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Garrett Quinn began writing for newspapers at age 17 with CNC in his native South Shore. He has been published in BlueMassGroup, RedMassGroup, Pioneer Investigates, and Wonkette. He is a More »

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