The Olympics are Over. Let the Games Begin
But I’ve never longed for it’s return. Especially not to watch a sovereign nation get manhandled by a second-rate Bond villain like Vladimir Putin: vain, inelegant, cheating his way through the high-stakes poker game played on the international stage.
I’m sickened by what’s going on in the Ukraine.
It feels all too familiar, yanking me back to the kitchen table of my 80s youth – a small black and white TV broadcasting the latest Soviet highjinks: the invasion of Afghanistan, the shooting down of Korean Airlines Flight 007, the propping up of puppet governments in Africa, Central America and elsewhere. My parents looked on in horror, while Sting crooned from my boom box, reminding us that the “Russian’s love their children, too.” As if that had anything to do with…well…anything.
It was scary then, uncertain, but at least it was better than the seventies – when it felt like we were meting out our lunch money to an assortment of class bullies everyday. What made it worse was that we didn’t even allow ourselves the moral high-ground. Vietnam had given us a complex, I guess, and we sunk deep into a piss-warm pool of moral equivalency. Like the cheating spouse who hates herself for having shagged her mechanic in the backseat of her Volvo. Even if her husband did call her fat all the time. And broke her nose after last year’s Christmas party.
My grandfather, a Czech Olympic hockey player who played in the 1936 Olympics (yes those Olympics – Hitler’s Olympics) cried when our boys won. For him, it was a spiritual victory. A moral victory. And he knew something about those.
For my grandfather – and all of my family – that win was nothing short of a light from above shining down on us. Reminding us that even though we are far from perfect, we didn’t need to be sinless in order to be right and good.
I wonder what he would have thought about our hockey win against the Russians this year. Not as big – that’s for sure. But perhaps a gentle nudge that things haven’t changed so much. A softer light pointing in the direction of right and wrong.
I don’t know what the solution is to the madness that’s going on in the Ukraine. I pity any president that has to deal with wars stemming from horrific terrorist attacks, and then lightning bolts of Cold War aggression from a Russian leader who’s been deeply embarrassed. First, by a string of twitter feeds detailing cartoonish misadventures in the Olympic village, then by successful protests in a neighboring country he thought he had by the balls (if you’ll excuse my French). In retrospect, given Putin’s propensity for flaunting his bare chest and slaying tigers and riding bears for heaven’s sake, we could hardly have expected him not to pull some grandiose act of thuggery.
I guess I just expected he’d wrestle a lion, or poison another spy, or shoot a journalist – the way he always does. Not threaten an entire people.