In Our Divided World, We Needed the Olympics

The Ryan Lochte scandal of monumental dumbassedness isn't going to deter my view that the Olympics have been great. 

The displays of comradery and respect (like the American runner helping the New Zealand runner after a fall, or watching Usain Bolt stop in the middle of a television interview to stand and show respect for the U.S. national anthem) made these games great. They were reminders of just how much we needed these Olympics. 

In the midst of the culture wars, a divisive U.S. presidential election, terror attacks and bombings in too many places, it was people helping people and a Jamaican showing respect for an anthem that wasn't even his that symbolized the respect and courtesy we so often forget exists all around us.

It's been a year of tension, and it was apparent even as the games started. They kicked off with bickering on the socials about perceived slights here and there. There was debate at the beginning of the games about whether the announcers were talking down about women athletes that, in hindsight, seem petty and as much about people finding something to complain about as the actual slights. Rio really seemed to screw up the hosting and it was nice to bask in the glory of somebody else's debacle.

And yes, there's the whole Lochte / three-other-U.S.-swimmers scandal, but you now what? Scew 'em.

The truth of the matter is that the more these games went on, the more we had to celebrate and the less we had to whine about. We rallied behind the true Olympic moments. We celebrated athletes, both our own and from elsewhere, doing their best and displaying sportsmanship at the highest of levels. We talked about Simone Biles and Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and Usain Bolt and how awesome they all were.

And somewhere in all of it most of the bickering stopped. Not only about the Olympics, but in a lot of ways in our politics. Black Lives Matter versus Donald Trump took a back seat for a moment to a worldwide celebration of all the ways we could come together. Somehow in all of it, Trump even felt the need to say sorry for past hurt feelings. Wild. 

There's no naivety here; one would have to be living on Mars not to understand the crazy cycle we're about to head into with an election just over two months away.

But no matter what happens next, we needed this. Let some of these simple acts of respect for others serve as a reminder not to how special they were, but how common they really can be and are so much of the time. 

Most people, deep down, want to get along. It isn't hard to do and happens so much more often than we think.

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