Tag Archives: Olympics

2016’s Cultural Battleground – Gordon’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end each year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2016 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.


I know it’s been said all over, but man…

**** this year.

I’m going to just go ahead and embrace the roiling darkness and present, for your consideration, my own chronicle of our downward spiral. Not counting the French war on religious freedom, American attacks on the 2nd Amendment, Don Lemon’s career, and a host of other blemishes we don’t have room for.

Did I mention **** this year?

Anyways, here’re the major casualties from this year’s culture wars:

thepresidentnotmypresident While I don’t think this was my finest writing by any means, I do think it’s one of the more important posts I wrote this year. And not just because I want my good name vindicated by future historians or alien archaeologists sifting through the ashy remains of the Western hemisphere.

In the face of a lot of folks trying to come to terms with the election of Donald Trump, I make the argument that they just don’t have to.

firstladyIn spite of my own frustration and anger at the results of the election, I nevertheless want to state for the record that voting-for-a-lesser-evil is not now, nor ever will be, the answer. In spite of what Mrs. Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders believe, democracy cannot be saved by us choosing not to practice it. Continue reading

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Covering the Hijab at the Rio Olympics

Past weeks have seen the internet come to blows over pictures from a women’s volleyball game between Germany and Egypt. This picture:

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Now where most sane folks would see a simple game of beach volleyball, the denizens of the interwebs have managed to read in some fantasy about a clash of cultures- “the free and civilized West against the superstitious, primitive savages of the East.” Comment sections have been flooded with everything from sarcastic half-jokes…

scs

…to open propaganda.

prp

“Because I, from the comfort of my armchair, know this athlete’s situation better than she does.” -Idiot Commentor

There’s been snide comment after comment directed not at Doaa Elghobashy’s performance in the game, not towards her assertion that what she wears is her own damn business, not towards her teammate (Nada Meawad) who doesn’t wear a hijab…

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And I think it’s because people aren’t actually angry about any of that.

For all the sanctimony, the issue at hand seems not to be with mandates or even just pressure to wear the hijab. It has nothing to do with standing up for women- on the contrary. I do think that the extreme contrast between Elghobashy and her German counterparts hit a nerve that most people didn’t realize they had. I think it does forced folks to ask themselves some truly uncomfortable questions about why they actually watch the sport.

I’m talking about this:

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Now I seriously debated putting that picture up, but as cringingly uncomfortable as it is, I think it speaks volumes about our culture. Continue reading

Shame Day: The Sochi Olympics

I have this weird thing where I actually really love crowds, so if I was in Sochi right now I would be all up in the Olympic excitement. And of course as a Canadian I’m particularly excited to be a winner in something sporty, even if my association with winning is only via my citizenship.

That being said, I’m going to have to pull a Debbie Downer here and remind everyone of all the crap that has happened in Russia as a direct result of the Olympics.

Continue reading

Shame Day: Nike, Coca-Cola, and Nestle

By request, this Shame Day is going to be a triple-feature, with three of the most insidious corporations out there out in the stocks. Now I’m currently boycotting all three of these companies (and have been for some time) and made banning them from campus the priority of my college activism. That’s all just to say that I’ve had a long time to build and hone my venomous rage and hatred of both these companies, so buckle up- this is going to be vicious one.


Let’s start with Nike.

Nike

Even the mildest of the companies many, many offenses is still pretty vile. Take a look at this ad Nike ran back in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics:

Continue reading

Shame Day: Nationalism

Imagine for a moment, the existence of two mythical lands: Acirema and Adanac. Imagine that you are a citizen of Acirema, living in a little town bordering Adanac. Despite your isolation, you’re just as patriotic as any another Acireman. You wave the Acireman flag, salute it, pledge your undying allegiance to the homeland, and swear to defend her against all attacks. You cheer on your Acireman compatriots competing in the Olympics. You stand up and applaud when they win, and howl with despair when they lose. As far as you are concerned, you are a proud Acireman, a citizen of the greatest nation on earth; you love your country just as every red-blooded Acireman is expected to.

And then it is discovered in an old, forgotten document that a century earlier your far-off neck of the woods was actually purchased by Adanac from some forgettable Acireman president. All this time the Acireman-Adanacian border was actually twenty miles further south, making your town and everyone in it Adanacian. What do you do? You were born in another country, making you a citizen from a country that has until now been foreign to you. Do you still salute the Acireman flag? Do you still cheer for the Acireman athletes? Do you still decry the metric system as a tool of the devil?

You probably get the point by now.

Nationalism, boiled down to its most basic components, is the idea that borders matter. That being born on one side of an imaginary line fabricated by affluent racists a few centuries ago should make you a different person than if you were born a few miles north/south/east/west of it.

Now we’re not exactly caught up in some series of Napoleonic conflicts, so why bring up nationalism as the topic for this week’s shame day?

It’s because of this quote by President Obama:

“America remains the one indispensable nation, and the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office…”

Now let’s take a few minutes to reflect on the sheer arrogance of that statement.

Done?

Good, now let’s break it down.

According to the president, America, and only America, is the one necessity in the world. Brazil, we’re ok if that goes away. The UK can sink into the ocean. China, Russia, Nigeria, Japan,  Italy, Laos- these places are “dispensable.” They don’t serve an important function like America does. America is “indispensable”- the one indispensable nation.

Now if this quote came from some goose-stepping splinter cell in Nowhere, Arkansas, we could probably ignore this. However, as it came from the single most powerful man on the planet, we’re probably not crazy for raising some concerns.

I mean, let’s assume the guy is right- America’s existence is the cornerstone of all stability and decency in the universe, and it is simply more important and valuable than all the other nations of the earth. Shouldn’t we then be concerned about damaging this sole stitch in the fabric of civilization? Puerto Rico, a US territory, is currently petitioning to become a state. If it does, will the America that Obama calls indispensable change in such a way as to unravel all of that? What about selling an acre of land in the south to Mexico, would that shift in the border constitute a change to this indispensable nation?

Or maybe it has nothing to do with borders- maybe America’s indispensable nature has to do with its people. Obviously to protect this, we must maintain things the way they are, and keep any immigrants from entering into the nation, or any Americans from immigrating out, lest we screw up the quota that makes us us. Or maybe it’s not about borders or people- maybe America’s unique nature as “indispensable” comes from its values- that’s why we need to never add or abolish any laws or rules or alter our culture or worldview in any way.

Let’s be realistic here. I’m an American, and I am not exceptional. God Almighty does not smile more upon me for have been born in square A than in square B. My blood is not somehow more precious than that of someone who lives a few feet across an imaginary line in the dirt. If a Mexican, a Canadian, and I were drowning in the ocean, you would not be more obligated to rescue me for either of them. I am not any less dispensable than any other human being on the planet by virtue of my passport or my heritage. This idea that we are somehow inherently divided as human beings on the basis of where we were born is unspeakably stupid. There’s nothing wrong with liking the unique things about the place where you live, or the good and courageous things that are being done, or have been done, or the noble values that your countrymen hold. But ranking these things- the unique things, the good and courageous actions, the noble values- as being less or more important on the basis of their proximity to you is just a flipping shame.

Stars Earn Stripes (Is a Terrible, Awful, Idiotic Abomination)

When I was watching the bad acid trip that the Brits were passing off as the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, I saw an ad for an upcoming NBC reality show called Stars Earn Stripes.

For those of you too lazy to watch the YouTube video, Stars Earn Stripes is essentially a collection of B and C level celebrities (and Terry Crews) who are put through elements of basic military training and then tasked with carrying out “missions” (i.e. blow stuff up).

Naturally, the reaction of both myself and everyone I was watching with went a little something like this:

Ironically, this is one of the “missions”…

Despite the ad touting that “In the end, it’s all about understanding one thing… true bravery… It’s about honoring our veterans and our law enforcement officers…”.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a show where a bunch of people are given a couple months of watered down military training in an environment more or less free from danger and label it as comparable to the pain, sacrifices, stress, and general hardship of the actual military is about as far as you can get from honoring them. One of the guys I saw the commercial with had been in the military himself, stationed in Afghanistan, and he asserted that the idea of the show was offensive (as did everyone else in the room). Indeed, restoring some faith in humanity, the reaction of pretty much everyone to Stars Earn Stripes has been more or less this:

Marking the first time comments on a YouTube Video have been mostly intelligent and well-reasoned…

Let’s break it down here. Stars Earn Stripes is presenting:

  1. A Sanitized View of War
  2. A Glamorized View of War
  3. An Insult to Anyone who is or ever has Been Involved in War

First, let’s address the sanitizing or “white-washing”, as some critics are calling it. Stars Earn Stripes still has ten days to air, however, I think it’s safe to say that the actual decisions and consequences on the show are nothing like what they are in reality. The ad boasts that they will use “Real Explosions” and “Live Ammo”, as if this somehow adds weight or danger to the show. You what other shows have been using live ammo and real explosions for years?

Mythbusters

Deadliest Warrior (Sorry I couldn’t find a Gif for this)

…Or pretty much any show having anything to do with guns and explosions…

See, the celebrities might be in some danger- but hardly anything that you can’t find on other shows, and nothing on the level of what combat soldiers have to deal with. On top of this, I’m guessing that the celebrities aren’t going to actually kill anyone, or have to grapple with the moral and psychological ramifications of doing so. In fact, the celebrities will never have to worry about any of the basic aspects of military service that soldiers are expected to deal with- constant danger, the possibility of being disabled (if not killed or captured or tortured) for life, the possibility of killing and innocent civilian by accident, or (for the female contestants) the rampant problem of rape. Terry Crews is a tough guy, I’m sure, but I have my doubts as to how he’d react actually witnessing someone (on any side of the conflict) killed. Let’s face the facts, Stars Earn Stripes is not going to show you bodies in all their gory reality. This isn’t war- this is Hollywood.

Second, let’s talk about the glamorization we’re sure to see hear. Of course Stars Earn Stripes will present the celebrities having little breakdowns, or getting dusty or bruised, but even John McClane got pretty trashed in Die Hard.

But the military isn’t just concussion grenades and contusions- there’s plenty of… well- boredom to it. I’m not saying this to put down the armed forces, I’m just trying to offer an accurate picture here. There are toilets to be scrubbed, mess halls to be cleaned, uniformed to be creased and beds to be made. There’s paperwork and basic maintenance. Are we gonna see the Stars Earn Stripes celebrities get chewed out for not having left six inches between their blankets and their sheets? I doubt it.

Thirdly, the combination of the previously mentioned points creates a completely and wholly inaccurate picture of the conditions the men and women of the military find themselves in. Stars Earn Stripes isn’t about the military, it’s about a highly fetishized aspect of war. And make no mistake- we’re not talking about just the military here- we’re talking about war. Without the past decade or so of nonstop conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, it’s highly doubtful that Stars Earn Stripes would even exist, after all, what’s the point of doing a show about the military if you can’t jam it full of explosions? An almost assured side-effect of this lousy and poorly thought-out attempt to “honor” the troops (i.e. make money off of them and their hardships) is the glorification of war. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most dogged pacifist or hard-line advocate of “just cause”- we all know that war itself is not something that should be portrayed this way. Maybe you think war is wrong, maybe you think war is right- you never think war is pretty. As William Tecumseh Sherman, perhaps the most brutal general of the Civil War, put it “There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all Hell.”

The guy who burned Atlanta to the ground just by glaring at it would know….

It cheapens war. In the off chance that you want to hear my full rant about this, here’s the link. The simple version is that this drastic level of ignorance when it comes to the bloodshed- you know, the actual war is not only an insult to the military, but to any and all victims of war, and a direct attack upon the basic decency and dignity of humanity at large.

I’d say that NBC’s heart is in the right place, only I don’t think that’s true. I think this show is a calculated plan to manipulate emotions and capitalize off of human suffering. This has nothing to do with honoring anyone- this is about lining wallets.

Again, to NBC I submit this as my closing remark: