I wasn’t going to watch the Winter Olympics for all the same reasons: Russia’s anti-homosexuality laws, Sochi’s towns demolished for fake mountains, activists of all flavors being arrested or released to make a good impression. Of course I’m turned off by Putin’s all around dickishness and obsession with “a return to traditional values,” whatever that means.
But last night I happened to be standing in front of a muted television at an old man bar watching young, strong, beautiful athletes parade in under their flags as they waved and took pictures of themselves. And I thought to myself, “This is a good thing. All of these people have come here united under the banner of fair competition and sport.”
Because when else do we all come together? For wars, millennium development goals, and sanctions? When else do we agree to play fairly and follow the rules?
When else does our large dysfunctional family come together at crazy drunk Aunt Mary’s house? We know she’s a hoarder and makes stuffing from a box, but she invited us. We know she’s bossy and her taxidermy smells bad. We know that’s why she’s isolated and lonely. We go to see her because it’s the right thing to do. Yes, we don’t have anything to talk about that doesn’t start a fight. Yes, we say terrible judgmental things about each other. We go because we’re family. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because even though it doesn’t feel like it, we are connected and related and that’s so much better than being alone.
So I’ll always hate on the homophobes, despise the dog killers, and rail against resettlement, but I’ll watch Sochi’s Winter Olympics and cheer for Iran’s first female cross-country skier Farzaneh Rezasoltani. I’ll watch snowboarder Cheryl Maas flash her rainbow unicorn gloves to the camera after her run.
I can’t wait to see Michael Christian Martinez’ figure skating routine. He’s 17 years old, the only Filipino athlete, and practiced on one of The Philippines two skating rinks.
I will close my eyes when Indian Ice Luger Shiva Keshavan speeds 93 mph down the track. I’m happy for him no matter what the outcome because he built his own sled and practices on a modified roller sled down Himalayan highways dodging trucks and goats.
So I don’t agree with the Russian way and, yes, the games would be better set in a lovely, polite Western European social democracy, but you can’t stay home when crazy Aunt Mary invites you over for family dinner.