Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Sized Shoulds

I'm just going to say it. All the media coverage of the Olympics for as long as I can remember has one underlying unquestioned "should": America should win. But I can't help but wonder, WHY?

Now let me clarify something. I'm not against America winning -- I honestly couldn't care less. What I am concerned with are the psychological consequences of such unquestioned values in our culture. What does winning really mean? Will it help our failing economy? Will it prevent more unemployment? Will it mean we'll live in a country where people are happier and treat each other with more kindness? History would suggest not.

Which brings me to the individuals who face the brunt of these beliefs. Sure, if you go along with the "shoulds" of winning you get wonderful media press, and maybe your face on a cereal box. But if you have the audacity to compete and lose, forget about it. You are then challenging the status quo; the American notion that, "We are a country of winners only." And you WILL face the consequences of going against this oppressive viewpoint.

Don't believe me? Check out the coverage of Alicia Sacramone's performance today on Google. This 20-year-old is being raked over the coals in the nation's leading papers for failing to win first place. Never mind that the United States still came in SECOND place out of eight. Never mind this is a human being who has devoted every day of the past four years to representing her country proudly. Never mind this is a young woman who has feelings.

Because she made an error she must pay. Because she failed to fulfill the mandated "should" about winning, she will face the judge and jury of the media. The same press that puts Michael Phelps on a throne is now spiritually tying Ms. Sacramone to the stake. Let's all try to be mindful of how this preoccupation with victory leads to "shoulding" and scapegoating others, before more spirits get sunk.

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