The Olympics and Unity

I have always felt it was significant that the summer Olympics has generally taken place the same year as the United States' presidential election. 

A few months before November (or, in some cases, a few weeks), Americans gather to celebrate being American in a world of so many people. We cheer on our athletes wearing the red, white and blue and display good sportsmanship when other countries compete against those athletes. We support those whose uniform is emblazoned with "USA" as well as solid performances and camaraderie from everyone competing. We sing the national anthem when Americans take the gold medal and show respect when others sing theirs. And when those American athletes come home, we gather to honor them and their accomplishments. 

Then we go to cast our votes, remembering that we are a united nation, no matter what side we vote on to lead that nation.

It is especially noticeable nowadays when an Olympics doesn't happen in a presidential election year - like, say, 2020. 

Americans never got that chance to unify this year. The pandemic response initially was inspiring: "Come together by staying apart" was a tagline I saw in many places. But then it dragged on. Some people got impatient, some people declared that the mandates were unnecessary, some people ignored the warnings from scientists and doctors, and America got divided again. 

When the Olympics were supposed to happen at the end of July and beginning of August - that opportunity to unite as Americans supporting all American athletes and athletes from around the world - America was divided not only on issues surrounding the pandemic, but also on issues of systemic racism. It only got stronger as the weeks passed, so entering this month's presidential election, that division was incredibly more defined than in years past. 

Now that the election has been called by all the major news networks, we as Americans can really take a serious look at where we are right now. We are extremely divided. One side insists that they are the "real America" while the other side claims the same. One side attacks the other, and vice versa. Sometimes (sometimes) it feels like neither side wants to listen to the other, and no one wants to have a reasonable conversation. 

My social media feed for Light the Cauldron is filled with athletes - mostly American. I scan the Twitter feed of that account just as much as I do my "regular" account. And I watched this year as those athletes were tweeting out their fears. They couldn't train because of the pandemic. They feared for their life because of their race. They were worried that they'd have to suffer these 2020 issues for many, many years to come. 

These American athletes used their social media as a platform, and I listened. They weren't promoting an agenda; they were being raw and emotional. I am a white person, and it was important for me to see what other American people from other races and ethnicities were saying and feeling. Scratch that - it was important for me to see what people all over the world were saying and feeling. As much as we can pride ourselves on being American, we are all citizens of this world. So knowing what they're saying is important. 

It has been rough sometimes when Americans get selfish or ambitious for power, because that unity is lost. And without an Olympics this year, that selfishness got rampant, and there was no chance to dissolve that heightened tension and anxiety that everyone was feeling.


So what happens now?

We unify. We support the leaders that were elected - from the presidency to Congress to state and local officials, no matter if they identify as blue or red. They all have a tough job ahead of them. 

We listen. We listen to everyone. We have conversations with friends, relatives, coworkers, and maybe even strangers on the street. One of my favorite YouTube channels right now is Emmanuel Acho, who brings people in to have "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man." Just this week he brought in a police force from Petaluma, CA - predominantly white - to talk about Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and the idea of "defund the police." It was a fascinating conversation, and worth it for everyone to watch. I certainly learned things!

We understand that no elected official is going to believe the exact same things that we do. I am a Christian, and very established in my beliefs. Neither side of this election supported all of my biblical beliefs. But I made the decision to support one candidate in particular based on a lot of education on my own part. Speaking of that... 

We educate ourselves. We can't just talk to like-minded people, or watch news stations that spout the same rhetoric we wholeheartedly support. We need to hear what other people believe and why they believe it. It doesn't have to be a political conversion! It just has to make us more well-rounded citizens of this nation. Conversations, research, and pushing aside stubborn tendencies will only make this nation smarter. 

We Unify! Did I already say that? This kind of unification is different. In 2021 and 2022 the Olympics will be held. Regardless of who we voted for, we are Americans - some that are native to this country and some that entered from another country to become American. We support the work that will benefit the world, and I firmly believe that the Olympics is an event that benefits the world. Countries that are in conflict will bring their athletes together in the spirit of competition. We've seen acts of sportsmanship between warring countries during an Olympic games. And we are able to witness great acts of athleticism by Americans and others. I don't know any American who sees an amazing athletic feat and dismisses it because it wasn't done by an American. Athletic feats are celebrated no matter who accomplishes them. Unity doesn't just mean one group or one country. 

So we have some training to do before July of 2021 and February of 2022. We need to practice being Americans. We need to practice that sportsmanship that our coaches have been teaching us since we were kids. We should watch sports and cheer on our athletes! (Most of us do that already!) And we get people around us excited for what is to come. 

The Olympics brings us together as one world. Let's unify as a nation so that we can help the world come together in just a few months. 


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