In a year when we are constantly reminded that our politicians – and especially our presidential candidates – are craven mediocrities, what a joy it is to watch genuine excellence and incredible human achievement at the Olympic Games this week. What a joy to watch hard work pay off, to watch honesty triumph over cheating. What a joy, after constantly being told, whether by the Left or by the Trumpian Right, what a bad country we are, to be reminded how good we are. How exceptional we are. America Is Already Great. What a beautiful American story Simone Biles has. From foster care to being the best gymnast in the world. America Is Already Great. How beautiful to watch an American team with two African Americans, a Latina American, and a Jewish American beat out homogeneous teams. America Is Already Great. So thank you, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Lilly King, the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team, and all the rest of Team USA for showing us humanity at its best this week, in a year when we’re constantly seeing it at its worse.
The real core of the Greek idea was the pursuit of human excellence…Whenever you think the limits of human capability have been reached, someone pushes them just a little farther…Our fascination with Olympic athletes comes from our ability to grasp a wider, abstract meaning. The extraordinary physiques of athletes are an easily grasped, visual symbol for the idea of extraordinary achievement as such. What we get from them is the idea of striving to make ourselves extraordinary in some way, even if it is not on the athletic field…For all of our politician’s incoherent blustering about making America great again, Olympic athletes show us how to make being human great again. We might want to look at that with a little of the seriousness and even reverence it deserves. There are a lot of things that are wrong in the world, and a lot of that is going to smear off on the edges of the Olympics. But the games themselves are part of what’s right.
And as Kevin Williamson put it:
There’s something special at work in all of those stories, and it usually starts with a child: “Hey, look what I can do!” becomes “Hey, I’m pretty good at this!” and sometimes, like Simone Biles or Steve Wozniak, they just keep going, all of them in their own way carrying the rest of us forward with them.
Politics thrives on convincing us that things are worse than they are, telling us that we must live in fear of violence and misery if we do not elevate the members of a very special caste of people who do very little resembling real work. The contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton is not only unworthy of us as Americans — it is unworthy of us as a species. We contain within us greatness and the seeds of greatness, and the belief that the affairs of this free, dynamic, prosperous, good, unprecedented republic of 319 million souls rests on the choice between Enfeebled Psychotic Miscreant A and Enfeebled Psychotic Miscreant B is a superstition, one that we should leave behind.