As a follow-up from yesterday’s post, Ye Shiwen has taken numerous drug tests and been shown to be clean of any doping. Hell yeah, woman, good for you! There’s a phenomenal editorial in the Guardian about the utterly shitty way people are still going after her, which I definitely recommend you read.
I hadn’t really thought about the potential racist/nationalist element in it as well, because I was too busy being incredibly pissed off about the overt misogyny of Performing Too Well While Female. I suppose China is the new superpower to be feared. My own thoughts on human rights abuses aside, I’ve never understood the logic of disapproving of a country by being childish toward their athletes. I was still in grade school when the Cold War ended so I missed out on a lot of the more ridiculous US versus USSR stuff, but whenever I encounter its relics now I still feel incredibly puzzled. Yes, athletes act as a representative of the country’s might and blah blah blah but how exactly does being a jerk have any kind of policy impact? I’d be shocked (and appalled) if anyone ever sat down at the negotiating table and tried to use the great performance of their men’s gymnastics team as leverage.
It doesn’t really seem to be about disapproving of policies or politics, but rather just feeling threatened that maybe America doesn’t get to be the best at everything ever. There are a lot of people in this world, and someone does eventually get to be the best at something. Statistically, they can’t all be from America, whatever advantages we may or may not have. And at this point I’m so heartily sick of the doctrine of American Exceptionalism that it’s gone through annoyance to eye-rolling malaise.
Which is really a long way of saying I wish America would grow the fuck up. Every time another country outdoes us at something the reaction tends to be either outright denial (“We do too have the best healthcare system ever!”) or doing an excellent mean girl impression. And I know there are other countries out there who think their way of life gives them some sort of inherent superiority, to which I also say: In the end we’re all still just human beings. Please grow the fuck up.
One of my fellow interns is Chinese. He and I regularly check the Olympic medal standings and tease each other about them. There’s nothing wrong with friendly competition. If China manages to take home more medals than us, I’ll slap him on the back and buy him some soft-serve from the cafeteria. That’s how it’s supposed to work. You have fun competing, and then no matter who wins there are congratulations all around because everybody tried their hardest. Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to be happy for someone else when you had your heart in it. That’s something I still obviously have to work on myself. But hey, that’s part of being a grown-up human being.
I think it’s probably also part of being a grown-up country.
Not related but also good commentary on icky things at the Olympics: Laurie Penny on beach volleyball