There is a special kind of irony in the fact that the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are being plagued with unseasonably-mild temperatures, throwing skiers and snowboarders off their stride, while at the same time the East Coast of the United States has been slammed with blast after blast of wintry weather.
It's not just the mid-Atlantic, either; cold and snowy conditions prevail from Alabama and Georgia north to Maine and the Canadian maritimes, and west to the Rockies. In fact there was one point recently where every state in the Union except Florida had at least some snow on the ground.
Come to think of it, the last year we had a snowy winter, 2010, was a Winter Olympics year, too. Interesting.
Well, I have to say I enjoy the Winter Olympics more when I can look out my window and almost imagine I'm there. That hasn't been a challenge this year. In fact, observers are invoking comparisons with everything from Disney's "Frozen," to C.S. Lewis's "Narnia," to the Ice Planet of Hoth from the "Star Wars" saga.
Of course, last week we saw a warming trend with its accompanying dangers of flooding, but I'm sure we haven't seen the last of winter.
Back in Sochi, we've seen the usual mix of athletic prowess, sportsmanship and camaraderie that collectively comprise the Olympic spirit. There have been a few glitches - the new suits being blamed for poor times by U.S. speedskaters, the dislodged goal at the shootout that ended the U.S.-Russia hockey game - and more than a few upsets.
Perhaps most dramatic of those was the Russian hockey team's defeats at the hands of the U.S. and, later, Finland, taking them out of medal contention.
But mostly we've seen brilliant athletes do what they do best, and take obvious joy in doing it, flavored with moments of compassion, like the Canadian coach replacing the Russian skier's broken ski so he could finish his race, or flat-out transcendence, as when U.S. figure skater Jeremy Abbot incredibly forced himself to his feet and even more incredibly finished his program, after his hard and painful spill on the unforgiving ice.
It is good that we have the Olympic Games to remind us of the better angels of our human nature, because the world outside of Sochi continues in strife and contention far different from the ritualized and sportsmanlike competition of the games. Not so far away, in the Ukraine, flames leap from the periphery of Independence Square in Kiev, where protesters seeking greater freedom and closer ties with the West faced off against riot troops loyal to a government looking to Putin's Russia for both economic partnership and political inspiration.
In this hemisphere, Venezuelan students marched against the corruption and autocratic governance of that country's president. They are being beaten, tortured and even killed for their determination to reform that country's political system. And closest to home, fighting between the Mexican "autodefensas" - armed self-defense groups - and the drug cartels and, occasionally, corrupt government police and troops that are their adversaries, is apparently spreading from Michoacan province to Guerrero.
But if the Olympics shows us one thing, it is that human relations do not have to be rooted in conflict; that even honest competition can take place in a spirit of peace and brotherhood, and that the ultimate answer to Rodney King's plaintive question, "Can't we all just get along?" is in fact a resounding yes.
If only our politicians would follow the example of our athletes, it would be a happier and more peaceful world. I pray that, some day, it may be.