Thank God for the Olympics.
As our country reels from yet another deadly mass shooting and continues to bear the weight of the daily drama between Republicans and Democrats, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics gives Americans brief respite from the madness and a positive reason to come together to root for the home team — even in games as political, and politically correct, as these.
Already, two broadcasters have been fired for ill-considered comments: a San Francisco radio host who called 17-year-old snowboard phenom Chloe Kim a “hot piece of ass” (That’s his #MeToo moment), and an NBC analyst who said during the opening ceremony that every Korean is grateful for Japan’s “cultural, technological and economic example” — without a word about the brutality of that country’s 35-year occupation of Korea, which ended with the split into north and south in 1945.
And, speaking of North and South Korea, there’s the whole combining into one Olympic team and marching under one flag thing to consider — despite the North’s penchant for human rights abuses — along with Vice President Mike Pence’s awkward attempts at the games to snub the former without offending the latter.
But all of that is ancillary to the actual competitions, which remind us of the vastness of human potential — of American potential.
Take Chloe Kim.
She owned the women’s halfpipe competition this week, earning a near-perfect score of 98.25 and her first gold medal, leading her dad to call out “American dream!” He immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in 1982, making a life for himself and his family in Torrance, Calif. — a six-hour drive from Chloe’s training spot, where the family frequented.
Theirs is a story of dedication, diligence and skill — the kind Americans can’t get enough of. Liberals love the immigrant tale, and conservatives are all about that work ethic. Her win for our team is something we can all appreciate, regardless of our politics and personal policy positions.
We were right there with her when she gave a shout out to America after her stunning run. It was a fist-pumping kind of “yay team” moment that’s been missing for a while in the U.S., where the national pastime has become vilifying one another for our differences.
We can all be proud of these athletes though. Every one of them has sacrificed for their sport and our country: hours and hours of practice; aches, pains and broken bones; the sting of bad luck.
Their sports stories are our life stories played out in miniature.
So when baby-faced Red Gerard, another 17 year old, won gold for the men’s snowboard slopestyle (after oversleeping because he’d stayed up late watching Netflix the night before); or when Mikaela Shiffrin, who took the gold in giant slalom, said she’s on a social media blackout while competing; or when siblings Maia and Alix Shibutani were robbed in their scores for the ice skating short dance, but still won a bronze medal — we get it. As Americans.
And for those who give their all but never make a podium, we feel them more. That’s everyday for most of us.
Of course it’s important to stand up and speak out on issues we believe in — be they gun control or civil rights or gender equality — but it’s also important to take a breath now and again and marvel at what our country is capable of.
Tricia Bishop is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @triciabishop.