But don’t you dare question the left’s patriotism!

by Sonny Bunch on August 8, 2012

We’re always told that it’s the worst thing evah to question the left’s patriotism. How dare we! Have we no shame! Et cetera. I am curious how to reconcile those admonitions with pieces like these, however.

First up is David Sirota, with a piece entitled “Don’t chant ‘U.S.A.!'” in Salon:

I find my “U.S.A.!”-chanting reflex increasingly interrupted by pangs of discomfort, and not because I’m ashamed of our country or our Olympians, but because the relationship between American nationalism and the Olympics has been slowly infused with a different — and politicized — meaning. …

The hyper-patriotism surrounding the modern Olympics, then, is just a reflection of that national character. When that TV screen flashes the list of athletes and we inevitably profile the competitors by nation, we do so not just because we experience natural feelings of solidarity with fellow countrymen. We likely do so also because of that deeper desire to publicly showcase American preeminence — a desire we’ve been programmed to haughtily express since the end of the Cold War, a desire we’re led to believe we must express in this “love it or leave it” era for fear of being labeled traitors.

Next up is ThinkProgress, which ran some suggestions on how to improve NBC’s coverage of the games. Here’s number two:

2. Check the nationalism at the door. “I’d love to see more focus on int’l athletes,” offered Brian Forte. “Olympics are about bringing the world together, but NBC only talks about USA.” NBC has done a decent job of covering non-American Olympians in events where they are clearly preeminent, like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, or Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who was the subject of an interesting biographical piece that got at the tensions of his training in Australia. But the coverage is still oriented towards sports where Americans tend to make strong showings. A more interesting primetime broadcast would show more willingness to introduce sports where Americans aren’t dominant and with which American audiences tend not to be familiar, and to focus on athletes whose presence is geopolitically important, whether it’s the Saudi women or the experience of stateless Olympians.

Guess what: Americans love cheering for America! And they love watching sports in which Americans excel! Because the Olympics—for all the bullshit and bluster ’bout “bringing the world together”—is an exercise in untrammeled nationalism. It has always been an exercise in untrammeled nationalism. It is about your flag marching to the top of that medal chart. It’s about your men and women dominating other nation’s men and women. It’s about making little Russian teenage girls cry tears of sorrow because they have failed the motherland and made Putin sad. It’s about using our wealth and our resources to turn our athletes into unstoppable winning machines.

Spare me your whinging about unbalanced coverage and the evils of cheering for American triumphs over third-tier nations no one would discuss otherwise. I can’t hear you anyway. I’ll be busy rooting our men and women on and chanting “USA! USA! USA!” as they ascend the podium.

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