Forty Nine Years


Olympic Games Mexico City October 16, 1968 – Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter race. Wearing  black socks to represent black poverty, both stood shoeless at the podium. Smith wore a black scarf to symbolize black pride, Carlos a beaded necklace – ” for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage.”. When the Star Spangled Banner played, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised clenched fists of iconic protest. The stadium erupted in boos, Olympic officials lost their shit, Smith and Carlos went home to death threats. The following week Time magazine wrote “Faster, higher, stronger is the motto of the Olympic games, angrier, nastier, uglier, better describes the scene in Mexico City last week”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute

Forty nine years later the “make America great again” man simpers like a dotard as professional athletes refuse to stand for the national anthem. As if the world demanded further proof America teeters on the brink of collapse, Trump pouts infantile Tweets like – “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” Make no mistake America, your president is an asshole. A unhinged megalomaniac hell bent on dictatorial obedience, a snake oil salesman so diabolical he feeds on manipulated adoration without a tinge of conscience.

Trump hasn’t the foggiest notion why professional athletes kneel during the national anthem. He doesn’t bother with issues of police brutality, can’t comprehend poverty, exclusion, racial profiling. In Trump’s America Negroes are uppity. Make no mistake, America’s puppet master knows how to pluck strings of his starry eyed fans. Throngs of slack jawed patriots blither unequivocal allegiance to Trump, incapable of grasping the fact nothing has changed in half a century.

Greatness can’t be declared, it’s earned when individuals lead by  example. Forty nine years ago Smith and Carlos attained a level of greatness Trump wouldn’t recognize if it slapped him in the face. Forty nine years later, the man elected on make great again hogwash has the audacity to Tweet “fire the son of a bitch” when African American athletes kneel in peaceful protest during the national anthem.Wake up America, you’ve had 49 years and failed miserably.

Olympic Power


 

Fresh off  closing ceremonies at Sochi, still smiling from the exhilaration of Canadian men and women’s hockey taking gold, I find myself pondering another Olympic moment.

The courage of Tommie Smith and John Carlos exemplifies the civil rights movement. I’m not going to explain why – take 5 minutes out of your life to watch a snapshot in time, a moment in history when  Olympics’ sacred line was crossed, when damn the consequences ruled over “tow the line”. Smith and Carlos managed to define injustice without uttering a word.

I often write of protest; specifically my dismay at society’s screwed up priorities – our spoon fed, cult of celebrity, gun toting, fundamentalist, reality television, someone else’s problem world. For those too young to understand the optimism, hope and determination of people who believed they could make a difference, I wish I could roll back time. When coffee shops and campuses burst under the weight of collective purpose rather than suffocating taps of MacBook keyboards in an otherwise silent Starbucks.

This ponder isn’t about “world peace”, I’m talking about our back yards and dark alleys. Poverty, education, injustice taking place in front of our eyes – corporate greed, “stand your ground” nonsense, environmental atrocities, civil rights violations – reduced to a Tweet or cooked into poppycock by Fox News wingnuts.

This Olympic moment reminds me of a time when purpose out weighed lucrative endorsements, a time when we believed change was a matter of determination, a time when seizing  Olympic glory for peaceful exclamation of injustice was not only thinkable, it was possible.