STRIVING TO AN IDEAL OF A HIGHER LIFE

The father of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, defined Olympism to include “adhering to an ideal of a higher life, to strive for perfection.”  An honorable goal, but in today’s commercial world the “higher life” ideal seems more quaint and less important.  For quite some time the credo of the NFL Oakland Raider founder Al Davis, “Just win, baby”, has moved to the top step of the podium.  Yet in the last few days we have seen two young perfection strivers embody de Coubertin’s Olympism ideal quite movingly.

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First, Jamaica’s supreme sprint perfectionist Usain Bolt halted a post-race TV interview following the defense of his 100-meter title to acknowledge the U.S. national anthem being played for Sanya Richards-Ross’s 400-meter gold medal presentation across the stadium.  It would have been fully understandable for the foremost Olympian in London to continue his interview. After all, it wasn’t his national anthem.  But in a totally natural expression of respect, Bolt halted the TV presenter in mid-question to turn in silence and in doing so ascended to a higher station than even his unparalleled athleticism had taken him.

Next came Grenada’s 19 year-old 400-meter star Karani James, elevating both himself and his double-amputee competitor Oscar Pistorius of South Africa by exchanging Olympic bibs after Pistorius was eliminated in their semi-final race.  Like Bolt, the young James – who went on to win the gold the next day – saw past the glitter of gold, and instead embraced a model of courage and dedication that he, too, strove to achieve.

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Now compare Bolt and James with Obama and Romney.  Amidst their less than honorable competition for the oval office, the two cynical pols and their handlers continue to spray the airwaves with negative ads, demonize their opponent, cherry pick quotes and mislead an increasingly frustrated electorate who are simultaneously less equal in education and opportunity, and more culturally polarized as the melting pot has morphed into a salad bar of cultural bins.

As we contemplate the dislocation and enmity that led to the hateful shootings at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin this past weekend, we should ask our leaders whether they see their own lack of adhering to a “higher life” standard as being, even in some small way, complicit in the coarsening which contributes to such tragedies.

The Olympic mission, we are told, is “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sports practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirt of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Maybe we need a Presidential election mission, but one more along the Baron’s line than the Boss’s.

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THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

    As the Arizona and Michigan presidential primaries arrive, the final four Republican candidates continue their slash-and-burn tactics as they vie to take on President Obama in the fall. With former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum rising as the dominant conservative alternative to ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, there is a growing angst within the corridors of Republican power that the current crop of candidates may be sealing the eventual nominee’s fate by the negative onslaught they have waged against one another in the endless debates process. As such, the hope for a white knight to come riding to the rescue before the political landscape resembles Mad Max territory has surfaced more fervently than ever.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has categorically declared that he has no intention of offering his services if the convention in Tampa becomes either brokered or disputed. He’s not even sure he’d be considered a Republican anymore, so far has the party drifted to the right.  And ex-Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential contender Mike Huckabee recently lamented to Israeli TV that the toxic atmosphere of this year’s nomination process has soured any desire he might have had to consider stepping into the white knight’s role, as well.

The one name, however, that looms largest in Repub circles as the party’s potential savior is New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was the selection of 32% of the party faithful in a recent Quinnipiac poll asking who would be the best alternative to the current lineup of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or Paul in a brokered convention. `08 Veep candidate Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, tied for second choice at 20% with Jeb Bush.

But despite Governor Christie’s evident charisma and charm – and likability across party lines – what is equaly evident is his sheer bulk. The elephant in the room is the elephant that Christie has allowed himself to become. At what must be 300 pounds-plus, Governor Christie is morbidly obese. And since the USA is already seen on the world stage as an indulgent, overly consumptive nation, how exactly would a Christie nomination – whether for the top spot or as a possible Romney VP choice – look? After all, what is the job of the vice-president except to be ready in case the president is incapacitated? His number one job is to be ready and fit for office. Mr. Christie isn’t fit enough to walk up the stairs to the east portico. Continue reading