Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Watch any Olympic event these days, then check out the nightly news or newspaper.

You can’t help but conclude we’re living in the best and worst of times, to borrow from Dickens.

The worst first, so we can end in the light.

Consider all the ruined legacies and reputations of heretofore respected, even beloved media personalities. They now live in virtual exile, with no light at the end of their tunnels. We shouldn’t forget the wounded families and victims of their predatory behavior, who far outnumber them. Misery abounds.

Then there’s ongoing corruption and dishonesty, even around here. Locally, an Evansdale pharmacist has been arrested for defrauding taxpayers with false Medicaid billing. And the Iowa Communications Network director who appropriated $380,000 of Iowa taxpayers’ for how own use in his Christian ministry. No one reported it until an auditor caught him.

Both men face possible criminal penalties, and their families and friends must feel betrayed by their precipitous fall from grace. Comeuppances create disruptions all around.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we’re watching how a national political party takes a swamp and degrades it into a sewage lagoon. Lying as a way of life. Backstabbing incompetents of all stripes on the public payroll, roiling up endless scandals that leave us shaking our heads.

It’s impossible to exaggerate how awful they are, so much so two writers in the March Atlantic magazine recently urged readers to vote against the GOP under all circumstances, writing “the party is now a threat to the constitutional order. Even conservatives must vote against Republicans at every opportunity.”

Yes, the worst of times. Thank heavens that’s not all the news.

I’m pleasantly gobsmacked by winter Olympic athletes in South Korea and their ongoing search for athletic perfection. Their sheer exuberance, their positive energy, their joy in performing at the furthest reaches of their sport shows humanity in its best of times.

For me, there’s deep visual pleasure watching how well humans can perform when they practice to perfection. Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel in figure skating — which no female American figure skater has nailed until she did it Feb. 10 — induced gasps worldwide. She literally leapt for joy at the end of her routine, and I leapt right along with her, at least mentally.

Chloe Kim, an exuberant 17-year old American girl from a Korean immigrant family, scored nearly 10 points higher than her nearest competitor to win snowboarding gold. Born and raised in California, she credits family and friends as much as herself, and seems to love everything about Olympic competition.

Beyond feats of athleticism, the athletes’ team spirit shows they know they’re all it in together. Humanity should be so lucky.

There’s a chance, however slight, that Olympians’ sense of “team” will warm up the frigid relations between North and South Koreans. If that happens, PyeonChang 2018 will be the best of games.

For these blessed two weeks we can partly ignore the worst of times.

Scott Cawelti is an emeritus professor at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.


Load comments