Every four years, the Summer Olympics coincide with our presidential elections.
And every four years Americans puff out their chests a little bit more for the U-S-A. The only “parties” involved are the ones in bars and homes celebrating American gold. Unity is currently in vogue.
But once the Olympic venues are vacated in Rio on Sunday and the closing ceremonies punctuate the weeks of competition, another competition is already in full swing: the race for president.
And in 2016, it’s clear America has changed. So much for that Olympic unity.
There’s a struggle in our country right now over what America used to be like and what America is. It’s one of the reasons Donald Trump is the Republican nominee.
There is a group of people who think America has lost its mind, lost its way and lost its good name in the world. These are folks who don’t think a baker should have to bake a cake for a gay wedding if he doesn’t want to. Folks who think Obama is a socialist or worse. That the president has turned easy calls on terrorism into Harvard law school debates. And who think that when a police officer stops you for a traffic violation that you do as he says and everything will be alright, won’t it?
And there is a group of Americans where Billy does have two daddies. Those daddies work, pay their taxes, fly the flag. They, very recently, stepped into a world where they’re legally allowed to marry each other. They don’t have to hide any longer. And they do think the baker should have to bake a cake for their weddings.
They are part of a group of Americans who think Obama has been an outstanding president, worthy of admiration and praise. A president they believe thinks before he speaks or acts. And they panic when they see flashing police lights behind them because of what they see on television and what they hear from friends that everything might not turn out alright.
There are entire blocks of neighborhoods of African-American, Latino, gay people who live with and near each other who don’t know a soul who will vote for Donald Trump.
And there are entire blocks of neighborhoods of largely rural, white voters who work with those same people, but they and their next door neighbors are all in agreement Hillary should be put in prison, not the White House.
We have gone to our own echo chambers. We work, worship, play and live with people who largely agree with us. They laughed when they shouted “Lock ‘er up!” at the Republican National Convention. Didn’t everyone? Or they clapped in agreement when a Muslim father chastised Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention. You didn’t?
This presidential election won’t solve anything. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the most polarizing figures who have run for president in our lifetimes. Their matchup is a symbol of what’s happening in America.
Simply put, we chose presidential candidates we knew very well would royally tick off the other side.
Right now, there are two Americas. Two very different visions
Yet, at the Rio Olympics, the American swimming great Michael Phelps, with his broad shoulders and broader smile, won one last gold before he said he has retired from the sport.
Phelps stood on a podium with his three teammates, his eyes watered as he looked at the flag and listened to our national anthem.
We all swelled with pride.
Phelps swam for one America. Phelps swam for one ideal. And a country which is the envy of the world.
So, what’s happened to that America?