In the comments, Single Malt Monkey gave me a good opportunity to share more about what has me hot and bothered about the Olympics:
C’mon, Chris. You write better stuff than this. Brits don’t universally worship the Queen. She was there as top Royal and any country holding an opening ceremony with an in-situ monarchy would have done the same. The ceremony wasn’t about Empire either. And when did the USA stop exalting the Stars and Stripes ? …….and for good measure, Russell Brand is an idiot with a platform. Methinks you might have a been a bit huffy (pun intended). :)
I’ll admit to being huffy. :)
A few years after I graduated from college, the guest speaker at commencement at my alma mater was Queen Noor. One of my mentors (I majored in political philosophy) noted how ashamed he was to have a monarch speak at commencement. That really struck me.
I’m glad you commented, because I’ve been kicking this around for a few days. I know that not all Brits worship the Queen, but the image of the children signing “God Save The Queen” struck me in a negative way. I’ve never thought much about the political narratives inherent to the Olympics, but the London ceremonies opened that up for me.
You’re right: we’ve never stopped exalting the stars and stripes, the Union Flag, etc. What I’ve found myself thinking very seriously about over the past few days is this: whether we’re British, American, Chinese, South Sudanese…what, exactly, are we celebrating in London? What are we cheering? I try to imagine how I might feel if I lived in squalor and watched, from my shanty tent, these (or any) Olympic ceremonies. When 2/3 of the world’s population faces very real threats to survival every day, I wonder what we, as a global community, have to celebrate. I mean that sincerely, and I don’t just mean it about London or Beijing or Salt Lake City or wherever the games are hosted.
Then I wonder how all of this might look to God. I think about Bono’s statement 8 years ago about the AIDS crisis…that if the First World had the means to help the poorest nations in the world in the AIDS pandemic, but just refused to, that wouldn’t be acceptable to history or to God. So with themes like Jubilee on my mind, I wonder what God thinks about spending so much treasure on exalting each other when so much of the world is suffering in ways we can’t even begin to understand.
I also want to say this, which is really unrelated to the conversation. I’m a total Anglophile and love British culture, history, literature. I thought the Glastonbury Tor was great, I loved the children’s literature motifs. I loved the tour of British music. But I was really put off by the things that echoed the injustices of empire. For me, that includes any kind of monarchy (which I know is a given here), and my Irish, Welsh, and Scottish blood does, indeed, get huffy.
In general, I find myself wondering what the Olympics actually mean, and, in the case of staging games in places like China, is the IOC’s refusal to “be political” acceptable? Is it even possible to be non political in the global community or in private life?
As far as Brand goes, the quote is from an episode of Conan. I took him to not be speaking about the UK or the US specifically, but about our global situation. I agree with him. But maybe I’m inclined to.
I appreciate your comments! Blessings to you across the pond!