Idealism cannot be limited to Olympic season

Idealism cannot be limited to Olympic season

My first memory of the Olympics was in 2008 when the world converged on Beijing for a peaceful, month-long celebration of friendly competition and diplomacy. I was in elementary school, and we spent the weeks before break learning about the cultures, feats of architecture and the athletes that would grace the world stage that summer. 

The opening ceremonies fascinated me above all else. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I realized how beautifully symbolic they are. The Olympics are a celebration of the world we want to achieve, and we must not limit our fantasizing about peaceful global relations to every two years. We must push for more progressive international relations.

The world as we know it is no stranger to international crisis. Over the past 10 years, we have raised our voices with hard and fast opinions on immigration, nuclear nonproliferation, the European Union and its members, warfare in Syria and the Ukraine and of course, the ever-spreading fear of terrorism and its consequences. 

It is incredibly easy to become discouraged, depressed even. If the world has been this way for so long, what is the point in trying to change it?

Global systems of leadership have ways of fostering animosity between its constituents. Racism, bigotry and xenophobia are all products of ignorance and misunderstanding. We were all members of the human race before we were citizens the United States, Russia, Mexico or Korea. Our foremost duty is to the brotherhood of man.

Yes, there are truly despicable and corrupt goings-on in executive offices all around the world. We must not allow those deeds to muddle our opinions of the wider populations of these countries. The Olympic games serve as a biannual olive branch, if only for a few weeks. 

We celebrate each other in one of the longest-standing sports competitions in human history. The message from within the games is clear: as human beings, we will stand by one another to celebrate and respect each other’s rich history. When every national team marches into the arena as one during the closing ceremonies, it nearly moves me to tears.

At times, idealism seems foolish. As long as we have the necessary power structures of modern society, corruption has a way in. Evil will never be totally absent. A perfect world will never exist, but we will not improve the world we have by allowing ourselves to become jaded and cynical. The opening ceremonies and the games themselves showcase art, sport, fashion, tradition and music. These are the facets of existence that unite us.

So much of world tradition is a blend of influences from nearby neighbors and divine inspiration. Different cultures have unique birthday celebrations, wedding ceremonies, funeral services and festivals celebrating everything from light and springtime to death and ancestry. Our common thread is that there is nothing we love more than a gathering of friends and family to champion our highs and learn from our lows. We are all made of and motivated by the same goals and emotions. We cannot confine that revelation to Olympic season.

In the United States and other democratic countries, it is our duty to ensure that we elect officials who represent us productively. If we truly want to carry the spirit of the games into our daily lives, we will be active members of our respective societies. We will speak out where we can and give platforms and voices to those who are silenced. We will educate ourselves and vote in every election possible. We will advocate for social justice at home and abroad. Most importantly, we will listen to the oppressed and rise to the challenge with them, not for them, seeking, above all, to understand.

The Olympics is often a much-needed respite from crisis. This Olympic season, allow the stories of athletes to inspire active patriotism. Love your country by lending a hand to those in need, and do what you can to participate in government. Remember your brothers and sisters abroad. Remember that a line on a map is the only degree of separation that is holding you back from uniting with people that are not so different from you. Make the closing march both your inspiration and call to action. When we cross borders and stand united, we will surge towards a better tomorrow.

Emma Royal is a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering. Her column runs biweekly.

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