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August 21, 2008

Spirit Of The Games


I’m kicking off my own “closing ceremony” by mourning my initial excitement about the Olympics.  Looking back, it’s amazing how much and how quickly the initial propaganda-fest and the jingoism and the mind-numbing commercialism shut me down.

I give credit to the NYT, however, for returning several times to the key symbol of hypocrisy in these games.  No, not Misty May’s behind, but the unused “official protest zones.”  The first story they ran was paired with the image above showing a kid with a bottle posing in front of and as The Statue of Liberty.

Consistent with our growing Disney-fied version of the world (in which even our own rampant self-destruction can be romanticized through that cloying WALL-E), you might see the inclusion of the World Trade Towers in this mini-NY as somehow matter-of-fact.  It doesn’t surprise me, given how conditioned we are these days to see (or “buy”) but not look, to chalk-up the reconstitution of the towers as simply part of a more idealized, nostalgic and (arbitrarily) historical New York.

As the Olympics ching-ching into the marketing sunset however, what I can’t help looking at is the irony of Lady Liberty as the blasphemous mother figure of a protest park nobody succeeded in using.  And what I’m looking at also is the irony of the Trade Towers,  destroyed as a symbol of overwhelming imperial and economic power, reconstituted under the guise of freedom of dissent by an even more imperial and economic power.

… And then, check out the disturbingly placid photo from Purple Bamboo Park, one of the other three protest zones.  I guess the man is protesting the fact the woman isn’t sharing the map?

(image: Shiho Fukada for The New York Times. 2008. Beijing)

  • black dog barking

    The presence of the World Trade Center towers takes us back to a very specific moment in history — when America was still America. In those bygone days there was still a middle class in America. America didn’t preemptively invade other nations, listen in on citizens’ phone calls or read their emails without due process of law. The Geneva Conventions were the law of the land. We had habeas corpus.
    As Americans we lost a lot more than those buildings, more than the lives of the people in them.

  • swarmofkillermonkeys

    Lest we get too accusatory, please don’t forget that the idea of “protest pens” as walled off jails has been perfected by both major political parties in the U.S. over the last couple of electoral conventions. In NYC 2004 they still decided to arrest 1800 just for good measure. Lady Liberty stands just as blasphemous there these days, IMO.
    I think if we want to effectively criticize China, we must first stop moving towards an identical authoritarian state in the U.S. In this light, perhaps the towers show a pre-911 America intentionally. A fantasy of what we were, before we progressed from wherever that was to become far uglier — far meaner.
    In any case, there is no value for others in our own navel-gazing self-pity at this point. Those moments of sympathy happened, then fled at Abu Ghraib… or possibly before. Selling the idea of America doesn’t work when that idea is ONLY cynicism and hypocrisy. We aren’t China, and they aren’t us. But in terms of vectors, perhaps they ARE making a better showing lately.
    Were I to remember us from afar, I would as we were and wanted to be, not as we are. Wouldn’t you?

  • Stan B.

    Wow, two things that don’t exist in either country- freedom and the World Trade Center!

  • MonsieurGonzo

    The Incredible Shrinking American. . . is contaminated by a radioactive cloud and pesticide, and he slowly begins shrinking. When he’s three feet tall, he briefly becomes friends with a female circus midget but then continues to shrink, eventually being reduced to living in a dollhouse. After nearly being killed by a cat, he winds up trapped in a basement and has to battle a voracious spider, his own hunger, and the fear that he may eventually shrink down to nothing. After defeating the spider, the hero accepts his fate and (now so small he can escape the basement by walking through a space in a window screen) looks forward to seeing what awaits him in ever smaller realms.

    “And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I still exist.”

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