2016 promises to be quite a beautiful year. Beautiful, not because Vladimir Putin has decided that it is futile to try to fix Syria, or because Kim Jong-Un keeps thinking it is a wonderful idea to kill family, friends and enemies (I can understand the latter, the former two I struggle with). It promises to be beautiful, because courtesy of my TV, I shall visit Rio, for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad (yes, 31st), a.k.a. Rio 2016. I like the motto for the Olympics: “Citius, altius, fortius” – and if you don’t speak foreign, that is “faster, higher, stronger”. Sounds about right, given the other events that will precede the Olympics, in Cleveland, OH, on July 18-21st, which promises to be slower (much exciting), lower (as low as politics might get) and weak(ening) towards democracy. You see, the Greeks, much better men (and women), had the sense to respect the Olympics: they played them in the nude (yes, gymnos), suspended hostility for all participants even during wartime (I do think North Koreans and Iranians should be there) and told time in Olympiads. But, enough about the Greeks.
The Greeks would be mortified, and probably contemplate revoking safe passage during the Olympics, were they to witness how thoroughly their greatest gift to the world has been annihilated. The Greeks gave us one of the most enduring epics – the Iliad and the Odyssey. And the Hellenic Golden Age. And Corinthian, Doric and Ionic columns that decorate our most treasured buildings. And democracy. Direct democracy – unless, of course, you consider Switzerland, with its Presidential Council of 7 people, whose chairmanship rotates and whose chairman becomes the President – which is why no one outside Geneva knows his/her name. No, democracy at work, particularly before the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, and taking place in Cleveland OH, are much more exciting (sorry, LeBron James).
Wait, isn’t Cleveland where Tamir Rice was shot within about 12 seconds of the police responding to a “menacing black man waving a gun at a woman, screaming and yelling?” Ok, I conflated the actual event with a line from “The Fugitive”, but who is to know? Well, I would encourage the Cleveland police authorities to consider having those officers ready; there might be bloodshed. Not my words, apparently that is what CNN reported of one Donald John Trump, elsewhere described as “the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence in business, real estate and entertainment.” Alas! What could go wrong? The man is about to be crowned king of the world – seeing as the United States is the best country on earth, leader of all (all contrarian evidence notwithstanding).
So, there was once upon a time not too long ago, a few attempts along the scale of violence – from changing constitutions, to denying folks their rightful place to run and be the president and/or nominee of a party. No other place has violence in and around elections been more prescient as that long-time bastion of democracy in Kenya, Senegal, where attempts by one Abdoulaye Wade to hang onto an office (or nomination for office of the President) caused so much consternation and riots. Ivory Coast’s guy took Stalin’s words to heart (it doesn’t matter who votes, what matters is who counts the votes) and decided that he had won even though he had lost. Attempts at denying folks the chance to run as the nominee have in the past ended badly. Now, back to that Tamir Rice story – or not.
America is the bastion (or so-believed to be) of democracy. Never mind that North Korea pointed out that the US has probably the highest rate of police-induced civilian deaths. Or that the US has never really apologized and perhaps paid reparations for slavery. Or that it has a knack for invading the wrong countries and then losing the wars (could have learnt from the British). Or that it jails, per capita, for a developed country, the most people. Or that basic trust between neighbors is non-existent, and there is a genuine feeling of the need to own assault weapons, in order to fight neighbors, squirrels and its government if it turns tyrant – despite having B-52s, Minuteman missiles and other weapons of mass annihilation. Or that despite guaranteeing life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, healthcare is not guaranteed, and Canada is a communist/socialist (what’s-the-difference) country that is too cold and too nice.
Well, I cherish Cleveland, but I think I will cherish it from Rio. And maybe linger there, and have a Portuguese word with Dilma Rousseff, and explain to her that countries in which folks own assault weapons for the express purpose of hunting unarmed deer – and neighbors – assert the right to listen to their friends (against whom you would also quickly use a rifle/shotgun/assault weapon), so she should not take it personally. I might tour Brazil, for a little while, until I see how things go up north. And if John wins, and becomes the nominee, I might linger and watch out for November. If he doesn’t, since there has been predicted violence, I would still stay. But should he become the nominee, and goes on to win the November 2016 elections, then I would definitely want to learn Portuguese and samba. For the world shook its collective head in 2000. It was horrified in 2004, but sort of looked redeemed in 2008 and 2012. Now it’s about to do a collective dance of horror if John wins in 2016.
For me, the prospect of seeing a Kenya / Zimbabwe / Ivory Coast / Burundi / (insert the name of some place where elections / selections turned out badly) is more terrifying.