Bob Franken




I will admit I didn’t watch much Olympics coverage; I never do. I’m put off by how the event has turned into bad-taste corporate kitsch in the best of times, and this was definitely not the best of times. First of all, it was delayed a year because the planet was ravaged by the pandemic, which lingers so oppressively that the athletes who didn’t come down with COVID, who have devoted their lives to reaching the pinnacle of individual accomplishment; competed before empty stadiums and fields of competition. The “best” story was that gymnast Simone Biles disappointed by being human and facing her vulnerabilities.
The games were hardly the “Worlds We Share” (the theme of the closing ceremony) bombast that marked the organization’s irony, unless we include the coronavirus. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said it best: “For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together.”
But by saying it best, he said it worst when it comes to taste.
Speaking of taste, it’s a good thing the Obamas give no indication that they read my drivel. They’d be offended by the way I reacted to the celebration of former President Barack Obama’s 60th birthday. First of all, in the face of the world’s problems, they clearly were a bit sheepish about all the glitz at the fam’s Martha’s Vineyard mansion. They had strict rules for guests: no pictures and no interviews — a news blackout.

Funny how news blackouts don’t work. They leak like a sieve, including a report that a policeman who was managing the chauffeur-driven cars (aka, rolling egos) called it a “s—tshow.”
Secondly, your 60th birthday is not something worth celebrating. In Obama’s case, it probably means that his dream of being an NBA player is fading. Certainly he did accomplish something: He was president of the United States for two terms, which is better than his successor, but no basketball.
Better, perhaps, than a self-indulgent party to mark his 60th birthday, Barack Obama could have visited some of the sites of such peril for his fellow human beings. We live in a glass-half-empty world, and he could have provided a morale boost for those suffering the effects of the planet burning up — the floods, and the forest and brush fires that consume entire towns — or for those struck down by Covid because of the new delta variant organism.
But worse than that are the human organisms, the demagogic politicians who have left us defenseless against ignorance by those whose jingoism can be so easily manipulated.
Or Obama could, as he used to when he called the White House home, visit the sites of mass slaughter by deranged individuals who wield their guns with devastating effect. During his administration and in the succeeding years, the politicians have continued useless in taking away or at least reducing the number of these killing machines.
We’ll see if they’re useless at doing much else. Congress is currently engaged in trying to bring the various squabbling factions together in an effort to pass what’s left of an infrastructure bill that would repair a disintegrating United States and also once again increase the vital debt ceiling legislation to allow the borrowed money to pay for it.
The Republicans were not about to sign on to a bipartisan committee with true power to investigate the outrageous invasion of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6. Any pursuit of the truth would lead directly to Donald Trump. Trump’s refusal to accept the fact that he was beaten by Joe Biden has led to excusing the insurrection, adopted as the GOP’s official line, and means the constitutional processes have been dismissed by them as platitudes.
In fact, the institutions — whether they be the Olympics, or Republican belief in our system of government, or a potent symbol of the Democratic concern for the little man or woman — seem to be little more than idle slogans.
© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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