“Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” is commonly regarded as the motto of the ancient Olympic games. This phrase, though a simple three words, speaks volumes to the virtue, purpose, and endearing qualities most people associate with the Olympics. Every two years, the world seems to pause the commotion and enter into a state of pure virtue for the sake of the nation they hail from. Everyone comes together in the spirit of the Olympics.
If your heart doesn’t swell with patriotism while hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and watching our world-class American competitors stand atop the Olympic modem, I’d have to question whether your American heart is even beating. Watching the opening ceremonies, I imagine families anxiously gathered, waiting for the end of the alphabet where, right after the United Arab Emirates, they get to cheer on their American athletes. When I think about this swelling of pride and patriotism, I can’t help but recognize the contradiction between this sentiment and the general attitude of our society.
During the Olympic games we esteem competition, while much of American culture tries to diminish competition for the sake of equality, fairness, and a healthy self-esteem. The Olympic games honor individuals for hard work paired with talent, while our country listens to the words of a president that tells small businesses that “they didn’t earn it.” The disparity here is overwhelming.
It is interesting to recognize, however, that while our society sinks to depravity and pushes away much of the values based foundation, we still harbor sentimental feelings toward the spirit of the Olympics. Even the most anti-competition liberals still gather around the TV wearing their Team USA apparel. Citizens who have scorned our nation for the past four years can be seen dusting off their American flags and displaying support for our teams.
The truth is, deep down most people find an important spirit in those Olympic rings. Hearing the official Olympic theme song brings us back to a place that perhaps we wish we’d never left. Whether it’s politically correct to say or not, the Olympics offers our society an irresistible taste of something we have long conditioned ourselves not to expect. The sort of values we’ve told ourselves aren’t really that important after all are the core of everything that we love about the Olympic Games. This shows us something very interesting about the culture we live in.
We watch our words and lace everything we say in politically-engineered sentences so that not only is no one offended, but nothing of distinction is ever said. We structure our society to discourage competition and avoid promotion of hard work. However, as we see in the Olympics, hard work will continue to be what separates those who rise to success. No legislation can change what brings honor on an individual or finds respect in our hearts. America, let us watch these Olympic games and as we cheer on our athletes may we remember what it is we still hold dear.
Courtney Haass | University of Texas at San Antonio | @CourtneyHaass