The XIX Olympic Winter Games have come and gone without a terrorist incident. Therefore, in the wake of 9/11, one would have to concede that the Olympics were a success. More importantly, Salt Lake gave the world a peaceful alternative to war. Athletes from seventy-eight countries came together to compete on the ice and snow of America rather than in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan.
As with recent Olympics, the world is split into various camps, which distrust and even hate those in opposing camps. We, as Americans, are the object of much of this hatred. Extreme Muslim fundamentalists see us as anti-Muslim. They believe that the Christian West is trying to subjugate Muslims worldwide. Huge segments of the Muslim world truly believe and act upon the assumption that the only good American is a dead American. It is difficult for us to comprehend the level of rabid hatred.
Most Americans know that we aren't perfect, but we are not out to get Muslims. We have no interest in ethnic cleansing of anyone. In fact, the United States protected Muslims from the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia. When Milosevic attempted to carry out ethnic cleansing of Muslims, America and her European allies sent troops to protect Muslims. Even as you read this article, Milosevic is on trial for war crimes including the killing of Muslims.
In addition, the Salt Lake Olympics provided America another opportunity to allow the world, including those that despise us so much, to see how truly unique this nation is. There is no other nation that is more diverse than America. When the Germans, the Fins, or Austrians complete and win, the viewer has a good idea of what the athletes will look like. When the Jamaican bobsled team emerges from their sled, there was no surprise there either. Contestants from China also tend to look like each other.
However, one can't be sure when an American awaits a medal what that person will look like. Ethnic or racial stereotypes don't work when it comes to Americans. For example, Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers won the gold medal in the women's bobsled. One was white and the other was black. The bronze medalist in women's figure skating, Michelle Kwan's family was from China. In speed skating, a Japanese-American, Apolo Anton Ohno, won gold. Derek Parra is a Hispanic medalist in speed skating. The American diversity factor was most apparent in the figure skating pairs. Naomi Lang, a Native American, skated with Peter Tchernyshev, a Russian immigrant to the States. Only in America will you see such a range of race and ethnicity.
While all Americans were at one time immigrants, it is interesting to look at the birth place of many of the American athletics because a number of them are first or second generation Americans. It puts to death the notion that Americans all look alike. Our Olympic team and the country is an ethnic, racial, and religious smorgasbord. In addition to the athletics already mentioned, there were others from countries like Cuba, Poland, and the list goes on. What must the world think while watching these images on television?
There are many benefits from this diversity even though it has taken us some time and trouble to make adjustments within our society. We still have a long ways to go before we reach perfection, but clearly, we are on our way. Nonetheless, this is the most diverse and unique nation on Earth, and we do so in relative harmony.
America is taking a bad rap from the Taliban, al-Qaida, and other Muslim extremists. Talk about ethnic cleansing, religious intolerance, and sexism. Imagine having a differing view of things or being a women living under their control. These rightwing religious groups need a reality check and need to rethink their anti-American rhetoric. They make Milosevic look like the Serbian poster child for tolerance and understanding.
The Muslim extremists want to create strength and unity in their sphere of influence in the world. Instead of scaring, stoning, or killing those that aren't like them, they might want to take another look at their version of the evil empire, America. The Great Seal of America proclaims, E Pluribus Unum (from many, one). If they did, they might learn something about true strength. America looked pretty good on television during the Olympics. But alas, most of our detractors don't have TV sets in their caves or homes.