article first appeared in the July-August
1984 issue of The
in hell is happening in America? This has been an Endless Summer,
an odious, repellent, horrifying orgy of Patriotic Shlock. In
all my years I have never seen so many blankety-blank American
flags being waved, mindlessly, over and over again.
started on that rotten last night of the Democratic convention,
when the massed delegates were all waving, instead of the usual
banners for their nominees, American flags, duly issued to them
by the smooth Mondale machine. The culmination was the acceptance
speech of Geraldine Ferraro, in which La Ferraro droned on about
her immigrant mother, immigrant daughters, and God knows what
else, all to the tune of American flags being waved, and, yes,
masses of delegates sobbing and hugging each other.
put it all down to one night's aberration, little realizing what
an orgy of mass sobbing and flag-waving we were all in for. The
next step, of course, was the infernal Olympics, in which patriotic
shlock reached a new all-time low. Again, what in hell is going
was nothing at all like this in the last Olympics held in the
U. S. the winter Olympics of 1976. There was no sobbing,
no flag-waving, in fact there was a healthy realism by the media
focusing on the transportation foul-ups at Lake Placid. But here,
in L.A., in the home of Hollywood shlock, all of a sudden everyone
went nuts, the audience, the media, even the athletes. The pattern
began with the Opening Ceremonies, a vast exercise in tedium,
when the flag-waving, the sobbing, and all the rest began, and
never let up. Come on: 84 pianists in blue tuxes, simultaneously
faking the playing of Rhapsody in Blue!
it wasn't only ABC that went bonkers; the press was almost as
bad, San Francisco's famous voice of the Peepul, Truman Democrat
Herb Caen, writing two lengthy columns on the wonders of the Opening
Ceremonies, how it "made everyone proud to be an American again,"
"proud to wave flags again," etc. Yecchh! Also characteristically
weighing in to do his muddled bit was philosopher Tibor Machan
in Reason magazine, taking off on a few facts, all of them wrong,
about the Olympics.
was disgustingly chauvinist, much more than in past Olympics.
Cameras pointed shamelessly to Americans to the exclusion of virtually
anyone else; commentary was American-hype to the nth degree; behind
every American athlete pictured was a huge American flag waving
in the nonexistent breeze. ABC got so bad that Olympic
authorities began to complain.
it wasn't just ABC or the press. It was the American masses, the
audience themselves, that succumbed to the most unsportsmanlike
behavior. The mob, bellowing "USA," "USA," the cheers for every
U.S. point, the booing when a U. S. gymnast got less than a perfect
10. Probably the low point of the entire Games was when Carl Lewis,
upon winning the 100 meters typically, about 20 meters
ahead of everyone else grabbed a huge American flag, and
virtually wrapping himself in the thing, ran around the Stadium.
It was the apex of a truly obscene spectacle.
what ever happened to the old propaganda of the U. S. media that
the Olympic Games are not a team, but an individual, sport, so
that one shouldn't even count the medals gained by the various
countries? That old hype apparently applied only when the Soviet
Union and East Germany used to walk off with most of the medals.
But now that the East European bloc was safely out of the way,
Oh the crowing and oh the gloating about all the medals "we" of
the U. S. were racking up!
fantastic, so we beat up on the British Antilles, and all the
other one-horse countries that the U. S. paid to show up. As usual,
the American mob was ungallant from start to finish, as in the
invasion of tiny Grenada, gloating about the huge U.S. stomping
on minuscule opposition!
old friend of mine, a U. S. patriot from many years of being obliged
to live in a hated foreign land, upon watching the opening ceremonies,
lamented, "It made me ashamed to be an American!"
tell you: Watching the Olympics made me nostalgic for the good
old days of the New Left, and the ranting about "Amerika" or even
"Amerikkka." One more day of this horror, one more binge of patriotic
sobbing and flag-waving, and I will be ready for the Jeff Hummell
Deviation (i.e. opposition to all nationalism, even national liberation
against imperial States.)
for the first time in decades I look with favor on old Herbert
Hoover, President when the last Summer Olympics were held in the
U.S. (Los Angeles in 1932), who didn't bother officiating at the
opening ceremonies because "they weren't important." At this point,
I am almost ready to forgive Hoover his origination of the New