By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Recently, two African-American female Olympic athletes made the national news for two completely different reasons. Those reasons, as wildly disparate as they are, prove once again that America is the most wonderful place on earth. America is a place where dreams really come true and freedom rings more clearly than ever. It even rings for those who despise it.
Simone Biles is the most decorated gymnast ever with over 30 World/Olympic medals, and at 24 is defying everything about the sport. She has gotten better, if that’s possible, when most gymnasts retire. She is doing harder moves, and is a fierce encourager of her fellow teammates, irrespective of their color. She is considered a GOAT, which stands for Greatest Of All Time. Her story is that she was born to a woman compromised by drugs and was adopted by her grandparents. She competed on Dancing With The Stars. And who could forget her heartfelt dance to Matt Redman’s You’re A Good, Good Father when she ran into the arms of her grandfather, Ron as the song and dance routine concluded?
After the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Simone co-wrote an autobiography with Michelle Burford. It was entitled Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance. Biles said, “I want people to reach for their dreams and there are so many people who have inspired me with their love and encouragement along the way — and I want to pass on that inspiration to readers.” It became a New York Times best seller on the Young Adult list, and was also made into a movie.
By contrast, you have Gwen Berry, who just qualified for the 2021 Olympic team in a sport that I had never heard of, the hammer toss. Just because I haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter, but I don’t think that the same level of commitment or training is demanded as is the case with women’s gymnastics. And as far as functioning as a team member, I doubt that the other women on the podium, who had their hands over their hearts while the national anthem was playing felt that they were on the same page, er podium as was Gwen. You see, Gwen has such an objection to the American national anthem that the sound of it apparently seems like a personal auditory torture session. She said, “I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was p*ssed, to be honest. I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be all right. I see what’s up,” she said. Later she added, “….I really don’t want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem don’t speak for me. It never has.”
Okay, I am now officially confused. Gwen, are you saying that what you did was real disrespectful, or the fact that they did what is always done at the Olympics, i.e. play the national anthem of the winner(s) as they stand on the podium is “real disrespectful?” Either way, I’d like to give you the gift my dad gave me during my Idiot Era when I thought America was the most horrible place on earth. He said this to me: “I may not agree with you, but I will fight like h-e-*-* for your right to believe what you want to believe.” I just hope you one day fall in love with America, even with all of her problems. Maybe you’ll even choose to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. I am not without hope on that score…