Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Olympics Are Over - Here's How We Know...

I suppose I should have gotten to this sooner.  If I had, though, the "rest of the story," would not have presented itself.  I would have been stuck writing purely about The Games of the XXX Olympiad.  That, as we all know, would have been exceedingly boring, right?  Yes, I jest.  For it was in these games that we saw history made or rewritten repeatedly.  The most obvious example was Baltimore's own, Michael Phelps.  After assuring the entire world this was his last Olympics, we watched him become the most decorated Olympian in history.  Yes, he chose a sport that allowed him to be in a position to do so, however let's not forget - he had to perform to win the medals.  The final tally, as we've all been told, is 22 total medals.  Of those, there are 18 Gold.  Let's not forget the games in 2008, either, when Phelps challenged Mark Spitz's record of 7 Gold medals in a single Olympiad...and came home with 8.  He twice became the only man to win a Gold medal in the same event at three separate Games.  The list goes on...yet we've (supposedly) seen him for the last time swimming competitively.  There are many that hope, myself included, that he might consider Rio in 2016, yet another part of me wants him to ride off into the sunset so he can retire on top.  I liked his attitude, too, when told there would be many that would hate to see this particular retirement - "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."  Perfect.

We also got to watch the "Fab Five," in action.  Five young women dressed in leotards, their hair pulled back, looking ready to take on the world.  They were only teenagers, though they carried themselves with grace, dignity and confidence while exemplifying 'sportsmanship' to their competitors. Honestly, did our collective hearts not break for Jordyn Weiber?  She qualified 4th overall for the Individual competition, yet could not compete because only two athletes were allowed form each country.  Silly rule - change it.  We want to see the 24 best athletes perform.  We watched McKayla Maroney absolutely NAIL her vault for the team.  It should have been a perfect score...yet, we watched as she went for her individual medal and, though she is the undisputed 'best in the world' on the vault, she landed on....well, she sat down.  We gasped.  Still, we watched Gabby Douglas win a Gold in the All-Around, while Aly Raisman won for the floor exercise.  We were diggin' it.

There were other stories, lesser-known and told, that grabbed our attention, too.  One in particular that was aired on the Nightly News focused on one of our female weightlifters.  This young woman has always been big.  She had been teased and people made fun of her.  She also lived on $400/month while training and, at times, had to live in her car.  Why would anyone do that?  Why would they sacrifice so much?  Because, as she pointed out, she can call herself, "An Olympian."  It's a small, select group...and she is one of the few.  I respect that.  She wanted to represent her country...our country...on the world's biggest stage.  Impressive.

The most impressive story of these Games, however (I don't even need to say it, do I?) was a South African athlete...with no lower legs.  Oscar Pistorius.  Tell me again how bad your day has been.  Tell me the problems you have in life.  Tell me, again, how difficult things are and how hard it is to get motivated.  To watch him run was amazing, yet to hear the stories of his youth even more so.  His mother's words echoing, always, in his mind - "Disabled doesn't have to mean disadvantaged."  Powerful?  Absolutely.  I really enjoyed her brand of motivation when she told his brother, "Put on your shoes.  Oscar, put on your legs.  That's the last I want to hear of it today."  The most amazing part of this man, though, is illustrated in the picture.  He has become a symbol of hope for many small children and, more than many adults using empty words, is teaching them that there are no limits to what they can do.  It was, in short, an amazing Olympiad and all of England should be proud.  The world thanks you.

Then, however (and the rest of the story), we get an illustration of how that perfect harmony created every two years is only an illusion in the 'real' world.  It was a story written today regarding discrimination and harassment.  28-year old Imane Boudlal, a naturalized US citizen from Morocco, has filed suit against the Walt Disney Company.  In the suit, she is charging harassment and religious discrimination based on her Muslim religion and ethnic origins in North Africa.  She began working as a hostess at Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Resort in 2008.  She claims, too, that she was harassed by fellow workers and that Disney refused to accommodate her request to wear a traditional Muslim headscarf, a hijab, at work.  Ultimately, this caused her to leave Disney in 2010.  No, I do not have the dates wrong.  She left in 2010 and she is NOW filing suit.  Why it took two years to file this suit is beyond me...though I can imagine it might have something to do with the ACLU and an ambulance-chasing lawyer catching the story.  Okay, this is where I feel my constant disclaimer must be placed: I have nothing against practicing Muslims or, for that matter, anyone of ANY specific religion, race, creed, or color.  I just think that's a long time...don't you?  So...Boudlal claims the harassment began, "as soon as I started working there.  It only got worse when I decided to wear a hijab.  My journey towards wearing it couldn't have been more American; it began at my naturalization ceremony. I realized that I had the freedom to be who I want and freely practice my religion."

Wait.....let's revisit that for a moment.  If I read that correctly, she did NOT always wear a hijab.  She decided to do so at her naturalization ceremony.  She had been working without the hijab, then decided at a later time it was appropriate.  Disney, for their part, sought a compromise.  They offered her (with 4 separate choices) headwear that would both compliment her uniform, as well as allow her to accomplish her goal of covering her head in observance of her religion.  In addition, if she absolutely HAD to wear the hijab (something that she apparently did NOT), they offered her other positions that would be in an area in the back of the restaurant.  My point being - they tried to accommodate Boudlal and her religion.  They specifically made head coverings for her that she rejected. Why, if wearing the hijab initially wasn't an issue, would she reject their attempts at compromise?  I think we know why...and is an issue that is bothering many of us.  To all that want to practice their religions here, we are fine with that.  For those that beg our tolerance, we hear you.  For those that want us to accommodate your wishes, I have a few questions.  Why did you come here when you could have stayed in your homeland and worn this whenever you wished?  Why is it we always have to, "Press 1 for English."?  This is America and we are proud of the fact that we are a 'melting pot' of so many different societies, however we are Americans.  Period.  I wonder, as I have often in the past, what kind of tolerance we would receive if we were to go to your former countries and brought legal action against someone being intolerant of our religious beliefs or customs.  Yes, that's rhetorical.  We all know the answer...which is, quite honestly, why you are here.  Disney is an American company.  They have rules for their employees and should not be forced to bend to threats or legal actions.  The rule applies to all AND they offered a compromise.  Seriously, though...was it a compromise you wanted...or an opportunity to sue Disney and, like the new American Dream, rake in unearned millions?  When our ancestors came to Ellis Island, they came with a few dollars in their pockets.  The only real thing they had was hope and all they asked was an opportunity.  They did not come demanding we would do something for them.  They, rather, wanted to make something and help build this great nation.  Word of advice - you might want to try that...and see if the tolerance increases.  My bet is it will.  I'll stand beside you and help build 'our' country again...........

Until next time...................

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