Second, like so many other millions of people in America, I have been watching the London Olympics this past weekend. Who can fail to be impressed with the great efforts, talents and heroism of each and every member of Team USA, and the heart warming stories of overcoming obstacles, determination and courage under great pressure shown by our stellar young people? Along with every other American, I wish them victory after victory, and great success in every competition in this year's games.
But the Olympic games are not primarily about winning sports medals. For some 2,500 years, they have epitomized the values of promoting friendship among different peoples, societies and nations. In that competition, America has yet to win any victories.
The relentless cheer leading, the shamelessly biased TV coverage of the NBC announcers (no different from that of every other network which has covered the Olympics in this century, so far as I have observed), run so counter to the real spirit of the Olympics, that they are a disservice to the American athletes who are fighting so hard to show the world the best in the American character.
The Olympics originally began as a religious festival, whose purpose was to praise the gods. They produced some of ancient Greece's greatest poetry, the Victory Odes of Pindar (born late 6th century BC). Here is an example, from Ode 2 (translated by Richmond Lattimore).
"My songs, lords of the lyre,
Which of the gods, what hero, what mortal shall we celebrate?
Zeus has Pisa; but Herakles founded the Olympiad
out of spoils of his warfare;
But Theron, for his victory with chariot - four, is the man
we must sing now, him of the kind regard to strangers,"
"But, O Kronios, Rhea's son, guarding Olympos' throne
and the games' glory and the Alpheus crossing,
in mild mood for the song's sake
kind keep for them always the land of their fathers
the rest of their generation. Of things come to pass
in justice or unjust, not Time the father
of all can make the end unaccomplished.
But forgetfulness may come still with happiness.
Grief, breaking out of quiet, dies at last, quenched,
under the waxing weight of fair things,
with God's destiny dropping
wealth deep from above."
How the Olympic spirit has changed in the 2,500 years from Pindar's time! Our superlative young people must be more than a little embarrassed by TV announcers who seem to regard this great international event as nothing more than a medal factory for American athletes; who constantly snipe at the judges for "underscoring" the American athletes and "failing" to notice all the deductions which should allegedly be made from the scores of foreign competitors, especially those from Russia and China; and who enjoy constantly harping on how "unprepared" the athletes from those two countries (among others) supposedly are, or how badly they purportedly performed in other events.
This is not a sports site and I am not a sports analyst. But I mention the Olympics because so many of our government officials and politicians show the same kind of chauvinism and arrogance toward America's immigrants. Instead of recognizing how much we owe the people who come to our country to contribute their efforts, determination, hard work and, more than ever before, education and skills, to make our great nation of immigrants an even greater country than before, we treat them as an inferior group of human beings whom we barely tolerate at best and are eager to expel at worst.
This is not the attitude that made America great. America needs to win some medals for tolerance and friendship toward immigrants. In that competition, we are running far behind. It is time to recapture the spirit of Pindar's poem, not only in the Olympic games, but, above all, in our immigration policy.
"we must sing now, him of the kind regard to strangers"
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.