Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition Monday because of the need to protect her mental health. I say, good for her, and possibly long overdue.
Perhaps you recall the story from back in May, when Biles successfully competed a Yurchenko double-pike on vault. The gymnastics gods actually lowered the difficulty score on this, effectively penalizing Biles for doing something that no other gymnast can. And this was not the first time — they had previously done the same thing on a double-twist-double-back dismount from balance beam. Another move that only she can do.
Their stated logic is that what she does is so far beyond the capability of other gymnasts they want to remove the incentive for other gymnasts to try it. “Safety considerations.” Does this remind anyone of “for your security”? The hallmark of petty authoritarians with an agenda, and willing to lie about it?
Given the stories coming out constantly of sexual harassment and abuse that these women — Biles included — suffer for their sport, I would say that the most charitable interpretation of this touching concern for safety must include the word “selective.”
But I also find myself imagining the private conversations that lead to a decision like this. In my imagination, they include the word “uppity“. I would love for the authorities to give me reason not to imagine such things but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
As for people criticizing Biles for withdrawing from the team event, I think this tweet I saw perfectly captures my attitude about them:
Americans are, of course, the most thoroughly and passively indoctrinated people on earth. They know next to nothing as a rule about their own history, or the histories of other nations, or the histories of the various social movements that have risen and fallen in the past, and they certainly know little or nothing of the complexities and contradictions comprised within words like “socialism” and “capitalism.” Chiefly, what they have been trained not to know or even suspect is that, in many ways, they enjoy far fewer freedoms, and suffer under a more intrusive centralized state, than do the citizens of countries with more vigorous social-democratic institutions. This is at once the most comic and most tragic aspect of the excitable alarm that talk of social democracy or democratic socialism can elicit on these shores. An enormous number of Americans have been persuaded to believe that they are freer in the abstract than, say, Germans or Danes precisely because they possess far fewer freedoms in the concrete. They are far more vulnerable to medical and financial crisis, far more likely to receive inadequate health coverage, far more prone to irreparable insolvency, far more unprotected against predatory creditors, far more subject to income inequality, and so forth, while effectively paying more in tax (when one figures in federal, state, local, and sales taxes, and then compounds those by all the expenditures that in this country, as almost nowhere else, their taxes do not cover). One might think that a people who once rebelled against the mightiest empire on earth on the principle of no taxation without representation would not meekly accept taxation without adequate government services. But we accept what we have become used to, I suppose. Even so, one has to ask, what state apparatus in the “free” world could be more powerful and tyrannical than the one that taxes its citizens while providing no substantial civic benefits in return, solely in order to enrich a piratically overinflated military-industrial complex and to ease the tax burdens of the immensely wealthy?
Beginning with the staggering success of the Marshall Plan, which enabled the triumphs of socialism in Europe, the American Right (who would have been happy to leave it all to Hitler) started a hate campaign against everything associated with it, tarring it all with the brush of Stalinism.
Now, “Commie” is a vicious insult among uneducated Americans, who wouldn’t recognize actual Communism or Socialism if it jumped up and hit them on the nose with health care or workplace justice.