Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Gymnastics -- Unity in Diversity

Watching the women's gymnastics individual all-around last night, I couldn't help thinking of a story I had heard earlier on the evening news. The news story was that in a few years Caucasian Americans will be a minority, well under 50% of the population.

When you really think about it, why should that be news? Caucasions from England, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, and Germany were only the first people to come here seeking new lives, and to quarrel and squabble, and forge something new out of their differences. What they designed was a country intended to welcome diversity in all its forms. Not just Caucasians.

Now, with Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, both Caucasian, earning the Gold and Silver medals in individual all-around, you might wonder what in the world connected the two ideas in my mind. Actually, it was Nastia Liukin and her father (also her coach) who prompted this rumination by providing yet another example of America's strength coming from our diversity.

Valery Liukin won the men's all-around gold in the Seoul Olympics in 1988, representing the Soviet Union. After the end of that country, he moved his young family to the United States, like so many others seeking a new life in the Land of Opportunity.

Nastia was three years old when they came to the U.S., so she has grown up here. Nevertheless, she brings to gymnastics that long, lean, elegant, balletic line so characteristic of Soviet gymnasts. Shawn Johnson, on the other hand, has the compact, strong, energetic American style made famous by Mary Lou Retton. Together, these two young women--who are best friends and roommates at the games--lead a powerful team that a few days ago won silver in the team competition.

Shawn and Nastia could be seen encouraging, consoling, and congratulating one another not just during the team contest, but also last night when they were in competition for the gold. How very American it is to be both competitors and friends!

E Pluribus Unum--out of many, one. In union there is strength. That is the story of America. Europe has recently followed our lead and created the European Union, while maintaining the diversity of individual cultures. That is the lesson Americans live, and which is displayed to great advantage every time the Olympics come around.

As of today, the United States is still ahead in the overall medal count even if China has more golds. We are strong because we are united, and we are strong because we are diverse. It's a paradox, but whether we understand it or not, we need to remember it. If we close our borders, as some who forget our origins want to do, we may close out the occasional undesirable, but we will also close out the next Nastia Liukin.

Unity in diversity is one of the themes you will see often in this blog and in my fiction--it is the theme that attracted me to Jacqueline Lichtenberg and the Sime~Gen universe as well (see Another theme you will often see is connections--the way, for example, my mind connected the news story about increasing American diversity with what I have been seeing in the Olympic Games.

I hope you will be intrigued by those themes, and come back often to read my blog. To receive notice each time I post a new article (which will not be on a regular schedule), please subscribe to my RSS feed.