I mean, could there be a more perfect rebuke to the desperate, misguided calls to Make America Great Again?
The Final Five. The gold medal-winning, Russia-dominating, gravity-defying women’s gymnastics team — Lauren Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Simone Biles, Alexandra Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas — is a gorgeous rainbow of diversity. (If rainbows had thigh muscles of steel.)
And they’re coached by a Romanian-born immigrant. (The nickname honors the fact that this team is coach Martha Karolyi’s final group, and that Rio is the last Olympics where a five-person gymnastics team will be allowed.)
We need them right now.
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We need the Final Five to push back against the daily rhetoric that tells us we’re a divided, crumbling shell of our former selves. That we need to shut our borders and turn our sights inward. That we need to return to the glory of an earlier era, before “political correctness” got us tripping all over ourselves to be inclusive.
Clint Eastwood joined the sneering chorus last week, bemoaning the “kiss-(rear end) generation we’re in right now.” (That was the cleaner of his two descriptors.)
“Everybody’s walking on eggshells,” he told Esquire. “We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist.”
I suppose they weren’t. Eastwood was born in 1930, which means he grew up when public facilities were still being designated for whites only and schools were largely segregated. Little black girls weren’t groomed for Olympic victory.
It’s better now. It’s better than the 1940s and the ’50s and the ’80s and any other era that didn’t actively seek equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every citizen, regardless of their race (or gender or sexual orientation, for that matter).
America has a sorry racial history. The Final Five is proof that we’re learning and improving, slowly but surely.
The team is what America looks like when it pulls together and works toward a common goal. As individuals, they’re phenomenal. As a team, they’re unbeatable. So are we, when we refuse to be divided.
“We’re confident because of the hard work,” Raisman, the team captain, said after their victory. “We’re consistent because of the hard work.”
They’re the best in the world because of their hard work. And we can learn from their example.
©2016 Chicago Tribune