Righties Are Pissed Simone Won’t Let Them Be Patriots

Philip Bump has a column at WaPo that is wonderfully insightful, and I endorse it heartily. It is headlined To many on the right, perceived toughness outweighs patriotism.

Bump noticed, as I did, that there was a big divide over how media reacted to the withdrawal of Simone Biles from the Olympic women’s team gymnastics competition (she has since withdrawn from individual competition also). Looking at all the commentary around the web, the mainstream media is generally supportive of Biles, as are leftie webzines and blogs.

But right-wing media was nearly all nasty and derisive. Typical comments: Biles is a quitter; she’s selfish; she’s a sociopath (?), she should have stuck it out for the team.

And, of course, by ending her Olympic competition Biles is letting down America, because the entire point of the Olympic games is for the United States to demonstrate that it’s so much better than those other countries. Do see this column in the federalist if you don’t believe me.

I always thought the Olympics was supposed to be about competing, and winning, for your country. As an American, the Olympic Games always felt like a unique opportunity to utterly defeat other countries and prove, again and again, that the USA is the greatest country on earth, and other countries suck.

Apparently, things have changed. For some U.S. athletes, the Olympics has become all about them.

First, I am old enough to remember when the USSR and various Soviet satellite countries owned the gymnastics competitions, men’s and women’s, at the summer Olympics. Nobody else need compete. The Soviet men also tended to dominate the “muscle” events, like weight lifting and hammer throwing, as I recall, and the Soviets overall were usually competitive for medals in the other sports as well. If the Games were supposed to demonstrate the supriority of the American Way of Life over Communism, they usually failed. Olympics after Olympics, the Soviets ate our lunch.

(Just for fun I randomly chose the year 1960 and looked up the medal count. Yep; the Soviet Union beat the pants off the U.S. in the medal count. That was true for most Olympics, for a long time.)

Second, I thought the Olympic Games were about, you know, sports. Lots of peak athletes from all over the world getting together for great competition. Silly me.

Of course, a lot of the derision aimed at Biles is plain old racism and sexism. If a white male gymnast had done the same thing, there’d be a lot less hollering. I also thought that her decision seemed less selfish than self-effacing. She may have believed she would have destroyed the team’s chances at a medal. As it was, her team members shined, and the team got silver. I don’t see what’s selfish about that.

But as Philip Bump wrote, “For many Americans, Biles’s choice not to keep flinging herself around the gymnasium despite her uncertainty about where she would land was a grievous offense, an affront to their hard-earned right to chant ‘U-S-A!’ in their living rooms.”

So who’s being selfish? Biles has obligations to her sport, to her team, and to herself, not to some meatball on his sofa in Des Moines. And I don’t see that anyone who hasn’t been in her position (which is most of us) has authority to call her “weak.”

From there, Bump went on to right-wing reaction to yesterday’s testimony at the January 6 hearings. The testimony was powerful, and the officers who testified spoke to the long-term physical and mental challenges of that day.

The Right was incensed that the officers were critical of Trump and the insurrectionists, of course. But Bump continues,

The officers became a focus of aggressive abuse, often centered on a perceived lack of strength. That the officers became emotional was presented by conservatives as weakness, both personal and national. One officer’s testimony about enduring racist abuse was dismissed as invented. Another officer shared a voice mail he’d received in which he was excoriated in shockingly aggressive and homophobic terms.

The through-line to all of this is the idea that American heroes are necessarily stoic and suffering, demonstrating the sort of rigid “masculinity” that the insecure demand of their children. Olympians and other athletes are supposed to shut up and let us enjoy their accomplishments and fame. Members of law enforcement and the military are supposed to keep the bad guys in line and to be tough while doing it. The only emotions they’re allowed to show are anger or triumph.

I like this part:

That belief blends with political culture. Part of Trump’s appeal was his perceived toughness, his aggressive language about immigrants and foreigners and his constant attacks on the left.

This is something that always baffled me. Trump has got to be the biggest candy-ass on the planet. There’s absolutely nothing about him that’s strong; he’s both mentally and physically weak, obviously. But he’s tough! Well, he’s verbally aggressive, which can sorta kinda look like toughness. But his aggression is all about protecting himself. Everything about Trump is self-defense of his tender ego. Strong people can take lumps without whining; Trump cannot.

His followers cannot see that. Just look at some Trump fan art. They see him as some kind of superman, not the soft, whiny man-child he obviously is.

As I wrote last year, Toughness Isn’t Strength, Unless You’re a Brillo Pad. “The word toughness can connote an ability to withstand hardship and adverse conditions,” I wrote. “But we all know that ain’t Trump. Trump’s form of ‘toughness’ is external. It’s hiding behind fencing and steel and bullet-proof plexiglass. It’s having a tough outer shell that protects the marshmallow center.”

The Right hates what they think is weakness, which isn’t true weakness, but never mind. At the Independent (UK), Andrew Naughtie writes about yesterday’s hearing,

If there’s one thing the hardcore American right hates, it’s the admission of personal pain by someone who’s meant to be strong. …

Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s ever-crueler weeknight peddler of disinformation and racist grievance — and his more composed but no less corrosive comrade Laura Ingraham — both laid into the witnesses without mercy, variously accusing them of “curating” their testimony, lying about the pain they’ve experienced, and mocking their tears. They took issue, too, with the empathetic displays of emotion from male members of the committee.

Try to imagine Carlson or Ingraham facing actual hardship with grace and fortitude. I can’t.

I found an older post called Twilight of the Would-Be Gods from 2007, which is obviously way before Trump. But it kind of speaks to the same phoneomenon.

There’s a difference between strength and toughness. There’s a difference between courage and swagger. There’s a difference between results and spin. There’s a difference between resolve and stubbornness. There’s a difference between action and ideology. But try to explain any of that to a rightie. …

… Righties depend on that sugar high of vicarious vainglory mixed with loathing of others to give their lives meaning. But most Americans are sick to death of junk politics and policy. They want real leaders, not the strutting tin soldiers righties mistake for leaders.

I guess they love Trump because he can supply the vicarious vainglory by the truckload. I’ll give him that. But many, many books could be written about how phony John Wayne-style emotional toughness has so thoroughly screwed up too many American men and no doubt contributed mightily to our toxic masculinity problem.

So “toughness” is patriotism and repressing emotions is masculine and the meatballs on their sofas in front of the teevee are pissed that a young Black woman in Tokyo won’t let them get their faux patriotism fix. This is really pathetic.

7 thoughts on “Righties Are Pissed Simone Won’t Let Them Be Patriots

  1. I really, really feel for Ms. Biles.  She is almost universally considered to be the GOAT in women's gymnastics.  She's a brilliant performer, and a great teammate.

    I'm sure deciding to not participate killed her.

    But she knows her body, and her mind.  And ONLY SHE does.  Sorry, you Cheeto-scarfing tub of lard watching on TV.  You don't count as anything but a ratings point.

    Gymnastics is extremely dangerous.   Extremely!  One misstep, one mini-second off your routine, can mean paralysis.  Both total and permanent, not just partial or temporary.  Twist your neck wrong, or hit the floor the certain way, and you've effectively done what a noose and a drop hope to accomplish.

    I admire her courage in NOT competing!

  2. As far as the combo of courage and toughness go, with Suck a l'Orange, they didn't just get up and go. 

    KKKing MidASS N. Reverse never had even a sub-atomic particle of either in his DNA to begin with.  Cowardice and draft-dodging don't just run in the family.  They SPRINT!!!

    I.B. KKKoward makes the cowardly lion look like a mix of Sgt. York and Audie Murphy!

  3. A lot of people, stupid ones generally, confuse strength and cruelty, toughness and brutality and so on. It's the sort of thing children do, but a lot of these people are too old to be considered children. Some guy died on a cross a couple of thousand years ago for preaching the difference.

  4. Will ANYONE point me to the patriot who got arrested for participating in the Jan 6 insurrection who is not running like a cockroach from responsibility for what they got pictures of those traitors doing? 500 whiney victims blaming anybody else. And these are their elite.

    And they are going to criticize a champion like Simone Biles?

    Regarding SB, I posted this on Facebook as a comment.

    "Completely agree with her decision. Performing on the edge of what's humanly possible is beautiful and dangerous. You're allowed to step back from the edge at the moment you're alarmed. Nobody who hasn't been that far "out there" has any right to criticize and those who have been there – won't."

  5. "[T]he outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before," Biles tweeted.

  6. Amazing how these "tough" conservatives are scared stupid by a 4'8" black woman.  As always, fronting for white supremacy, Charlie Kirk does more damage to himself and his pathetic "movement" with his hysterical, over the top rant calling Biles a sociopath, making it obvious he and those he speaks for are cowards who couldn’t come close to filling Biles shoes.

    The wingnuts worship bully culture and are essentially weak.  They whine and cry, always punch down, and the toughest of these tough guys can't go out without being armed to the teeth.  Immigrants coming to the border, mothers and children, fleeing real persecution and deadly violence represent to them an existential threat.

    No doubt, fear and hate are the two foundational building blocks of the right.  Denial and delusion is how they live with themselves.  They offer nothing positive of value.

  7. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I've come to appreciate how some disabled people don't like being called strong, but are okay with something like "tough". Someone says "you must be really strong to carry that burden," and the subject feels exhausted and weak – somehow, "you must be really tough, to be able to function with that burden" seems more apt.

    Me, I wouldn't give the Republicans "tough", even if I didn't feel this way. Tough can be good. But I'm coming up empty for a short, precise word or phrase for what they are. (heh. Just to be clear, even if I came up with the *perfect* word, I'm not criticizing your choice of words – I'm just rambling.)

    In earlier days, I'd have probably said "chest beating isn't strength". To me, that really sums up what the Republicans do, but I realized that it might be no one gets "chest beating" these days. Tarzan movies with that sort of display haven't been around a long time.

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