Have you found your patriotism?

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The simple, yet loud, cheers of 5-year-old twin boys in the stands at Olympic Stadium Monday would have been enough to inspire even the least trained athlete to give it their all.

“Go Mommy, Go Mommy, Go!”

Fortunately their mommy, U.S. track star Lashinda Demus, is very well trained and easily won her 400-meter hurdles semifinal.

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The boys will cheer her on again today when she runs for a medal in the final.

If you’re an Olympics fan — which I think everyone should be — you’ve heard countless stories of what inspires the athletes to compete.

Swimmer Michael Phelps simply wants to win. Gymnast John Orozco did it to help his parents find financial stability and step up out of their life in the Bronx. Runner Kirani James wants to put his home country of Grenada on the map and inspire his people.

Demus fought back from not only carrying twins and the 50 extra pounds they brought her but from post-partum depression. She’s running this week for, who else, those boys.

Athletes need inspiration to give up their lives to training, workouts and worldwide travel, and true competitors know exactly what their motivation is.

But spectators must find inspiration in the Olympic games as well.

Few of us tuning in nightly to the games are trained in any one of the Olympic sports, so we don’t necessarily watch for love of the sport.

Even fewer of us actually know any of the athletes or have even distant ties to them.

Only when the games are in your home country — like 1996 in Atlanta for us — do spectators feel an overwhelming obligation to get involved and cheer.

With so few ties, why should we watch? Why should we care?

For Americans, it’s pretty simple. We are prideful.

Translate that word so it isn’t a sin, and you get another word — patriotic.

As Americans, our inspiration is inbred. We watch to see our country win. We already believe our country is the best in the world, so tuning in to the games is simply a reminder and a pat on the back.

It’s painful to see China atop the medal count, but my American pride reminds me that since track and field has just started and badminton has ended, it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. takes over in medals for good.

It’s patriotism that drives the games, just ask some of those supposedly stoic Brits traipsing around London with their flag atop rabbit ears coming out of the headbands on their heads.

If you haven’t done so yet, pull up a couch cushion and tune in. Find an event with an American, watch until the end and see if you don’t feel just a little something deep inside.

Their devotion is inspiring, but it’s the team colors they sport that keep me coming back for more.

Life viewed through American sunglasses even brings a few Olympic surprises. I didn’t realize, for example, that the national anthem in Great Britain — “God Save the Queen” — was a tune I knew so well.

Now every time a Brit wins a gold medal my American patriotism is stirred anew with the words from one of my favorite American patriotic songs from childhood — “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”

Patriotism doesn’t get anymore prideful than that — we’ve rewritten another country’s national anthem for our own praise!

What can you say to that other than — Go USA!


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.