The United States last hosted a session of the Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2028, the U.S. will host it again in Los Angeles, California. In those thirty-four intervening years, much has changed. In 1996, Nintendo released its most modern game console yet, the Nintendo 360; Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States; and Tupac Shakur and Mariah Carey reigned on the Billboard Top 100’s charts. Homosexuality was deemed a mental disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) and culturally labelled ‘sickening.’ Internet Explorer was launched and the dot com bubble ballooned. As a nation we were at the forefront of a technological, transcultural, and economic revolution. The United States was in its period of manufacturing boom, resulting in a stronger economy and a budget surplus instead of a budget deficit. America stood as the lone victor of the Cold War. In the public’s eye, life was “smooth sailing.” However, this is the not the story the world tells us today. Between the ‘96 Games, the recently ended Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, and the L.A. 2028 Games in a decade, there have been and will be massive changes in American society and policy.
The United States have been a global force for the last seventy years. Our main regional concerns in the last two decades have been the Middle East and the Sea of Japan. We have also been primarily concerned with hindering nuclear proliferation and neutralizing terrorist threats, responding to the rise of China and shoring up Western Europe, as well as providing international humanitarian aid and support of human rights, such as women’s rights in the Middle East. However, I foresee a future where the United States foreign policy will limit its foreign commitments and emphasize domestic rather than foreign issues.
Donald Trump secured the presidency on the backs of the internationally uninformed and unconcerned American. He promised to decrease international ties with NATO and cut financial support to Japan. Trade restrictions and prioritization of more immigration reform has demonstrated this domestic focus. With the current foreign policy, I can only perceive a future that would lead to weaker ties with American allies and increased international turmoil among political conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. The age of the Pax Americana is slowly ending.
Fighting for Values
The marginalized in society have longed fought for legal ‘stake’ and status in the American legal and court system. From women’s rights, to LGBTQ+ rights, and civil rights, the outcasts have changed but not the fight. Today, it is the fight for police brutality and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. In my opinion, abuse by the criminal justice system stands as the single greatest threat to the welfare and wellbeing of the black male population. What began in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death is now a national call for change.
His death brings into light the question whether or not black males are targeted and incarcerated disproportionately in relation to other races. It is statistically valid that they are incarcerated a higher rate. The repercussions of having a tainted criminal history have also hurt and in some cases destroyed the future of many in the black community. We do not rehabilitate criminals, we give them a “scarlet letter” to employees. While I disagree with parts of the BLM platform, it is impossible for me to condone any wrongful incarceration, especially because of the repercussions. While we have constitutionally and legally enshrined and affirmed the equal rights of all human beings, the fight to make it a reality is far from over.
In 2028, I foresee an America where the BLM has evolved to become one of the most progressive and powerful movements of the 21st century and as a result, some of its underlying liberal principles—political correctness and affirmation of every individual’s narrative—will pass in forms of legislation and political and cultural acceptance. Thus, the line must be drawn. To what extent is this movement about human decency? To frame this thought, in a question: How would you know when or if this movement is matter of human injustice and indecency, as seen with the women’s suffrage movement in 1919? The Nineteenth Amendment and the progress of women’s rights was inevitable. Misogyny is a defilement of a women’s humanity and is rightfully condemned. Civil rights was inevitable. Police brutality is and wrongful incarceration are violations of the Constitution’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment”. However, we can fix the issue without the accompanying values. The tendency of BLM to reject any narrative besides its own is a dangerous approach. We should always fight injustice, but we do not have to fully identify with any one movement to do so, no matter how popular. Yet it seems that America is moving inevitably in the direction where subjectivity and oversensitivity are enshrined in our political system.
High school and college provide useful four year periods where we can usually track and recall historic changes. For those out of school, the Olympic Games also serve as quadrennial markers in the timeline of history and the reality we live in. Other than viewing the Olympic Games as another excuse to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and yell at a flat screen TV, the Olympics inevitably calls us to reflect upon where we were four years ago. It pushes its viewers to subconsciously focus on the numerical year of its hosting as individual landmarks and salute to the notion and phrase, “Congratulations, humanity, we made it to this year”. By 2028, our careers will ideally be in full swing. We will look back on the last ten years, and either ask where we went wrong or be grateful for where we are. I have not enumerated all the ongoing changes that could be described, but focused in on foreign policy and social movements in order to highlight key ideological shifts. Perhaps one day we will return to isolationism, as President Trump’s policies seem to suggest we are, and perhaps we will enter into a truly postmodern age that validates and affirms every last narrative. But for now, maybe the best way to prepare for the future is to study the patterns history has shown us.