Celebrating a true victory 


I don't want to write about Afghanistan. Whether or not we have scored a momentary victory against the forces of terrorism and "evil" is moot -- it's merely a mote of dust within the sands of time. For hundreds of years, the conflicts in this barren, mountainous backwater have seen power shift back and forth through an unending stream of vicious, uncivilized warlords. Any purported devotion to freedom and progress is so dwarfed by their provisional allegiances to the current guy in charge that any hope of a bright future for the downtrodden inhabitants would be laughable if the situation wasn't so tragic. It's been that way forever. And it will never change.

I don't want to write about the Middle East. The sons of Ishmael and the sons of Isaac have been at each other's throats for six millennia. Each clan says it owns the same land. Each says the other side started the fight. Poor, young men (and more recently a young woman) blow themselves up in God's name, ending their short, tragic lives while taking other young men and women with them. All this death is about a few square miles of infertile, desert scrub. Rocket flares scorch the night; buses explode; body parts fly in all directions. An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; a son for a son. Lasting peace is a chimera. It's been that way forever. And it will never change.

I don't want to write about Enron. The moneychangers have been duping the temple crowd for centuries. Only the styles of the suits are different. Wherever there's a chance to make a quick buck (legally or not) and wherever there are enough easy marks to go along for the ride, a Lay or a Skilling or a Fastow will be around to make a killing. And as long as enough grease is ladled out to keep the temple guards looking the other way -- feigning shocked outrage when the marked deck is finally revealed -- the table will be littered with lost hopes and fortunes, except for the guys who dealt the cards in the first place. It's been that way forever. And it will never change.

I don't want to write about politics -- state, local or otherwise. I'm tired of listening to unenlightened people with selfish agendas do nothing but attack the other side for real or imagined low crimes and misdemeanors. I'm fed up with a lazy electorate that confuses vision with the ability to raise huge sums of money, and I'm fed up with a leadership concerned only with the raw exercise of power (and getting out of town before the weekend). Jerks and yahoos keep getting elected and reelected, and problems never get solved. It's been that way forever. And it will never change.

I do want to write about Sarah Hughes. I want to celebrate the 16-year-old from Long Island who rose above the phony commercialism, jingoistic displays and fetid competitiveness of the Winter Olympic Games with a magical, four-minute display of unalloyed joy and consummate artistry.

I want to write about her youthful spirit -- the one that made all the senseless and violent human comedy that surrounds us disappear into the background for a few moments beneath a spellbinding spray of shaved ice and sparkling sequins. I want to immortalize the hopeful child of a hopeless world who won, not because she skated to win, but only because she enjoyed the pure pleasure of skating.

I want to write about Sarah Hughes so that all the crooks and jerks and power-mongers and clueless politicians and spiteful revenge seekers can see that their shriveled little dramas are nothing but a pail of spit compared to the glorious exhibition of one beautiful teen-ager who, in her innocence and intent, epitomized all that is worth celebrating and preserving in human nature. I want to write about Sarah Hughes because I want to remember what the world was like when I was 16 and I too was skating atop life's slick, bright surface with a purity of purpose and nobility of design.

I want to write about Sarah Hughes because all the scandal and stupidity and scurrilousness sometimes becomes too much to bear. And the only thing that makes it go away -- the only thing that salves the open wounds of shattered idealism and lost hopes, even if just briefly -- is the cold, clear presence of a teen-ager in love with life.

I want to write about Sarah Hughes because middle-aged angst can only be supplanted by cheerful, adolescent enthusiasm. It's been that way forever. And I pray that it will never change.


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