US Paralympians exemplify America's greatness
With the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games drawing to a close, it's time to reflect upon the final medal count. While some countries underperformed relative to the regular Olympics, one thing is obvious: the USA will top the table. The physical, emotional, and mental fitness of our Paralympians are inspirational. Their dedication deserves our applause, and the generosity of the society in which they flourish deserves deference.
Apparently, there are a few ways by which to judge a society, such as how it treats it prisoners (Dostoyevsky, embellished by Churchill) and by how it treats its animals (Mohandas Gandhi). Gandhi said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable [weakest] members." Our Paralympians are strikingly strong, but without an accessible and accommodating society, they are vulnerable to the vagaries of life.
Given their herculean performances, our physically challenged athletes are evidence that the United States is the greatest of nations, with Great Britain not far behind. Looking at the all-time medal table for both the summer and winter Paralympic Games, comprising the years 1960 to 2016, the U.S. ranks first with a combined total of 2,331 medals. Great Britain, Germany, Canada, and Australia complete the top five.
Perhaps the most noteworthy disparity between Paralympic and Olympic performance, at least as measured by medal count, is that of the Soviet Union and Russia. Their regular, dope-free Olympians perform admirably; however, the Soviet Union participated only once in the summer and once in the winter Paralympic Games – both in 1988. That's distressingly dismal for a country that competed 18 times in the regular Olympic Games from 1952 to 1988.
Russia has competed 11 times (summer and winter) since 1994, earning 501 medals. That averages out to 45 measly medals per Paralympic Games. By contrast, the United States averages 89, and even Great Britain, with far less than half the population of Russia, averages 70 majestic medals per Paralympic Games. We can't logically conclude from this that Russia is negligent in its treatment of vulnerable citizens, but it certainly reinforces the view that they fall well short of Gandhi's standard.
Conversely, our proud Paralympians reflect the traditional vibrancy of our society. They remind us that attitude, the one thing we can control, has the greatest impact on our lives. They live the creed espoused by Charles Swindoll:
[W]e have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past[.] ... [W]e cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. The one thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
I admire our Paralympians' inspirational attitudes, made possible, in part, by the beneficence of America. Through legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, our country embraces our physically challenged; it encourages vulnerable citizens to be robust participants, affording them access to "all public and private places that are open to the general public." If Gandhi was right, then our Paralympians' superlative efforts reflect supremely upon the glory of America.
Summon the heroes! Summon the United States of America, the last great hope of Earth.