Earthquakes in Iran and Olympic good will

By Elizabeth Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog Politics

A few weeks ago I wrote at the start of the summer Olympics asking if the games could really promote peace and good will. (I thought fleetingly of my own words when I caught myself cheering for falls by Russian gymnasts and for U.S. dominance over China in the daily medal count.) In the middle of the drama and excitement of the last 17 days, we also saw an injured Chinese hurdler embraced by fellow runners after limping across the finish line. One triathlete, the defending silver medalist, inadvertently crashed into another competitor, which prompted this friendly exchange over Facebook. And who wouldn’t have wanted to attend the rock concert closing ceremonies, where all the athletes enjoyed the festivities mingling together?

There was also the image that surfaced from the medal stand where the U.S.’s Jordan Burroughs was awarded the gold medal in freestyle wrestling after defeating Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi of Iran. Burroughs (ever brimming with confidence—his Twitter name is “@alliseeisgold) tweeted a picture of him and Goudarzi with their arms around each other saying, “Who's says Iran and America don't get along? Maybe I should be president!”

Over the weekend, Iran was struck by two devastating earthquakes that have left hundreds dead and thousands without homes. Though the U.S. has imposed heavy sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear policies, American officials have said that humanitarian relief for the quakes (in the form of food or medicine) is exempt from the sanctions. After the quakes, the National Iranian American Council, an advocacy group, said it hoped that relief efforts "are not obstructed due to the dispute between the U.S. and Iranian governments."

Obviously a photo of two wrestlers from different countries isn’t going to do much to promote peace between the two nations. (And true, Burroughs, when asked if it mattered that his opponent was Iranian replied, "If the Queen of England came on the mat, I'd probably double-leg her.") And the fact that we are ready to send humanitarian aid in the face of a natural disaster doesn’t change the reality that our countries are deeply divided politically. But, both these instances are a reminder of our shared humanity with our brothers and sisters across the globe. We can still stand arm in arm, even if only for a few brief moments.