O say can you TELL by the dawn’s early light?

I find I have been quick to judge our American swimmer Ryan Lochte for his behavior away from the pool in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic games, and I had a few minutes to sit in my favorite chair this morning to ponder his trials and tribulations while I was waiting for T’s physical therapist to arrive. I love to ponder – particularly when the house is quiet, and today was no exception.

I read moments ago that Speedo and Ralph Lauren  severed their endorsement relationships with Mr. Lochte which led me down the meandering  pondering  quite smug path of See there, I told you so. When you play, you pay…an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Why didn’t you stick to pool parties…I went on and on with this conversation in my mind because it’s a replay of how I’ve felt since the bizarre incident occurred in Rio. Really, Ryan, how stupid could you be. You’re thirty-two years old, for crying out loud. You’re old enough to know better.

Whoa, Nellie…hold your horses. Old enough to know better – that stopped me in my instant replay.  Hm.  Now what was I doing when I was thirty-two years old…that would have been 1978. Hm….meander, meander some more… I was living in Columbia by then and had met the person that would become my lifelong friend but was at the time my best drinking buddy Millie Miller who was happy to spend many evenings with me at local bars until they closed in the wee hours of the morning.  We weren’t always in the best shape when they closed, either. Really, then, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t cast stones, although admittedly my glass house wasn’t part of an international Olympic Games and I wasn’t representing my country at the time. Not to split hairs, of course. The two similarities of this story were thirty-two years old and intoxicated, as I rambled along in my mind. Don’t try to make more of it than that.

So it wasn’t the drunken public exhibition by a member of Team USA in a foreign country that continued to nag at me in the Lochte saga although that would have been enough to keep the story churning. I could finagle that around in my mind to somehow relate to his wanting to celebrate with his teammates after the medals were handed out. Something to be ashamed of when he sobered up, but mistakes are surely made by us all – usually not in front of a gazillion people but hey, nobody’s perfect.

No, that wasn’t the nagging current flowing through my stream of consciousness this morning. It was the lying – an amazingly creative lie to be sure – but a lie nonetheless… followed by his inability to say Hey, I lied about it, and I’m sorry.  Instead, the lie became his “over-exaggeration” of the truth which sounds strangely similar to the acceptable “little white lie.” Ding, ding, ding goes the alarm bell. Don’t tell that to the Brazilians.

Somewhere in my mind there is a disconnect between what used to be known as the truth and what now has become an inability on a grand scale to define. Lying is a way of life in our family relationships, business dealings, political discourse, religious institutions, collegiate locker rooms, football weights, beauty pageants and just about anything else you can think of. You name it – we can lie about it with gusto and embellishment.

I am beyond weary of lies and liars.

But this is clearly not a new problem of the 21st. century.  The major religions of today have all weighed in against lying thousands of years ago via stone tablets and whatever else they could find to write on plus probably on cave walls before that. The universal consensus was that lying is fundamentally wrong but truth is subject to interpretation. My truth might not be your truth, and vice versa.  Clearly Ryan Lochte subscribed to that theory when he invented his own elaborate version of the truth and then tried to redefine it.

I should never have gotten started on this mind meandering today. I feel like I’m digging myself deeper and deeper into a meaningless hole and I hear the voices of my Texas heroines Molly Ivins and Ann Richards hollering from their graves to admonish me that when I find myself in a hole this big, I need to stop digging.

And so I shall. Team USA won forty-seven gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio;T and I heard the Star-Spangled Banner played for many of those medal ceremonies from her hospital room following her successful knee replacement surgery last week and from our bedroom where she continues to recover this week.  Each time we heard it was special with the expressions of the champions ranging from smiles of happiness to tears of joy to thoughtful reflections of awe and wonder…they were moments of truth we shared with them. At least, that’s how my mind meanderings like to think about it. Somebody stop me.

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
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8 Responses to O say can you TELL by the dawn’s early light?

  1. Pingback: O say can you TELL by the dawn’s early light? – Red's Rants and Raves

  2. Bob Slatten says:

    “I am beyond weary of lies and liars.”

    I don’t know how many times I said that after Lochte’s drunken messiness.
    I get that people can sometimes drink too much and do stupid things–the news if full of those stories–but I don’t get how someone who is in the brightest media spotlight in the world, with golden medals around his neck, doing something so stupid and then lying, and compounding the lie, again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dana Bickford says:

    It boils down to integrity. Drinking gives no one an excuse for lying. Representing your country is a god given Gift and makes YOU a role model for generations! There is no excuse for immature behavior in this situation. These BOYS need to grow up and face the consequences of their actions!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just so, Dana – how many young boys from around the world saw this story and will be affected by it in some way for the rest of their lives?
      Hopefully, their parents will use it as a “teachable” moment, but there are plenty hopeful Olympians out there who won’t have the benefit of that counsel.
      When you sign on to represent your country in the Olympics, you automatically are held to a higher standard but when you are a successful Olympian, the bar rises even higher because your visibility on a world stage is immense.
      This is “blown opportunity” on a huge scale not only for himself but for all of us.


  4. Luanne says:

    There’s a concept that I hAVe always admired that seems to be nearly extinct: that of being an honorable person. I’m not sure why the amplification and magnification of the individual through technology didn’t bring about more shame and hence more of a reliance on being honorable, but it didn’t happen. Instead it sent us down the path of no responsibility, no shame, and no sense of doing the right thing. It’s more important to be notorious than it is to honor life and God with good actions.

    Liked by 1 person

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