Olympics, NBC and tragedies in America

Progress 8/7/12

As a Brit in the USA, watching the Olympics has been a chore. The much-maligned NBC coverage that misses moments of silence for 7/7 does not care for any team but the USA and refusing to broadcast live coverage except for ad-heavy live streaming is appalling.

One can understand the economic argument for NBC who paid so much for the rights and want to make sure that those who work in the USA can watch the highlights when they get home. But even on weekends, Americans had to wait till 11pm on Sunday night to see Usain Bolt run, and we never got a chance to celebrate with Mo Farah.

Yet with a constant eye on the BBC live ticker I am attempting to get excited along with everyone else with Team GB’s epic achievements.

While the world watches London, the world continues to turn, Romney’s world tour continues to embarrass, and Syrian descent into madness quickens. But even for a foreign policy junkie such as myself, the two recent shootings in the States have punctuated my consciousness like no other news story.

The Aurora shooting a week before the opening ceremony was terrifying in a way that no other public shooting had been for me before. Maybe it was my fiancée’s unease at seeing The Dark Knight Rises on the Sunday of opening weekend for fear of copycats or the weeks of political silence about gun control that followed, but I felt more uncomfortable in my surroundings then normal.

This discomfort was magnified over this past weekend with the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. As a British citizen I am just not used to this level of violence and the political inaction that has followed it. I freely admit that I do not understand the second amendment, having no analogous experience to which to relate, yet the lack of debate around gun control is dangerous.

It’s not the lack of gun control that I find so worrying, but the lack of debate after these shootings that scares me. Yes I know it’s an election year and that the NRA is powerful. Yet these back-to-back tragedies merit some discussion by lawmakers. Even if nothing changes legislatively, the absence of the discussion on a national level makes me feel all the more foreign in America.

Much has been said about anonymous money and super PACs in this election cycle. Yet it is the lobbies which are clear, visible and have a mass membership that exert the greatest effect on US politics, as the deafening silence on Capitol Hill demonstrates.