Having lived in Brazil for two months in 2003 and visited there several times prior, I gained an enormous amount of respect and affinity for the people of Brazil, their culture and their hospitality. As with any country, it has its share of struggles with social, political and economic issues. But the overall sense I got was that the people there were some of the warmest and most genuine people in the world. There is an authenticity in Brazilian culture that is truly unique. It is one of the most welcoming societies I have had the privilege to be a part of.
So when the news of Ryan Lochte and his merry band of over-indulgent ruffians made the headlines of every media source known to mankind, my first reaction was the veritable “oh geez” facepalm of incredulousness…. “Really? I mean, REALLY???” As the truth of the events continued to unfold, I became increasingly vexed with the response from not only Ryan Lochte himself, but with the IOC and USOC. The actual incident itself can best be summed up as a reckless set of behaviors and circumstances brought on by some drunken, overly festive party beasts out for kicks. If it had stopped there, then the whole scenario would have been pernicious, but not unforgivable. But then the silver-tongued (and haired) Ryan Lochte, still basking in the glow of his gold medal success and seemingly the ringleader of this assembly of flippant imbeciles, decides to concoct a lurid story of crime and mettle in the face of potential death. With all the grandeur and foolhardiness of an attention seeking narcissist, he decides to double down on his idiocy by reiterating this fabrication on worldwide television…. BRILLIANT!!!
Now, if Lochte were a teenager, this would be more certainly more understandable and I believe the public at large would have taken on a more sympathetic tone. However, Ryan Lochte is 32 years of age! He’s a grown assed man….. HE KNOWS BETTER!! Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, in his cowardice he hastily makes a quick getaway before the authorities in Brazil have an opportunity to seize his passport and bring him in for questioning; leaving three of his cohorts to take the fall. The proverbial “icing on the cake” is his adolescent mea culpa on social media, which only served to show his callous and impertinent attention to the matter. The lack of accountability being demonstrated by the IOC and the USOC with their indolent reactions wreaks of double standards and privilege. This is the basis for the much of the disdain shown towards Americans in foreign nations…. and rightly so! Repeatedly, we have seen incidence of arrogant and “affluenzic” behavior by Americans of virtually all genders, social classes and racial backgrounds.
In the end, this really comes down to personal responsibility. But if Americans want to be held in high regard by those who live in other parts of the world, then a sense of kindness, humility and respect for others needs to be fostered by all of us. When you walk into another one’s home, you follow the standards and customs dictated by that person. So my fellow Americans, as you travel to foreign countries, bear in mind before you board that aircraft or cruise ship, the traditions and customs to which you cling to so dearly need to be left on the nightstand next to the alarm clock and pocket change. And if you can’t behave with common decency, then you would be better off staying at home or be prepared to take responsibility for your actions and face the expected repercussions.
As for Ryan Lochte, his career is toast. His name will be forever etched into that plaque of “Men Behaving Badly”. Is he a criminal? No…. but he is another in a long line of disgraced liars that had their lives ruined because they couldn’t control themselves because of substance abuse and they thought more highly of themselves than they should have. A perpetual social outcast? Perhaps. I’m sure he’ll be able to find some Charlie Sheens, Dennis Rodmans and Tanya Hardings to hang out with. But his reputation as an U.S. Olympic athlete has been permanently undermined. He’s an adult, so his lack of character and integrity are already set in stone.
I know, I know… you’re probably thinking “Well Tony, don’t be so harsh with the man. You’ve already written him off as if he can’t overcome this. Don’t be so judgmental… give the guy a chance!” Well, here’s a little morsel for you to chew on for a moment. He HAD his chance….. and another…. and another. But he willfully chose to not only behave like a childish frat boy, but he lied about it; not just to cover his ass, but to exalt himself into some Clint Eastwood-like lionheart. Don’t get me wrong… I am a stalwart believer in forgiveness. But I also believe that before forgiveness, there must be contrition. If Ryan Lochte wants redemption, then half-hearted expressions of regret won’t be satisfactory. Only full acknowledgement of his transgressions and humble articulation of remorse will lead to any absolution. He will still live with the stain, but at least he will live with a clean heart.