Simone Biles and the “all or nothing” infection

I have been critical of the “all or nothing” mentality surrounding Donald Trump, but unfortunately this infection has spread to many other parts of our social and cultural discourse. Over and over again, too many people have to be “all in” on one side or another of a cultural issue, even when it is uncalled for. Much of this is driven by political tribalism, which has replaced principle. We see this clearly in the absolutely unhinged arguments surrounding Simone Biles’ performance at the Olympics last month.

Watching the last stunt Biles did before she dropped out of the team competition a few weeks ago was disturbing. She appeared to lose her place in the air, which for a gymnast could result in severe injury or even death. She said she was not “feeling it” afterward and did not want to deny her teammates the opportunity for a higher medal. In response, we had two competing tribes arguing that she was a disgrace and a coward, or that she was an inspirational example of courage.

The fact is she was neither, and the hyperbole surrounding her dropping out of the competition has been an embarrassment. It was just something that happened. It has been particularly embarrassing on the Right, with many right-wingers determined to “own the libs” by dumping all over Biles. The fact that some pundits were still labeling her a “quitter” two weeks after the fact is ridiculous.

Folks, knock it off. Not everything needs to be a political feces-throwing contest. There actually are many times where nuance is appropriate. This kind of thing is not about principle. This is what happens when people sort themselves into their respective “tribes” instead of operating on principle. Principles are good things, but tribalism has only destructive outcomes.