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Last week, an OKC sports guy wrote a column about a tough-as-nails high school coach making men out of boys. The next day a radio sports wonk was making the same claim about a college coach.

          They’re both wrong.

My godson’s sister, Hilary Grivich, was a Karolyi gymnast up to the age of 14, at a time Bela and Marta were considered dreaded outsiders threatening the American gymnastic community. She trained during the earliest days of Karolyi Ranch and competed on the U.S. National Team.

She had moved on to college and diving before Dr. Larry Nasser arrived to begin his reign of abuse against young girls. May he enter prison general population post haste.

But, the point to be made here is to reinforce what others have said during the fallout from the Nasser trial and further revelations. The continued bullying the girls experienced during their training made them easy prey for the façade of kindness with which Nasser approached them.

It’s been pushing 30 years, but my teeth still clench remembering her mother checking Hilary’s diary to find her daughter writing: “I am not a cow” after a failed weigh-in.

And, a favorite” teaching” tactic was to throw a girl “out of the gym” if her routine was deemed subpar for the day.

Houston Chronicle sportswriter John Lopez looked inside those diaries two years after Hilary’s death in a car wreck nearly 21 years ago:

“Sometimes, I don’t know what to think anymore,” she wrote in 1986 when she was NINE. “Everyone seems to take things out on me. … One minute they’re really nice and the next they’re as nasty as can be and I hate, hate, hate them. I never know what’s coming next. Don’t they know that sometimes I just hurt a lot?”

Yet, the Stockholm Syndrome survivors of the Karolyi system rallied around the Karolyis to the point of making fun of any gymnast not tough enough to “take it.”

In fact, during the mid-nineties, a national TV show was planning an expose on the training style but canceled its plans when it was discovered the girls were eager to defend Bela.

Before leaving the deservedly self-destructing gymnastic community, I will suggest that Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci at Norman have the credibility the U.S. Gymnastics Association needs to right its ship.

Which brings us to another bully, our president, and those eager to please him.

National pundits lament the total capitulation of Republicans to the incessant bullying of President Trump and the threat his 30 percent hard-core racist base poses for their primaries.

(Remember, Trump polled just 28.3 percent of the vote in the 2016 Oklahoma GOP primary, barely edging Sen. Marco Rubio for second place. Why don’t we hear from that 70 percent that didn’t want him?)

Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona both opted for retirement instead of facing Trump’s klanazi base, and many House members are joining them.

Even those who decried his bad behavior during the primaries have grown silent and subservient.

Writing for the Huffington Post, S.V. Date quotes Republican consultant Rick Tyler: “He doesn’t have a core set of beliefs. He never has. He’s going to believe what’s good for him at the moment….And we’ve got no way of knowing where he’s going to be in six months.”

Before taking himself to the sidelines, Sen. Flake published a new book, Conscience of a Conservative.

Michael Gershon of the Washington Post wrote, “The passion of Conscience of a Conservative, however, comes from Flake’s deep, religiously rooted outrage at ‘the dehumanization of vast groups of people based on nationality or ethnicity.’”

Textbook bullying – and a warning to those who might disagree with him.

We can wish that Sen. Flake would have written Courage of a Conservative – and backed up his rhetoric by standing up to the mob.

In the Post article, Republican consultant John Weaver notes, “We have a special obligation because the nut job is from our party. It’s our responsibility to go round up the crazy uncle.”

Instead, they whinge and cringe and defend the bully, hoping they will be safe within his very dark shadow.

As someone who listens to up to four baseball games a day, I hear my share of National Anthems. The ending has become worrisome.

No, we’re still “the land of the free.” It’s “the home of the brave” that has come into question.

Sure, we have brave men and women serving on the front lines around the world. And, we have plenty like-minded folks in uniforms here at home whose top priority is our safety.

And, let’s not forget the brave civilians who created small-boat flotillas during last year’s hurricanes, risking their lives to rescue strangers.

It’s the lack of courage on the Republican side of Congress that is vexing, perplexing, governmentally wrecking.

 

(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)