Why did NBC choose to cut the segment of the Olympics Opening Ceremony that focused on grief and death? A beautiful interpretation of grief and loss, choreographed by Akram Khan to Emeli Sandé’s rendition of “Abide with Me,” created space to remember loved ones who had died. Many interpreted the segment as a tribute to victims of the July 7, 2005 terror attack, which happened in London the day after the city was chosen to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
NBC and other media outlets do not hesitate to show us scenes of violence and death in their entertainment lineup. Yet when there is a poignant tribute to victims of violence and thoughtful reflections on grief, NBC decides we cannot handle watching it. That move fuels a tendency we have to avoid a deeper discussion of death. We want to avoid the painful topic of grief.
It could be that NBC chose not to show the tribute because it involved victims and violence in another country. Are we that insensitive to other countries’ pain? Or did NBC think that the U.S. audience is too shallow to appreciate the depth of this topic?
“Abide with Me” is a hymn that speaks to the beauty and comfort found in God when facing death. Was NBC afraid to air a dance with this religious theme? Even though some would not share that belief, is it worth ignoring that many do find solace in their faith? Britain knows that avoiding the difficult questions of life and death only strips us of a deeper understanding of human experience.
Airing that segment would have given many people a chance to know that their grief has not been forgotten. 7/7. 9/11. Aurora. These are just a few high profile tragedies, not to mention the private loss in our lives. But NBC was focused on ratings, not compassion or tragedy. Maybe NBC stands for “No Brokenness Communicated.”
The British showed they are not afraid to mix deep experiences that range from humor to death. On a global stage, they set a great example of the importance in taking time to reflect on mortality, grief, and comfort. Too bad the United States did not have a chance to share that moment.
It is a shame that NBC made the choice it did, but we can use it as an opportunity to talk about grief, death, and our cultural reluctance to face these topics.