After a technical malfunction prevented Sochi's fifth snowflake from blossoming into an Olympic ring the internet went into a tailspin. The mishap has prompted a great deal of speculation, mockery, gossip, and even an internet hoax about a possible assassination.
Amid all the chatter, some have asked: Who is responsible for the failure?
But in order to answer that question I'd ask a different one altogether: Is there a hidden message behind the failure?
Please consider that prior to 1951, each Olympic ring corresponded with a particular continent: blue represented Europe, yellow represented Asia, black represented Africa, green represented Australia and red -- the fifth circle -- represented the Americas.
Keep that in mind as you think about how Russia and America aren't exactly on the best of terms: accusations of espionage, clashes over Syria, the Edward Snowden affair, tension over Gay Rights, Russia's anti-America adoption laws, and--like icing on the cake--President Obama's refusal to attend the Sochi Opening Ceremony.
Indeed, given our rather icy relationship, the fact that the fifth circle didn't open up and join the others looks less and less coincidental.
All that being said, please don't misinterpret what I'm trying to say. I fully believe that the fifth ring failure was mere a technical glitch and not some subliminal message. But I also believe that this incident can serve as a potent symbol of the current state of affairs between Russia and America. Furthermore, I believe that symbol contains a powerful message for how America should respond to Russia.
Having lived in Russia for a time, I know that it is doing everything it can to reach out to an international community. Is Russia perfect? No. But are we to blame an entire country for the violence and corruption of a few? The majority of Russians are good, kind-hearted people, and they are doing their absolute best.
In contrast, I am frequently disappointed by many Americans' attitudes towards Russia. Maybe I'm just a little sensitive because I have so many Russian friends, but can the mockery, and vilification stop? If they're not the villains in video games, movies, and television programs then they're the object of ridicule on talk shows and the internet.
In America, we constantly make the point that "all men are created equal." Do Russians not fall under this category? They are not so different from us. They have hopes, dreams, and fears just as real as ours. Instead of keeping our circle of love closed, can we not open up and try to befriend the Russian people?
If the Cold War taught us anything it is this: hostility provokes hostility. If we truly want an end to an icy relationship then we must stop clenching our fists and start opening our hearts.
If you have a bias against Russia, I humbly ask you to consider this: What do you have to gain from constricting your heart? What do you have to gain from keeping them out?
During this Olympic season, Russia has opened its country -- and its heart -- to the to the world. Don't be like the fifth ring. Please open up and join with them.
Standing with Vladimir, my Russian "brother" and one of my best friends.