In Europe and America, there’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr. Krushchev said we will bury you
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too
Huh. Maybe Sting needs to rethink those lyrics. ‘Cuz it turns out the Russians only love their children who are not gay. Or Jewish. Or Chechnyan, Georgian, or who once annoyed Stalin. And they’re not real fond of the Germans either. But at least with that one they have the numbers on their side.
With all the hoopla about the upcoming Winter Games and Russia’s recently enacted anti-gay legislation, we must remember that historically Mother Russia has enjoyed bloody pogroms conducted against its children who are a bit different than the rest. It is the fascist government’s favorite ploy when everyone in the country is miserable and the nation itself sucks big time. In the current brouhaha, many point to Nazi Germany and its treatment of the Jews (once again conveniently forgetting about the Führer’s treatment of gays) but Hitler learned that little trick from Putin’s predecessors. Treating minorities like they are subhuman is a tradition in Russia. Sting was willing to give them a pass on the issue of nuclear war, but Putin’s favorite tune to whistle these days is Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof. Though on second thought considering the similarities in results maybe the’s not the show tune reference I shoulda used.
Putin banging his high heel shoe on the desk and calling out The Gays aside, it’s not like the Olympics have never been held in a country with a less than stellar human rights record. Remember the Beijing Games? Nor were there major protests when the Games were held in a country whose record on gay rights was equally as dismal. Remember the London Games? Politically, the Olympics are good for promoting propaganda no matter which side of any issue you are on. But I’m not sure that makes using the Olympics to further your political agenda right. Its all well and good to call for a boycott of the Olympics because of a country’s ill-treatment of its citizens, but what happens when the Games are over? The spotlight fades, the boycott becomes a distant memory, and those who were suffering keep right on suffering.
Boycott the Olympics? Okay. Why? To show the Commies we loves our Gays? Great idea, but maybe we should pass legislation that makes it illegal in this country to fire someone from their job just because they are gay first. Or at least agree that gay aversion therapy is quackery and should be banned.
As a fan of both The Gays and The Olympics, I’m in a bit of a quandary over what to do. I do know that since even I reported last year on the problem of Russia’s attitude towards gays and how that would play out with the Sochi Games, maybe waiting less than 6 months before the Games are scheduled to begin before demanding something be done might not be the best idea. Sure Russia’s law against promoting homosexuality is new, but their attitude toward the gay community is not. Even before the London Games’ Closing Ceremony began, organizers of the Sochi Games had already denied Pride House its request to be represented at the 2014 Games. Instead, everyone in the need of some free publicity is only now jumping on the rainbow colored bandwagon. And their suggestions and demands are not helping me decide what my stance should be.
Andrew Sullivan, yet another television pundit who perhaps should have stayed and sorted out the human rights issues in his own country, has called for acts of civil disobedience in Sochi geared toward being arrested. Which is an idea I’m willing to get behind. As soon as I see a photo of Andrew Sullivan handcuffed and being stuffed into the back of a paddy wagon.
Lt. Sulu, in an attempt to be relevant again, demands the U.S. boycott the Games. He’s entitled to his opinion. As well as his second stab at his 15 minutes of fame. But I’d give his stance more credence if he’d had the balls to live his life as an openly gay man back when he was somebody. Minor celebrities who take up the role of Professional Gay after their first career is over have as much authority to speak on human rights issues as a Kardashian. If I need a suggestion from Hollywood, I’d rather hear the current Mr. Spock’s opinion.
Wentworth Miller used Russia’s ‘anti-gay’ laws as a vehicle for coming out recently. Good on him. For coming out. Not for tagging on to the tail end of the Bad Russia hysteria that is sweeping liberal America. Wentworth too evidently feels the right course of action is to show your displeasure by refusing to go to Russia. And is getting a big slap on the back for it too. But it’s interesting that Miller says the reason he didn’t come out back when his star shined brightly in Tinseltown was “how that might impact me and the career I worked so hard for.” Meanwhile an out Olympian who doesn’t think we should boycott the games is quickly becoming a pariah. What about the career he’s worked so hard for?
Earlier this week ESPN’s Keith Olbermann interviewed two time Olympian Johnny Weir, asking him if the Sochi Winter Olympics should be boycotted, a riveting bit of journalism since Weir has repeatedly said he does not support a boycott. Weir argued staunchly against “a boycott of any kind”, saying that it would hurt Olympic athletes. He also argued against boycotts of Russian goods – specifically vodka, arguing that it hurts Russian workers in factories. Perhaps the first part of his statement is a bit self-serving (as Olbermann blasted him for) but it is a valid point. If we can sympathize with a Wentworth Miller for his fear of coming out because of how that would have impacted his wallet, shouldn’t we be as understanding of athletes who have spent their lives training for their participation in the Olympic Games? Besides if all the gay male figure skaters, out or closeted, boycotted the Sochi games, we’d just be rewarding Russia with a whole slew of gold medals.
Boycotting the Sochi Games might be a feel good moment for those living in glass houses who want to make sure any stones thrown are aimed elsewhere, but history has shown it is not an effective action. Quick, who can tell me why we boycotted the Games of the XXII Olympiad? Or who participated in the boycott of the XXIII Games. Uh, huh. That’s what I thought. Perhaps a boycott shouldn’t be your first option. What if instead you showed your support for The Gays by supporting a gay? Out Olympian Blake Skjellerup lacks the financial backing required for his run at the gold in Sochi and has set up a web page where you can donate to the cause. Maybe helping Blake to be the first out gay male to ever compete in the Winter Olympics might be a more productive effort. And then if he medals, you can decide whether or not toast his win with a shot of Stoli. (You can donate to Blake here.)
While boycotting the Sochi Games is the popular cry, there are other options. No one has yet turned to Mitt Romney to save the Olympics once again. In case you don’t remember, Mitt credits himself for stepping in and single handedly saving the Salt Lake City Games. Applause, please. And while you are clapping, don’t forget that Mitt is a leading Mormon, which is the same group that poured millions into supporting the defense of Proposition 8, the initiative in California that banned gay marriage. The Mormons like to tell you that they support the gays in their flock; being gay and being a Mormon is okey dokey with the church. As long as you don’t act on that. And the church will point out that it is not being anti-gay because they do not condone premarital sex among their heterosexual members either. Of course if they make sure their gays can never marry, that pretty well takes care of the entire problem. Huh. I don’t recall anyone suggesting we boycott the Salt Lake City Games.
The Mormon’s ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ stance eerily sounds similar to Putin’s recent comment insisting Russia’s new ani-gay law is not about discrimination. In an interview with Associated Press and Russia’s state Channel 1 television Putin said, “I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields.” He added that Russians loved Tchaikovsky even though the composer was said to have been homosexual. It’s just that today, he’d be composing his music in a gulag. Or would he?
As loosely worded as Russia’s law is, it does not make being homosexual illegal. In fact same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in private was decriminalized in Russia in 1993. Russian citizens also have the right to change their legal gender (since 1977) and men who have sex with other men are allowed to donate blood. And single people living within Russia – regardless of their sexual orientation – can adopt children. Not that being openly gay in Russia is any picnic, but on some gay rights issues Mother Russia treats her gay kids better than they are treated in the U.S.
The recently enacted legislation – an amendment to an existing law that protects children from pornography and other “harmful information” – bans the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. Under the Russian statute, it is a criminal act to hold any sort of public demonstration in favor of gay rights, speak in defense of gay rights, or distribute material related to gay rights, or to state that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. Anti-gay? Yes. Worthy of your condemnation? Definitely. A problem for attendees at the Sochi Games? I guess that depends on why you are there and what you plan on doing.
The powers that be in Russia have said both that enforcement of the law against Sochi visitors will be suspended and enforced. So thanks for clearing that up. More specifically, Putin said that visitors displaying rainbow flags and the like would not be punished. But at the same time he signed a decree banning all demonstrations and rallies in Sochi throughout the Winter Games.
So while it is a nice idea to incorporate a gay symbol like a rainbow flag on the U.S. Olympians’ uniforms as some have suggested – and according to Putin that would be allowed – realistically with less than six months to go, trying to add that little feature into the middle of the production line is a nonstarter. Not that a fashion diva like Ralph Lauren would allow you to screw with his design. Not to mention the last time gay people wore a symbol on their clothes wasn’t a shining moment in the history of the world. And while I like the idea of athletes, during the parade of nations, all pulling little rainbow flags out and waving them in the air – and ditto for them all walking in holding the hand of another same-sex Olympian – while Russia may not throw them all in jail, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already reminded everyone that their rules prohibit acts of a political nature. Much in the same way that Russian law prohibits acts that promote homosexuality. And there’s the rub.
Regardless of how the Russians deal with pro gay rights demonstrations during the Games, the IOC made it clear how it will react. The IOC recently stated that it will remind all participants of Rule 50 of its charter, which states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites,” and that it intends to enforce its rules at Sochi. So while you may decide to help Blake Skjellerup get to he Olympics, if he wears his rainbow-colored gay-pride pin from the 2012 Olympic Games as he has stated, the IOC may ban him from competing in the Games. That’s not quite the reaction expected by those who have demanded the IOC remove the Games from Sochi unless Russia changes its anti-gay ways.
One of the more iconic images of past Olympics Games is the photo of African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. As they turned to face their flag and hear the American national anthem played, they each raised a black-gloved fist and kept them raised until the anthem had finished. International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage deemed their act to be a political statement unfit for the Olympic Games and ordered Smith and Carlos suspended from the U.S. team and banned from the Olympic Village. When the US Olympic Committee refused, Brundage threatened to ban the entire US track team.
This threat led to the two athletes being expelled from the Games. As late as 2013, the official IOC website states that “Over and above winning medals, the black American athletes made names for themselves by an act of racial protest”, even though in his autobiography, Silent Gesture, Tommie Smith stated that the gesture was not a “Black Power” salute, but a “human rights salute”. And that’s where the IOC and its Rule 50 has it wrong.
Neither the issue of gay rights or civil rights is a political one. It is about human rights. And that transcends mere politics. You can condemn Russia for its anti-gay propaganda laws, and should, but the issue next February isn’t Russia’s laws, it’s the rules of the IOC and their refusal to step up to the plate on the issue of human rights. Boycott the Sochi Games? That just allows the IOC to use Russia as its scapegoat. A much more effective demonstration would be if Tokyo – which last Sunday was selected as the host city for the 2020 Games – were to turn down that honor until the IOC adds human rights as a condition in its selection process of determining which countries are fit for hosting the Games. But then Japan might have to legalize same sex marriage before playing that card.
It is convenient to tie Russia and its discriminatory laws in with the Olympics, and act as though it is Russia and not the IOC with whom we should be taking objection, but the Games are merely shining the spotlight on Russia’s human rights record. The two have nothing to do with each other. Unless you are ready to condemn every country with a less than stellar human rights record who hosts the Olympics. You can say that with Russia it is a case of persecution while South Korea – where the 2018 Games will be held – merely discriminates against its gay citizens by not allowing them to marry. Even when under South Korea’s Military Penal Code consensual intercourse between homosexual adults is deemed to be “reciprocal rape” and is a crime. But equality is a black and white issue. You do not judge human rights on a bell curve. You don’t hand out brownie points to a country for treating its second-class citizens better than another country’s treatment of its citizens it wants to persecute. And you don’t buy into the IOC’s claim that he Olympics exemplify the very best of human nature when its policies support human rights violations.
Boycott the Sochi Games? Boycott Russian Vodka? I think not. How about boycotting NBC, who pays the IOC big bucks to televise the Games, or Coca-Cola, one of the Olympics’ biggest sponsors instead. The Olympic Charter states: “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Maybe it’s time we force the IOC to recognize the human dignity of gay people too.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy: