Friday, February 07, 2014

Making My Stand

"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter

The current Google doodle is beautiful and understated yet no less powerful in its message. But what about me personally? How should I handle a beloved event when I don't agree with the politics of the country in which it is being held?

Do I watch the Olympics from Sochi or do I boycott them because of the Russian government's severe anti-gay and lesbian laws?

I love the Winter Olympics, even more than the Summer Olympics. There is something so exhilarating about men and women throwing themselves down icy ramps and steep hills, going airborne with nothing more than a few feet of thin board under them, spinning and jumping gracefully over ice, or working for hours to maintain a pace over miles of packed snow. Every four years for weeks, I become one with the athletes who have sacrificed so much to push and challenge themselves toward greatness. I cheer from my sofa with gusto.

So here's the thing:
  • If I boycott the telecast, am I hurting the athletes more than standing my ground? After all, they aren't the ones bullying and trampling on people and their human rights.
  • Will my lone single voice matter? I am an older straight woman who supports gay rights. Does anyone care? Or is it not my fight?
  • In the end, will any of it matter?  Hmmm, tell that to Rosa Parks or the Suffragettes, or more recently to Malala Yousafzai.
Then my friend and writing colleague, Jeri Westerson, posted something on her Facebook wall that made it all come together for me: 

If you think it's still okay to watch the games, just swap the word "black" or "Jew" for "gay." Now how does it sound?

I would never support any organization, country or event that would exclude people for their religion, race or gender, so how is this different?  Frankly, it's not. 

So to all the Olympians out there, please know that I am still behind you 110% and when you win your medals or take your falls, I will have to learn about it second hand but will feel no less excitement or sadness.


Marge burglund said...

Thanks. That made the decision much easier. How did they end up with the Olympics anyway?

Jeri Westerson said...

Thanks, Sue Ann. Being a Jew, and seeing what is going on in Russia and many other places on the globe (including our own backyard here in the US)I am reminded that taking away human rights can be such an easy thing. At this Olympics, my gaze is thrown back to the 1936 summer games in Hitler's Berlin. The world watched the games (by newspaper, radio, newsreels). And yes, it was a marvelous moment when Hitler's master race watched an American black man beat them, but I wonder how many Jews being ousted from their homes and schools appreciated that. They might have appreciated more the world taking a stand against them, not playing some games. And so it is the same for me today. Thanks Sue Ann for posting this blog.

Shirley Pearson said...

I will not be watching the games this year, either. It hurts my heart to see what is happening to people who are considered "different." I am also ashamed of some of our politicians who are against gay & lesbian rights, and who act on those feelings. Fortunately, we are seeing more people standing up for the G/L rights.

Christopher Hudson said...

Sue Ann & Jeri,
Thank you for your comments and your efforts to voice them publicly.
To further the discussion, not to challenge your decisions, what are the best ways (yes, multiple) to counter social injustices?
For example, the US response of participating but consciously sending openly gay representatives (Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano).
Is that more or less effective than boycotting?
It is a very difficult decision to make.
At what point does one abandon working from within (e.g. participate but protest / voice a different opinion) and, instead, work to change from the outside (e.g. boycott)?
Again, thanks for having the courage to take a stance in public.