Wednesday, April 9, 2008
You Ain't Gonna Make It With Anyone Anyhow...
The news (ESPNews, but that counts, right) has been peppered with stories of protest amid the Olympic torch's usual Run-Through-A-Lot-Of-Big-Cities tour. In London and Paris, the flame was actually extinguished numerous times when torch bearers were actually accosted during their runs. All the hubbub relates directly to the old Chinese habit of treating human beings like shit. Communism has been around for a long time, and China has been under communist rule since 1949, when Chairman Mao (see the Beatles' "Revolution #1) came to power in what is ironically termed a "New-democratic revolution." The people Mao and his cronies duped pretty much had no choice, as their existence before Communism was just as bad if not worse than it has been. Primarily, the communist regime has ignored the rights of peasant farmers, which they promised they would sort out during the 28 year period after they were founded but before they came to power. These farmers are still being ignored, but, as peasants don't generally do a whole lot to boost the economy (you know, besides FEEDING THE CITIZENRY!), they are able to be ignored without a whole lot of negative effect upon the People's Republic. The economy in China continues to grow at a scary pace while human rights violations remain commonplace.
As you probably know, the 2008 Summer Olympics were awarded to Beijing, the capital of China, in 2001. Part of the IOC's (International Olympic Committee) thought process behind awarding the Games to a nation with such an egregious record on human rights was that the spotlight placed on the country through the games would force them to change their ways, or else be embarrassed on the world's greatest stage. Guess what? With apologies to Clark Gable, they don't give a damn. They pushed peasants out of their homes to make way for state of the art stadiums and Olympic facilities. The trick is, communism is designed to put the government at the top of the priorities list; the prosperity of the state is all that matters. Therefore, when peasant farmers go up against Olympic stadiums, the stadium wins because it will generate more money for the state. HOW DID NOBODY SEE THIS COMING?!
That question is leading protesters to attempt to bring attention to the horrible atrocities committed by the Chinese government, largely against Tibet, which considers itself a free and sovereign state, but which the PRC thinks makes a nice living room addition to the west wing of their house. Funny that you didn't hear much about this in the U.S. media in the SEVEN YEARS leading up to the Olympics from the time they were awarded.
The big question now, and the one I would like to see some discussion on (can Petie have a discussion with himself? We shall see) is what the U.S. and, more specifically, our Olympic teams, going to do about this? Several athletes have mentioned a boycott, which I am pretty much all in favor of at this point. Several groups have put pressure on President Bush to take a stand and issue the boycott himself. The crappy thing is, these athletes spend ALL THEIR TIME AND RESOURCES training for these events, and their non-participation will hardly curb human rights abuses from a self-imposed, non-elected government that has propagated them for years. To end an athletes Olympic dream is a tough thing to do.
But, if you ask me, it's the only thing to do. We boycotted the Games in Moscow in 1980 because the USSR and the U.S. weren't getting along, so why can't we do the same when there are far worse crimes being committed daily by the Chinese Government than the Soviets at that time. To be really effective, though, it would have to be an international boycott, the European Union would have to step up along with every country who stands against human rights abuses. There is, of course, a rather cynical part of me that doesn't see this happening. Why? Because China is a huge economic partner of America, and sadly, their dollars matter more to the government than their crimes. Starbucks, Nike, and a whole host of other companies are firmly entrenched in China, and I doubt they want to see that spending vanish, especially in the tenuous U.S. economy. If we boycott the Games alone, they might pull trade with us. Sure, it would hurt them too, but if the rest of the world was still trading with them, they could pull through it. Besides, it's not like their government is worried about not getting its officials re-elected.
The possibility of boycotting the games actually thrills me. Never mind that I'm just not a big Olympics guy, I think this actually could be a world-changing statement, if done right. If every major economic power in the world pulled out of the Games, China would be crushed and embarrassed in front of the world and the IOC's basic idea, though obviously not the way they saw it, would come to fruition. We could follow with hard-hitting economic sanctions from enough countries that China would have no choice but to submit to frequent U.N. inspections of the quality of life enjoyed by historically mistreated people. Plus, it would be George W. Bush's final grand gesture, one that might actually succeed in recovering some of the good-will he's been squandering as fast as possible these last few years. If he could lead the charge by pulling the U.S. teams and encouraging other countries to do the same, he would leave office with at least one giant gold star pinned to his lapel, and I think he's eager for a positive not on his legacy at this point. We've been given a gift-wrapped opportunity to make a huge global statement. This is not some contrived "what if" game.
What can the U.S. do? What should the U.S. do? I know I'm not an Olympian and that it isn't my life's ambition that is being ripped from me in the event of a boycott, but I'd like to think that the service these athletes could be doing for the millions of mistreated and murdered in China would last longer and mean more to more people than even a Gold Medal.
Go Go Gadget Boycott!