I’m a self-admitted Olympics addict. I download the apps. I check for updates throughout the day at work. I watch from the moment the Today Show anchors travel to the games to every single interview and this-is-their-life story post-games. I adore them. All. And for all the reasons you’d expect. For those same reasons, in fact, I follow NASA posts, Nobel Prize nominations, research and development discoveries, and humanitarian / political / agricultural / and environmental activism. Because these folks were blessed with something by whatever God or fate or chance you believe in. They’ve got skills and talents that I could never possess. And they know how to wield them. They represent the best in all of us. And the games themselves still encourage a healthy level of international competition that always makes me feel idealistically encouraged and globally connected to the whole human race in a way that the horror stories on the world nightly news just can’t.
That being said, I can hardly believe how horrific things are in Russia today, and I’m genuinely finding it increasingly difficult to support not only the host choice, but the financial benefits they and the sponsors will reap because of this event.
BUT...were it not for the Olympics, we might not all have seen the reality of the situation come to light there. The rug has been pulled back; the closet doors flung open, as it were, and all their inhumane and culturally tyrannical skeletons are falling out all over the place. So, with the spotlight squarely on them now, and all those truths no longer secrets, maybe now some level of global social awareness and political activism can and will lead to change?
But at what cost? To those in harm’s way. To our children. To those who signed up to be athletes, not soldiers, who are suddenly thrust into a dangerous and tumultuous situation. Who are knowingly and willingly standing up for what is right in spite of what terror may rain down upon them. They’re kids. And this isn’t The Hunger Games.
But it's hard not to recall Jesse Owens in 1936 or the Black Power Salute in 1968 (which Tommie Smith himself later wrote was actually a "Human Rights Salute"). How frightened they must've been. The courage that must have taken. And the strength they had to pull from in order to not only continue to represent their country with character and integrity, but still excel as athletes! It was impressive and amazing and inspirational. And our current LGBT athletes and all of their supporters and allies are no less of an inspiration. But the dangers should not be diminished by the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies tonight.
The FAA terrorist threats are real. The Black Widow suicidal bombers are true. The brutal mass killing of stray dogs is absolutely reprehensible. But that's all really just a microcosm of the larger cultural dogma by which they govern their society. The constant, condoned, and public threats, the violence and the torture of the LGBT community in Russia is intolerable, unjustifiable, and impermissible. And it has to be stopped.
So, do we not watch the games? Does that stop anything? Does anyone care that I don’t have my TV on? No, of course not. Because we HAVE to watch the games. We have athletes to support. We have a country to support. We have to rise above the chaos and bigotry in our own nation, as well as others, in order to truly be the Americans represented by the Statue of Liberty. We have a great and powerful history of doing just that. But, and more importantly, we HAVE to continue to be vocal -- more active – louder, stronger -- and on social media, especially. No, walls haven't fallen because of Twitter, but we have more social activists now than ever before – with greater reach – and greater influence – and in greater numbers on a global scale than at any other time in history. And no, I don't know what the next steps should be or could be with Russia. Human rights tribunals? (at a minimum) An embargo? (oh, no, not the vodka!!), but something…SOMETHING…needs to happen...and will, with irrefutable certainty, ONLY happen if we raise our voices!
This is the most politically charged Olympics in some time. And while I agree that politics itself should not be the focus of the games, human rights and equality should -- always -- without a doubt.
Because the risks being wagered today are no less. And the message we were sending in ’36 and ‘68 is the same message we should be sending now. There are no sub-humans, no second-class citizens, no lesser thans. We are one in the same, and in many cases, yes, really terrifying versions of one another. But we. are. all. equal. And we won't be silenced.
YOUR CALL TO ACTION:
Speak up. Tweet, post, blog. Often. And encourage others to do so.
Change is viral. Infect someone today.
Change is viral. Infect someone today.