The Olympics: To Boycott or Not
by Maryscott OConnor, Sat Aug 09, 2008 at 09:19:55 AM EDT
Crossposted fromMY LEFT WING
I watched One Day in September a few weeks ago on HBO, despite my almost pathological aversion to films about painful historical events.
(Which is not to say I don't eventually get around to watching them; I just procrastinate. It took me two years to watch "Hotel Rwanda", a year to see "Blood Diamond." I did manage to see "Schindler's List" while it was still in the theatre, but only because my friend dragged me. And I've still never seen "The Sorrow and the Pity," but please, it's sixteen years longer than the war.)
Yes, I've buried the lede.
Anyway, the point is, One Day in September, which documents the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics, wherein 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, also presents several interviews with international athletes about their decisions to continue in the competitions -- or not.
Watching the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in China last night, I remembered my viewing of One Day in September and thought of the various calls to boycott either those ceremonies or the Games themselves -- or both. And I began an internal debate:
To boycott such an event or not to boycott it... that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in this world to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous politics,
or to take arms against a sea of human rights violations,
and by opposing end them?
To sit out: to refuse to participate; to lose,
and by to refuse to participate I say we end the pain
and the thousand natural shocks that the people of the world
suffer at the hands of the tyrants of world inflict upon them --
an end devoutly to be wished.
Okay, I've pretty much killed whatever chance I had of making that work.
Especially since the answer I've reached is... No.
You see, as I watched that extraordinary opening ceremony, and watched in particular the beautiful faces of the people participating in it, I came to believe that there will never, ever be an end to the suffering perpetrated upon the peoples of this world by the governments of those peoples. If we are very lucky, and we evolve and mature as a race, that suffering will lessen, and those governments will evolve and mature as well. But let us not lie to ourselves: we've been stuck on this planet for a long, long time and our evolution has been relatively glacial. It stands to reason we're not going to see light speed in terms of reaching world peace and universal harmony, no matter what the storybooks say.
So there will always be a myriad of causes that cry out for a boycott. Every four years, the nations of the world see fit to come together in the spirit of... well, coming together -- and, yes, showing off and commerce and a whole bunch of not-very-altruistic and not-very-spiritual reasons. But they come together. And if we gather up all the very reasonable and rational and politically correct (and no, I'm not mocking that phrase, they are correct) reasons to take a stand and say, "Hey, wait a minute, a lot of these nations are led by Very Bad Men, shouldn't we tell them so?" and demand they get their collective act together or we won't play, then we will never come together, ever. For any reason, good, bad or ugly. Well, no, we just might get together for ugly reasons, just as we have always got together for ugly reasons.
And I, for one, am sick unto my death of getting together for only the ugly reasons. I thought China, for all its human rights grotesques, put on one helluva beautiful show last night. And if a little positive reinforcement might, just might give China a reason to tighten up its environmental standards and loosen up its civil rights butt cheeks, then what the hell. Once every four years, I'll put down my placard and wave a sparkler.