Politics Magazine

You Don't Create Change By Running Away

Posted on the 10 August 2013 by Jobsanger
You Don't Create Change By Running Away (The image above is from the Facebook page of Terry Nicholson.)
While many of the world's nations have been moving toward equality, and the granting of equal rights to all (including members of the LGBT community), Russia seems to be headed in the opposite direction. In June, the Russian legislative body passed an "anti-gay propaganda" law, and it was signed by President Putin. The law makes it a crime to publicly endorse or advocate the LGBT lifestyle, and violating that law could result in fines or imprisonment.
With the winter Olympics only a few months away, this has many people worried. Those Olympic games are scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia. While it is unlikely that athletes or tourists attending the games will publicly protest the law, many wonder if the law will be used to punish openly gay individuals and couples attending or participating in the games. This is a valid concern, and Russia needs to address it.
The Russian Sports Minister has said that the rights of the athletes would be protected unless they go out "in the streets and start to propagandize". The question is just what does "propagandize" mean. Will two LGBT athletes or tourists holding hands be considered public propaganda? How about kissing or hugging in public? The IOC has asked the Russian government for clarification on how the new law will affect Olympic tourists and athletes -- and they deserve to get that clarification.
There is now a move to either boycott the Olympics or move them to another country (Canada has been suggested). I am against both of these options. I feel it is premature at this point, although I do believe the Russian government should give assurances to the Olympic committee, and then take action to back up those assurances.
A boycott should be considered out of the question. The United States has already tried that, and it accomplished nothing except to deny hundreds of American athletes the right to compete (after spending years training for it). And moving the Olympics to another country is not much better. You don't solve problems by running away from them.
This has been compared to the 1936 Olympics, which was held in Hitler's Germany. While it's not an invalid comparison, I don't think those Olympic games glorified Hitler's regime as much as it humiliated it. Remember Jesse Owens? Didn't he destroy Hitler's ideas of "Aryan superiority" before the entire world? I'd like to see some gay athletes do the same, to humiliate the homophobic stance Russia has taken.
I doubt that Russia would seek to take any action against tourists or athlete's attending the games. After all, they will be in the glare of the public spotlight -- and any homophobic moves would bring quick condemnation from most of the world press, especially in the economically powerful developed nations (nations that Russia has a vital economic interest in being friendly with).
Both the IOC and the nations sending athletes to the Olympics need to put pressure on the Russian government to insure the safety of their athletes and tourists. They must make it clear that there will be consequences if the rights of those people are violated. But we need to take moving the Olympics off the table (at least right now). This is an opportunity to further human rights across the world, and we should not bypass this opportunity by running away from it.

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