Much has been written,
on the Russian barbaric laws,
the upcoming Olympic games.
Lots for the boycott,
Some people say a boycott,
won’t make much of a difference,
be that as it may,
those laws are horrific,
something must be done,
I am sharing two of the best things,
I’ve read on the subject,
they aren’t very long,
they are clear, conscise,
The first is from the Huffington post UK,
an open letter by Stephen Fry:
An Open Letter to David Cameron and the IOC
Dear Prime Minister, M Rogge, Lord Coe and Members of the International Olympic Committee,
I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they “polluted” the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful Führer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.
Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment. It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma. Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don’t connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.
An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.
He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, “the banality of evil.” A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milanov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).
I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.
“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” so wrote Edmund Burke. Are you, the men and women of the IOC going to be those “good” who allow evil to triumph?
The Summer Olympics of 2012 were one of the most glorious moments of my life and the life of my country. For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement forever and wipe away any of that glory. The Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilised world.
I am begging you to resist the pressures of pragmatism, of money, of the oily cowardice of diplomats and to stand up resolutely and proudly for humanity the world over, as your movement is pledged to do. Wave your Olympic flag with pride as we gay men and women wave our Rainbow flag with pride. Be brave enough to live up to the oaths and protocols of your movement, which I remind you of verbatim below.
Rule four: Cooperate with the competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace.
Rule six: Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement.
Rule 15: Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education.
I especially appeal to you, Prime Minister, a man for whom I have the utmost respect. As the leader of a party I have for almost all of my life opposed and instinctively disliked, you showed a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped push gay marriage through both houses of our parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side. For that I will always admire you, whatever other differences may lie between us. In the end I believe you know when a thing is wrong or right. Please act on that instinct now.
Yours in desperate hope for humanity
The second is one Christos Tsirbas wrote for medium.com,
thought provoking and again clear.
I’m proud to call Chris my friend,
he is a smart and passionate man.
It is an editor’s pick at medium.
On Saturday of last week, a group of queer Torontonians and our allies gathered at the corner of Church and Wellesley and marched up the street to the office tower that houses the Russian consulate. We held signs, we chanted, we covered the sidewalk with slogans and symbolic chalk outlines of the fallen, and plastered the entrance with signs. It was a gesture of solidarity with Russian queers whose rights have been stripped by Vladimir Putin, and who are now facing daily persecution at the hands of the state, the Russian Orthodox Church and the various thugs who feel emboldened by the sanctioning of hate by the toxic combination of right-wing nationalism and religion.
Our voices were loud. We made the news. But did we accomplish anything other than assuage our sense of moral outrage? Is there any power in grassroots protests such as these? Is there any point to hitting the streets? After all, what’s a march of a few hundred Toronto fags and dykes and trans folk to an autocrat like Vladimir Putin? Less than nothing, I’m sure. Except that Putin is not necessarily the target. We’re reaching out to the world. We are watching the seeds of genocide being planted in Russia and we are crying “Murder!” while the rest of the world is arguing over what we should do about the Olympics. Because let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things the Olympics are but a sideshow and a distraction.
No matter what happens in Sochi six months from now, the detentions and killings will go on. Russia will continue to slide into a morass of bigotry, hatred and nationalism. It may well descend into fascism, with all its dire consequences, if it already hasn’t. The signs are already there. Queers aren’t the only ones being targeted by the charismatic Putin. Illegal immigrants are being rounded up and put into internment camps. There are already 21 such camps in place and plans are underway to build some 83 detention centres. Journalists and activists are also subject to government attention in the build-up to the Winter Olympics.
The signs all point to a repeat of 1930s Nazi Germany. Can we stop it with the benefit of hindsight? Can 21st Century communications technologies that bear witness to atrocities stem the tide of hatred? Or are we on the threshold of another holocaust to be perpetrated with the ruthless efficiency of capitalism and mass consumption, and fueled by lowlifes who employ social media to share their aberrant criminality the same way that sane individuals share the latest Daft Punk single or pictures of their cats?
These are some of the questions I’ve had to ask myself in choosing to march in protest and in supporting a boycott of Russian products and the Sochi Olympics. As a solitary voice, I can’t do much more than call attention to the horrors being perpetrated in the former Soviet Union. As part of a larger protest movement I can better raise awareness but this is cold comfort to Russian queers and activists on the ground. However, I can at the very least motivate corporate and government entities to divest in Russia, and to walk away from the Olympics.
None of this will likely change Putin’s policies or help ease the burden of those being persecuted in Russia, at least not immediately. But there’s an old saying about money talking and bullshit walking, and I think it applies here. The Russian elite stands to lose millions if the boycott goes ahead. Corporate sponsors worldwide and broadcasters stand to lose a lot more. Athletes and sports fans will lose as well but all of these loses pale in contrast to the value of a single life lost to hatred.
Distilled, the essence of the boycott is this: If it saves a single life, it will have been worth it. If a protest march changes one mind and averts a single act of brutality, it will have accomplished something. And if the collective voice of a planet united against the Russian Federation, the International Olympic Committee and high-level sponsors like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Panasonic, hurts the purse-strings of the oppressors, it too, will have been worth it.
History has shown that acquiescence amounts to less than nothing. Jesse Owens’ proverbial slap in Hitler’s face at the 1936 Olympics did not prevent the Holocaust. Auschwitz still happened. Millions were killed. Jews, Roma, queers, the disabled and other “undesirables” perished in the gas chambers. The past has also shown that boycotts do work. Sustained pressure helped topple Apartheid in South Africa. The desire for unavailable western consumer goods in the former Soviet Bloc helped bring down the Iron Curtain. Communism fell because Russians wanted Levis as much as they wanted freedom. How long would Putin last if the world deprived Russia of cherished consumer goods?
Is a boycott the best or only way to deal with gay rights abuses in Russia? Perhaps not. But it is a start. It is a way of focusing the attention of the world on an on-going crisis that is certain to escalate. As a friend pointed out, anti-gay laws in Russia have been propagating for the last two years, but it took a vodka boycott to call the world’s attention to the story. Also, as a result of the boycott, Stolichnaya’s parent company SPI has agreed to add sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination policy. These may be small steps but they are steps nevertheless.
As for the fate of the Sochi Olympics, we may see a boycott, an on-site protest or a move to Vancouver or another site. Whatever happens, the IOC and the Olympic movement have have already taken a hit to what little credibility they still have. The once-innocent and laudable ideals of putting sport over politics and focusing on human potential and achievement have long lost their sheen in the wake of the crass commercialism and the vast sums of money spent by host countries to put on the games the Olympics, and the even bigger sums spent by sponsors to promote their wares during the two weeks of competition.
As it stands, the Olympics are just another brand competing for eyeballs and dollars in the global economy and every dollar lost is a dollar against the bottom line. Taking money away from the organization, as long as it continues to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses for the sake of spectacle, may convince the IOC to deal with such issues the next time they arise. Sadly, athletes are caught in the middle of this fracas and all their hard work and training may be for naught. But the question remains: What is worth more, an Olympic medal for figure skater Johnny Weir or the life of an LGBT teenager in Russia?
I know what I value more.
Just wanted to share that with you.