Tagged: human rights

china, the ioc, the olympics, and the world- a total farce.

“think of the athletes.” people keep telling me this when i tell them i don’t plan on watching the olympics- somewhat out of apathy for most of the sports, but largely out of protest.

“it’s not fair for the athletes. they have nothing to do with politics.” this ignores the obvious question- who wants to be an olympic athlete and what good is that for the world? (especially if they’re the sort that keep quiet, train, and rake in the bucks through endorsements. for them, the olympics are about money.) it’s not to say that i don’t think people should train to be olympians, but that alone doesn’t really make them heroic or noble. it’s not to say it’s their responsibility to take a stand, but it’d be nice.

it’s nice to see there are some stands being taken- the u.s. olympic team elected lopez lomong to carry the flag during opening the ceremony. lomong is one of the lost boys of sudan who became an american citizen last year. he is also a member of team darfur, which was founded by joey cheek and brad greiner. cheek made the news this week when china revoked his visa, no doubt because of his vocal criticism about china’s involvement with sudan. cheek was interviewed by the huffington post, encouraging the team darfur athletes who made it inside china. when asked about his feelings about his visa being revoked, cheek said:

They gave me a visa, let me have it for a month, and then, 24 hours before my flight, they yanked it from me. It was kind of ridiculous and petty. And it speaks to a broader problem. They’re so desperate to have the Games look like their version of a success that they would threaten anyone who says something they don’t like. This is the story in general. It’s not just about my visa. We’ve heard tales from other members of Team Darfur whose embassies have been approached by the Chinese. If they stay a part of the team, they’ll be treated as suspect individuals, scrutinized, receive extra security, be threatened with heavy handed tactics. And this is all over. It’s not just the Beijing officials, but the IOC [International Olympics Committee] and sponsors are being complicit in this. That’s something that needs to be responded to.

there’s a lot of money at stake for china, the IOC, the sponsors, and so on. they don’t want anything to spoil the party.

“but this is for the chinese people to be proud as a nation.” the whole, theme of china’s coming out into the modern era like it’s some sort of right. this argument does stick with me somewhat- because i know the average chinese citizen has every right to be proud that their nation is hosting the olympics, and that the world is looking at them in a somewhat positive light. the chinese government, however, has done nothing they promised and instead of truly modernising china to the benefit of its citizens, they have spent lots of money to put a nice shine on the event, though the infrastructure may be rotten. the birds nest stadium is stunning, but why didn’t they actually try to tackle the pollution problem earnestly, rather than performing some superficial changes weeks before the games which don’t solve anything, other than hurting beijing residents? the new subway system was a great start, but they could have really done some great things to tackle congestion but dropped the ball. (i’ve had to read a lot about china’s transportation issues in regards to the olympics, that’s a whole other monster.) when china was first awarded the olympics, they promised they would work to improve human rights issues. instead amnesty international reported that human rights have gotten worse as a result. the country has become more severe and paranoid, and the world let’s it behave as such.

it’s sad because normal spectators are unable to watch at the games, making it unlike any olympics in recent years. maybe it’s a sign that the ioc and china deserve each other for being so unconcerned with humanity. the chinese government, i would expect this from. the ioc is supposed to be better than that though.

of course all of this ignores what’s going on in south ossetia.

Gay marriage and my rights to a civil union

California Attorney General Jerry Brown created a good stir this week when he changed the wording of Proposition 8. Previously it “had been described as a measure to limit marriage between a man and a woman.” Now, it states “the initiative as a constitutional change to eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry.”

Prop. 8 backers are now going to sue over the change. Am I surprised? No. Am I annoyed? Deeply. I really want to see Prop. 8 fail. I applaud Brown for making the issue explicitly about civil rights- it’s not about protecting straight marriages, it’s about denying people the right to marry. Fundamentally that is wrong, and I would hate to see the state constitution explicitly diminish any groups civil rights. It also upsets me because it would retain a largely religious definition of marriage that isn’t entirely based on reason. Not exactly separation of church and state. So the will of the majority (and their beliefs) get to impinge on a minority. Fantastic. On the flip side, I know people who will claim their beliefs against gay marriage have nothing to do with religion, rather they’re “not natural” and ignore “procreation”. Hmm, so does that mean only people willing to have kids can be married? And what about gay couples who adopt or have a child? Really a marriage is just a contract between two people and society. This idea of a contract was central to women’s liberation in Victorian Britain, and it’s something that I think people can’t ignore. Why do gays want to be married? They want all the security provided through the marriage contract. How is that going to harm heterosexual marriage?

If there was a true state contract, removed from any cultural or religious values, allowing couples to enter a strictly civil union, then I would be for it. California has the Domestic Partnership law, which grants same sex couples and straight couples where one member is over the age of 62 a contract that allows them to most of the rights of marriage. What about straight couples where both members are under the age of 62? Oh, we can get married. What if we’re opposed to marriage because it’s definitions are bigoted and tied to religious beliefs? Then you’re screwed.

I’ve been entertaining the idea of a civil union for years now, and I can’t do it. Of course I’m too stubborn to cave in to the terrible definition of marriage we have today- I’d rather not compromise my values. (This might not be fair to my other half.) Will the world end because of this? No. Is it silly? Yes. I’m starting to feel that I might have to fight for my right to domestic partnership if Prop. 8 passes, because then I surely wouldn’t want to be married in the state of California.