The Olympic games are a spectacle of competition and diversity. Athletes from more than 200 nations compete for gold; the countries they represent have different forms of government, eclectic social, cultural and economic values, and disparate narratives about individualism and society. And yet the athletes abide by the same rules of a sport, win or lose, and inspire based on their performance.
We only see the athletes and forget the political, social or economic conditions that made those human beings into athletes. In the United States, we pride ourselves for bringing home the gold, and beating China or Russia.
The games are coordinated by the Olympic charter, a set of rules on the coordination of the games. These rules apply regardless of the host country and its form of government or politics. The Olympic Charter, under the fundamental principles of Olympism, reads: “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
Sport is a service to society, but that cannot be when the host country, Russia, suppresses speech, imprisons protesters, enacts anti-gay propaganda laws and blatantly practices corruption all while calling itself a democracy.
The 2014 winter games are being held in Sochi, Russia, a country which considers itself a democracy but does not operate by the democratic ideal. While no country truly operates by the democratic ideal; some are closer than others. In June 2013, the Russian government enacted a law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” The law is based on the absurd assumption that same-sex relations are equal to pedophilia.
Our differences should not prevent us from distinguishing right and wrong. Even at home, we face laws that suppress the rights of the LGBTQ community.
According to a 2009 Gallup survey of 7,200 middle and high school students in the United States, 85% of those surveyed reported harassment in school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. We host problems for which we condemn nations like Russia. We need to recognize that violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community is also institutionalized in the US.
At least seven states have “no-promo-homo” or “don’t-say-gay” policies. For instance, in South Carolina discussing “alternative sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships” in health education programs is prohibited except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases. This policy absurdly equates same-sex relationships to a consequent STD. According to a 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, transgender people were 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence compared to cisgender survivors and victims.
The same report states that in the United States there were 25 anti-LGBTQ hate-violence homicides in 2012. This is not to belittle the extreme violence against the LGBTQ community in Russia, but it is important to be critical of these injustices on a global level and understand that America is not immune to these actions.
Of course, our country has made progress; the Supreme Court did rule to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and 17 states have legal marriage equality. It is important not to discount the work and struggle of organizers to reach these landmarks in the context of legal justice for LGBTQ Americans. However, this does not qualify our country as a sterling beacon of support and social/political/economic justice when it comes to the treatment of LGBTQ folks. Many of us that are quick to point fingers at Russia are quick to forget anti-LGBTQ violence and laws that exist both in our own country and on a global scale.
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Filed Under: Opinion