Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thought Police: Concerning the Beijing Olympics

"Most of the people see the fog, they say it is pollution. But we know here it's not pollution. It's mist, a fact of the nature."

I'll be the first to admit that our government is corrupt — the current regime; those before it; and all of those to come.

That's perhaps the darkest secret of human nature: even with the best of intentions, our secret thoughts and actions often undermine the very best of ourselves.

Which is to say: we're far from perfect. And, in large numbers, we're actually quite dangerous.

But I maintain that democracy (in various forms) is the best of all possible governments. Don't believe me? Just pay attention to the Beijing Olympics.

If what you see doesn't make you burst into the chorus from "I'm Proud to be an American," then you're not looking closely enough.

Most of what we've seen in Beijing so far is benign on the surface. But like that proverbial tip of the iceberg, it's something I'd prefer to never run into.

A fireworks display so impressive that even the live audience thought it was real (it wasn't). A six-year-old girl told she wasn't cute enough to appear on stage, though she was asked to sing while another, "cuter" girl lip-synched. Or even better? That China rationalized this decision as being a matter of "national interest."

Just imagine if the U.S. didn't allow the unattractive to perform — what then would come of the Steven Tylers and Clay Aikens of the world?

(OK, so maybe this one little quirk isn't such a bad thing.)

And let us not forget the stone-faced police terrifying tourists; the underage gymnasts; China nearly reneging on its promise to allow uncensored media coverage; the thick smog and how offended the Chinese government became when some American athletes wore masks; or the alarming lack of protesters since the torch relay (particularly when you consider China's reputation for killing and imprisoning dissidents)?

And this is on an international stage, with the whole world watching. Just imagine what they do when we're not paying attention.

Tibet, anyone? Anyone?

I understand that "when in Rome" it's wise to follow protocol. But does that mean if the Olympics were held in Sudan, we'd be free to kill by the thousands, and then tell the international media that the population drop was due to climate change?

Or, excuse me, isn't this why some places aren't selected to host the Olympics?

But far be it for me to tell the IOC how to do their job.

I realize the United States is far from perfect; we're a bully in our own right. Our current administration has manipulated information, misinformed the public, and started unjust wars with unprepared (and under-supplied) soldiers, many of them fresh out of Folsum.

And we didn't just vote in this administration once... we did it twice.

So we're culpable, in a way.

But there's a reason organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union — who I never in a million years thought I'd jump to defend — make such a stink when the government starts tapping our phone calls or holding people without due process.

Because the loss of civil liberties is a slippery slope — one it's best to not start treading.

So... say what you will about the United States.

You're allowed.

(The CIA will just be sure to add it to your file.)

Photo by Paula Bronstein / Getty Images


disgruntled world citizen said...

well put. well said.

M@ said...

As a patriotic American, there is nothing more annoying to me than patriotic (nationalistic, chauvinistic) Chinese, Russians, Mexicans.

But the Chinese are bastards.

Anonymous said...

I was morally outrage when China got the Olympics which is saying something considering I rarely get outraged over politics. (If I did, I would be constantly outraged.) China is a bigger bully than anyone. They do things, look at the world and say "We are justified because we did it." Other countries kowtow to them because they are a vast untapped market. I am as a big a whore as the next consultant but there is a limit to what anyone should be willing to do to chase the almighty Dollar/Euro/Yen/Pound. China is evil in the same way Wal-Mart is evil. Humans aren't resources, dammit!

BTW, this is what makes me crazy about Amnesty International bashing on America. We screw up (Guantanamo Bay is illegal) but I think they should be shouting slightly louder about other people.

Buy Made In America (or anywhere else) and hit them where it hurts.


Pamela said...

There was a news article (I wish I could find it and link) which told about a "protest garden" where they were going to allow "protesters" to speak with "the world." It appears that everyone who applied for license were arrested etc. What a way to draw them in and eliminate the problems, hey?

I always feel a bit compelled to remind that, although I wept bitterly when our country went into Iraq, it truly wasn't a new conflict. I think it was UN resolution 1441 that put the final touches on a resolution that was still "open" from the Gulf War -- whereby the old man (Saddam) refused to comply to all the terms of his surrender. Over and over and over again. Even the previous president bombed and kept our flyboys busy in the No Fly zone. In addition the old guy admitted before his execution that he maintained a pretense, and refused to abide by them, so he could appear strong and forbidding to his enemies (Ir@n, etc.)

It's so much more conflicted and convoluted than "manipulation" on our part.