An Odious Task

The scenes are being repeated in city after city as the Olympic torch makes its way to China–runners are protected by a phalanx of police in riot gear determined to protect China’s image and investment.

The torch was once a symbol of international cooperation, of putting aside differences in the name of sport. Now it is a symbol of the greed of the International Olympic Committee and corporate sponsors, who care only about their own incomes and not about moral concerns. China may be the world’s largest nation, but it is a murderous dragon.

The scenes on the news remind me of old illustrations of the rendition of Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave who was captured in Boston in 1854. An abolitionist mob stormed the courthouse to try to free him, resulting in the death of a marshal. As a result, they tightened security. A chain was wrapped around the courthouse (Theodore Parker loved the symbolism, especially when the justices crawled under it–he noted that he himself stepped over it). When it was time to transport Burns to the wharf, he was surrounded by a phalanx of heavily armed Marines. It was Boston’s determination to protect Southern investments and relations.

What should we do?

Go along, support China, smile and wave and pretend not to notice China’s repression? Hope that there might be a positive impact on China–that contact with the outside world might make the Great Wall of China collapse?

Or urge the world to boycott? The US has boycotted before–Moscow, 1980–62 nations participated (including China) as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We failed to boycott the Berlin Olympics of 1936 (the head of the American Olympic Committee dubbed the boycott effort a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy”).

If the US doesn’t boycott, citizens could. It’s a matter of simple non-cooperation. Athletes could decide not to compete. Corporations could choose not to sponsor. Consumers could choose not to purchase products with the Olympic logo. Sports fans could choose not to watch (I hardly ever watch anyway, because of NBC’s soap opera coverage).

But I pity those who are carrying the torch. They need to realize the protests aren’t targeted at them, but at the symbol they carry.

One thought on “An Odious Task

  1. The Chinese record on human, religious and civil rights has left a lot to be desired for many many years. It is not until a “politically correct” cause like Tibet has come to the fore that people have began to act. The Chinese have gone to great lengths to organize the summer Olympics, I cant see them letting these events change things.

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