Boycott the Olympics

I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts on this issue for some time. My first thought upon hearing about the passage of the draconian anti-gay “propaganda” law in Russia was that Vladimir Putin must have a very tiny penis. And I still believe that. And if he ever wants to fly out here and compare dick size with me, I’d be happy to engage with him, because dictators are never quite so tough when they don’t have walls and secret police to defend them. I’m dirt poor, unemployed, and angry as hell. If Putin wants to take a swing at me, let him try. I’ll kick his fucking ass.

There has been a lot of earnest and healthy debate over what to do regarding this issue. The time for that debate is over. My main man Dan Savage was sharply criticized for organizing a boycott of Stolichnaya vodka on the grounds that Stoli is manufactured in Latvia and has actually sponsored Gay Pride events elsewhere in the world. True, but Latvia isn’t exactly the model of a tolerant nation, either. The company has been doing exactly what needs to stop: fence-sitting. I don’t have the space to fully unpack this controversy, suffice to say that while Stoli has made considerable effort to distance itself from the Russian government in its business dealings, it still wears its Russian identity like a badge of pride. (Really, doesn’t the fact that so few people know that it’s bottled in Latvia kind of prove that all by itself?) The company still imports its raw materials from Russia and prior to the boycott, had not spoken out against Russia’s discriminatory laws. So as far as I’m concerned, the boycott is justified. If you continue to drink Stoli vodka because you like the taste, fine. But if you think I’m just wasting my time, fuck you.

I meet far too many people who think that because they support gay marriage and are generally non-judgmental of what other people do in their private affairs, they must be tolerant people. Tolerance isn’t passive; it’s active. I used to think it would be enough for athletes who go to the Olympics to wear rainbow pins or something, but now, I find that the IOC won’t support that. So I say we boycott, not just the vodka, but the Olympics. I’m not even going to watch them now. The IOC, like Stoli, is trying to sit on the fence. I didn’t expect them to move the Olympics to Vancouver, and they haven’t, but now I realize that the reason for that is simply greed. Well, that and laziness. “Surely, the gays and the people who think gays should be raped, mutilated and left for dead can learn to coexist, right? Can’t we all just get along?” Fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you. I haven’t been this angry in a long time. Somebody is bound to point out that the athletes have worked and trained for this all their lives, and that it would be cruel to take this away from them. No, it wouldn’t. It’s not easy, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Human rights trump all other values. That is one thing that I have learned in my short time on this Earth. I don’t care how much you love your sport, I don’t care how much you love the roar of the crowd and the satisfaction of winning, this is about your right to even exist. Gay athletes should not compete. Straight athletes should not compete. People who plan on attending should cancel their plans. NBC should refuse to broadcast the games, and if they can’t do that, we should simply refuse to watch. I’m dead serious. The Russian government has taken a very dismissive attitude towards this issue, so it’s time for us to hit them where it hurts. They can make their country as medieval and backwards-ass as they like, but…you know what? Actually, they can’t make their country as medieval and backwards-ass as they like. We’re all in this together. It’s time some of us learned that.

There is an old saying about the definition of happiness being the ability to speak your mind without fear or something like that. I can’t remember where I heard it, but I detect a lot of doublethink in Russian politics these day. Russian Sports Minister of Truth Vitaly Mutko has said that Russians are entitled to private lives, but they don’t want the promotion of non-traditional lifestyles to affect their youth. In his defense, the irrational hatred of anyone who is different is a beloved pastime for many folk. Do Russians hate gays? Most don’t, I suspect, because most, as is often the case, have never gotten to know one. But the government has the power to set the national conversation, so now, committing hate crimes has become cool, and most people just go along with it. The comparisons to Nazi Germany are, at a certain point, inescapable. I was on the fence about a boycott until today, and for good reason. The IOC statement has taken the power out of the hands of the athletes. They no longer have the leverage to show their solidarity. The Russian government thinks it can simply will gay Russians into non-existence if it simply hates them hard enough. But contrary to popular belief, the side that wants to win the most often loses. Who wanted the Democratic nomination in 2008 more, Hillary or Barack? Who wanted to win the Civil War more, the North or the South? I think I’ve made my point. When you cling to something that hard, it always gets ripped away. Always.

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One thought on “Boycott the Olympics

  1. If the Olympics gets boycotted by athletes, nations and teams because of the Russian social and “official” stance on being gay, doesn’t that just leave room for the “traditional” teams, athletes, and nations to bolster up the Russian anti-gay agenda?

    You mentioned that tolerance isn’t passive; that it is indeed active, impassioned and deliberate. To force tolerance upon the ignorant and socially-indoctrinated masses of Russians, I would think that Johnny Weir’s attitude of resilient and determined defiance of the Russian law carries with it more social impact than simply boycotting the Olympics.

    Johnny Weir has come out and publicly said that he will go to Russia and is unafraid of being arrested. That kind of determination, the same kind of determination that Jesse Owens had when defying the Germans specifically and intolerant propaganda broadly, has real power because it represents an individual’s vow to not remain silent. In my opinion, boycotting leaves only the voices of hate and intolerance to monopolize the conversation. Staying and fighting for what you believe, despite the threat of arrest and brutality, shows that a cause is worth fighting for.

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