Sunday, February 17, 2008

What is the lesser of two evils?

Last week I read a statement from Steven Spielberg stating that he was resigning as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies in China this year. He cited China's strong ties with Sudan and the continued violence in Darfur as his reasons.

My brain goes in so many different directions with this one.
My first thought is "Awesome!". As violence in Darfur continues, it's public statements like this one that will keep it out front where it can't be ignored or forgotten. That's a good thing.

My second thought is "His only protest about China is its tie to Sudan??!"
Spielberg gives no other reason for resigning his very prestigious post. While Sudan/Darfur is a valid reason, it's certainly not the only reason to have issues with China. This is a country known for its persecution... it's "crimes against humanity". While I appreciate Spielberg's nod to Darfur, I'm a bit appalled by the fact that he made no mention of the countless atrocities China has inflicted (and continues to inflict) on its own people. It's this very pattern of continued persecution that has caused me, countless times, to wonder why China was given such a profound honor as hosting the Olympics. Maybe someone who better understands international diplomacy/relations can explain it to me.

My final thought is about the Olympic athletes themselves. I don't envy those who will compete in China this year. What should be a celebration of athletic ability will instead be continually overshadowed by protests and political statements of every kind (which again - in my mind - begs the question "why did they choose China??). These athletes have worked hard, sacrificing so much for so many years. They should be the center of attention during these Olympic games but I have a terrible feeling that they will, instead, only be the follow up story.

That, then, makes we wonder which choice is better; using the China Olympics to draw attention to some of the horrible things that happen in the country, or keeping politics and social justice issues out of it and letting the games be what they're meant to be - a spotlight shining on the world's greatest athletes? Would we have missed an opportunity had we kept quiet? Or have we ruined these games for the ones who have worked hardest to get there?


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