So. The Olympics. They’re out there. Eating up all the news media’s attention. Causing a rash of bloggers to comment on things that they probably don’t know a whole helluva lot about. The Chinese are being secretive, lying, cheating, totalitarian bastards. The news media’s letting it slide. Beach volleyballers are asking Bush to smack their asses. The whole world’s coming apart.
Thought I’d throw my two cents into that mix.
(Before I go on, keep in mind that the following is a thought experiment. I don’t really know anything, I have no answers, but it gives me plenty to think about.)
In watching the actual coverage of the games (Dana is on a mission, I think, to watch badminton; we haven’t seen any. Have you?), I’m not particularly concerned about the news media not talking about the long list of Chinese governmental atrocities. That’s not their job. All the news media folks crawlin’ over these games are sports commentators. Frankly, if any one of them made any political commentary, my first response would be, “How the hell would you know?” Sorry, but I don’t particularly trust Bill Clement to be a reliable political correspondent.
Outside the coverage, though, much has been made about what we’re not seeing. Much is being made about how the Chinese (and it always seems to be “the Chinese”; rarely do people put the responsibility where it properly lies the government) are hiding wide-spread social inequality. Much is being made about the news media calling the sky “hazy” when it is, in fact, chock full of cancer-causing, global-temperature-raising particulate matter. Much is made about the Great Fire Wall and political oppression and on and on.
It’s all true. Every last bit of it to be sure. I don’t doubt it, and I don’t condone it.
But I’d like to quietly suggest some stuff, some food for thought, that most of us on this side of the Pacific would probably not want to think about.
But we really should.
I’d like to point out that when the Olympics were in Atlanta, a quarter of the population of Georgia was below the federal poverty line. And I don’t think things have gotten much better.
The environment? Unless you’re living in a yurt in the middle of the Arizona desert, you’re just as responsible for our current environmental degradation as the Chinese, even if you drive a freakin’ Prius. Let’s not forget that the United States is second only to China as the world’s leading polluter. (Go U.S.A.!) And while we’re on the subject of China’s rapid growth and how it is contributing to global warming, let’s not forget that their growth is made possible in part by the fact that we keep buying their cheap crap. In fact, just reading this blog, you’re helping the Chinese make money, pollute the environment, give rise to a slightly better-off middle class, and suppress the working class. How? Easy! All the hardware that powers all the computers that make this blog possible manufactured in China. We’re not off the hook.
Let’s talk political oppression. Let’s talk human rights violations. Let’s talk about the remaining 2.5 million Native American people who aren’t really members of “sovereign nations” since their interaction with the U.S. Government is through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, not the Secretary of State like it is for every other sovereign nation on the planet. Let’s take a good long hard look at how they experience the American Dream. Too abstract? How about Guantanomo? Extraordinary rendition anyone?
Before y’all jump on me and say “that doesn’t excuse Tibet!” you’re right. It doesn’t excuse Tibet. And it doesn’t mean that we should care any less about Tibet or Sudan or Burma or Uighur or the Great Fire Wall or the “hazy” Beijing skyline. You’re right. That’s not what I’m saying. Calm down.
All I’m saying is, get off your high horse.
Maybe. Truth be told, I don’t know what I’m saying. I’ve been teaching all week, and when I teach, I get a little riled up. We spend so much time telling these poor unsuspecting Japanese university students about how my ancestors enslaved, raped, bought, sold, and killed black people for no good reason other than to be able to buy a cheap sweater. It (rightfully) messes with my head.
Tomorrow, however, is a new day. Tomorrow I get to tell them all about how some unknown Senator, the son of a white woman and an African, has a pretty good shot at becoming president. It won’t make up for everything, to be sure, but it’s a start.
And maybe that’s where I’m at here at the Olympics. The Olympics are two weeks. And they’re a sporting event, heavily politicized and commercialized to be sure. But at the end of the day, a sporting event. The Mexico City Olympics didn’t end racial discrimination in the U.S. Believing the Beijing games were going change anything in China is naive. The Beijing games were never going to solve anything, were never going to change anything. But all this attention, China’s big “coming out party,” maybe it’s a start.