Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the protestin' ethic

apparently, chinese official have decided to "allow" protests at the 2008 olympics after getting permission from the government and police; after gaining permission, protestors will be allowed to stage rallies in three designated city parks. 

now initially i thought, getting permission to protest would completely defeat the point, then i thought about the march on washington and then it hit me that, protests are nothing but symbols.  if there is no work going on behind them to change the conditions being protested, they're nothing but events to be written about and filmed for journalists hoping to gain pulitzer awards if something crazy breaks out.  because the designated protest areas are not in the olympic village, they will most likely go unseen and uncovered making it seem like any protests were small an insignificant at best.   the real protests for the olympics would have to come from the athletes; circa 1968 mexico city.  somewhere where there is international visibility and there can be no mistaking about the message being sent.

now i know many of you remember the photo of john carlos and tommie smith with the black fists on the medal stand and think, that was a symbol.  true, but it was a symbol of a year long set of protests and possible boycotts arranged by the ophr (olympic project for human rights) which was founded by harry edward and martin luther king jr.  the mission statement of the was to no longer allow the u.s. to use so called black athletes to point out to the world the progress that the country has made, when oppression against black is at an all time high.  the group considered boycotting the olympics and had 3 major demands of the u.s.

1.  restore muhammad ali's title
2.  remove avery brundage as head of the u.s. olympic committee because brundage was a known white supremacist who helped aldolf hitler secure the olympic in berlin
3. divest fro south africa and rhodesia to show solidarity to african nations fighting against apartheid

the thing about the 1968 medal stand protest that separates it from anything that could possibly happen 40 years later at these games, is the socio/political climate of the world.  since blacks were fresh out of civil rights, they weren't feeling patriotic, so expressing their feelings of oppression and solidarity with other nations fighting oppression didn't take a back seat to their feeling of patriotism.  now in the wake of 9-11 (does anyone else think its more than ironic and coincidental that the date is 9-1-1) we here in the u.s. are all adorning the flag in some show of faux solidarity while police still brutalize minorities, the percentage of children living in poverty continues to increase, and we're losing thousands of our young men because our leaders are greedy (you know we don't even need iraqui oil, we just want to control it so other countries can't use it without our say so).  sorry i digress, the point being that we've become comfortable in the benefits of being americans, and its not worth it to risk our position to help those with no power.

after seeing carlos and strong stripped of their medals, and muhammad ali stripped of his title for expressing their beliefs about the way the u.s. conduct its foreign affairs instead of being an "ambassador" for the nation through dominating in "friendly international competition," most black athletes have decided to remain silent; obeying the olympic game's cardinal rule to "not to display any political stances whatsoever." 

 in honesty though, politics is what the olympics is all about.  countries flexing their muscle physically with super powersbolstering their claims to being superior to the rest of the world and third world countries, hoping that victory can help them to be seen as worthy of being treated humanely by the countries that control the world's resources.

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