Friday, August 23, 2013

Saying Nyet to the Russian Homophobolympics

As a gay-athlete, and oh yes, also privacy professional, I've decided not to set foot in Russia, as a personal protest against Russia's offensive homophobic laws.  My swim team friends and I agreed that Putin is demeaning the Olympics and turning them into his Homophobolympics.  We know something about athletic discipline:  we swim a lot and hard.  We've all trained with real Olympians, and we're in awe of them.  So, how should we react when political thugs attack the core values of the Olympics? 

When some politicians in Russia recently started "investigating"  American tech companies, I was invited to go to Moscow to meet with them.  But in the case of Russia, in light of its recent Anti-Gay Propaganda law, I declined.  I decided not to set foot in Russia, as an act of personal conscience.   Many other people whom I respect are making similar decisions not to set foot in Russia.  

Russia joins a rogue's gallery of countries with state-sponsored homophobia, but unlike the others, Russia is soon to host the Winter Olympics.  Ever since Hitler hosted the Berlin Olympics in 1936, we know how miscreants in power want to use the Oympic global stage to win international attention and acclaim.  

I have deep respect for athletes.  We should do nothing to hurt athletes in Sochi.  But let's also use the Sochi Games to shine a spotlight on Putin's regime.  Putin wants the spotlight, let him have it.  Let's shine a spotlight on government corruption in constructing the $50 billion Olympics facilities.  Let's shine a spotlight on Putin's crackdown on human rights, on democracy, on the judicial system in Russia.  Let's shine a spotlight on Putin's coterie of friendly rogue-regimes, like Syria's Assad.  Let's shine a spotlight on the personal wealth accumulated by friends of the regime.  Let's use social media to disseminate evidence of the vicious homophobia that Putin is inciting.  

Each of us must make a choice.  I'm not setting foot in Russia.  Despite its lofty self-congratulatory rhetoric, the IOC is taking the amoral path. But many people will go to Sochi, and I have a wish for athletes and spectators alike:  wave a rainbow flag as you march at the Opening Ceremony, or wear a rainbow scarf or pin.  Some politicians around the world are already showing ethical leadership, and I hope the clutch of global politicians attending the G20 in St Petersburg soon will too.  Imagine if we had all had the courage in 1936, Jews and non-Jews alike, to march at the Opening Ceremony in Berlin wearing Yellow Stars.  

Say Nyet to the Homophobolympics.

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