We as a global community have been presented with a unique opportunity. So often, the countries of our world view each other as competitors rather than neighbors; business interests get in the way of cooperation. We do not step back collectively as a populace and look at our interactions as a whole unless we make time for it. However, time is being made for us now. The Olympics are a time when the countries of our world come together, and I believe the upcoming games at Sochi, more so than any other contest prior, will provide us with a clear measurement of how far the international community has come in this millennium.
Firstly, the host: how is Russia going to act? There has been a ton of coverage regarding Russia’s arcane social policy and general unpredictability. I personally think that Western media is a bit unfair to Putin, but I will admit that his leadership has a penchant for irregularity; what he says and what he does do not always match up.
Now he claims that he will only disallow “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”; but how far is he going to take that? Will only active propagandists be punished, or will protesting of any form be targeted? What about openly gay persons attending peacefully? Is he going to enforce some sort of national “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy? There is a high degree of variability here, and also with the punishment. Will he simply eject “propagandists” from the games, or he will he ship them off to the gulag? Russia has the right to enforce social policy as it sees fit since it’s hosting, but they must also respect the international community.
However this is dealt with will demonstrate our ability as a community to compromise. Even though many of us view Russia’s hostile view towards homosexuality as cruel or backward, the fact is that those are the values that country holds right now, and must be respected even though we disagree with them. Our ability to compromise will be reflected in how well we all balance the opposing values of Russia and the international community.
Another question that remains to be answered is how the gay community is going to react. After all, they are the main target of Russia’s social policy. They have a right to be offended, and I would be upset, too, if I were in their place. There are certainly those in the LGBTQ community who are going to want to make a statement or send a message to the Russian government, especially from this country where people are so wont to be rebellious and defiant.
However, the winter games is the not the time or the place to make such a stand. This may be the isolationist in me speaking, but if you’re not a Russian, it’s not your fight. Sure, it’s honorable to stick up for injustice in the world, but this should not be done on the doorstep of an unrelated global event. The Russian government is likely not going to give any thought to the opinion of protesting foreigners who cannot vote in their elections, and therefore have no influence on their political power. It might look bad public relations-wise, but President Putin has proven that he does not entirely care about how he looks in the media, at least on paper.
The fact of the matter is that Russia has a social policy in effect in their country that, whether you agree with it or not, is their right to enforce. However people respond to it will display our capacity for cooperation as a community. Look, you may not support it, but that doesn’t mean you should disrupt an entirely unrelated event to protest it. Russia has laid out its guidelines, and if you don’t agree with them, just don’t attend. If we can do this collectively as a people, it will speak a lot to our ability to work with each other.
Sean Kennedy is an undeclared freshman who thought Sochi was a Japanese food. Love and hate can be sent to email@example.com or @seanskenn on Twitter.
-This event is not the time or place to protest Russian policy .
-How will Russian act? What they say is not always what they do.