Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


All or nothing in Olympics boycott

The conflict couldn’t be more stark for any American,
conservative or liberal. On one hand, there is the Chinese government and its
blatant disregard for the concepts of free expression and free thought. On the
other is a people who are led by a man whose only currency is the rhetoric of
peace and a love of individual freedoms reminiscent of our founders.

As the Olympic torch is disrupted by protesters around the
globe and the Chinese crackdown on Tibet ensues, Americans are finally asking
whether we, in good conscience, can participate in these games.

Democratic on-off table master Nancy Pelosi has proposed
boycotting the opening ceremony, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has
endorsed the idea as well. To be sure, their intentions are pure, but this is
the brand of half-baked pseudo-liberal posturing that is typical of Democratic
Party leadership. Be close enough to the policy you oppose ideologically to
avoid claims of obstruction, while remaining far enough to criticize the action
later. It is the politics of intellectual cowardice.


“I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really
gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on
the table,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

If our true concern is saving face, Ms. Pelosi’s is a
tenable solution. But if our nation holds any principles at all on this matter,
we must make some decisive action. If we believe sport and politics should be
separate, then we must give the ceremony and games our full endorsement. If we
feel that supporting an event China is using to cement its international
legitimacy is wrong, then we must refuse to display our flag altogether. As
much as Democrats wish otherwise, there can be no compromise in this matter. We
either stand firmly, or we don’t stand at all.

How can we hold our heads and flag high at these games, how
can we claim to be true descendants of the American spirit, among the first
peasants to free themselves of a master class if we not only stand aside in
Tibet’s struggle, but give the tyrants their grandest show of power?

We have the duty to ask ourselves whether we’ve become like
those who refused to give aid to our struggle for freedom. Our nation should
offer more to the side of liberty than the affirmation of our own immediate

Further, generations of misguided fiscal policy and the Iraq
war have left us debtors to the Chinese. Chinese president Hu Jintao could
respond to our political statement with a financial one, but the last time I
checked, we are a sovereign nation. If the Chinese really have the will and
capability to control our actions by withholding loans to the treasury, I
prefer we just dissolve our government now.

Of course, the problem with these grand ideals is that life
isn’t a philosophical exercise. American athletes have trained their entire
lives for these games, and they have a tiny window to compete for gold. This is
sport, after all, and athletes from every country deserve more than to become
political pawns for an ideological struggle against the Chinese government.

Nonetheless, the Olympics are meant to be a celebration of
our shared humanity. It’s the recognition that our consciousness is linked and
our differences are an intellectual construction, not a fact of our existence.

But through these games, China touts its strength, growing
comfortable in the knowledge that it can deny the self-evident human rights of
the Tibetans and flout international standards for freedom.

American politicians will undoubtedly labor in search of
some middle ground. The popular presumption is that we will somehow exert
greater pressure for reform by remaining in the games. That reasoning ignores
the fundamental law of Chinese politics — the government controls the flow of
information. If we attend, the Communist Party will invent its own narrative of
success. If we don’t, they will of course spin the situation, but international
rejection of their policies will be impossible to hide.

It is a great shame that those who earn the honor of holding
the torch have been attacked by protesters, but the French know quite a bit
about the fight for liberty. Indeed, support of the cause of liberty is the
meaning of our own flag. We must not lend it to Chinese propaganda agents in
our brothers’ time of need.

Bassey Etim ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in political science and journalism

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