Americans in Glass Houses……

A recent poll showed that over thirty percent of Americans polled are not interested in the Olympic games. I have no idea whether these numbers are typical or not, but it got me thinking about the “China backlash” these games might recieve.

It’s far too simplistic and ethno-centric to be surprised at the restricitve nature of the Chinese government now. When the IOC was considering China, specifically Beijing, there was an appropriate time to lodge complaint.

While we liberals here in America rail against the human rights violations of the Chinese government (and we should) we should stop expecting it to change for a magical two weeks during the games. We also need to stop punishing the Chinese people for the acts of their restrictive government. The people of China are immensely proud of their culture, their people and their traditions. While there is much that we would see improved about China, no one in their country protested when Coca-Cola branded the Olympic torch. All societies have flaws.

It is ironic that some in the west have chosen now to protest, now to become indignant. We don’t stop and think of the possible human rights violations that went into our super-cheap goods at the local Wallmart. We don’t hesitate at picking up that oh-so-cheap H&M jacket. We watch movies on $50 DVD players. It has been our acceptance of cheap goods like these that has allowed this restrictive regime to open enough spigots of capitalism to enjoy an economic resurgence on an epic scale-while at the same time elevating millions out of poverty. I am no apologist for the Chinese government, but I think it is egotistical and elitist for the richest nation in the world to criticize the Chinese when the working poor in this country have no healthcare, stagnant wages, poor educational access, and even limited access to food. 

Every location that hosts the games puts a unique stamp on them. The games have been held in Berlin, Moscow, Rome, and Munich every one of those games became a reflection of our changing world and society at the moment they were held. The Beijing games now join the pantheon of world spectacles. A new moment where one flawed, under explored, culture puts it’s best face forward for two weeks. We should embrace them into the world community, expect better of them, but also of ourselves.


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