Dear Olympians of the Future
You may not read this, and you may not read Stephen Fry’s passionate letter, but others may and others will pass it on and hopefully someone may tell you what we the people of the United Kingdom think.
Is this not the year we apologised and ate humble pie that we so rightly deserved for the treatment of one of our heroes. A man who fought a war with his mind rather than a gun? A man who we hounded to his death for being gay? I speak of Alan Turing. And while that dark day in our past is still remembered, we have grown since then. We have made progress and it is painful progress. At times we have seen progress come to naught. Progress against all kinds of bigotry. Be it people like Stephen Lawrence or Michael Causer who died because of what they were. Or like those killed by the IRA or the 7/7 attacks or even Lee Rigby who died for the twisted ideologies that we can hold. But through all this we have made progress. These exclamation points while tragic have galvanised the UK into a different kind of greatness. One that no one ever lauds openly.
I am proud to be British, to the point that many of my ethnicity consider it treasonous. That somehow the UK will betray me. But I know different.
I know the UK is proud of what I am and what I do. When travelling on a tram in the UK a racist decided to tell me what he thought of me. In Russia? We would have seen a deluge of support. But this is Manchester. Home of Alan Turing. Random strangers stood up for me. When they found out what I do and what I am studying to be and where I do it, they were proud of me. And that is what we are.
Tolerant. Oh we may have casual racism but we are fundamentally good people.
It was with great sadness that I missed out on the Olympics. I am not ashamed to say this. I was busy with learning to be a doctor and caring for the sick. I did not see anything. I heard reports but I did not see the show. I love watching sport and just like Stephen Fry I agree, that the London Olympics was an amazing thing. And just like Fry I also agree that the support of the Winter Olympics in Russia is nothing but a travesty and a stain on every principle the modern Olympics stand for. The last such stain was the 1936 Olympics when we demonstrated our willingness to allow such lofty goals to be tarnished by anti-semitic stance of the Third Reich.
In that we see many similarities, not just the hatred for homosexuals but also the nature of hatred. Where the Nazis blamed the Jews for all ills, so does the Russian government’s usage of Homosexuals as a scapegoat for all that ails modern Russia.
In times of great strife, man is pacified by bread and circuses, but also someone they can really really hate. And modern Russia’s economic disparity is a problem and a problem easily solved by blaming the GLBT. Who cares right?
We must care.
While I do not agree with Stephen Fry on the value of the Berlin Olympics in empowering Hitler’s mad crusade to bring “peace” to Europe through massive warfare, I agree that the Olympic Committee showed a total lack of spine and character and betrayed the very principles they claimed to hold true. But then we must remember that it was an era of evil. For all the lauded claims of “Freedom” the UK was still a colonial power and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents and the USA still treated black people as animals. Evil was a relative term during the day.
But we must learn from our mistakes. Those who fail to remember history will fall victim to the same mistakes. So we must remember.
I often joke about Vladimir Putin. About how he is a living James Bond and how he wins votes through shirtless pictures and insanely macho stunts. But we must not forget that he is constructed a sort of cult of personality. And he is repeating the same crime, maybe on a lesser scale but it is the same crime. Assault, Murder and Humiliation are ignored by the police. Any attempt to defend, protest or even protect the GLBT is against the law. To quote Fry and his frankly astonishing and beautiful grasp of the arts.
“Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment.” – Stephen Fry
I didn’t know he was gay. I wouldn’t know my Dvorak from my Tchaikovsky to be fair. I am a dabbler in the myriad rather than a master. I can just about tell my tubas from my french horns. But with that lack of knowledge comes a certain clarity. Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality means absolutely nothing to his music. His gayness doesn’t diminish his words.
Just as Stephen Fry’s homosexuality does not tarnish his. His words hold just as true and just as valid, if not more so because he can understand the hatred that is aimed at the Russian GLBT and the pain that they suffer.
To say that Gay Olympians will be safe is not acceptable. We would not have accepted an Apartheid Olympics in South Africa would we? We did not! We had principles! When did we lose them? When did we debase ourselves with money rather than what is good and correct?
Our forefathers may have been racists and divided by race but we fought and died maybe unequally but we still fought and died fighting a monster who started like Putin because no one would stand up. We are dishonouring their memories and what we stood and fought for. We are dishonouring the memories of people Alan Turing and even slandering such national treasures (you heard me) such as Stephen Fry.
The GLBT are human beings, they are no more deadly or harmless than the next person. They have hopes and dreams and love and passion and every little thing that makes humans human. Then why don’t we show a spine? Or must the traditions of stiff upper lip and stubbornness only be celebrated by our own neo-nazis?
For god’s sake man? We eat blazing hot curry and say we like it. We can damn well tough out an Olympics without Russia. It may disappoint our Athletes but you know what? I am sure many of them wouldn’t have bloody played at Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany. Let’s credit our young men and women with some spine here. Let’s listen to what they have to say. If sufficient numbers of all our athletes decide not to go then the Russian Olympics will be treated as it deserves. With contempt.
It doesn’t matter if Gay Olympians are safe or not. The GLBT of Russia are not. The IOC has to take a moral stance here and either strip Russia of it’s Olympic Winter Games or realise that we can and will ask our athletes to make a moral decision. To many people sport may exist in a pure bubble of athletic prowess but that sort of thinking has lead to many of our star footballers being as mad as a bag of stoats. Sport does exist within a cultural and social framework and like it or not, the young men and women we send to participate are heroes and inspire others.
What sort of hero kowtows to mad dictators and blind hate?
Any participation is a tacit approval of the pain and suffering many of us have witnessed via photographs on line. It is a tacit approval of hate and I do not agree that I am represented by any flag flown there or any athlete who chooses to put personal gain over personal ethics. And I understand it is a hard decision to make and for many of these young men and women a stepping stone to possible greatness and a great deal to ask but I must make this point.
Can you live knowing who’s freedoms you need to step on to achieve your glory?
Putin and the Homophobic Russian Government that wrought this law cannot have the approval of the civilised world. Let the Russia and Saudi Arabias play their own little games of hate and label them “ethical” and “clean” or what have you. But we must not participate.
I know Stephen Fry is a braver man than me to be willing to face down such hatred in St. Petersburg but I am afraid no wit wrought by the minds of man nor beast can sway the bigot. No argument forged by even the most eloquent and cunning of tongues can sway them. No soul wrenching tale will warm their ice cold hearts. Because to be a bigot you must hate and the only way that hate will stop is the terrible shock of everything collapsing simultaneously. They live in the world of the delusional and nothing we say or do will change them. We may sway the fringe to us, so we keep arguing but the core cannot change until they are shocked out of it. And for that I fear there will be more bloodshed and suffering before the GLBT regain their basic freedom.
As atheists, how many of us know of bigots being forced to examine their ideas based on such shocks?
This is a further step back in Russia. From the progress of freedom to the rise of the new bigots. The religious fundamentalist walks hand in hand with the shaven right wing thug. The original match made in heaven if one remembers the Third Reich. Only with less snappy dressing.
I may not get the Prime Minister to read this, but it may get a few brits to think this way. I do not have legions at my beck and call to do my bidding. I am a simple blogger. Olympic Communities do not listen to the likes of us.
But they will listen if we make a bloody noise. So do it. If you think the GLBT matter, if you think the Olympics matter if you even think ideas such as freedom matter then find out someone worth talking to and saying what you think. We don’t have the ears of the big and famous but we do have numbers and even whispers can become a roar if we all do it.
And this isn’t just for us Brits, this is for everyone. How can you be American and claim to be “Free” when you support this right wing thuggery? Canadian? Aussie? German? French? The whole damn world is better than this.
Rule 4 Cooperate with the competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace
Rule 6: Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement
Rule 15 Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education
Unlike Stephen Fry, I will not appeal to the Prime Minister. Why would he read this?
But I agree. David Cameron’s leadership has lead to progress and a committed improvement to the GLBT rights and in particular the legalisation of same sex marriage. And we are proud of him for that. But we need to put our money where our mouth is.
We are better than this. So my request is to those who can and will participate.
I know it’s a lot to ask. The Olympics are a dream, the pinnacle of human achievement. But that is it. The pinnacle. How many of you are gay? How many of you have loved ones who are gay? Or indeed are of ethnic minorities. The gay bashing right wing just picks on them because they are an acceptable target, they quite like hitting us coloured people too. But how many of us know and love and respect someone who is GLBT? Do you think we are doing them any favours by participating? Do you think we can be proud of the moment we participated in a place where these loved ones cannot come to see you participate?
Can you be proud of this?
I don’t think I could, which is why I ask you to think about it. Dear Olympians of the Future, do what you think is right, but think of what it means for us all.
Don’t go to Russia. Show them the disdain we showed for the Apartheid. If our fathers were principled then let us be too.