And Rainbow Stars on Their Chests?

U.S. President Barack Obama will not be attending the Olympic Games in Sochi, nor will his wife or the vice president. This is all supposed to make it as clear as possible to Russia that the U.S. condemns the policy that the Russian Federation has adopted against sexual minorities. The American president has spoken out about this altogether unequivocally, “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.” And so, in light of the “anti-gay” laws in Russia, he will not be gracing the Sochi Olympics with his presence.

Consistency — that valued and highly commendable quality, one of the ways of expressing one’s position — means not siding with those whose values you do not share in faithfully and worthily, out of respect. Rather, it would be worthy of respect, if this consistency were to actually happen, and if it were not just another figure of speech, of which Obama is so fond.

Of course, the “anti-gay” laws in Russia are recent and not to the liking of the international community, but Russia is not the only country that “treats gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.” Specifically, in Russia, for example, unlike in Saudi Arabia, you cannot, as of yet, get 2,400 lashes and a five-year prison sentence just for being gay. Yet, it was Saudi Arabia, where this is all part of an everyday life that generally can include the death penalty for homosexuality, that Barack Obama visited very quietly in June 2009, even contriving to bow to Abdullah, king of the Wahhabis, in London the same year — no doubt out of his fierce hatred toward the oppressor of homosexuals. Obama also paid a visit to Egypt, where homosexuality is also punishable, albeit not as severely as in Saudi Arabia, and voiced no indignation at the inequality before the law — although he did refrain from bowing.

However, Russia, of course, is a different matter. Why go, if you cannot go and thereby assume a pose, especially when it is safe from a political point of view — unlike obscene gestures toward the leader of the Wahhabis?

At the same time, Obama carefully selected the delegation that will represent the U.S. at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sochi and intentionally included three homosexual athletes: former tennis star Billy Jean King, Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano and Olympic ice hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow. As conceived, this is supposed to express the attitude of the U.S. toward the “anti-gay” laws in Russia, but upon closer inspection, the idea ceases to be an expression of courage or otherwise of “looking danger in the face.”

It is obvious that no one in Sochi will arrest members of the U.S. delegation for “homosexual propaganda,” however this is understood. That is, the three persons chosen as “token homosexuals” can avail themselves of their status and be in complete safety.

Furthermore, I would like to understand just in what way emphasis will be put on their sexual orientation — which, as we understand it, was a key factor in their being chosen as delegates. Will they wear rainbow-colored stars? Will they carry a rainbow flag, together with or in place of the American flag? Will they wear signs that say “I am gay”? All this, like the very motive for exhibiting them as representatives of the U.S. in Sochi seems to me more of an insult to the LGBT community than an honor, since they have been assigned the role of “token Jews.”

Well, and third, of course, as a practical-minded person, I am curious as to just how the presence of three homosexuals in the U.S. delegation will benefit representatives of Russia’s sexual minorities, who were somehow affected by the “anti-gay” law. Will the law be repealed? Reviewed? Will same-sex marriage be permitted? Will society as a whole begin to embrace same-sex relations, transsexuals and transgender persons? Of course not. This reminds me of making paper cranes in support of the victims of the typhoon in Japan. So, you folded 1 million paper cranes. How are they beneficial?

Let us say that they meet with local representatives of sexual minorities. What will they do? Will they pat them on the shoulder? Will they say, “Hang in there, we are with you”? Will they provide money from the U.S. Department of State for a large-scale campaign to repeal the “anti-gay” law? With the exception of this last — illegal — act, the rest has no practical value.

In summary, the sending of “token homosexuals” to the Sochi Olympic Games is nothing more than an altogether childish expression of their discontent, to which it would not be fit for an adult to react at all: because adults express their discontent in other ways, as in 1980, when the U.S. had grievances against the Soviet Union and simply boycotted the 1980 Olympics, without any additional gestures — by way of sending some separate special individuals, whose task boils down to being, so the idea goes, displeasing to the host. And it is quite difficult to envy this mission, even in all its safety.

To add insult to injury, leading the delegation will be former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, whose position is lesser than that of the head of the delegation that came from the U.S. to the previous Olympic Games.

Considering that the efficacy of these complicated diplomatic gestures is incredibly low, one gets the sneaking suspicion that the U.S. simply does not have — pardon me — the balls for a normal boycott and simply wants to, as the saying goes, have its cake and eat it too. As we know, such undertakings are invariably unsuccessful.

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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