Friday, August 16, 2013

IMHO: We do not belong at the Olympics.

The following are responses to our participation in the Olympics in Russia. It was begun on Facebook, and posted here for more discussion:

Posted Response on to:

I have heard the argument that we need to continue in these games for many reasons, including the work of the athletes that would be "wasted" were the US to pull out of the Olympics because of the Russian givernment's violent stance on preventing human expression of gender in any ways that would "promote" or propagandize being LGBTQ. That said, it is a privilege to represent the USA as an athlete or a member of the Armed Forces. Sometimes, that privilege is called to respond in ways that are unexpected or unwanted. No one trains to compete to boycott. No one trains to serve their country to die. Yet, who we are and what we stand for comes with a price. Trying to nuance the inhumanity of the Russian laws with the immunity of a international competition is weak-hearted, self-serving, and much too far from being the guiding light for all oppressed people that we are called to be. A light that includes our Russian sisters and brothers who are LGBTQ. It is time to draw the line and stand with all those who need a voice against the violence and repression of any such nation, who by these actions should never be referred to as a "host." This USA has no place in these Olympics, except to demonstrate that we are as complicit as those we challenge for not promoting democracy and human rights.
Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, NY

One of the responses from a good friend of mine suggested that the participation in the 1936 Olympics and the outcome where the USA "kicked some ... butt" was important. He references the "Hitler Olympics," as has others to make a case for us to remain in the games. You can read the full exchange at

My response was as follows:

My friend, I always appreciate your comments, but I must disagree with you here. I continue to be baffled by the references to Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Olympics as indicative of what our response could be in this situation. Trying to make some connection, I will say that I think this argument and the Holocaust-references boil down to a question of atrocity. For some privileged, white, heterosexual folk - the weak international response to a host nation being fiercely opposed to people who are gay may not seem like anything around which to rally in a decisive way. Yet, for people who are LGBTQ, the response might be different. It is for me. And, in the end, I only speak for myself. 

However, because I see the violence that is regularly and horribly directed at gay people - because they are gay, I live with the perspective of perhaps a different sense of atrocity. Enough to disagree with those who say, "Let them play." 

As a nation, either we are the nation we were during Hitler's draconian rule over Germany - or we are different. Had we known that Hitler's Final Solution was being hatched and planned for even at that time - would we still have gone to Germany to play? 

Now, I am not elevating the conditions for people who are LGBTQ to the atrocities of the Holocaust, but you and others keep bringing this up. So, I will ask the question: Do we need to get our hands on the doors of the ovens at Auschwitz to remember that we learned this lesson? And, if we are a different nation, if we are a nation that has the courage we say we do - do we stand up for the least among us to prevent the next worst things that just may happen to concretize your reference?  Do we make it clear that we are a nation that knows that witness is far from a cop out - but an act of deep conviction, pride, and protection for those we say are equal? A witness that makes sure we do not barter away our fidelity or our backbone, making sure that folks looking for such things might find them here, as they might in other countries. 

I am not trying to change any country, their laws or their practices. I am simply saying that something has to rise above expediency - or who we are is mired somewhere other than in our hearts and our history.