Monday, August 25, 2008

Don't Drink The Kool-Aid

At the risk of sounding like a wet-blanket, a curmudgeon, or you can insert your own insult here, I am interrupting the report on our ZamFam Road Trip to opine on the Olympics, specifically China hosting them.

I look forward to the Olympics every two years, mark the opening and closing ceremonies on my calendar, and lose tons of hours of sleep in between. (I am so looking forward to a Winter Olympics in our hemisphere if only for it being closer to our time zone!) But it was with mixed feelings that I thought about China hosting the games this year. Actually to be totally honest, my feelings weren't/aren't that mixed. Actually, I feel pretty strongly about this great "coming-out party" for China, and I have to say, "DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID!"

To be sure, the opening and closing ceremonies this year were phenomenal, incredible, jaw-dropping spectacles of which I enjoyed every minute. Fantastic, bravo, well-done! The venues are architectural wonders, marvelous to behold. The Bird's Nest is spectacular, and the Water Cube defies description and invites cliche.

When you have over a billion people at your disposal (literally--as in they tap your shoulder and you goose-step, er skedaddle, as fast as your slippers can take you) and a government machine with over $40 billion dollars to throw in Beijing's direction, this is what you get. I feel bad for London having to follow in Beijing's footsteps and yet, I will revel in whatever a free and democratized society has to offer the world because it is much more than an uber-controlled display of power, ahem, Olympic stage show.

While the Games went off without a hitch and NBC gushed about all things Chinese and Barack Obama said he could understand why businesses would see this Olympics and the sanitized Beijing and want to move there, don't be fooled. Pick your poison. Whether you are liberal or conservative, you can find a bone to pick with China in the human rights category: China has no freedom of speech, the press, religion or movement; China admits to executing about 10,000 people per year (the figure is almost certainly higher and is the 7th highest per capita in the world after the likes of Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone); the one-child policy causes gender imbalance, forced abortions and sterilizations and untold heartache--think of the parents who lost children in the recent earthquake--they were all one-child families; the annexation of Tibet; the saber-rattling toward Taiwan, a free and democratic Asian nation which cannot compete in the Olympics as "Taiwan" but rather as "Chinese Taipei;" the organ harvesting and "extrajudicial" execution (read MURDER) of religious prisoners that has recently been confirmed by both Sky Television and Christian Science Monitor. And that's me just getting warmed up, but I'll stop for now.

Sadly as I watched the closing ceremonies last night with the spectacular five-story human tower, I couldn't help but think about the biblical Tower of Babel and man's arrogance in the face of God. This was China, a godless society, shaking its fist in God's face and saying, "See what we can do without You. We are powerful. We are sovereign. We are mighty." A fearsome sight to behold, indeed. But what can you expect from a country that venerates a man responsible for the deaths of 40 million countrymen, who was willing for up to half of China to die for the cause of Cultural Revolution and technological advance? Of course I speak of beloved Chairman Mao, the man whose visage graces every street corner in China. Holding the Olympics in Beijing is akin to holding them in Germany if Germany were still the Third Reich and Hitler a beloved grandfather figure.

Yes, I know that the Olympics were held in Munich in 1936, with Hitler as Fuhrer, but please go back to your (un-revisionist) history books. As they say, "Hitler made the trains run on time." This man, inventor of the Volkswagen ("car for the people"), lifted up a depressed and repressed German people after the punitive effects of the Treaty of Versailles virtually guaranteed a future conflict with an awakened Germany. I am not defending Hitler by any means! We have 20/20 hindsight; prior to the 1938 Kristallnacht attack on Jewish businesses, the world was woefully blind to the true nature of Hitler (although he spelled it out rather clearly in Mein Kampf!). Time Magazine was so dense, they declared Hitler "Man of the Year" in 1939. Just a short nine months later, he would invade Poland and start World War Two. Bravo, Time!

All this to say, can you imagine if Hitler had won (the horror!), we're now 60 or so years later and holding the Olympics in Germany with pictures of good ol' Adolph smiling benevolently from every corner? The venues would be spectacular to be sure. Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich (he was Hitler's architect) shows the grand plans that Hitler envisioned in a revived Roman Empire. Gorgeous buildings, gridded streets, broad avenues, parks, gardens, monuments, zoos, beautiful homogeneous people everywhere. . . .

The people's Republic of China was established in 1949. Mao died in 1976 -- thirty two years ago. Needless to say, as much as I like Bob Costas, I wanted to gag every time I saw him sitting in front of the background that had Mao smiling down over his shoulder. And kudos to President Bush. Hey, I'm disappointed in him too. (Some of you hate him, I know.) At least he had the, um, guts, to speak out about Chinese human rights. And China told him to mind his own business. Well, we should be minding our business, by not sending it China's way. We are arming our enemy. Yes, enemy is a strong word, but I am old enough to remember when Communists were considered a threat, not cozy bedfellows, and people who loved freedom would not dream of sugar-coating the truth to swallow a lie. To borrow a description from Jesus, China is a "white-washed tomb" clean on the outside with a dirty secret inside.

Look, I enjoyed the spectacle of the ceremonies, marvelled at the architecture of the venues and revelled in the competition of the Games. There were just too many "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" moments for me. Please don't accuse me of being xenophobic. I'm just saying, let's not be fooled by the eye candy we were meant to see. There was a special protest area set up by the Chinese government for people wanting to speak out at the Olympic Games (far away from venues or international camera crews). Seventy seven groups filed applications, none were granted. That says it all.

So, now back to regularly scheduled programming until I go off on something else. I actually have a political piece I have been developing for several months. When it hits my blog, it will probably hack off so many people, my readership will be cut in half. So here's to the two people who read me. I'll really miss one of you in the next couple of weeks!


Anonymous said...

Amen. There was an article in the Chicago tribune a couple weeks ago that reinforced everything you said. And yes, I totally agree with you. A little too tidy for me. Having been to China, it's amazing what they can show you because that's what they want you to see.

Biblioteca Chica said...

I'm not sure this is the article to which you refer, but I found this on the Tribune site and it is really good:,0,1867410.column


TropicGirl said...

Hey I can't wait to read that article. But yes, I know what you mean. Having been to China and known many people who have lived, there, you're definitely right about the "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" moments. Obviously Beijing white-washed everything for the Olympics. While international newspapers were applauding their supposed religious freedom, other periodicals like "Voice of the Martyrs" were telling the truth about people imprisoned in their own homes just five minutes walk from the Olympic festivities! Great writing!