Years ago, I remember turning on the Rachel Maddow show and learning about some things going on in Uganda. Usually when you here about some horrific thing occuring in a third world nation you listen and shake your head, but what they were doing affected me profoundly.
Uganda was in the process of passing a law that would cause "aggravated" homosexuality to be punished by execution. This would change an existing law in which LGBTs would be placed in jail.
I was never clear as to exactly what the "aggravated" part of the bill meant, and I don't believe the people who wrote the bill knew what it meant either. So far as I could tell, the judge could decide whether or not a specific homosexual was aggravted or not, and if he felt that he was he could have him killed. If not, he would merely be incaracerated for the rest of his life without the chance of parole.
I suppose I've had it better then most, but growing up gay in the United States has not always been a fun thing. When I heard of what was going on in Uganda, it really made me wonder why people hate us so much.
Uganda is a nation with a massive AIDS problem, as are many countries in South Africa. They have millions of people in dire need of modern pharmaceuticals and an economy which doesn't allow them to pay for them. Despite this, the number one issue in that country for awhile was whether or not homosexuals should be put to death. Obama had the leverage of being able to withold a massive benefits package of medication for the treatment of AIDS, which is probably why the bill was prevented from becoming law.
Even so, many in the nation felt that it was better for their nations sick to be denied medication then to stop passage of a bill that would put LGBTs to death. It's a classic wedge issue. Uganda was a country with many serious issues to deal with, and homosexuality really wasn't one of them. It was easier to beat up gays then to deal with a real problem, so they decided to go in that direction.
I thought of this as I watched coverage of Putin's statements about the Olympics, and then watched Chris Hayes on MSNBC state that people talking about not watching the Olympics due to the crackdown on homosexuals were "misguided." His statement seemed based on the idea that I'm primarily worried about the good of the athletes competing in the games, which is a stupid assumption.
I don't particularly want athletes to suffer, but it bothers me that it's the 21st century, and beating up homosexuals seems to still be part of the major party platform of many of the world's governments.
It is not so much to ask that when countries choose to revert back to the dark ages, we refuse to deal with them even if it costs us some money. If a nation behaves this way, it's likely that the people there will ignore what we have to say about it. But when the nations of the world announce that they will refuse to deal with savages and walk away, over time this will force people there to take a long hard look at themselves.
Frequently, it's the only thing that can cause that to happen.
It's interesting how much everything is motivated by money these days. If someone wants to avoid the Olympics it's "misguided" because somehow the clarion call of income will make everything already. All problems will be solved if only we can pass around enough dollars, or something.
The Olympics do not solve problems for most. It's an income stream for a few, and frequently it is yet another reason for host countries to push their own citizens out of the way so they can look important on the world stage. Huge buildings are constructive for a massive spectacle, and said buildings are then abandoned. You can look to China for a prime example, and I do not expect Russia to do a better job.
The Olympics does not cure any disease. In the final analysis, it's questionable that they are even good for their host country economically. And they certainly do not help the lives of LGBTs who are the scapegoats of fascists everywhere.
In the end few people will care. We talk about it for a few news cycles, and then move on. The important thing is that the dollars flow and athletes do their thing. In the end, nobody will be thinking about the homoseuxals being brutalized and bullied.
I hope that everyone will continue to talk about what's going on in Russia, because it's likely that many Russians who would like to talk about it themselves will be barred from doing so, and it's likely that the athletes themselves will be barred from talking about it.