Disclaimer: I reach no conclusions in this post, nor do I think there really is a reachable conclusion out there. I have many thoughts, most of which conflict with one another. But I strongly believe that having nuanced thoughts and conflicting opinions about an issue is a symbol of intellect and proof that it is possible to think critically – or maybe that’s just a cop out.
I’m sure you’re all aware of what’s going on in Russia. And I’m sure you all agree that it’s terrible. If you don’t think it’s terrible, then you should stop reading this blog and go educate yourself.
Why do we care so much about Russia? Because they’re hosting the Olympics? Would Americans care about Russia if the Winter Olympics were being held in Finland next year? I hope so, but I think we all know that it wouldn’t be in the news as much.
Yes, many people point out that China hosted the Olympics in 2008, and they have a boatload of human rights issues going on. But that was five years ago. The world has changed. Twelve countries have legalized gay marriage. Many more have passed laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. Would we be making a big deal about China’s laws if they were hosting the Olympics in 2014? I don’t know.
And this discussion is completely ignoring an even larger issue. Russia’s LGBT laws are pretty tolerant in comparison to nations like Qatar, where they put gay men in jail. Where’s the uproar?
Do we really only care about another nation’s laws because we are about to send lots of athletes and tourists there for the Olympics. Are we really that selfish?
Obviously, we should be concerned with the Olympics and what Russian laws mean for athletes and tourists. (And, for the record, I don’t think we should boycott…Patrick Burke did a great job explaining why). But where is the outrage in Sudan? They are killing gay people simply for existing. Yet nobody talks about it.
But even I do it, too. I love hockey, and I especially love Olympic hockey. I’ve been looking forward to 2014 ever since Sidney Crosby crushed my soul in 2010. So when Russia started passing anti-gay laws, Russia’s anti-gay policy is the main thing that crosses my mind now when I think about hockey, the Olympics or LGBT rights.
I only started thinking about other countries’ LGBT rights because something hit close to home to me in my personal life.
So I guess I’m just as selfish as our society, which only became concerned about Russia’s anti-gay laws because the Olympics are there in a few months. And I only became concerned about the rest of the world because the subject popped into my personal life.
That leads me to the protests against Russia. Boycotts against Russian products are beyond pointless, and they are wildly hypocritical. We can’t boycott Russian products (some of which aren’t even made in Russia) without boycotting the exports of all other nations who do not provide rights to LGBT citizens. And that extends all the way to the Middle Eastern oil that we all love to shove in our cars.
Many governments in the Middle East control the oil companies. Those same governments give gay men the death penalty. Are you going to stop buying gas? Probably not.
Thus, our boycotts of Russian products provide no real benefit, other than pointing out our own hypocrisy.
Or, do boycotts – despite being hypocritical and arbitrary – actually work? A lot of Chik-fil-A’s took a hit when people stopped eating there because of the owner’s stance against homosexuality. But that only happened because the owner’s stance on sexuality made the news.
There are probably a lot of companies out there whose owners support terrible things. But I don’t have time to research every business I frequent to decide which ones to protest.
Should I go out of my way to figure out which businesses to support – or, in this case, which countries’ governments I should support? I would be spending almost all of my time researching and/or protesting.
Or, do I live my life and form my opinions when something makes the headlines – like Russia’s anti-gay laws. I realize that tactic lends itself to the exact arbitrariness and hypocrisy I’ve been talking about throughout this whole article.
But is there really any other option that will allow me to still live this life that past gay rights groups fought so hard to make possible for me?
Or must we keep fighting just as hard to make sure the life we have available to us in America is possible elsewhere?
I have no clue.