Sochi 2014: A Time for Patriotism?
On the eve of 22nd Olympic Winter Games, I don’t feel very patriotic. I feel quite anti-American, to be honest.
I’m not a terrorist, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be (just want to get this out of the way). I was born about 15 minutes east of Towson University and have lived in this area my entire life. I was at Pot Spring Elementary School, about 10 minutes north of here, when the World Trade Centers in New York came crashing down. My grandfather served in the Coast Guard during the Korean War and my uncle served in the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War. I thoroughly enjoy apple pie, rock and roll, and the cinema of Quentin Tarantino.
However, when it comes to America, I feel cheated. I feel lost in a sea of highly questionable ethics. I feel like the façade we’ve come to know as patriotism is merely blind moral collectivism.
I found I needed to write about patriotism leading into the Olympics specifically because of the media coverage surrounding LGBT rights in Russia. A great deal of animosity has been thrown Russia’s way for their definitively anti-homosexual laws, and deservedly so.
Russia has a countrywide ban on same-sex marriage, but their laws go further than that. There is no recognition of same-sex unions, there are no anti-discriminatory laws in place regarding LGBT members of the workforce, and there is no freedom of expression in regards to sexual orientation. Oh, and a 2013 survey showed 74 percent of Russians believe homosexuality should not be allowed in society. It appears Russia has a problem with LGBT civil rights – and yes, that is putting it lightly.
Do you know another country that struggles with civil rights, both LGBT and otherwise? A country that insists it is post-racial, yet has self-segregated itself even after the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s? A country that insists on having over 10,000 troops deployed in each of six other countries, yet stresses to appear to be democratic? A country that purports to be a champion of international civil rights even though it continues to kill innocent civilians, many of them children, with drone strikes in the Middle East?
This same country has rather passively sent gay athletes to Sochi as part of its Olympic delegation in an attempt to make an international statement about Russia’s anti-gay laws, or something to that effect. Meanwhile, domestically, this country maintains a ban of same-sex marriage in 33 of its 50 states. In 2012, over 60 million adults of this country voted for Mitt Romney, a presidential candidate at that time who believes in the hetero-normative definition of marriage.
Starting to sound like America, right?
I refuse to be duped by the elected officials we’ve so blindly put in charge of our morality. You’d be wise to do the same. Our government wants you to feel like you’re doing the right thing by being patriotic. Red, white, and blue, y’all! When the Opening Ceremony airs tomorrow, you may find yourself beginning to get amped up to root for American athletes in Sochi. That’s fair. I like Shaun White, too.
Yet, I encourage you to question why you simply accept that rooting for America is the right thing to do. Is it because of those homosexual delegates? Is it because you pledged allegiance to the flag every day in school for approximately 12 years of your young life? Is it because you think the right thing to do is stick with your country no matter what moral contradictions you see occur within it?
What you believe and what is moral are not necessarily one and the same. You may believe that America is the greatest country on the planet, but you can’t objectively conclude that America is always on the progressive side of civil rights. You may believe that America made an important statement regarding LGBT rights by sending homosexual delegates to the Olympics, but you can’t necessarily conclude that America even comes close to majority support for LGBT civil rights.
You may believe that homosexuality is a sin, but does that mean homosexuality is immoral? And if so, what is your justification? If it’s that God or the Bible says so, okay. However, that same logic would lead me to believe that if Joe Pesci or Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking said that eating chocolate is morally reprehensible, I’d have to believe it too. I mean, when Joe Pesci says something, I must believe it to be moral. Otherwise, Joe Pesci will come whack me in the head with a baseball bat. Talk about Hell on earth.
Again, think for a moment – why should you be patriotic leading into these Olympics? If you find that you feel patriotic just because someone said you should be or you just feel that way or that you believe America is awesome, look into the matter further. I did, and I concluded that blindly rooting for American athletes over the next two weeks is incredibly misguided, as is this country’s double standard when it comes to civil rights.
Sure, the United States of America may look like it has its civil rights in good shape from the outside whereas Russia does not, but internally there is still much work to do in this country. Hey, you know what? I think I just described what it really means to be American: image first, internal progress eventually.