“One of the things I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly because that’s what we stand for, and I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America. That’s just something that should apply everywhere.”
President Barack Obama, to Jay Leno, in canceling a scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In less than six months, Sochi, Russia will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
For me, that means watching, sometimes in awe, the grace and athleticism that I will never have, including Lindsey Vonn, in Alpine skiing, Bobsleigh (only in the Olympics!) Figure skating (who will be the first woman to land a quadruple jump?), watching Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane (Canada vs. the US) in Ice hockey, as well as Curling, Snowboarding. And the aerial ballet known as Freestyle skiing.
What am I missing? Oh, yeah...that crazy Biathlon ....target shooting and cross-country skiing combined. And this year....the Mixed relay biathlon. I shudder to think what would happen if someone misses the target.
But the Games are always about more than games. They are a symbol. A symbol of what depends upon your interpretation of the games. For the International Olympic Committee, they are a means by which countries come together in a peaceful competition in celebration of sport. They represent the unity of nations. For Russia, it is a way to showcase themselves to the world. For the athletes, the Games represent an opportunity to showcase, on a world stage, their best day ever in their chosen sport.
But not for everyone, it would seem.
Passed by a 436-0 vote in Russia's lower house of parliament, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a number of laws in recent weeks that target the LGBT community, including one that bans the adoption of Russian-born children by homosexuals, the law forbids the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" (i.e. propaganda from "the gays").
President Putin's growing interest in the teachings of the Russian Orthodox church have been cited as the reason for the laws.
As Rick Morrisey's column in today's Sun-Times states: you don’t need a health class lesson to know what ‘‘nontraditional’’ means.
Boy, the Russian Federation has changed. A lot. 'Godless Communists' of my youth are no more. Now, it sounds like America. More precisely, Ronald Reagan's America. The President who famously stated:
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
Only to construct other walls, I guess.
Most damning, though, to the Winter Olympics is one which allows Russian authorities to detain tourists or foreign nationals who are gay or pro-gay for up to 14 days.
According to policymic.com, the law imposes significant fines of up to $31,000 for providing information about the LGBT community to minors, holding gay pride events, speaking in defense of gay rights, or equating gay and heterosexual relationships. In a truly egalitarian and internationalist spirit, the bill applies to Russians and foreigners alike, as well as media organizations.
“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko said in an interview last Thursday and reported on MSNBC. “But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”
Pronoun problem: Mutko said 'he,' not 'they. Does that mean homosexual males only? Still a wrong move.'
What did the athletes say?
The last time Russia hosted an Olympics, in 1980, it was boycotted by the Americans over political issues....namely, the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan.
I have been 'pro-gay' all my life. Too many good friends with good hearts have come out as gay for me to overlook their humanity, good works, and personal faith in God. These friends have raised children and pets, most better than I could have. Not to mention the transgendered crowd. Everyone also has a right to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Okay, there go my press credentials for Sochi. Or, at least my ability to 'propogandize.' After all, here is my Facebook profile picture:
What has happened with gay rights and the worldwide ability to be 'out and proud' recently has been a classic example of a 'two steps forward, one step back' philosophy.
A few weeks ago, the new Pope Francis took a giant leap forward in the eyes of gay Catholics everywhere when he declared the following, causing centuries of Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals to turn over in their graves:
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Pope Francis, speaking to reporters, using the English word “gay.”
I'm with the Pope on this one:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. .
Matthew 7:1-29 ESV
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