Saturday, April 19, 2008

Enough with the Snuff Already!

When I read the recent headlines about protesters trying to snuff out the Olympic torch, I couldn't help but think, "What the HELL is wrong with you people? It's the Olympics, for pete's sake! THE OLYMPICS!!!" I'll tell you what's happening here, groupthink and self-absorption are rearing their ugly heads once again.

Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. I believe China stands in gross violation of a number of accepted human rights policies, I firmly feel they should officially recognize Taiwan, and I was opposed to Hong Kong's 1997 transfer of sovereignty from the British to the Chinese, preferring, instead, a policy of H.K. self-rule on matters foreign and domestic.

Now, having established myself as NOT in favor of China’s afore mentioned policies, let me just say this: Given the opportunity to come face to face with some of these silly protesters, I’d have a few questions. (See 1st paragraph of this post for one such example.) I understand the need to raise awareness regarding such circumstances as we see now in various disputed regions of the world, but is snuffing the Olympic flame really the best way to accomplish this?
Often, those running with the flame are regional or local dignitaries or even ordinary people who, for a host of reasons, are noteworthy individuals. Thus, I’m not certain how disrespecting torch relayers on their own turf will do anything but offend locals. Furthermore, why the zeal to destroy? I mean, watch the news—there are lots of people in various cities around the globe who are just chomping at the bit to douse this flame. Were all these like-minded people incapable of putting their heads together and coming up with a less destructive alternative? Clearly they all knew the routes the flame will take and were organized enough to know the general “snuff” strategy—why didn’t they organize a tandem event? How about a parallel relay in which loosely organized groups of people in cities all over the globe come together in a display of solidarity to voice their support for Tibet? No?
I’ll tell you why that didn’t happen—because, truth be told, they probably don’t give a rip about Tibet. Chances are most of them couldn’t locate Tibet on a map! (Note to any protesters who may be reading this: It's the striped one.)

I’m willing to bet they aren’t nearly so interested in the plight of Tibetans as they are in getting on camera and/or making a name for themselves. If you doubt me, ask yourself this question: “How many Tibetans are better off because some jackass in Paris accosted Jin Jing, a wheelchair-bound, amputee athlete, in an effort to snuff the Olympic flame?” (Read ABC News’ account, “Disabled Torchbearer Become Chinese Hero: China Rages Over Attack on Disabled Torchbearer in Paris” at:

That’s right. In attempting to express their outrage at China’s bully approach to poor, defenseless Tibet, protesters in Paris assaulted a one-legged Chinese girl. But it gets better! Her wheelchair was being pushed by a Chinese teammate...who is blind. Oh, the irony is almost too great to bear.

Honestly, the Chinese Communist leaders themselves couldn’t have scripted such a brilliant PR moment had they attempted it. And I’m almost certain the sight of this young, beautiful, paralympian fencer (now a veritable national heroine), accompanied by her visually impaired teammate, struggling to protect the Olympic flame while being harassed by rabid protesters will soften the hearts of a billion Chinese and inspire them to rally to the defense of their Tibetan brothers and sisters. PUH-HUH! (Anybody out there know how to say "We got screwed on this deal" in Tibetan?)

Finally, I think it’s worth noting that, particularly with respect to China, policies of neglect or containment have never, ever been as effective as policies of engagement in terms of greater openness and increased awareness. In fact, you could reasonably make the argument that the 2008 Summer Games will be a good thing, perhaps even the best thing, to happen to Tibet in a long time. First of all, more countries participate in the Olympics than belong to the United Nations—it’s ping pong diplomacy. Second, it is estimated that roughly 16,000 media personnel attended the 2004 summer games in Sydney.

So do the math: 200 countries + 16,000 reporters = a lot of exposure. Inevitably, that means Tibet’s story will be told again and again. And this time, maybe for the first time, the Chinese people themselves will get a more accurate account of what's happening in the rest of the world, including Tibet. And in the mean time, let's all pray authorities can manage to keep protesters from accosting small children or senior citizens.


Rich said...

I agree with you on this one (honestly, do we ever disagree about anything?!). Can't they come up with a more constructive thing to do? This is a serious downfall among radical protesters.

Aryn said...

For the love of everything holy, Cheryl: BLOG!