“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I have to admit that I have been putting off writing about this post for some months now. It is difficult for me to be articulate about issues that I find important, and even more difficult to do those issues justice. Whatever the reason or cause, it is always easier to turn a blind eye to the challenges and difficulties that other people face every day throughout the world. The sufferings are numerous, widespread, and can be overwhelming. But this is no justification to sweep those issues under the carpet for the sake of convenience.
In early 2014, the XXII Winter Olympic Games will be taking place in Sochi, Russia. As most people are aware, Russia’s current passing of legislation “protecting children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values” has caused some controversy regarding the rights of LGBT people in Russia. It is possible that the media frenzy surrounding the legislation is somewhat hyperbolic in nature, and likely leaves LGBT Russians in the same position they were already in: a bad one. A bad position to begin with is not a position that the rest of the world should be supporting, irrespective of the lack of the actual effect of the new legislation.
At the 1976 XXI Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, 33 countries boycotted the Games following the refusal of the International Olympic Committee to ban New Zealand after the All Blacks toured South Africa during times of apartheid. Today, no country has expressed any interested in boycotting the Olympic in a host country where the rights of Russian citizens are abused and disregarded.
I enjoy watching the Olympics as much, if not more, than the average person – the pomp, the circumstance and the spectacular of the union of so many people from throughout the world. Because of this, I have given a lot of thought to whether or not I will be watching in 2014. My final resolution is that I wont be. The people of Russia, however far away and far removed they may be from me, deserve our support and our recognition of their rights. They have their own lives and families, just like I have mine, and no matter where you are in the world it doesn’t hurt to take a stand, however small and insignificant it may seem, and to let people know that human rights abuses are not acceptable and not something that earning a sporting achievement is worth. For me, watching the Winter Olympics would be making the statement that my own pleasure is of more value than taking a firm position on a major human rights issue of the 21st century. It isn’t.
When I began to search for a quote to begin this blog with, so many of the words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. on racism embodied what I wanted to express that it was difficult to chose just one. The fact that the words of a man dedicated to fighting the discrimination he faced still resonate today (in many situations, not just the one discussed here) is shameful and a tragedy. When Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he was expressing a sentiment that holds true in any situation. Turning a blind eye to the degradation of justice of fellow human beings is a degradation of our own justice, to our conscience and to our humanity. No matter how big or how small the sacrifice everyone deserves a voice, and when they can’t have their own, a thousand voices in chorus on their behalf.