LIBERAL COLUMN: Sochi: Should we or should we not?

BY JOSH MERLO

Olympic pride aside, the United States should not be attending the Winter Olympics in

Sochi, Russia. There are numerous reasons for this non-attendance, or, more properly, this boycott.

That’s correct: the U.S. needs to boycott the Olympics for the first time in a long while. As to why? Security concerns, and – most importantly – the human rights violations that have lingered around Russia’s Putin like a bad odor.

The Olympics have always been a symbol of hope for the world. They are a sign that nations can peaceably come together, compete honorably, and then rejoice in each other’s successes. The Olympics are a ray of light in the dark world of international relations. But can even the light of camaraderie and cooperation pierce through the bleak Russian winter sky?

As the buildup to the Olympics heightens, it seems, so do the allegations against Russia: Involvement in the political problems that have sparked increasingly-violent protests in the Ukraine; the omnipresent smear of Putin’s charged anti-gay rhetoric; domestic policies aimed at “security” that are abused to jail dissidents.

The Sochi Olympics, to attack from another vein, are unsafe. When the Secretary of

Defense has to assure American athletes that there are extraction plans in place, just in case, something is demonstrably not right. When American athletes are ordered by the State Department not to wear their uniforms outside of actual events for fear of their being targeted by terrorists, something is demonstrably not right. When Russian officials must grudgingly admit that so-called “black widow” bombers may have already penetrated security measures to gain access to Olympic venues, something is demonstrably not right.

Russia cannot keep U.S. athletes safe. Does the U.S. want to risk their lives for something as petty as winning a bobsledding race or watching Shaun White do back-flips on his snowboard?

But now, to return to that “Olympic pride” mentioned earlier; how can the U.S. not go to

Sochi? We have to win medals, show off to the rest of the world, contently pat ourselves on the back for being the best in the world. Or do we? Isn’t it time to finally be the bigger man on the world’s stage? Could the U.S. simply not go to Sochi? Yes. The U.S. could do so, sending a message to the rest of the world: “We’re not going to Sochi. We do not have to prove we’re better than some other country. Rather, we want to prove that we don’t approve of what is going on in Russia. Human rights are more important than winning a gold. Opposing oppression —whether it is because of sexual orientation, political leanings, or supposed ‘sedition’ — matters more than watching a flag wave over a podium. Russia’s actions are reprehensible and her strongman is indefensible. Ergo, we have decided to stay home.”

So, should we, or should we not? To answer the question: we should not go to Sochi, but we should stand up against the indignities committed by Russia.

If the U.S. truly valued herself as a force for change, for peace, how could she not boycott Olympic games staged in a country that stands in the way of both?

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