Protesting the Olympic Flame
Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
19Trip End Ongoing
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I don't know where I stand in all this.
On the one hand, the Chinese people have a right to be proud of their country. It is a great honor to host the Olympic Games, an honor of which they should be justly proud. On the other hand, I am deeply disturbed by reports that I've heard about China's preparations for the games. Extended families are being torn from their ancestral dwellings and made to live in new housing developments outside of Beijing
With regards to Tibet, I don't know many details of the political history. I know that at one point Tibet was a province of China. I also know that it was independent for many years also, and that its customs and culture are different from those of China. It is a specific form of Lamaist Buddhism that is practiced there, distinct from both the Indian and Chinese Buddhist traditions. I know that Tibetan Buddhism is peaceful, and I have immense respect for the Dalai Lama, who has filled the dual role of political and spiritual leader with more grace than could be expected of any ordinary mortal. I believe that Tibet has a right to be independent, and that the Tibetan people have a right to their homeland and to the free practice of their religious beliefs.
The Olympic Games are putting the spotlight on the China-Tibet issue, and I can understand why Tibetan people and their supporters are seizing the opportunity to make their situation known. It's a good opportunity for them to try to get resolution, and they hope that being in the world spotlight will make China want to look good and make the magnanimous act of returning Tibet's independence
To bring the issue back to the Olympics themselves, Beijing has been chosen as the location for the 2008 Games, and nothing is going to change that. Regardless of whether or not China grants Tibet's independence before the Games begin, the Games themselves are supposed to be separate from politics. Traditionally, the Olympics are meant to foster community, to create a time and a place in which nations put aside their differences and engage in peaceful competitions. Traditionally, the neutrality of the games should be sacrosanct. I don't know if neutrality will be respected, this time around. I hope that by the time the flame that passed through Paris today reaches Beijing, some resolution will be reached. But even if noting has been resolved at that point, I hope that people will be willing to put aside their differences for the duration of the Games. Because putting aside differences, in the end, is what the spirit of the Olympics is about.