Passing the Torch

The Final Four interrupted my posts about Buckie, F.F. Bruce, Doric, and other related matters. If the Lord wills, as James his brother taught us to say, tomorrow I will get buck to such matters.

As I was following the American basketball tournament this week (watching online in the middle of the night), there was some sports-related news on television. The Olympic torch passed through London and then through Paris–accompanied by vigorous protest in both cities.

I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me wants to agree with those who say, “you shouldn’t mix politics and sports.” Our family was thrilled at the opportunity our niece Melissa had to represent her state and country in the Special Olympics in Shanghai this past October. (See prior posts, Feb 14, 2008; Oct 9, 2007; and Oct 2, 2007.) I can imagine how disappointed we would have been if Melissa and her friends had been forced to cancel their trip due to protests or boycotts.

I also remember how disappointing it was to all the athletes preparing for the 1980 Olympic games when they learned they would be going to Moscow. Our president decided we would boycott the games in protest to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. We also lived in a farming area at the time and saw how farmers were hurt by the canceling of grain sales to the USSR.

Yet I also remember thinking at the time how much better these harsh matters were than war.

The current “politics” that is being mixed with sports is not a question on what percentage of their income the wealthy should pay in taxes, or whether there should be fuel economy standards, or other typical political issues. The “political” questions are questions of basic human rights; issues of torture, freedom of speech and thought, freedom of religion. They are not trivial matters that are less important than sports.

But the real questions is whether the best way to change the tyrannical ways of an intransigent geritocracy is shame, punishment, humiliation, and isolation–or whether openness and interaction is better. I hope that more good comes from the world coming together for a few days to celebrate nonpolitical achievements, than the harm that comes from supporting a bully’s ego.