There has been a lot of bleating from those who believe that
boycotting the Olympic Games over The People’s Republic of China’s abysmal
human rights record is in poor taste because the Olympiad is not a political
Personally, I think that, since the Olympiad pitches itself as a symbol of
fraternity and respect for individual achievement, a boycott over the choice of
as a host country is not entirely unreasonable. I am, however, sufficiently
flexible on the subject to see the point made by athletes who see the games as
But what does really irk me about
this issue, above all else, is when this “the Olympics is not a political
event” retort is used to criticize the protests that have followed the Olympic
Torch’s journey from Athens to Beijing.
Loud and visible public
demonstrations are not the equivalent of a boycott, but are simply an exercise
in free speech that seems perfectly appropriate – indeed, a bit on the mild
side – given the provocation from Beijing.
After all, not only has the PRC oppressed and suppressed Tibet since the invasion of 1949,
but, according to recent reports, the Communist Chinese overlords have undertaken a program of attempted political
indoctrination in order to convert the Tibetan Buddhist teenagers into
PRC-thought and away from the ancient teachings of their religion and of their
leader, the Dalai Lama.
attempts to coerce expressions of belief, even more than attempts to suppress
the expression of what people actually do believe, is perhaps the most serious
invasion of mind, spirit and conscience that any government could possibly
undertake. It harkens back to the days of the Inquisition, when human beings
were tortured in order to make them renounce their beliefs and then mouth the
beliefs of others. Today, we have remnants of such obscene practices in, for
example, the mandatory sensitivity and diversity training sessions which many
starting college freshmen are forced to attend when they first arrive on
campus, or the required thought reform sessions to which students are sentenced
by campus kangaroo courts as punishment for uttering words (we call it free
speech, but campus administrators call it “harassment”) that might be viewed as
insulting to some group on campus.
our own country, the United States Supreme Court, in one of its most
magnificent opinions on behalf of liberty, declared unconstitutional a state’s
requirement that students be forced to pledge allegiance to the flag. That
would be a violation of a student’s rights to both free speech and free
conscience, declared Justice Robert Jackson for the court majority in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette,
319 U.S. 624 (1943). This opinion was rendered, it must be noted, during World War II, when
pressures for patriotic symbols and expression were at their strongest.
As long as
Tibet’s PRC masters exercise their raw power in both suppressing the Tibetan
people and in forcefully “re-educating” that beleaguered nation’s religious
figures, demonstrations on the occasion of the coming Olympics are a perfectly
appropriate – indeed, understated – way for free people to make a critically
important point about human freedom and those who suppress it.