A Malleable Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

        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 event. 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 China 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 apolitical.

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.

            Governmental 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.

            Indeed, in 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.

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