Protest! Protest! Protest!

Posted by Prince Gomolvilas
ON Friday, April 11, 2008
Look, I'm all for freeing Tibet as much as the next person, but the Olympic torch protests in San Francisco (the torch's only U.S. stop) and our presidential candidates jumping on the boycott bandwagon have left a slightly bad taste in my mouth. However, since I am far more adept at writing about boy bands than politics, I haven't been able to clearly articulate why the protests have irked me. Thanks must go, then, to activist Helen Zia for her well-written opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. An excerpt:

Unfortunately, the calls to boycott the Olympics and to label everything about China as evil can only serve to isolate China and the United States from each other. China is not a monolith, and blanket condemnations of China and its people are as simplistic as blaming all Americans for the U.S. human-rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

The whole article is here.

This all reminds me of John Wesley Harding's clever, tongue-in-cheek song, "Protest! Protest! Protest!" The chorus goes like this:

All you wanna do is
Protest! Protest! Protest!
Could you be more introspective?
Protest! Protest! Protest!
It's only you that's suspect
That negative attitude will get you nowhere

Am I way off base here?
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  1. theMaykazine Said,

    My mother was invited to lead 60-or so students of hers in a taichi demonstration for the torch relay's endpoint that day. Neither of us is "pro-China," but imagine the agitation I got while reading people's hateful, overgeneralized, and misinformed comments to Zia's article when it was first published. UGH! Sorry you missed the "festivities." It was intense.

    In case you missed it:


  2. howard ho Said,

    I think I missed this part of your discussion...what is so bad about this "bandwagon?" China is using the games as their coming out party, and a boycott would put some pressure on them to behave. I don't smell "yellow peril."


  3. diana Said,

    It was INSANE down by the Ferry Building on Wednesday. I>N>S>A>N>E. I stayed inside most of the day, watching the protesters from the safety of the 19th floor (and floor to ceiling window walls).

    It would've been nice to see the torch, though.


  4. To be a bit suspect of an Olympic torch protest is not to excuse China of anything. I think Zia's point is an interesting one to ponder. We live in a world of symbolic acts, right? Is boycotting the Olympics merely a symbolic act against the Chinese government? Or can it be interpreted as a symbolic act against all of China and its people? When the Olympics were last in the United States, were they equated with this country as a whole or just with this country's government? It's a tricky proposition, this boycott--I'm not necessarily even against it. But I do wonder if the public's general reaction has a been a bit kneejerk. We shall see, I suppose.... Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I'm trying to sort this all out.


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