San Francisco: Why I will carry the Olympic torch

Article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Many will scoff at this Olympic ideal and I understand why. As a longtime advocate of social justice, I’m familiar with the long list of failings attributed to the People’s Republic of China from the days of its founding in 1949, including the simmering tensions in Tibet – especially because I just spent five months in Shanghai as a Fulbright scholar conducting research on the mass exodus that took place at the time of the Communist revolution.

I grew up hearing constant critiques of the terrible Communist dictatorship. And because I am an open lesbian, my stay in China felt tenuous because, unlike America, which has anti-gay laws, China doesn’t even recognize that we exist. Any of these might be reason enough to run as far from the Olympics as my middle-aged body can carry me.

But my time in China gave me another perspective. I observed firsthand the wide-ranging diversity and openness of viewpoints and cultural expression that now exists among China’s 1.4 billion people. I met with hundreds of Chinese for my research and was struck by how outspoken and opinionated they are and, yes, even critical of their government.

Up until I left China just before the uprisings in Tibet, the Chinese government was heavily promoting the Olympic spirit and teaching Olympic values of friendship, understanding and fair play in the schools. China is not a democracy, but its people – whether Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uighers or its other many minorities – are becoming more vocal because of its increasing openness to the world.

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. Such rhetoric, however, is driving many Chinese bloggers into a nationalistic response.

Read more here.

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