Nyet To You Baby
“Okay, Vladimir. I’ve had it with your jailing political dissidents, journalists, billionaire businessmen and anyone else you see as a potential opponent—or really, anyone you dislike for whatever reason. Your latest spate of laws banning adoption of Russian-born children by gay couples, or by any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists, sounds like the first step in an exit strategy from the civilized world and a return to the Gulag. Not only that, but your police are now allowed to arrest tourists and foreigners suspected of being pro-gay and hold them for up to fourteen days. Even possessing educational materials about homosexuality intended for young people can lead to fines and arrest. Why institute all this anti-gay stuff when the Olympics are in Russia in a matter of months?
It sounds as if you’re lifting a page from Hitler’s Olympic playbook. He made it very clear preceding the 1936 Olympiad that Jews and Blacks were not welcome to compete in Berlin. He wanted to use the Olympics as a tool to further his Aryan supremacy philosophy. Many Jews and Blacks boycotted the games but a few, like Jesse Owens, a black U.S. track and field star, competed with outstanding success. He won four gold medals and dealt a mortal blow to Hitler’s Aryan superiority fantasy.
Your new laws go against Russia’s stated commitment to human rights. They also contradict the charter of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC is on record as recognizing sport as a “human right” and states that, “every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport without discrimination of any kind.” In the sports world, most gay athletes are in the closet, but if they attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in February 2014, their closet may have bars on the window.
Mr. Putin, many Americans, straight and gay, are beginning to talk of a boycott of Russian products as a means of protesting your repressive practices. This poses a problem for me personally. I’m like the old codger in a New Yorker cartoon several years ago. The wrinkle faced, stoop shouldered gentleman was sitting in front of the fireplace in his Fifth Avenue mansion dictating his last will and testament to his lawyer. “All of my 20,000 shares of AT&T, my 100,000 shares of Exxon, my 40% share of Burlington industries, plus my personal assets in gold, silver, rare books, and cellar of fine wine—I leave it all to my one true friend, the one who has stood by me through thick and thin, sickness and health. I leave it all to my dog, Spot.” Pausing, he continued with instructions for his lawyer, “Now go out and find me a spotted dog, damn it.”
That echos my feeling of frustration. I don’t have a spotted dog, nor do I have 100,000 shares of anything. Nor do I use anything Russian in the first place, so how can I boycott you? Once I purchased a set of the Russian nesting dolls, but I gave them away to a grandchild who enjoyed assembling and disassembling the brightly painted rolly-polys. Canceling my trip to Sochi really won’t impact your tourist bottom line or influence your political repression. I had no plans to attend the Olympics in the first place. A boycott of Russian vodkas is worth a try. From what I see at parties and an occasional trip to a gay bar vodkas like Stoli lead the list in drink preferences.
Personally, however, I rarely drink vodka. I find it tasteless unless you stoop to a flavored vodka, like peach, pear, or tangerine. Even sniffing those makes me think someone has poured an ounce or so of Obsession, My Sin, or some other stinkum into a jug of water. And the taste is worse than the smell. I stick with Gin, Scotch, Bourbon, or Rum. Actually, I’m an equal opportunity drinker. The only alcohol I discriminate against is vodka. So it’s difficult for a non-Vodka drinker to join a boycott of Russian vodka.
Perhaps the only action I can take is to warn you now Mr. Putin, that in the spirit of protest, I say, “Nyet to you baby.” On your next visit to the United States you will not be invited to my home for dinner unless you show some sign that you are interested in entering the twenty-first century rather than retreating to the Gulag.