In a few weeks, some of the finest ath­letes in the world will gather for the qua­dren­nial Winter Olympic fes­tival in Sochi, Russia. The last time the Olympics were held in Russia, it was still the Soviet Union, and the Amer­i­cans, among other nations, did not send a team to com­pete. Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter decided that the United States would not par­tic­i­pate on Soviet soil while the Soviet troops were engaged in armed hos­til­i­ties in its neigh­boring country to the south, Afghanistan. Geo-​​politics trumped global ath­letics. It is not sur­prising that once again in 2014 pol­i­tics and sports are inex­tri­cably intertwined.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman, has used the coming Olympics as a forum for empha­sizing to the world the “evils” of homo­sex­u­ality. Russia has enacted a law that bans the dis­tri­b­u­tion of “pro­pa­ganda of non-​​traditional sexual rela­tions” to minors. Gay activists have been arrested and hate crimes have mul­ti­plied. Those in the United States who have recently dis­cov­ered that the aegis of equality covers sexual iden­tity as well as race, gender, national origin and other sus­pect cat­e­gories find Putin’s stand offen­sive. Anyone who would use Sochi as an occa­sion for protest, how­ever, will be sub­ject to arrest under the Russian edict.

Few have sug­gested that the United States should once again boy­cott the Olympics. Most, how­ever, favor sym­bolic actions that will loudly pro­claim that we are not homo­phobic — at least not any­more. The problem with that stance is that it runs against the deep strain in the Amer­ican ethos that agrees with Putin’s harsh posi­tion on the rights of gays and les­bians. Only a minority of Amer­ican states bans dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sexual ori­en­ta­tion, while a majority bans mar­riage equality in their state con­sti­tu­tions. Hypocrisy has never been exclu­sively an Amer­ican trait, but we are very good at it.

Read the article at Huffington Post →