April 07, 2008

Quote Week: Freedom

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson

The hullabaloo surrounding the Olympic torch relay disruptions by demonstrators protesting China's tyranny over Tibet, and activities closer to home as pro-Tibet activists scaled the Golden Gate Bridge today and hung banners, made this quote jump out at me today. Because while I may not agree with all of the tactics being used, I understand why those fighting for the freedom of Tibet have seized upon this occasion to make their voices heard.

Right or wrong, those who feel passionately about the situation in Tibet have recognized that China, a country that has long abused the human rights of those under its rule, winning the right to host an international, high-profile event like the Olympics created a worldwide stage for their message. This powder keg has been brewing for decades; the decision of the Olympic selection committee to award China the Olympic games, when it has done nothing to change its treatment of minorities or put an end to its human rights abuses, was like handing those committed to protesting a lit match.

Predictably, China has condemned the actions of the protesters but, in my opinion, hasn't got a shred of high moral ground to stand on. And, predictably, the U.S. is too much in debt to China for the government to try to take a real stand. If anyone really thinks the U.S. will be boycotting the Olympics (and I'm not saying that we should), or even that Bush won't attend the opening ceremonies, they need to take a cold, hard, clear-eyed look at the realities of our economy and the financial position we've gotten ourselves into with respect to China.

But the fact that we can see what's happening on TV, in papers and across the Web, and express our opinions about it like this, unfettered by worries that someone is going to throw us into jail for doing so, brings home what the freedom Tibet is asking for is all about. We have it. They don't. They want it. We (as I count myself among them...though I won't be scaling anything anytime soon) believe they should have it.

So this week is going to be about freedom and what wiser people than me have said about it throughout history. Because what we're seeing is nothing new; oppression and rebellion are as old as time.