About two weeks ago I got notice from the Alumni Association for my high school. Our marching band had been selected to go to China to play at the Beijing Olympics. I was excited. More than plenty happy for them. Then came the paragraph asking for donations and I paused.
I really can’t fault them for asking for financial help. They need it. A inner-city public school largely populated by low to middle income students in a city wracked by scandal in a state with an economy that’s grasping at straws. But this was China they were talking about. One of the worst violators of human rights in the world. I love my alma mater, but I really couldn’t bring myself to donate. Not that I really have anything to donate (unless they want to take $1.20 in coke bottles), but even if I had…I couldn’t see funding that trip.
They have successfully raised more than enough money for the trip (thanks to a last minute $10,000 donation from the Governor), but this is still nagging at me. My personal politics would actually allow me to keep these kids from having the experience of a life time. And I’m pretty well justified. The protests in Tibet, the conviction of a Chinese human rights activist to spend three years in jail for speaking out against the government, the constant threat of war if Taiwan should even mention independence, the forced removal of residents for construction of the Olympic Village, the repression of the Uighur and other Muslim people, the repression of the Catholic church (yeah I know, it’s shocking I’m defending them, but they have every right to believe as they please, even if I don’t agree with their hierarchy) and on and on.
But these are kids who, for the most part, will never travel beyond the western hemisphere. Should I really let politics stand in the way of this? Part of me feels this is the right thing to do, another part feels it’s totally selfish. I rant and rave about the IOC not putting enough pressure on China to clean up its act. I talk about how the Olympics shouldn’t be held in China at all. But can I really hold a bunch of high schoolers to that same standard? Their refusal to go would be a strong statement on a local level, but totally ignored by the world at large except to ask “Why in God’s name would you do that?!?” The Chinese Olympic officials wouldn’t bat an eye. Neither would the government.
So, if their protest would be pointless, wouldn’t mine too?