In an open letter sent out today, former NBA basketball player John Amaechi asked the International Olympic Committee and Olympians to use the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, as a "soap box" against Russia's anti-gay laws. A boycott, he said, would miss a golden opportunity to speak against injustice. From his letter:
"I am distressed that some of you seem to have missed the point of your larger responsibility and embarrassed that some of your sports federations and governing bodies have been complicit in facilitating you abdicating your larger responsibilities to the world beyond sport.
"Many of you are icons in your respective sports, inspirational to a generation of young people who hang on your every tweet, ape your every action and follow your every suggestion. As such, it is your responsibility -- as much as the quest for gold -- to show the world that you understand that sport, especially Olympic sport, IS intrinsically political.
It is your responsibility as you prepare to go to Sochi to publicly acknowledge that your games happen on the backs of the abuse of migrant workers, the threatening of environmental activists and journalists, the 'disappearance' of EUR25 billion and indeed, in the context of a country that is facilitating and then ignoring the torture of young gay boys and girls."
Amaechi, who came out in 2007, goes on to agree with gay British comedian Stephen Fry's controversial comparison of Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime and Nazi Germany. Amaechi admits that "they're Nazis" is an overused, reductive go-to in political debates, but Amaechi writes, "In this case, take a look for yourself at the 1935 Nuremberg laws and the eerie similarity with these laws designed to create an official smokescreen for the crude, stereotyping and scientifically disproven marginalization of certain minorities."
The Nuremberg edict's full name, of course, was "The Laws for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour," and prohibited a German national -- that is, someone with "pure" German blood -- from marrying someone tainted by Judaism. As with color designation in the segregated States, the taint of Judaism ran deep in interwar Germany: One Jewish grandparent made you "mixed" or "kindred." Such "mischlings" weren't as disdained as full Jews, but they were held apart nonetheless. Russia's anti-gay laws, still obtuse and ill-defined, also make clear that LGBT people are "less-than" and unworthy.
According to Putin and his pals, LGBT people should be banned from adopting because we're incapable of raising healthy children. We are also too dangerous to be teachers and LGBT pride is so toxic to Russian national identity that it is illegal to say kind things about gay people, advocate for equality, or even fly a rainbow flag. (Interestingly, Jews in Germany weren't allowed to fly the Reich's emblem; only Stars of David and other Judaica...)
We know what happened in Germany, but what will happen in Russia? There's already been a remarkable spike in violence since this anti-gay hysteria broke out. A group of Russian Neo-Nazis were recently accused of abducting and torturing gay teenagers, and Moscow police have had no qualms about beating LGBT protesters on the city's streets. And now we have Dmitri Kisilev upping the ante.
The Deputy General Director of the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Kisilev says he not only wants to see gays banned from giving blood and sperm (as they are here in the States, btw), but also thinks their hearts should be burned after death.
Speaking on Rossiya 1, one of the largest news channels under Kremlin control, Kisilev said, "I think that just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. They should be banned from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life."
Forget Nuremberg, Kisilev's frantic superstitions sound like they're straight out of the Salem Witch Trials. And as you can see from this video, the Russian audience agreed, especially that red-headed woman behind Kisilev.