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Protest is a Sport, Too Let's Not Put the Torch in a Bubble

Let’s Not Put the Torch in a Bubble

by LARAY POLK

I read a recent report that one of the proposed security plans for the torch run was to construct a bubble that would protect the flame as it was carried through the crowds.

That seems an appropriate symbol for the current state of affairs worldwide. How many bubbles will we need in the near future for high-profile people and inanimate objects so that navigation of the mean streets is possible? By mean streets, of course, I refer to public places where ordinary people congregate.

Life in a bubble is an indicator of the distance between those in power and everybody else.

To believe in the idealistic version of the Olympics, one’s time might be better spent looking at Greco-Roman pottery at the nearest museum. The Olympics are, and have been, ensconced in corporate sponsorship and greed for a very long time.

A great deal of money and maneuvering is involved in securing the Olympic Games. These pre-game games to host the event begin at least 10 years in advance and involve power-brokering committees, corporations and politicians at the local, state and national level.

The Chinese authorities have repeatedly announced in the media that the Olympics are a platform for them to show the world their "economic and political strength." Everywhere a camera lens is pointed during the games, there will be corporate logos.

The compelling beauty of athletes competing at the highest level of athleticism is a great opportunity to subliminally push a product and build brand allegiance. Last but not least, it is an opportunity to build a compelling national narrative.

Protesters have been hard at work this past week to tell the rest of the story that makes up China’s "national narrative." I hope that they continue their work, but that they will not cause physical harm either intentionally or inadvertently (that means no rushing the flame and knocking over an athlete in a wheelchair).

But the protesters are taking advantage of the same commodity that the Chinese government is taking advantage of: camera time. Camera time can create all kinds of dreamy perceptions; it can also bring on opportunities for bursting the picture-perfect bubbles of perception.

If we say that it is acceptable for corporations and governments to shape and control the message in association with the noble spirit of the Olympics, why are we having trouble with those who would exploit camera time on behalf of those suffering in Darfur, Tibet, and equally, the Chinese voices of dissent who are stifled and imprisoned?

It seems the Olympics have morphed into an opportunity to disrupt the categories of consumerism and business as usual by interjecting the realities of human right abuses. My wish for the games: no bubbles, no trouble.

Let people-power prevail and learn to accept protest as a new sport in a very old arena.

LARAY POLK is an artist and activist who lives in Dallas. Her e-mail address is laraypolk@earthlink.net.