Olympic Torch – San Francisco

It seems not a day goes by without some mention of protests and the Olympic torch. I for one didn’t pay much attention until today when I read the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle 4-6-2008. The articles “2 views of Beijing as Olympics approach,” contained “Tibetan Americans: Bay Area exiles fight to keep culture alive” and “Chinese Americans: Most proud of Olympics, hurt by protests.”

At first, I was intrigued and thought I might gain some insight into the differing views concerning the Olympic torch. However, both articles quickly came to disappoint with naive quotes and wishy washy bleeding-heart exile stories.

Let’s start with the article “Tibetan Americans.” It begins with Tibetan Americans flocking to San Francisco to participate in the “Tibetan Freedom Torch” and to protest the Olympic torch relay which will happen this Wednesday. Then it describes the protests over in Berkeley (those people are always protesting something) and I start to get annoyed with this article. I think to myself “Gee, another protest in Berkeley, big surprise.” After this I come to the kicker which is typical Berkeley. The journalist decides to use a quote from a homeless man who asks “How can you take a piece of land that belongs to someone else?”

It is at this moment that I contemplate changing my political affiliation from liberal to conservative. I can bear all the whiny whiny coming out of Berkeley and I can even try to understand why the newspaper chose a quote from a homeless man out of all the other possible sources. But what I cannot abide is the sheer stupidity of the quote “How can you take a piece of land that belongs to someone else?” From this point on, I am trying to choose my words carefully but in whichever direction I take this I’m definitely going to be in trouble with the liberals.

I believe the journalist chose a homeless man because in the psyche of Berkeley, homeless people are very likely to be genius ex-professors who either snapped, or chose to live outside the confines of a normal life. I believe homeless people deserve compassion and help but the city elevates them entirely too much. It’s not that a homeless person said this that bothers me but instead the extreme naivety of world affairs and a newspaper such as the San Francisco Chronicle should know better.

In case it doesn’t, if they would like to know “How can you take a piece of land that belongs to someone else,” it might do some good to go ask the Native Americans that same question. If that doesn’t suffice, you could then ask Mexico which Berkeley happened to be a part of not long ago, or should we go back to the Spanish crown? In any case, the exact spot where the homeless man asked that question had probably been taken quite a few times as one Native American tribe conquered another, then Spain, then Mexico, then the Americans. All of them took the land from someone and therefore to answer his question, “Well, it’s quite easy!”

If the Chronicle is still not convinced then perhaps we could ask the British, French, Spanish, Russians, or any other conquering people on this infinite list. In the end, I do not blame the homeless guy at all but the Chronicle for including such an asinine quote.

The article then goes on to give a brief history of the relocation of Tibetans that took place here in the Bay Area and includes such heart wrenching phrases as “She said her parents once had horses and yaks, but left Tibet with nothing.” Then there is the heartwarming story of Tulku who listened to the song “San Francisco” on his radio in India. Now I am a liberal and I wish the best for the people of Tibet, but such sappy journalism ruins my day.

Now we will go to the article Chinese Americans. The first thing that struck out at me was that Chinese Americans are “hurt by protests.” At first, it made me smile as I recalled my experience in a Shanghai market where everyone was yelling at me. I had thought the Chinese people were tough as nails then. But then I realized this was San Francisco and people are very emotional here. I also thought of my wonderful Chinese friends in China and how the Olympics must be such a point of pride for them and I began to smile as I imagined their enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, this good feeling quickly dissipated as I got four paragraphs into the article with this quote “We understand your rights of free speech, by all means, but be a gracious host, be sensitive to the fact that in San Francisco one-third of your inhabitants are Asians.” said attorney Edward Liu. “Many of us, Chinese Americans, in the city, we may not be supporting the Chinese government, but to politicize this game and to use this torch relay as a platform to bash China to me is unacceptable.”

Just who exactly is he talking to? This quote is so full of nonsense I can hardly figure out where to begin! After a couple minutes of thought, I’ll start with the fact that most of the anti-Chinese protests have been full of Asians! Last month it was the Falun Gong, and about two weeks ago it was a Tibetan protest parade which ruined my nap. This weekend it was mostly Asian faces on Union Square! So why do I get the feeling that in his quote he is referring to white people? Outside of California I don’t think most people even know nor care where Tibet is!

Second of all, he has just thrown the entire Asian population onto his Chinese Olympics cause. In Asia, there are very many countries that are not China and I do not think it is appropriate to lump them all together. I think the Japanese and Vietnamese might have some serious issues with that.

Third he says “we understand your rights of free speech,” and from his use of “we” he has separated his Chinese-American group from other Americans. America is wonderful in it’s diversity but apparently he wants his group to be different. And being America that is just fine and I’m glad his group understands we have free speech here. Unfortunately San Francisco City Hall does not and had planned to set up “Free Speech Zones” for protesters during the Olympic torch run. Last time I checked all of America was a Free Speech Zone but I’m glad Mr. Liu and City hall agree to allow me my rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

Further, when have the Olympics not been political? There have always been politics involved as far as I can remember. If it is not political, then why was China so eager to host them? It certainly can’t be because of the clean air! China wants the Olympics for the international respect it affords and they were awarded the games partly in hopes it would clean up its human rights record, both which happen to be political reasons. The trite argument that the Olympics are just games with athletes showcasing their skills with no political aspect at all is simply laughable. Did we forget Hitler, the Cold War, Cuban athletes, etc so quickly? I remember when the USA team simply had to destroy the Soviet team,,, but as Mr. Liu would have us believe, that too was simply some guys in shorts chasing each other around a track.

The fact of the matter is he is an attorney and should know better. I wonder if I’ll get sued for using my right to free speech?
The article goes on to say “It is really an insult to the people of China and Chinese Americans. None of them (Mayor Newsom) even thought about consulting the Chinese community,” said Ling Chi Wang, professor emeritus of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley.
Well, we’re back in Berkeley again and another shocker, some professor is angry. What I want to know is why the city is so scared of running the torch through China town. I’ve got a solution for City hall and Ms. Wang. Go ahead and take the torch unguarded through Chinatown and let’s see exactly what your Chinese Americans do with it.

In case the irony is lost, the reason City Hall doesn’t want it to go through Chinatown is precisely because of Chinese American protesters!!!!!!! But being Berkeley you can take a problem, twist it entirely around and blame it on everyone else. The Tibetans aside the Falun Gong will probably be ready with water hoses at every corner.

She goes on to say the contrast between how the torch is received in San Francisco and other countries will “embarrass not just the disrupters (sic) but sully the image of San Francisco – and America.”
After that quote I was highly irked. Ms.Wang has most likely lived in California all of her life and believes this state is representative of the rest of America. I however have a news flash for Ms. Wang. The rest of America is not like California and most Americans do not care if China were to change it’s name to Tibet, Tibet to China or if the Dalai Lama becomes king of Shanghai! Therefore, please do not say that the image of America will be sullied because the majority of protesters will be Chinese-Americans and hippies and the majority of America is not Chinese American nor hippies.

The only redeeming portion of this article comes from Tong Defa, spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco who said “It’s always a one-sided story. The Chinese government has spent a lot of money restoring the temples; many Tibetan schools have bilingual education.”

In this he is exactly correct. It is always a one sided story and the media does not portray the good things China has done for Tibet. From the Chinese point of view, Tibet was an uncivilized, backward and superstitious country and China is trying to bring it into the 21 century from the 14th in which it’s people had been living. Sounds exactly like the same logic the French used in Vietnam, or the British all over the globe. True or not? Guess it depends on weather you ask the colonizer or colonizee (sic).

However, Mr. Defa is correct in more ways than he intended. It is a one-sided story here but it is even more of a one-sided story in China. Go to China and the people there know nothing of the unrest concerning the torch and Tibet. Therefore we have two “one-sided” views and if we just put them together we could get a whole picture!!! LOL.

Also, having lived in a communist country myself, when he says “Tibetan schools have bilingual education” this means that China is trying to integrate Tibetans into the majority Han culture “Sinification” and thus dilute their cultural identity. Sounds much better when he said bilingual education however. Kind of like those in labor camps are getting “technical, on the job training.”

So in the end, where do I stand on this Olympic Torch issue? Well, I guess I’m right in the middle. I am happy for the Chinese people and I do hope they win a lot of gold medals. I can imagine my friends cheering wildly for their country and feeling a wonderful sense of pride. I actually was in France during the 2000 Olympics and watched the USA basketball team pound the Chinese team with one of my Chinese friends who was none too enthused. I’m sure the Chinese basketball team will do much better this year with Yao Ming. (does he get to play?)

On the other had, the Olympics is the perfect time to protest as the international spotlight is shining bright. It’s impossible to separate the Olympics from politics so why not embrace the political aspect head on?

Finally, the Olympic torch is coming through town this Wednesday and I’ll be sure to stay as far away as I possibly can.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! (^.^)/