“The mayor of Sochi … has said there are no gay people in the city,” reported the BBC on Jan. 26. (Later in the story it is revealed, of course, this couldn’t possibly be true. “BBC ‘Panorama’ reporter John Sweeney visited a gay bar in Sochi the night before he interviewed the mayor,” read the story.)
This has been dubbed President Vladimir Putin’s Games, and he is not a man to be trifled with. Putin has essentially been in control of Russia since 1999. He’s a 16-year KGB veteran. He stages photo ops demonstrating his alpha male dominance to his loyal followers, taking to land (tranquilizing polar bears), sea (scuba diving) and air (co-piloting fighter jets).
Putin has vigorously defended his Games.
“I’d like to ask our colleagues, my colleagues and friends, that as they try to criticize us, they would do well to set their own house in order first,” he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week” Jan. 19. “There are a lot of folks in the U.S. who share the view that the [anti-gay rights] legislation in their state or in their nation is appropriate, well grounded, and is in sync with the sentiment of the vast majority of the population.”
This is what people mean when they say, “being on either the right or wrong side of history.” President Barack Obama is conspicuously absent from these Olympic Games, and many other public figures have also filed their discontent.
“[British Deputy Prime Minister] Nick Clegg has urged gay visitors to … Sochi to protest against Putin’s ‘appalling’ treatment of gay people,” reported Matthew Holehouse in The Guardian on Friday.
I am absolutely not saying everyone who wants to deny LGBT people human rights is like Vladimir Putin. But, fairly or not, you are often judged in retrospect by the company you keep. So, do you stand with Putin, or don’t you?
Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.