Staff column: A bit nervous about the Olympics
Did you feel it?
Behind the smiling faces of Chinese athletes and fans, their cute multitude of mascots and the imaginative venues, I felt it.
I felt it when the Chinese men dominated the men's gymnastics. I felt it when their presence in the sports they have had little contact with before the last 10 years was an influence.
I felt it when I heard the stories about failed Chinese athletes who have been banished to the outer reaches of the country, when the IOC defended the fact that there was censorship (because of the money and 1.5 billion people they wanted to line up in their sights) and when Christians coming through Beijing's airport were detained for carrying bibles.
I felt it and it felt much like what I imagine the 1936 Olympics must have felt like. Only people then didn't have any earlier Olympics and consequent history to relate it to.
But we do, and we need to be very careful.
Oh, this Olympics had a very attractive face, much more so than the Aryan posters displayed during the Nazi games. It was a media blitz with all the hype they could generate. The shows were tremendous, almost Hollywood. They said come to our country, spend your money here and of course at home where half of what you buy is made in China. We are friendly to you; we want your business.
We want you.
It's just too much deja vu for me. It's a cross between Nazi Germany, Orwell's 1984, and the Empire of the Rising Sun in 1936. It's Stalin, Hitler, Tojo and Pol Pot all mixed into one. It's fear with a smiling face; a two sided face; one that wants to please you; the other that wants to kill you.
Call me crazy, but I felt it 12,000 miles away over satellites and cables that carry HDTV. And over lines that tie the world wide web together across the world.
What will follow is what I fear. The Russians took advantage of the happy situation in China to invade another country (or liberate it; funny how that sounds so Soviet). But even at that I trust the Russians more than I do the Chinese. The western mind has seldom come to grips with the oriental way of thinking. They have always seemed to move more our way than we theirs because they don't want us inside their heads. And even if they have adopted our business practices, many of our customs and in some ways our way of life, there are some things missing.
Those missing things are called personal freedom and individualism. It's called the right of a people to express themselves about their government, their leaders, their culture and the world without worry or fear.
Did you feel it.