Pulling out of sochi
Two images, this Wednesday, compete for space in people’s minds.
The image of the immaculate snows of Sochi criss-crossed by the world’s top skiers to the cheers of the crowd.
And that of the bloodied snow around the barricades of Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, since special units of the Ukrainian government, with Putin’s seal of approval, received their orders to attack—to a reception of universal indifference.
Telling ourselves that we’re used to this sort of thing doesn’t do any good.
It’s no use reminding ourselves of the abandonment of the 130,000 Syrians put to death through the murderous madness of Bashar al-Assad, backed by the very same Putin; of the innumerable Chechens “kicked into the crapper” in the elegant phrase of the same master of all of the Russias and its borderlands. It’s no use knowing, as we have for some time now—since republican Spain was abandoned, since Central Europe was sacrificed, and since the “of course we’re not going to do anything” in the face of the state of war in Poland in the early 1980s—that, as a matter of principle, democracy never defends its values.
There is in this overlay of images, in the nearly perfect concordance of the two ceremonies—that of the Olympic celebration in full swing and that of the funeral of the European dream on the territory of one of the peoples who still believed in it—something that insults the intelligence and breaks the heart.
A question for the leaders of this Europe whose emblems and flags are, at this very moment, being trampled underfoot: Madame Ashton, Messieurs Barroso, Schultz, and company: Is your place not there in Kiev, in flaming Maidan, a square that those occupying it have, for a long while now, been calling Europe Square?
A suggestion for Messieurs Hollande and Obama, permanent members of the Security Council, of whom we learned last night from Arnaud Montebourg, minister of industrial renewal, that the Ukrainian question was indeed on the agenda for their discussions in Washington last week: These deaths in Europe, these hundreds of wounded people hounded by special troops who, as we know from observers on the ground, will stop at nothing, this wall of flame that, as I write these lines, bisects that majestic square peacefully occupied by a people whose only offense was to declare their love for the homeland of Jean Monnet, Edmund Husserl, and Vaclav Havel—how can that not merit an urgent convocation of the Security Council? Do not this provocation, this challenge, this cold crime so confidently committed justify at least a formal notice to the regime and its patron?
And finally a plea to the Olympic committees of the nations present in Sochi who plod on as if nothing were amiss, deaf and blind to the tragedy unfolding a few hundred kilometers from the stage of their exploits, to rally around the Olympic ideal, whose flame, this year, the assassin has purloined: Do you not feel that your medals this time around have the metallic taste of blood? Have you a thought for that other snow, the bloody snow, the snow that, make no mistake, is front and center in the thoughts of your host? Do you not see—I won’t say the obscenity—but the absurdity of pretending to believe, up to the last minute of the last day of this ruined Olympiad, that there might be two Putins: Putin the Terrible who, Tuesday afternoon, issued his valet Yankovych a license to kill; and the other, strutting across the stage and through the stands to greet you with the munificence due those who used to be called the gods of the stadium?
The games will be over in a few days.
Precious little time remains in which to stop collaborating in what now more than ever seems to be grim mascarade.
Precious few hours remain in which to preserve at least your honor before returning home crowned with a glory that will carry a whiff of abasement and remorse.
Can we, by pulling out of Sochi—or at least by boycotting the closing ceremony—ensure that the XXII Winter Olympics will not go down in history as the games that were the shame and defeat of Europe?