Friday, August 08, 2008

Sally Kohn: The Irony of Immigrant Olympians

Via the Huffington Post

The Irony of Immigrant Olympians

By Sally Kohn

I have to confess I've never really cared about the Olympics. Since I'm not much for sports or raw nationalism, the fusion of the two doesn't really get me up in the morning. But I will tune in tonight to watch Lopez Lamong -- Sudanese "Lost Boy" turned US track star -- carry the American flag in the opening ceremonies. I'm sure I'll have a tear in my eye, but also a twinge in my stomach for the profound irony of the moment. Some might even call it hypocrisy.

For here we are in the United States, where though the price of gas is skyrocketing, there seems to be endless fuel to feed the fires of anti-immigrant sentiment. But the Olympics are different, I guess. Is it the same with professional sports? Or the governorship of California? We don't like immigrants in low-wage jobs that none of us citizens want to do, but we don't mind immigrants in the exceptionally high-paying jobs that American-born citizens can only dream of?

What's the point complaining about an undocumented Mexican making $5 an hour in a chicken processing plant, who lost two of his fingers because of unsafe conditions and labor violations? Shouldn't we be more upset about Yao Ming making $15 million a year, plus endorsements?

Ah, but in America, we have a long and proud tradition of picking on the little guy. We also have a proud tradition of taking half-hearted moral stands. (Remember the Southern Compromise, anyone? Our continuing tolerance of segregation after abolition? Or the Bush Administration's rejection of nation-building...?) Why bother standing up for what's right when we can just talk about what we know is right but then just keep doing what we've always done.


Click here for entire column

No comments: