Unlike Russia, the United States has the option of returning to democracy
Can you guess which country describes the following quote?
“We cannot accept this at all… the key political institutions, the state disciplinary structures – the uniformed services, the army, the police, the secret police, and the corresponding means to ensure political stability: prisons, preventive detentions, the tools of exercising rigid control over the behavior of citizens.
“We also cannot accept the enforced civic passivity of the majority of the population. as well as the total domination of the executive power over the legislature and the judiciary. ” [added emphasis]
Recently, in my nocturnal COVID cocoon, I came across this passage while browsing through books on corrupt societies and dysfunctional strongmen.
Granted, it’s not a pleasant bedtime read, but given the situation we find ourselves in right now in the United States – a nation on the verge of balkanization, an executive branch out of control, a devastating pandemic, a autocratic president and the militarization of our police force – I wanted to find a historical and international context.
Russia and the rise of Putin
I am an avid reader of 75 to 85 books per year. As is often the case, this year’s roster includes almost all non-fiction, with a mix of new and past titles. One exception: I couldn’t resist rereading Dorothy’s Collected Stories Parker because, well, I haven’t heard myself laughing out loud in months.
I am also a globetrotter who is now forbidden to go abroad. Americans have the costs. This is the first year of the last half-dozen that I haven’t been planning a trip overseas. A first world problem? Absoutely. But stay.
So instead of settling in for a glass of Merlot and a movie on an overnight flight to Dubai, Paris or Delhi, I took political trips to Iran, the Balkans, Iraq, Saudi Arabia. and, more particularly and worryingly, in Russia.
Given the persistence Donald trump-Russian connection, I can’t read enough about this nation and the rise of Vladimir Poutine.
Understanding the master plan of the Russian Federation
In Heidi blakeis fascinating and incredibly sourced From Russia with Blood: The Kremlin’s Merciless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin‘s Secret War on the West, I have learned the chilling details of Putin’s hideous poisonings and other murders in the UK. Note this week’s disturbing news regarding the suspected poisoning of the Leader of the Opposition Alexei Navalny. Putin’s fingerprints are everywhere.
One can discover why Putin’s enemies keep falling “accidentally” from the upper floors of apartment buildings. No one is safe from Putin’s reach, even those in the United States.
Maksim Borodin, 32, a #EkaterinburgInvestigative correspondent of independent news site Novy Den, died on April 15, 2018, after falling on April 12, 2018 from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment. #Russia https://t.co/pq4sOATNIK
– Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) May 8, 2018
Putin’s people: how the KGB took over Russia and then attacked the West through Catherine belton meticulously chronicles Putin’s unlikely rise of an obscure KGB agent in ex-East Germany to his current post as president for as long as he wants and perhaps the richest ruler on the planet .
The connection between Soviet-style gangsterism, the government’s monstrous security apparatus, a completely twisted justice system, and the Kremlin is instructive, frightening, and, closer to home here in the United States, ominously predictive given the very possibility. reality of four more years of Trumpism. .
Belton spent years as a Moscow correspondent for Financial Times, and his contacts would be the envy of any journalist trying to understand the master plan of the Russian Federation.
Belton’s book in turn led me to Luke Hardingthe cannon, including Shadow State: murder, chaos and recasting of the West by Russia. As the title suggests, Harding, a veteran Guardian journalist who was eventually expelled from Russia after years of psychological harassment by the Federal Security Service (FSB), explains how Russia spent millions of dollars to interfere in our own 2016 presidential elections, the movement British Brexit and the current nationalist tendencies in Europe.
Spoiler alert: Putin’s plan is working to its great advantage.
Survive the autocracy
Then on my shelf were two essential books by the Russian-American journalist Masha gessen. The titles are Survive the autocracy and Words will break the cement: the passion of Pussy Riot.
Long before the media caught on to Trump’s autocratic tendencies, Gessen knew what was to come. She had already experienced it in Russia. Trump capitalized on an America that was already in decline. As she writes in Survive the autocracy, “He was attacking fear [of immigrants and the outside world], he harnessed hatred, and he filled the void left by the lack of vision.
Now for the answer to the question I asked earlier. The quote that opens this essay describes Russia and comes from the above Words will break the cement: the passion of Pussy Riot.
The three members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, who were each sentenced to two years in the punitive penal colonies of this country for a 30-second performance that “desecrated” the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, did final statements at their “trial” that are as powerful as anything I have ever read about free speech.
The passage I quoted comes from Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who was 23 years old and was the mother of an infant at the time of his mock trial.
When I read his words, and later his letters from prison, I could easily imagine an American resistance fighter in 2020 writing those same words.
America’s Rise to Democracy
Our executive branch indeed dominates (one of Trump’s favorite verbs) our legislative branch. Laws such as the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, which provides 10-year sentences for monument vandalism, are used to appease dissent. Unidentifiable federal agents outfitted as Star Wars stormtroopers are flooding American cities also in an attempt to crush protests through violent “rigid control.”
Unlike Russia, we have the opportunity in the November elections to begin what will be a steep climb to democracy. But this time, we must cast aside these false illusions about what America stands for and instead imagine a democracy more faithful to its original intention, a democracy that offers equal voice and opportunity to all, regardless of their location. race, religion, sexual orientation or economic status.
Only then can we escape the devastating clutches so obvious in Russia and, increasingly, the whole world.
As these brave and inspiring young women like Nadezhda show, it starts with words and continues with actions. Batons and bullets are no match for ideals.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.