Many a wise person throughout the ages has written that the thing we profess to hate the most or over which we obsess the most, is often the very thing we become. Take the relationship between the USA and Russia. Since the Second World War, most American leaders–and particularly the Republican Party–have railed against Russia’s communist/dictatorial regime. The Cold War, the nuclear arms race, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, the Cuban Missile Crisis and numerous proxy wars are just a few exemplars of the uneasy relationship between the USA and USSR/Russia. Yet now, many in the Republican Party not only support Vladimir Putin as a great leader and “genius,” they even applaud his country’s unprovoked invasion of the Ukraine and the untold suffering it has caused. When American Putin supporters talk about ‘freedom’, they usually mean the freedom to do whatever they want, without extending the same right to those who disagree with them. Too many Republicans admire the ‘strong man’ autocracy seen in Putin’s Russia, wherein no dissent (freedom of speech) is tolerated, and they think it would suit America–until, of course, they fall afoul of the system.
And so it has come home to me that I will probably never again set foot in the land of my birth for the very same reasons I will not visit Russia. Simply put, I believe that a euro, a dollar or a pound is a vote. When we spend money on something, we are at the same time saying ‘I believe in the product.’ For years I have wanted to visit Leningrad–primarily to visit the Hermitage, but for other reasons as well. Now I wouldn’t go there even if someone else paid the cost. Why? Simply because Putin has brought to the world the same sort of evil as every dictator before him. He is George Orwell’s “newspeak” incarnate: war is peace, invasion is liberation, and of course, Ukraine’s democratically elected president, Zelensky (himself a Jew) is referred to by Putin as a “Nazi”. What a sick misrepresentation of reality. Why would I choose to ‘vote’ for Putin’s regime by visiting and spending money there?
Meanwhile in America, the country of In Guns We Trust and the most weaponised society on earth, public safety is interpreted to mean more weapons in the hands of everyone. If the fuel can in your garage caught fire, would you see more petrol as the answer to the fire? If your answer is ‘yes’ then you belong in the Republican Party…and to Putin’s Russia. But in any case, the frightening rate at which Americans kill their fellow citizens, and particularly children–all in the name of the sacrosanct Second Amendment–have turned American society into a reign of terror equal to Putin’s blood-soaked hands. No thanks. France learned their lesson during the “Terror” of the Revolution, when the excesses of the guillotine turned the cobbled streets of Paris into rivers of blood. Life here now is much more peaceful. I vote for liberté, égalité, tranquillité!