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  • Reverend James Squire

a K, a G, and a B



It is helpful to have a first-hand experience of Russia to appreciate what the nation is really like and why we are where we are today. Vicki and I traveled there with friends when things were becoming more “edgy” in Putin’s leadership. We had two gifts that made the trip a real experience and not something like the façade of a Hollywood movie set which is what is sowed in their propaganda. First, we were traveling with a group that included faculty from Colorado State University including close friends and a professor of Russian history who was fluent in Russian and had studied there. Second, our guide made it clear that she would tell us what Russia is really like.


People have been questioning the effectiveness of financial sanctions against Russia. What people don’t realize is that the only people who are financially set up for life are Putin and the Oligarchs. Most of the people in Russia carry the weight of the Russian economy on their backs which is true of most autocracies. Our guide told us that when her children were young, she had to get up at 6 in the morning to get in line to buy milk for her children’s breakfast cereal.


Putin has always been a thug who lies and operates from leadership based in fear. He must have read Machiavelli’s, The Prince, who said fear not respect is the best form of government rule. Notice how Trump and Pompeo have seconded this notion in their comments about Putin. Note as well that fear is Trump’s major political style in keeping the Republicans in line. Perhaps the leadership of Zelensky will be seen as a real model for governing and cut through Trump’s cords of imprisonment of the Republican Party. One can only hope.


There is another characteristic that links Trump to Putin as they are peas in the same pod. Both have other people do their dirty work. Trump keeps himself one step removed from guilt of any crime. Putin has done the same thing by sending people to poison his enemies. Our guide’s husband was a renown physicist in Russia who received an invitation to join the faculty of M.I.T. Putin forbade him to leave the country and then through ongoing harassment made his life miserable. He died of a heart attack which our guide placed at the feet of Putin. He literally died of a broken heart. Putin and Trump have the same line, “I didn’t do it!”


The countryside is populated by farms where people live a harsh existence attempting to raise crops in the context of difficult weather. As we traveled away from Moscow into the surrounding areas, everything that you see is gray. Huge gray apartment complexes rise from the land. They all look the same to communicate the equality of all no matter how undesirable the living spaces seem to be.


There is a contrast to the gray of the countryside as you move through the streets of Moscow and St. Peterburg. Men and women wear the latest colorful attire. High heels for women are standard. As you travel the streets it feels as though you are on a fashion runway. When I asked about this, I was told that for many years the fashion of the times was gray or brown. Now the bright colors become symbolic of a form of liberation. They offer a stark contrast to their surroundings.


Our trip was ten years ago. There is something that has not changed. The protest among the people that is palpable is still there as it simmers just below the ordinary nature of their lives.


We witnessed what became an international cause. We were walking on one side of the street and looked across the street to a public park where the “Pussy Riot” was being arrested by Putin’s police. “Pussy Riot” is a Russian feminist punk rock and performance group based in Moscow. The group spoke from a feminist standpoint about LGBT rights and their opposition to Putin’s connection to the Russian Orthodox Church. Their crime was acting like “hooligans.” The three members of the group were sentenced to two years in prison. The international community vehemently protested their incarceration including Amnesty International.


It is interesting that Elias Long wrote an article, “Make America Great Again” (Rolling Stone Magazine, October 27, 2016 and retrieved January 28,2017) that included this statement: “Speaking as much to western European and North American audiences, “Pussy Riot” anticipated Donald Trump’s victory before the outcome of the 2016 United States presidential election was declared and released “Make America Great Again,” depicting a dystopian world (a society where there is great suffering and injustice) where President Trump enforces his values through beatings, shaming, and branding by stormtroopers. In describing the video (Think January 6). Rolling Stone Magazine noted that ‘jaunty carefree music contrasts with the brutal events depicted on the screen.”


John McCain saw through Putin when he said, “When I look into his eyes, I see three letters a K, a G, and a B.” Let’s not forget that as we enter a new age of peril with Russia.

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