Monday, August 13, 2012

A Big Cat Will Scratch You

I'm pretty sure the only thing Russia and Rock and Roll have in common is they start with "R." Except, very close to fifty years ago now(!) unveiled one New Year's Day in Times Square as an ad for The Rolling Stones but really a universal (and timeless) truth was the revelation (insert band name here) is the music your parents love to hate.

In Mother Russia right now the band the government loves to hate is Pussy Riot. I almost can't blame them-I cannot understand what they are singing but have reason to suspect it's not Vladimir Putin is a Sweetie as the former KGB chief, turned head of state through an election that left a lot of people shaking their heads (and Republicans in this country jealous they didn't think of some of these voter suppression ideas first). I don't get them but I can understand the emotion and it's white hot anger.

Make no mistake, Putin's a bastard and right now, maybe the only people who are not going quietly into the backs of the Black Marias seem to be the members of Pussy Riot who have plenty to be angry about in a country that invented vodka as a tranquilizer when common people were treated like furniture by Tsarists (the only asshats in history who were so awful they created conditions where communists could flourish).

It's easy to support freedom of speech when you like the people who are saying things you want to hear-sort of like being a member of PETA when they want to save the otter but aren't quite as enthused when the blobfish is on the poster. I can't prove this but Solzhenitsyn would be at the barricades for this band even if he had to hold his ears and his nose.

The trick is protecting people's freedom of speech and of thinking (and thinking differently) when you don't like them or what they are saying and thinking. Pussy Riot are not going to win Miss Conviviality crowns at any Potato Pancake (a/k/a Lattkes for Looners) Festivals any time soon. They're not going to be invited to many either. And they don't care who likes or doesn't like them.

Like the rest of us, or like the rest of us should, they want to be allowed to yell theater in a crowded fire and not care about the logic of that desire or the language in which it is expressed. That members of the Russian Orthodox Church are a party to this charade is another reason why, I fear, when God (if He exists) finds out what we're up to, will commence to smiting like it's 1999.
-bill kenny      

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