Letter to Russians

Photo by Efrem Efre on Pexels.com

It is a difficult time.
Your country, under the direction of your leader, is massacring people in Ukraine.
Many of you who have protested the war are now in jail because of it.
I have just seen a video clip of a woman sneaking up behind the anchor of a news show in Moscow and showing a sign that said ‘No War’ in English and ‘Don’t believe propaganda. They lie to you here’ in Russian.
The woman, identified as Marina Ovsyannikova, had recorded a video before she interrupted the newscast. In the video she says, ‘What’s happening in Ukraine right now is a crime and Russia is the aggressor country.’ ‘It’s only in our power to stop this. Go to protests; don’t be scared. They can’t arrest us all.’
OVD-Info, a human rights organization who distributed the video made by Ms Ovsyannikova, said she had been taken to a police station.

By doing what she did, she dared a new law signed by Putin calling for a prison term of up to 15 years for people who knowingly disseminate false information about Russia’s armed forces.
Here’s the link to the article in the WSJ https://www.wsj.com/articles/woman-runs-onto-russian-tv-news-set-brandishing-antiwar-poster-11647292214?st=0hr2x6bdyabddwf&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink
All of us – the world – thank you for your courage.

But how did we get to this point?
Your leader was allowed to stay in power too long.
The task of leadership is too complex to be entrusted to one person. All leadership needs to be open to criticism, whether warranted or not.
And those governed have a responsibility to ensure that happens.
Putin remained in power since 1999, because he persuaded others that there was no one else with his ability to lead Russia. But in the free world we’ve learned that even if someone is exceptional, they cannot remain in power for more than two terms, as in the US, or no more than a single longer term, say 5-6 years, as in other democracies.
Renewal is vital to free societies. Even if the successor to an exemplary leader is deemed of lesser quality than who preceded them.
That’s how important renewal is. It opens the door to new relationships and gives the governed a sense that corruption is less likely to happen.
We, the governed, have come to learn that corruption in government happens anyway.
To place limits on those who govern us is to accept that reality.

What we, the governed, should never lose sight of, is that we have power. But to keep it, it must be exercised. Otherwise, it atrophies.
Leaders like Putin learned that they could intimidate others into not speaking their minds.
And it started with small acts of intimidation, which then grew into larger ones.
It happens the same way everywhere.
And slowly, the governed lose their voice. Because of fear.
When we allow that to happen, then we are diminished as people.
We become smaller. And before long we will find an excuse for allowing ourselves to be smaller. And so we shrink.
Anytime you have given up on expressing your opinion, whether right or wrong, you give up something dear about yourself.
You give up the right every human being has to be unique.

A man like Putin clearly enjoys reducing the size of other human beings.
The thousands of Russian soldiers who have died in Ukraine didn’t have to die as they did, because there was no need for that war.
The thousands of Ukrainians who have died defending their land, didn’t have to die as they did.
And it can be traced to a man being allowed to remain in power.
It can be traced to many Russians – not all – choosing to relinquish their right to be themselves, the right to have a voice of their own.
Every Putin supporter is a person who has chosen to deny themselves the right to be their own person.
Why, because in their right mind, they would not consent to the indiscriminate killing of innocent human beings.
So all those Russians who support Putin are not in their right mind. They may think they are, but they are not, for long ago they chose to not pursue the path to becoming individuals with their own voice.

All dictators do the same thing. By various degrees of intimidation, they coerce others into giving up their own selves.
It happened in Russia as it happened in China. It happened in Syria, as it happened in Myanmar. It happened in Cuba as it happened in Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Every one of us has power.
But we have to choose to use it.
Every one of us, has the power of their mind and their voice.
The fate of mankind depends on speaking our voices.
Dear Russians, you can be an example to the world.
Just like your brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
And like you, Marina Ovsyannikova, a hero to all of us.
Thank you.

Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

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