If you’ve followed this blog for long, you may have noted that I’m a bit of a Russophile. Of course, I’m also an Anglophile and increasingly a Francophile, all for various reasons.
But back to Russia.
I’m rooting for Russia to shake off the bad habits of 70 years of Communist tyranny. I’m rooting for its Orthodox Churches, being built at a prodigious rate, to cease being, shall we say, “Potemkin,” but to be full not just on Sunday morning (in contrast to the present religious laxity of nominally Orthodox Russia), but at other services of the liturgical cycle as well. And I’m not rooting for it to become just like us because I think it has potential to do better than that.
I think Russia has again become a scapegoat in our politics. Until the fall of the Soviet Union, opposing the Communists was, understandably, an American obsession, and to an extent became the raison d’être of the Republican party. Now again it’s an obsession, more for the Democrats than for the Republicans, imputed superhuman powers and cunning.
I doubt that Russian trolls influenced the 2016 election. I doubt that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to that or any other end. But I’ll grant you that Vladimir Putin may actually be playing the 12-dimensional chess that Trumpistas impute to President Chaos, and that he and his aides may have noted Russian-exploitable financial vulnerabilities of Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner.(Notably, the U.S. has rarely been competitive with Russia in chess.)
But I do not doubt that Russia, and Putin, were behind the nerve gas poisoning of a former Soviet spy in Great Britain, that it was appalling, and that sanctions are appropriate.
I’ll leave it for another day, perhaps, to lament anything equally appalling that we’ve done.
It’s not directly relevant to what I wrote above, but the chess nexus made it irresistible. Garry Kasparov, writing of Putin:
When I retired from professional chess in 2005 to join the Russian pro-democracy movement against Putin, I was frequently asked how my chess experience might help me in politics. My answer was that it wouldn’t help much at all, because in chess we had fixed rules and uncertain results, while in Russian politics it was exactly the opposite.
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It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.
A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.
(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.