Navalny’s Challenge To Us All

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I am blown away by Alexei Navalny’s courage.

Frequently people become so disgusted with the United States that they contemplate moving to another country. I always say, “No, you cannot do that. You have to stay here and help change this place. We’re obligated to do this work.” I have felt that, if you’re not being threatened with a long jail sentence or something worse, you’re obligated to stay.

ON THE OTHER HAND, your obligation ends if you are threatened by a long stay in jail or worse. In my eyes, you are COMPLETELY ENTITLED to flee the country and continue your work from exile or become an honored university professor in some nice quiet country or whatever.

And, if your government goes to all the trouble to poison you and then you escape and recover — well, you’re NUTS to go to the trouble of going bck.

Navalny is risking his life by his return to Russia. Putin has acted totally predictably by arresting him. How could he not? And now Navalny is dependent on the government that poisoned him for all his food and drink.

I think that Navalny did not go back to Russia to challenge Putin. He is putting his life on the line to challenge his fellow citizens. He is saying to them, “I am willing to give up my life in the battle against this corrupt tyrant. What are you willing to do?”

He could not have known how the Russians would respond to his challenge. People might have said, “My roof is leaking and my kid is sick. I’ve got a lot on my plate. There’s nothing we can do about Putin anyhow. Navalny, you’re a fool. You should have stayed where you were safe.”

Really, one could say that would have been a rational response. But that is not what happened. The Russian people have risen to Navalny’s challenge.

The NY Times had a column by Alexey Kovalev, who is editor of Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet. The headline is: “Not Just Another Day of Dissatisfaction in Russia.”

Crackdown and coercion are no longer enough to discourage Russians from protesting: According to sociologists who studied Saturday’s demonstrations, at least 42 percent of all participants were first-time protesters. Mr. Navalny has clearly struck a chord well outside his regular circle of supporters. The Kremlin, its room for compromise limited, is likely to respond with further escalation.

What that might lead to, no one can say. But one thing’s certain: It doesn’t bode well for anyone.

Sounds kinda scary, doesn’t it — for Navalny, for the demonstrators, for the country.

I cannot comprehend being as brave as Navalny. I don’t think I’m capable of risking my life for my ideals. But I don’t want to ever forget the example of his courage, which he is acting out before the world at this moment.

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Terry Baum is an actress, director, teacher, filmmaker, political activist, and award-winning lesbian playwright. Her blog BAUMBLOG is a “Top 100 LGBTQ Blog.”

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