Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Letter to the Russian Ambassador
Sent Feb. 2, 2010
Sergey I. Kislyak
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States
1125 16th St. N.W.
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
Greetings from Southern California.
The persecution of the Russian artist Aleksei Plutser-Sarno and the art group "Voina," really gets my goat. And as a planetary citizen I urge your government to cease the mindless pursuit of this artist and release those of his allies whom have been detained.
I read about their plight in a "New York Times," article dated January 22.
That's a while back, I know, but maintaining a journalist's post, a literary writing career, and the self-appointed job of skewering repressive governments around the world can really weigh on a guy.
I'm sure the article by the marvelous Ellen Barry -- and please don't harass her, too -- caused you a degree of heartburn.
And it's a good thing, too.
Mr. Plutser-Sarno has some unpleasant things to say about those who govern the Russian Federation. But surely you realize that the official response to such provocations only lends credence to his claims that you guys need to lighten-up and take a democracy class.
You work for him, and his fellow citizens, not the other way around. I say this only because I know Russia is new to democracy and could probably use a few pointers.
And by the way, I think Plutser-Sarno's "installation" involving a 210-foot penis hanging from a St. Petersburg drawbridge, pointed at the state security outfit's building, is the ultimate example of free expression.
Anybody can insult some man on the street. The democratic protection to speech is truly cashiered when we try it on those who make the rules and enforce them with the threat of violence.
You should give the way we do it here in the U.S a go. There are vast spaces of freedom for mouthing-off across our mediatic landscape. As a result, so many people are doing it, that no single voice truly rises above the din, except very stupid ones like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.
Such people are a stain on the nation's honor, yes, but at least we know where and what they are.
You guys are doing it the old-fashioned way and the result is, well, this letter by somebody one zillion miles away from Russia. See how it doesn't work?
Charging Voina with "organizing a criminal gang," would be laughable, were the artists' lives not getting screwed-up in the process. After all, let's not kid ourselves Mr. Ambassador, when it comes to criminal gangs, you guys set the gold standard.
Your government's support of Chechnya's "president" comes to mind. You know, the one who takes time off from a busy executive schedule to personally torture his political opponents.
I hate that guy.
And not to make political hay out of a tragedy, but those people who blew up the airport in Moscow a few weeks ago and killed dozens of people: THEY were a criminal gang.
Perhaps if your security and police forces weren't so busy harassing mischievous Dadaists, the bomb plot might have been detected before so many innocent people died. Touche.
By the way, I'm going to post this letter on my blog "highwayscribery," just to make a point about how hard it is to keep the truth from circulating.
You know Mr. Ambassador, it is not difficult to find absurdities, cruelties, and meanness in the world with which to fill "highwayscribery."
Just this morning I read in the "New York Times," about the slaughter of 100 dogs in Canada, for no good reason (as if there could be one).
Stories like that, and the Voina artists' plight, say to me that no matter how complicated the world may be, right and wrong are not so hard to distinguish.
Thank you for your time.
the highway scribe