Supporters of Pussy Riot demonstrate April 20, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by pixelwhip.
How is Russia different than the United States?
Well, let me count the ways, for all you moral equivicators. But sometimes the day's news throws up very good examples so I don't have to work too hard at proving that Russia is worse when it comes to human rights.
I caught up with an unfollower on Twitter through Qwitter (I love those unfollowers, they are so interesting, some of them, I mean, after you remove the griefers who have already been banned by Twitter by the time Qwitter gets to them, and those spammers and SEO gurus trying to get you to follow back).
His name was Christian Piatt and he runs an interesting religious blog called Patheos which seems to be a "progressive Christian channel" judging from a title at the top and "Defend Senate Democrat" ads running along the side.
He has an interesting post up here about the attack on a Mars Hills Church satellite by a group of presumable LGBT rights supporters called the "Angry Queers". A gang of men in black masks smashed stained-glass windows and trashed the place, then a group calling itself the "Angry Queers" sent a letter to a local news outlet taking responsibility.
Let's leave aside all the silly stuff about whether this group is really related to any LGBT movement, organized or disorganized, or whether "queer" is the better word to use, or whether they are just kids or opportunistic thugs or whatever, and focus on the question of violence -- which so few like to do in the human rights movement or faith-based movements anywhere else!
But Piatt (who belongs to a church that has ordained LGBT ministers and has been therefore attacked by the crazy Westboro Church loons) at least had his head on straight about this matter and said crime is crime, vandalism is vandalism, and it is wrong to vandalize a church for any reason. He simply invokes "the law".
Of course the Derrida-it-all-down crowd even among the faith-based manages to claim that we can't "really know" if this gang of vandals were "really" LGBT people. And there were those who would come along to bitch that with the "structural violence" (*sigh*) of our "patriarchal society" blah blah, this church advocating against gays is inciting hate generally, therefore they are the originators of violence and somehow then any violence against them gets a pass.
Baloney, sez I, because the society is diverse enough, with enough competing groups, such as to really beg the question about "structuralized hate" blah blah. (Piatt also dismisses this structuralism argument for other reasons). You might say there is "structuralism" in an authoritarian state like Iran or Saudi Arabia, but it really is a stretch to apply it to the multicultural and multiethnic United States. Plus, there's, you know, the First Amendment.
Identity politics are the problem here with that analysis -- and that's unacceptable to me because it's not a rights-based approach, but part of the legacy of the Marxism of movements.
See, some LGBT supporters wouldn't condemn this attack by their angry brethren (or sistren) because that would mean splitting ranks of "the movement" and also not recognizing, so they felt, the "structural violence" of this Mars mega-church hating on gays. (The church has had its controversies having to do with dissent among its own ranks, too.)
But anyway, Christian Piatt runs a very carefully nuanced post, genuflecting at all the stations of political correctness and political necessity, as it were, which I found silly, but it's his world, and concludes that we must all love one another.
Well, we must all condemn the actions of the "Angry Queers" as well, and meanwhile also condemn any anti-gay speech made by this church while upholding their right to speak freely.
People have a hard time understanding the difference between hate crimes, that involve actions, and hate speech, which is protected under the First Amendment even if not protected by your fussy campus speech code. Well, here's a hint: one involves actions, the other involves words. Unless you can prove "incitement to imminent action" under the Brandenburg test of the Supreme Court decision, you can't stop this speech just because you don't find it "civil" by some criteria, right or wrong (although people like Yosem Companys are always trying to.)
OK, so that's that, angry queers, hateful culty Christians in a megachurch, you know the rest! But what was operative here? The hate-vandalism was performed by the more politically-correct group against the group that they said spawned generalized hate.
Naturally the Mars Hill people will urge law-enforcement to investigate, they will, maybe they will find someone, maybe someone will pay a fine.
Nota bene: the church people are not asking that the "angry queers" be sent to jail for seven years. Nothing remotely like that.
Now, surf on over to the Russian news pages.
Here, AP reports a Russian activist has been detained:
An opposition activist was detained and beaten Sunday after he tried to enter Moscow's landmark Christ the Savior Cathedral to pray to deliver Russia from Vladimir Putin.
Several riot police officers forced Roman Dobrokhotov into a police car just meters (feet) from Russia's largest church, widely seen as a symbol of resurgent Orthodox Christianity after seven decades of atheist Communist rule. Dobrokhotov, who leads a small anti-Kremlin youth movement, heckled President Dmitry Medvedev during his speech in the Kremlin in 2008.
So just for trying to do a dissident prayer as a provocateur, he's arrested -- it's not clear that he shouted or vandalized or did anything except entered the church "as who he is."
To be sure, he's a supporter of the Pussy Riot Punk Prayer, and as I've urged, those gals should be sentenced to...15 days of community service! yes, throw the book at them! They should come and do volunteer charity work with this Church that...probably doesn't even have any community service program. So there you are. What I'm saying is that at the most, for disrupting a church service and disturbing the peace, they should get a community-service sentence that will probably evaporate to...a day's work, if they can find it.
They should certainly not get anything remotely like 7 years.
AP has more, to set the scene as to "why Russia is different than America":
A dozen activists from the militant Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers group lined up in front of the cathedral, shouting obscenities at Dobrokhotov and Baronova. The group is known for dispersing gay rallies, and for protesting against pop star Madonna's shows in Russia and burning Harry Potter books.
So, like the "Angry Queers" they are willing to use "direct action" -- get in your face -- and more -- shove people around.
But then it gets, way, way worse -- this being Russia:
Hours later, when Dobrokhotov was leaving a police station where he was held, seven men assaulted him, damaging his ear, he said.
"They looked like soccer fans," he told The Associated Press, referring to burly and aggressive young men who are often involved in street fights and violence after soccer matches across Russia. "Luckily, police interrupted them and detained one of them."
This sounds like the Uzbek-type of death squads, either police out of uniform or men who work as volunteers for the police, formally or informally, who get tipped off when someone is released from prison, and then beat the shit out of them, extra-judicially, sometimes killing them.
The fact that police came in and detained one may be a function of either one hand not knowing what the other is doing, or creation of a semblance of law and order. This stuff is murky.
What's operative is that here's a guy detained and beaten just for trying to enter a church because he was a known provocateur. I'm not for him disturbing the peace as I've explained. But the punishment has to fit the crime which is...not serious if it is not violent and not really disruptive. Not only is he detained, a group of people shout obscenities at him and another activist who entered the church. (Aren't they the same group that harassed Yuri Samodurov during his trial for curating an art show with works that got the Russian Orthodox Church mad?) Then, when Dobrokhotov was let out of prison, he is beaten up and barely rescued by a policeman.
So compare and contrast with Mars Hill, and...you get the idea.