And now a brief divergence to Russia and the media

It’s said that when you learn something new, you suddenly find it everywhere.

I recently finished reading A Russian Diary by Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who was shot and killed at the entrance to her apartment in 2006. The book documents in great detail the erosion of Russia’s young democracy under Putin. Politkovskaya knew that the book would never be published within Russia, yet her tone within the pages is certainly not a plea for foreign help. It is an account of what the Russian press ignores, an expression of frustration with the Russian people.

On Sunday, the New York Times ran an article that also discussed some of the issues outlined in Politkovskaya’s book: political bullying, oppression of the media, and manipulation of the polls. The article was then posted in Russian on a livejournal page called The New York Times in Moscow, which provides space for readers to comment. The comments are being translated to English and posted to the original New York Times page.

The comments cover a wide range of opinions, from outrage at the article’s “propaganda” to affirmation of the article’s accuracy. However, among the posts I’ve read online and the snippets that initially caught my attention in the print edition, one common sentiment reigns supreme. The problems in Russia are problems for the Russians to solve, not for the U.S. to analyze.

One person with the username trzp succinctly wrote, “All of this is true, though why are we being taught democracy by those who are fighting in Iraq and maintaining a concentration camp in Guantanamo?”

A strained relationship between the United States and Russia still remains from the Cold War era. That’s nothing new. Politkovskaya’s book and the online feature of the New York Times article come very close to creating a dialog between the citizens of the two countries separated by distance and reality. Most importantly, both serve as a reminder to ourselves to know the realities of the world we live in. We must refuse to take things on face value. Politkovskaya wrote what she needed to. Who is writing about the erosion of human rights in the U.S.? What are we willing to accept at face value in our own communities? Where and how must we question?

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