Eventually, these things hit home.
Today, 20 students at my daughter’s primary school – School No. 1287 in Moscow – fell, unconscious, to the ground. Six were hospitalized. They were standing in military formation, outside in the school yard, in military garb, under 27-degree heat (81 degrees Fahrenheit), for an hour, as part of the school’s preparations for Victory Day on May 9th. The incident was reported by Ekho Moskvy and NTV (maddeningly, only NTV actually noted the context).
I try very hard to keep emotion out of my analysis and commentary. Generally, I hope, I succeed. But this time, I’m not trying. This time, it’s personal. My daughter was not among those who fainted or were hospitalized. The fact that she could have been hurt should, from a humanist standpoint, be immaterial. But it is not. We are human beings, we are prone to emotions, and it is emotions, more than anything else, that drive us to act. And justice, too, is an emotional construct.
A few weeks ago, I posted to Facebook an email we got from our first-grade teacher, demanding that all students take part in the Бессмертный полк, a project of Putin’s Popular Front tied to the upcoming celebrations of the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II. The project itself, which involves young people chronicling the lives of relatives who fought in the war, is perfectly worthy. But the screaming sentence “PARTICIPATION IS MANDATORY!” is not only unworthy – it’s illegal. And we told the teacher as much. She shrugged it off, saying the director had demanded it. We shrugged it off, too, and ignored it.
Even more unworthy is the appropriation of the memory and the sacrifice of veterans by a ruling clique whose own claim to legitimacy is so weak that it must plunder the glory of genuine heroes. For the record, those heroes include my daughter’s great grandfather, who served in the Soviet Navy, and around whose table we celebrate Victory Day and Navy Day every year.
It is bad enough that the Kremlin’s current inhabitants are desecrating the past as they cling desperately to power in the present. They are also eviscerating the future, undermining the economy, cutting education and healthcare funding, and driving the country’s best and brightest either to isolation or emigration – all to safeguard their parades and palaces.
And now, as if to remove any remaining doubts about the sacrifices Russians are to make on the altar of patriotism, children – standing in uniformed formation and saluting the flag – are in hospital. I am at a loss for words.
Ура, товарищи. Так держать.