20 December 2013
'Go live in Russia!'
That's what you used to hear in this country whenever anyone criticized the capitalist system or the American government. As readers well know, Russia remains an "evil empire" in many minds for a variety of reasons, but President Putin has launched a charm offensive this weekend by pardoning a number of high-profile prisoners, the best-known being the former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a figure widely regarded in the west as a victim of political persecution. Some Kremlin watchers feel that Putin wants to build global good will in advance of next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, after months of hostile publicity focused on Russia's recent law against "gay propaganda." President Obama continues to stick it to Putin over this issue, snubbing the Olympics by refusing to send any of his family with the U.S. delegation while pointedly including openly gay athletes in that group. For the first time, possibly, we're seeing something like an American style "culture war" on a global scale over gay rights. Flashpoints break out around the world. India has reportedly recriminalized the homosexual act, while Uganda now punishes it with life in prison. During Ukraine's current political crisis over the country's geopolitical and economic orientation, demonstrators favoring Russia warned that homosexual influence would spread with that of the European Union. Things seem so bad sometimes that gays seem overeager to include the Pope on their team for his "who am I to judge?" remarks from earlier this year. In the U.S., of course, we're seeing a farcical echo of this global culture war in the controversy over the Duck Dynasty program and its homo neanderthalis patriarch. This has brought us to an ironic reversal of the old terms of debate. Now, it seems, the people who used to tell American dissidents to "go live in Russia" are the ones who really need to go live there.