12 August, 2008

Would you prefer to be hated or feared?

I won't lie to you and say that everyone here is getting along fine ever since someone in the Caucasus invaded someone else, or provoked someone else into invading, whatever the truth may be.* Of course we are getting along, mostly because we rarely discuss it. Nothing promotes harmony so much as keeping your mouth shut, which might be why several monastic orders require their monks to take vows of silence.

The following exchange tonight between my son and me is probably the shortest and most civilized exchange to transpire.

Did you hear that Georgia isn't allowing Russian tourists to leave?

Seeing as how Russia is still dropping bombs on Georgia, that strikes me as a good thing.
I won't bother describing last night's near riot that climaxed with my sister-in-law demanding,
Why do you think the world hates America? Not your people, but your government?

Because they believe lies.
(I've written about these lies once or twice.) The conversation didn't improve much from there, but it did expire shortly thereafter.

I came up with a wittier reply, an hour or so later of course. I hint at it in the title. Perhaps the response I did give was better, since it actually answers the question. Besides, while a witty reply can return a conversation to levity, it can also provoke and offend.

Whenever I discuss things of this sort with my wife's family, I must face the implication that our Western media either reports only one side of the story, or lies outright,** whereas Russian media report the truth.—or, if not the truth, at least the important facts that give the story appropriate context. I grant that the concept of an honest Russian journalist is not a metaphysical impossibility, but that doesn't seem to help much.

While we sit here and wring our hands over such things, people die. Two supposedly Christian nations battle for the possession of a third (also Christian) nation. May God grant rest to the souls of the victims.

All of them.

*As to whatever the truth may be, I gladly concede that, to Moscow's credit, the affair bears absolutely no resemblance to tactics they've favored in other recent conflicts, and of course the Russian military would never, ever do the sort of things that they've accused Georgia's military of doing. We also know that the Moscow regime would never allow their own citizens to die when it could be avoided, let alone lie to them about what is going on.

Hmm. After reading that last link, a note to self. Never drink a cup of tea in Russia unless it's prepared by your family.


**This happened to me once before in a conversation with someone from China, who amazed me into silence by asserting with a straight face that the Chinese government's control of the media is comoparable to the American government's control of the media.


Clemens said...

Yesterday I had a wild conversation with the Mad Cossack of the department, our very own Russian refugee from the Caucasus in North Ossetia. Says he hates the Russian government, but he thinks ... and then pretty much says what your family seems to say. Then he is off on a tear about how he is being persecuted here in America because of his opinions about the Russians having the right of it, and "it is Stalinism!! In this country!!" He is convinced that his phone is now tapped, and he may be deported for speaking the truth about Georgia. And he is so frightened that he has changed his course on the history of the Caucases so that is does not even mention Georgia. He is worried that he would be deported back to Russia where he would be killed.

The one part I agree with is his fear that we could be sliding into a much bigger war.

Like with my Russian friend from the Gulag [and thanks for the link, btw], it is always an education to talk to Russians about history.

jack perry said...

I plan to write some more about this when I get the time. I've noticed similar reactions from other Russians, including an article in the Washington Post where a correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda claims that how the American press has been covering the conflict proves that the American press is not free. The irony was remarkable.