Navalny didn’t believe in death. Neither do I

I jumped out of my chair. An involuntary shock reaction to the headline in the New York Times.

It doesn’t seem possible.

The other night, a friend of Navalny’s, Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar, talked to Lawrence O’Donnell. When O’Donnell suggested that this news must have been shocking but not unexpected, Zygar denied it. He did not expect it, he said. He never thought Navalny would die. Navalny was a superhero, and superheroes don’t die.

That’s it, that’s the way I feel.

Russian history, Zygar explained, is very dramatic. Then Zygar said “Also violent.” A perfect and brilliantly terse description.

I’ve been reading Russian history and fiction over the past few years. It’s not a comfortable territory to wander in. The brutality of Russian life is sickening. It’s especially incomprehensible when you understand that the mindless, primitive ferocity does not lessen over the millennia of Russian existence. Read 20th century Russian history and if you don’t regularly confirm the dates, you might think you’re reading medieval Russian history. Or even earlier. Pre-history or something. Science fiction maybe.

What horrible people! I say to myself of Russians, mired as they are in one absolutist credo after another, each shifting slightly but never too far from the central monstrosity. What did Tucker Carlson just say? “Leadership requires killing.” In Russia, yes. In Russia, killing is the way you keep hold of leadership.

Navalny was a different kind of Russian. He had a brain which seemed to be endlessly evolving toward higher wisdom and comprehension of an universe advanced beyond Russian stultification. He didn’t seem to be paranoid. And he was, as Masha Gessen said today in her elegy in The New Yorker, consistently, always funny. Witty, sarcastic, antic and daring.

But I don’t see him as a hero. He’s a heretic. Heroes are perfect, don’t have senses of humor, and they die.

Heretics live forever. Plus they can make us laugh.





This entry was posted in Corruption, Journalism, The Facts of Life, War on Ukraine and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.