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MY TURN: Cult of Putin casts long shadow

by REID HARLOCKER/Guest Opinion
| February 29, 2024 1:00 AM

If you are seriously interested in history and are horrified, as I am, about the final chapter of the 47-year-old Russian activist Alexei Navalny, then you likely also question whether what has happened to Russia could also happen RIGHT HERE in America.


Should we question whether we continue down the path on which a few individuals and their most loyal subjects decide our course, or should we level the playing field and involve more voices?


Think what has happened in Russia can’t happen here? Freedoms suppressed, shunned by the greater world, our golden passport limited to only a few countries and our national currency rendered worthless? Well, consider Russia under the plutocrat Putin, where, in just 10 years, peace and tolerance have been replaced by a political cult centered around religious dogma and misguided nationalism. Where "elites" who stand with him get rich while common citizens can no longer express themselves out of fear of being reported to authorities, jailed or worse.  

 

Turmoil driven by fear, hate and idealistic dogma stirring in America is not unlike Russia where the cult of Putin, along with the Russian Orthodox church, is actively rewriting history and banging an ultra-nationalistic drumbeat while insisting that outsiders are victimizing the Russian people. 


They attack the weakest members of society and prey on children by rewriting history in classrooms, by aggrandizing a Russian empire, which ended in 1921 and lasted a short 200 years, followed by 50 years of Communism. But nevermind that part, because, somewhere in there, Putin rode in on his white horse to save Russia. 


Sound familiar? An obscure, bellicose tyrant with a selective view of history, who despises education, public schools, textbooks and libraries, therefore he and his cohorts encourage their demise by turning our institutions into battlegrounds. 


Change the way you educate the children, remove objectivity from the courts and pile on politicians who stand with their party, rather than for the people. Bureaucrats and cronies who, when in control, exhibit little common sense and despise anyone who embraces people for who they are, or how they look and live.

 

In Russia, the once-bubbling independent cultural scene has been replaced. Artists, directors and anyone perceived to be anything other than heterosexual can and will be jailed or sent into exile fearing for their lives. 


In states across America, including Idaho, religious groups and elected officials are scheming and attempting to stamp out any form of education, art or living arrangement that fails their pious purity standards. They fail to grasp that life, as well as art, exist to make you uncomfortable, to make you question the world around you. Life and art exist to help us think independently, not to mold puritan robots.

 

America’s new political religion is NOT ONE BIT inclusive, rather, it focuses on Biblical absolutism mixed with nationalism, going so far as to deny that the United States Constitution prevents politicians from passing laws promoting the establishment of a national religion. 


In America, there is a yearning to ignore this constitutional guardrail and to follow the path of Putin’s Russia or Iran's Ayatollahs by establishing a militaristic state church. What’s worse, more than 60% of the GOP favor putting religious and political dogma above your freedom to think and to live your life as you wish. 


We must change course. People, NOT the leaders of political parties, should decide who serves the citizens. 

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Reid Harlocker is a Coeur d'Alene resident.