September 07, 2012

Maria Callas

Maria Callas

Which makes one have second thoughts about Pussy Riot. Paul McCartney should take time off from dyeing his hair—which makes him look like a painted-up Miss Havisham—and ask himself what would happen to Pussy Riot if they had pulled their stunt in Saudi Arabia or Qatar. They’d be beheaded or stoned to death, and their remains would be fed to wild dogs, something in which our bearded friends down south specialize.

Last year the Qatari ruling family paid a record 250 million greenbacks for Cezanne’s “The Card Players.” Qatar is a very famous country with a very famous past. They invented everything long before the Greeks, including thieving and buying expensive art from someone they had never heard of until his painting’s price was mentioned. This very famous country with a very glorious past even did well in the Olympics. The runners you saw with “Qatar” on their uniforms were Kenyans, but such was the glory that is Qatar, they switched nationalities.

There is something about the West’s embrace of Pussy Riot that makes me uneasy. Madonna speaking in their favor is bad enough. But the Western media uniting against Putin smells to me of Uncle Sam playing geopolitics. The next thing you know, the neocons in Washington will start arm-rattling against Vlad. The neocons have two things in common with Pussy Riot—their basic dishonesty and physical ugliness. Posing naked and heavily pregnant in a public orgy, as one of Pussy Riot’s threesome did before their arrest, is no way to score political points. Stunts like Pussy Riot’s will get one arrested anywhere except in countries where abuse of Christianity is no crime, such as Western Europe and the United States. There are millions of Russians who think jailing Pussy Riot is right and that Putin and the courts are right, so who the hell are Madonna and other publicity freaks like her to complain?

I once ran into a Soviet ambassador in the lift of a hotel my father owned. I loudly complained about the freezing temperature. He turned toward me, smiled, and said, “I know that you are referring to the Sharansky case, but things are more complicated than American anti-Soviet propaganda makes them out to be.” (Actually, I was hinting at gulag temperature.) I later found out from dad what a polite and civilized man the Soviet diplomat was. Sharansky was a Jewish refusenik who lobbied for greater human rights in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. After four years of civil disobedience, in 1978 he was arrested and served nine years for his troubles. He was released in 1986 and whisked to Israel. He became a near saint.

Some saint. In a Jerusalem rally he advocated disenfranchising Israeli Arabs. He has compared returning occupied Palestinian territory to treason and has advocated that his “goal is to deprive the [Palestinian] regime of its legitimacy and force.” Sharansky’s double standard is there for all to see. The West’s outrage over Pussy Riot, ditto.



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