Russian Duma to examine human rights — in the U.S.

I admit it: I love it when Russian legislators do stuff like this.

Mr. Pushkov, human rights expert, indicating how many rights he thinks humans have

MOSCOW, July 11 (Interfax) – The State Duma will hold parliamentary hearings this fall regarding the human rights situation in the United States, head of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Alexei Pushkov said.

“We are planning large-scale hearings in October regarding the human rights situation in the U.S., similar to those held on May 14, which focused on the human rights situation in the European Union countries,” Pushkov told a press conference on Wednesday.

Duma deputies “are going to pay as much attention to the human rights in Western countries, as our Western partners do to the same issue in our country,” the Duma committee chairman said. 

Wow — that’ll show us, I guess, that Russia’s parliament is just as willing as the U.S. Supreme Court or the Congress to look into human rights abuses — in the United States.

This is like the old joke about the Soviet and American kid arguing in the 1970s about whose country is more open and free. “I can protest against President Nixon anytime I want,” the American says. “So can I!” the Soviet student responds. “I can protest against Richard Nixon any time I feel like it, too!”

Ahem. Old joke.

The cruelest joke of all

There’s a better one about an American who tries to one-up a Soviet friend by saying that he hated Ronald Reagan so much that he peed on the White House lawn. “That’s nothing,” the Soviet says. “I hate Yuri Andropov so much that I took a crap right next to his car when it passed me.” This really impresses the American, who fesses up: “Wow. I have to be honest. When I whizzed on the White House lawn, I was drunk, and it was the middle of the night, and no one saw it.”

The Soviet, equally sympathetic, says: “You’ve been honest with me, so I’ll be honest too. When I took that dump next to Andropov’s car, I didn’t actually take my pants off.”

The point of this — and there is one — is that Mr. Pushkov and the Duma human rights committee are throwbacks to the old days, when the United States and the Soviet Union were competing for legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. Soviet propagandists tried to shout down the reality that the USSR was basically a huge, underfed minimum-security prison by pointing to social injustice, crime, and poverty in the United States. Back in the day, gullible leftists (mostly overseas) and more than a few impressionable few college kids bought it.

Today, no one would seriously argue that Russia is more free than the United States, but more to the point: who cares? Russia, which is a lot more free than it used to be, isn’t a model for anything, and in any case, the U.S. and Russia aren’t competitors. (On occasion, they even get along with each other.)

Abroad, Russia no longer presents an overarching alternative model to the West; rather, the closest thing Russia has to a “foreign policy” is a wretched, atavistic attachment to murderous weasels like Syria’s Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin got its knickers in a twist earlier this year and arrested a bunch of girls who call themselves “Pussy Riot” for an anti-Putin punk concert — in a church, no less. (I know: that was two innuendos in one sentence. I don’t usually work blue.) That’s not a sign of a secure, freedom-loving regime; that’s a sign that Russia is still run by people who think democracy is some sort of annoying fad.

Seriously, think about it. If the American government were to fall into a tizzy and act like the Russian regime every time our young people did something stupid — like, say, the entire Occupy Wall Street movement — a whole lot of dopey kids who are behind on their student loans would right now be waiting for their dad’s lawyers to file a habeus corpus writ to get them out of some dungeon at Riker’s Island.

The members of Pussy Riot, by the way, have been toughing it out in a Moscow jail since last February — which means those girls have more balls are a lot braver than the Occupy whiners who went home when it finally got cold outside and it wasn’t hip and fun to annoy people with jobs anymore.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of “Pussy Riot.” She actually scared the Kremlin — and clearly, not the other way around.

So I applaud Mr. Pushkov, and further, I think the Duma should hold hearings. Lots of them. And I think international inspectors should be invited to Russia and to the United States — and China, just to be interesting. Because any function that forces Russian politicians to say the words “human rights,” over and over and over again, in any capacity, is a good thing in itself.

Americans have always believed in a free press, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the rule of law. But we’re not perfect, so I certainly hope Mr. Pushkov looks into it. Should the Duma need me, I stand ready as a private American citizen to testify before his committee in the name of human rights, motherhood, and good ol’ American apple pie.

PS: Speaking of human rights, a shout-out to the Russian social media community. You guys rock.

Stalin would be turning in his grave. If he weren’t, you know, already in Hell.


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  1. Locking up punk rock girls since last February for disliking Putin? Why that would never happen here. Oh wait it did. Kansas Govenor Sam “I used to be a senator and missed an enormous amount of floor votes” Brownback had his staff browbeat a teenage girl and threaten her college scholarship when she tweeted privately to high school girlfriends that she was less than enamored with Gov. Sammy after a class field trip to Topeka. What’s the difference? Miss Kansas didn’t got to jail. What’s the similarity? Both Putin and Brownback really care what high school hotties think of them. That’s not politics, that’s flaccid middle-aged ego.

    • Those girls have been in jail — in a Russian jail — for 9 months. Brownback may have been a douche about that incident (which I never heard about, but I’ll take your word for), but these two incidents aren’t even remotely comparable. A flash of egotistical anger from a small-state governor isn’t even in the same ballpark (not even the same f***in’ sport, as Jules would say) as throwing four young women in jail without a trial for nearly a year, in the face of national protests to free them. This is a vendetta by a national government, not a temper tantrum from some guy in a square state.

  2. It’s curious how we’ve fallen, from Sakharov to Pussy Riot, and the SDS to OWS, proof maybe Marx did have one thing right possibly: history repeats, first as tragedy, then as farce?