Let me tell you a story. There is this one pretty cool opposition leader in Russia. His name is Navalny. He established the Anti-Corruption Foundation to investigate crime in the Russian government, and has been quite successful crowd-sourcing his projects. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished [Elphaba told us all about it]: Navalny was framed and put under the house arrest. They prohibited him from using Internet and blocked his blog. Fortunately, Navalny’s wife and colleagues found ways to make it available again, and regularly write posts to keep the website filled with results of the Foundation’s investigations.
One of the major projects run by Navanly has been exposing luxury real estate of officials who supposedly do not earn enough to afford it. The Anti-Corruption Foundation used aerial photography to take pictures of suspiciously expensive palaces. Recently, the Foundation decided to move to the next step. They invited activists to travel to these “summer houses” (“dachas” in Russian) and check out what is going on there. The palaces, of course, are protected by strong fences. But what the heck, why not to have a picnic by their side? Sometime earlier this summer activists tried to get to the palaces for the first time. On their way they encountered many obstacles. Their cars were stopped and passports confiscated by the police under the weirdest pretexts. Those who did get closer, in the forest around the “dachas” met a bunch of big guys who were not willing to let the peaceful activists pass by without a fight.
A couple of days ago the activists decided to have another try at what they jokingly call “daching”. This time it was even worse. The activists wanted to travel by bus. It was stopped by the police. They wanted to take the train instead, and were arrested for an “illegal demonstration” - they were simply standing on the platform. Some activists were able to get closer to the palaces in their cars, but were stopped and harassed by unknown men with bats who broke their windshields and cameras, and on some occasions even bones. The police was also there, passively witnessing the fight, and sometimes even joining in with the aggressors - trying to hit the activists with their cars. Sounds like hell, right?
And, by the way, guess how much time official Russian media dedicated to this story. Zero. Only opposition media sources, which are being increasingly blocked or overtaken by government, dared to talk about the event.
So if you tell me that no country is perfect, fine. Corruption, organized crime and evil corporations are everywhere. Yet, with all its flaws, the current U.S. government does not consist of criminals bent on using their country’ money to become richer, and ready to get rid of anybody who stands in their way.