What is it like to be the daughter of an imprisoned international figure, in this case someone who opposed Vladimir Putin? How does one cope? What kind of strength must one develop? I read about Daria Navalnaya, the 21-year-old daughter of Alexei Navalny in an interview she gave the German magazine Der Spiegel and these questions kept coming up for me . As we know Navalny is serving a prison sentence for having criticized and stood up to Putin, not an ordinary adversary. Since 2019 Daria has been studying psychology at Stanford University in California. Recently she traveled to Strasbourg in France to appear before the European parliament to give a speech on behalf of her father and receive its prestigious human rights award, The Sakharov Prize. In the interview she talks about corresponding with her father, asking for his advice about the speech she was giving, visiting him in prison and seeing him look pale and weaker. She also talks about the fears she’s always had for him and growing up ending up seeing everyone as a spy. For some this would be paralyzing, for her it isn’t. She sounds focused and determined. We all have our issues and problems, even serious ones, but few of us are confronted with this kind of challenge. Many I’m sure have had experiences that helps them relate to Navalnaya. I for one had a sister who lived 17 years as a total paraplegic . every time I stand up under a hot shower I remember she couldn’t. Daria had to learn to delve into herself for strengths most of us do not require. I suspect she had to do that just to survive. Doesn’t matter how she did it or what strength she developed, she did it and in doing it she reminds us of how strong human beings can be in the face of big challenges.
Surely you remember what happened recently in Central Park? Christian Cooper, a black man was bird watching in a remote region of the park early one morning and encountered a white young woman with a dog who was unleashed in a section where dogs are particularly to be leached. He mentioned that to her, they had words and he took a video. She replied by calling 911 saying “An African American man is threatening my life.” Fortunately his sister was there and took a video of the incident thus sparing him arrest. The video of the incident including her call went viral and Amy Cooper (no relation) ended up losing her job at a big Manhattan financial firm and the organization through which she had adopted her dog took him back. The NYT interviewed Christian Cooper a couple of days afterwards and his reaction is so noteworthy, it merits mention.
“I’m not excusing the racism. But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart,” he said. And then he added, “If this painful process…helps to correct, or takes us a step further towards addressing the underlying racial, horrible assumptions that we African –Americans have to deal with, and have dealt with for centuries, that this woman tapped into, then it’s worth it.” He also added. “Sadly it had to come at her expense.”
Looks like we can consider ourselves inspired by compassion and wisdom!
There’s a small community who are promoting what they call gender creative or gender expansive, that is looking at gender beyond male or female. They are mainly transgender people who have children and want more gender latitude for them than the one they have had. They are raising their children without reference to gender, even referring to them as they instead of him or her. They want to continue doing this until the children are old enough to choose for themselves what gender they are. But the issue does not stop there. One set of parents needed a social security card and on the application form put dashes where the child’s gender would have been. The social security office could not accept that and arbitrarily assigned male as a gender.
I understand the discrimination against transgender people. I understand that we tend to deny their existence and deprive them of the identity that should be rightfully theirs. In this case, I wonder if they are going about it the best way? Statistically the chances of the children being transgender are low. Is their idea as well thought out as they would like it to be or as it ought to be? In that their endeavor can teach something to all of us who might want to create change. Meanwhile what about the children who grow up trying to figure out their sense of self separate from that of their parents when they are being brought up in such a manner? How will they fare in school when they interact with boys and girls? How will they react to movies and games, on play dates, instances where gender is part of what they will encounter? Will there be a psychological price for being brought up like this? We live in a world where new ethical dilemmas arise with increasing frequency. In this case, I keep asking myself wouldn’t the parents’ efforts be more worthwhile if they worked towards greater acceptance and understanding of transgender people? I surmise that in the end, they may not succeed in adding a gender, but may create more acceptance in the process. Still what about the children?
Given the overt and implied racism of the recent onslaught of tweets and accusations from Trump and his devotees and given the ones that are still to come, we can no longer remain silent. We must stand up for our own diversity. I shun politics in these pieces, but this is not about politics, it is about values. We have it seems, made the next election a referendum on Trump. But in this case it is not nor should it be about him. It is about the values he represents, values that have vibrated with many who felt overrun by people of color and by the presence of religions other than Christianity. This is not about ideologies, it is not about the rationalizations some may give, it is not about the arguments the more articulate on each side come up with. It is about finishing the agenda of the civil rights movements. It is about racism and immigration. It is about all those, who are not yet able to put an individual’s humanity ahead of color, religion, sexual orientation or country of origin. It is about what does and will make us into better human beings, what will help us grow, reach out, serve others as individuals and as a nation. Those who seek entry into the US illegally seek conditions other than poverty or death. Is seeking survival or increasing your safety really a choice? It’s not a question of open borders. There are alternatives. But it is a moral question. To those who are so critical of asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants, I say, what kind of a choice is it when you have no choice but to leave all that you know? I am an immigrant. I know what leaving everything behind feels like. Way back all those years ago that is why people like our family sought to immigrate to the US. Then the US stood for the kind of country that helped people, the kind of country that was inclusive and accepting of diversity (even if at times reluctantly), the kind of country one wanted to be part of. Those are values worth standing up for and our voices must be loud and clear. By whatever means we choose, whatever means are available, let us march, write letters, speak to friends as well as foes, protest peacefully, post useful information, repost important thoughts… Even more important let us vote and make sure everyone we know does as well—because we can no longer remain silent. We must stand up for our own diversity.