TForty-eight years ago, a handful of holy fools gathered in Red Square to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. They were arrested by the KGB. Their prison terms ran to three or four years. Several were sentenced to exile in Siberia. Two were sent to psychiatric hospitals. Shamefully, I’ve forgotten most of their names, as I had the name of Yuli Daniel’s companion (it was Andrei Sinyavsky) when they got five and seven years respectively of hard labor in 1966 for publishing satirical criticism of their homeland.
Then there were the refuseniks, who were stripped of their livelihoods and in some instances jailed (for nine years in Natan Sharansky’s case) for seeking to emigrate. So.
To protest in a dictatorship is an act of courage, and the stakes are high. I don’t know if I would have the courage. By contrast, the Women’s March yesterday, held to protest the outcome of a presidential election in a liberal society, was empty of every quality except self-indulgence. The protesters got to carry placards full of fatuous slogans. They mingled for a few hours of feeling good about conscience and ideals. They made noise. Hundreds of thousands of them. They let the world know where they stood: in perfect safety, as the police directed traffic. Then they went home.
January 22 2017