A detailed report in The New York Times tells about a hearing taking place in the Russian Parliament emphasizing alleged American human-rights violations. Among the featured abuses are the American practices of waterboarding suspected terrorists, historical abuse of minorities, and the mistreatment of Russian orphans or abandoned children adopted by American parents. It seems that in recent years Americans have been adopting Russian children who have been warehoused in large cities after having been brought in from surrounding rural areas.
Having known people who have availed themselves of this service, I believe this form of adoption allows better positioned Americans to acquire white children who generally look like themselves and who have a reasonable chance of exhibiting at least median cognitive abilities.
Usually this adoption procedure results in a happier situation than what the adoptee could expect to find growing up in a crowded Russian orphanage. But occasionally there are problems: for example, when Russian children die suddenly after having been taken off to the US. This leads to speculation about who’s responsible for the fatality. In recent months Russian dignitaries have been coming forth accusing the US of grabbing their children and proceeding to abuse them. One female law student quoted in The New York Times expands this accusation against Americans abusing adopted Russian children into a more general broadside against American righteousness:
They tell us they are the parents of democracy, and that we should learn from them, but they are not paying attention to what is going on in their own country.
The New York Times shows no sympathy for the Russian side in this controversy. Since the fall of the Soviet regime, a despotism with which Times reporters seem to have had a heated, intergenerational love affair, their depiction of the post-communist “authoritarian”—read nationalist—Russian government has gone from smirking contempt to utter hostility. The reporter attacks Putin’s hold on the Russian government, comments on the disappearance of his political opponents, and cites the tirades of the “nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky” against the predominantly Jewish émigrés who left Russia for the US and who have unleashed “anti-Russian propaganda.”
Zhirinovsky has something of a point, however malevolently he expresses it. All the Russian Jewish émigrés I’ve met loathe the people among whom their ancestors lived for centuries. And none of these emigrants would hold back from expressing their anti-Russian sentiments at the drop of a pin. Unlike the older generation of German Jews who fled to the US in the 1930s, Russian Jews never indicate the slightest disappointment with the country they left. Russian totalitarianism was not the problem for them. It was the Russian national alternative and the eruption of Russian anti-Semitism.
Having raised this problem about who reports what, we may ask whether the Russian Parliament is justified in calling attention to “American Human Rights Abuses.” It may be if we accept the premise that the proclamation of human-rights grievances usually has a political purpose—more specifically, the exercise of power by one state over another. In this case, Russians are resisting an American power grab in the form of getting in their faces with a claim to superior goodness and an attendant right to influence Russia’s internal affairs. Although the US may not be the most vicious great power in human history, it is by far the most insufferably righteous.
I’m still reeling from Romney’s statement in the third debate that Obama badmouthed his country when he suggested that we’ve “dictated to other nations.” Romney explained with his characteristic Cheshire cat grin that “America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.”
Tell that to those we firebombed in Europe during World War II or to the Japanese after the destruction of Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. I’m not defending the Axis powers, I’m noting the utter brutality with which our country has incinerated helpless civilians while pretending to “liberate” them. It’s not that we’ve acted more oppressively for a longer period of time than have other imperial powers. We’re simply more tiresome and have a tendency to judge other countries by our constantly shifting cultural standards.
I can’t blame the Russian Parliament for throwing our medicine back at us. They are not about to hand over their country to American morality custodians.