I am not a fan of Gospodin Putin or the Russian Government. From what I have seen, read, and heard, he is not the kind of guy I’d like to meet (I met Boris Yelsin, who had a sense of humor). I do have some sympathy for the long-suffering Russian people, like I have for most long-suffering peoples.
That said—and getting to meat of the matter—I am also not a fan of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and deceit.
What brought this up?
All media have been flooded with headlines about the recent presidential election in Russia. The main thrust of many is the position that the election was rigged in the favor of the winner. This made me think about other countries and other presidential elections.
I recalled the US presidential election of 2000 and wonder how rigged that was. I recall reading the history of the 1960 presidential election, in which Papa Kennedy forked out a bunch of cash for some unknown reason. This makes me question other elections in the country of my birth.
This thought led me to compare the two countries, which faced each other for decades over buttons to mutual-mass-destruction. At that time, the systems were easy to contrast. Not much was similar, beyond government lying to the people. Let’s see how all that has changed, now that both claim to be democracies. It seems that they share much in common, despite continued differences of opinion on how to control other countries. Here’s my take:
Both claim that voters decide and each vote counts. (See above about the year 2000)
Both claim to conduct fair elections. (Ditto)
Both have a vast gulf between rich and poor, with the rich being favored by politicians.
Both have a justice system characterized by unfairness, based upon money, connections, power, spite, lack of transparency, and luck.
Both have large sections of the population unable to partake in the wealth of the nation, which are ignored by those better off.
Both have security apparatus’, which have inordinate power over daily life.
Both permit their natural resources to be exploited by a few, who are unfairly enriched.
Both maintain a vast penal system, which is fed by above-mentioned legal system.
Both have populations, which seem to be well-educated, but still choose leaders based upon name awareness.
Of course, it is much easier to criticize other countries, especially by those arrogant enough to feel special. But, one should fix one’s house, before suggesting failings on the part of one’s neighbors. The United States has had over 200 years to improve its system of government, and people seem to become worse off. Russia has been attempting to institute a more-liberal and open form of government for about ten percent of that time (after many centuries of oppression). Many might not like the new/old president, but he did receive significantly more votes than other candidates. Maybe, just maybe, he did not need to rig the vote…as did “the worst president” in the history of the United States was forced to do.
NB. As point of contrast, I offer an example from that horrible place, “Europe”. Germany is not perfect, but many of the ills mentioned above do not exist (or not as drastically). Politicians are less “buyable”. For example, the President of Germany (a ceremonial position with no power, but much symbolism) was hounded out of office for accepting favorable conditions on a home loan. I would not be surprised to hear that all politicians in other countries (to remain unnamed) receive favorable conditions, to the point of zero interest to outright gifts. No one considered the fact that banks decided loan terms based upon risk and that the president (who will receive a life-time salary) is a low risk and thus a candidate for lower interest. This may be an extreme example at the opposite end of the democracy spectrum, but it shows that fairness can be a working principle.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.