Please Don’t Subject Me to Torture

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately in the wake of the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

I often say I’m not afraid to die.

Yes, I do love living – but I’m also fine with dying when the time comes.

As I say that out loud however, there’s a hollow ring of hypocrisy, which has only become more evident for me as I’ve observed the courage with which Alexei Navalny hurdled himself into a giant black abyss that would most certainly end in his death – when and where it would occur he did not know.

But he importantly understood and accepted that his death would not be sudden and painless. Like a cat playing with its prey, Vladimir Putin protracted the suffering of Navalny in ways we will likely never know, even beyond the horrifying reports we’re aware of.

At the heart of Navalny’s defiance was a rare blend of courage – one part moral conviction and one part unyielding commitment to justice. His actions were not only a protest against a tyrannical leader, but a powerful statement to his fellow Russians that the reign of fear that Putin sows can be challenged, and that the pursuit of freedom and democracy is worth any sacrifice.

Any sacrifice.

That’s where I cringe when I ask myself would I be able to throw myself into a bottomless inferno in the pursuit of freedom and democracy for my fellow human beings?

Where would I draw the line?

Where would you draw the line?

Would I be ok with volunteering to suffer through being cold, starved, and sleep deprived? Would I sign on for perpetual solitary confinement, relentless beatings and forced injections of mysterious fluids?

Would I stand strong knowing that I could be housed in a penal colony where beatings, threats, and sexual violence are used by inmates against each other, under the direction of prison authorities? All sufferings that Navalny faced.

Whenever I saw or read something about Alexei Navalny’s sham trials, imprisonments and assorted psychological torture, I was jaw dropped by his wit, using humor as a tool to communicate with his supporters and to critique the Russian government. (In response to his transfer to a notorious Arctic penal colony known as “Polar Wolf” in December, he quipped in social media, “OH-OH-OH. I am your new Santa Claus!”)

It may be on record, but I never saw a report of him loudly complaining about his plight. Navalny’s kind of courage was about signing up for the worst – and not knowing what the worst is. His commitment underscored a level of bravery that transcends personal safety in pursuit of a higher cause.

Where are the Navalny-like leaders of the (near) future?

I think of this as we watch the United States enmeshed in the clutches of desperate, ruthless, and ignorant politicians, willing to go to any lengths to retain power, even if it means aligning themselves with a dangerously unhinged megalomaniac.

This disturbed individual celebrates dictators and lusts after the totalitarian states of Russia and North Korea. 

If the U.S. goes down this road, the stakes for protecting democracy could be as brutal as that of the Putin regime. 

In the not so distance future, there may come a time in the U.S. when Navalny-like leaders will be called upon to walk into the fire to stand as role models for liberation. I’d like to think that, if put into such a position, I might stand-up with a modicum of the same Navalny courage to confront authoritarian-leaning regimes and inspire others to do the same.

Challenging tyranny is easier said than done. And perhaps no-one, myself included, would know what or how they would respond until the giant black abyss is at their feet.

Thomas Paine famously said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

The path of resistance is fraught with danger, but it is also the only path that leads to true liberation. 

How will I answer when called? 

How will you answer when called? 

With Love,


P.S. Just finishing up our trip to the US and will be updating you next week on how my new normal in Portugal compares to my old normal in Florida!

*Image Credit: Bogomolov.PL, Altered under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

4 thoughts on “Please Don’t Subject Me to Torture”

  1. Hi Becca. Thanks for the timely and intelligent words. It’s a difficult and interesting world in the USA and elsewhere. We each need to be supportive of the good in our own corners of it at least by paying attention and acting when we can. That’s how Navalny got started. In the end we humans are surviving and progressing and mourning the ones who make the effort but don’t survive to see the results. Stay well.

    • Hi Marvin, Yes, undoubtedly there are countless Navalny’s – not as high profile as he was. But a resistance is made of, as you wisely point out, each of us paying attention and acting when we can. Bob Marley put it another way: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” xoBecca


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