Last week marked the first week in a long time during which I felt content. Perhaps the two days off had something to do with it—but I don’t think that explains everything. Over the past few months, I have slowly stopped doing some things that were causing me undue anxiety.
First, I stopped reading a ton of news websites. I used to read the news almost obsessively. This past week, I’ve barely read it at all and I actually feel sort of liberated.
Second, and most importantly, I stopped following Russia-related news so closely. I used to be a bit of a Russia blogger on my old blog that I no longer run anymore and I have, at times, ventured into Russia blogging on this blog. I’m sorry to disappoint anyone, but I just can’t do it anymore. There’s one reason and one reason only why I’m not following the news very closely and blogging about it, and it’s this:
The politics are vicious. Politics in general is pretty vicious, but I have seen few things as vicious as the small subset of people engaging in Russia-watching. It’s always an us-versus-them mentality. Observe what I’ve experienced over the years:*
- Don’t like the ragtag group that comprises the political opposition in Russia? (I don’t.) Then you must be pro-Putin fanatic, foaming at the mouth in your zeal to support the Kremlin!
- Don’t like the new President of Ukraine, Pyotr Poroshenko? (I don’t.) Then you must be pro-corruption and pro-Yanukovych, the evil mass murderer!
- Don’t like the recent revolution that happened in Ukraine? (I don’t.) Then you’re obviously pro-Russian and pro-Putin and pro-terrorism.
- Hate the ongoing war in Ukraine? (I do.) Then you must be just plain evil, because the Ukrainian forces are fighting the good fight against evil!
- Think that Ukrainian nationalist hero Stepan Bandera just might have been a Nazi sympathizer because he did collaborate with Hitler’s Germany, and think that such a question is definitely worth investigating? (I do.) You’re evil and anti-Ukrainian and anti-freedom and anti… some other stuff, too.
That’s just a small sampling of what you have to deal with in the Russia-watching blogosphere. There’s no middle ground and it’s annoying. What if I don’t like corruption, period? That means Yulia Tymoshenko and Pyotr Poroshenko are just as bad as Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin. (Ask yourself this: how did Tymoshenko and Poroshenko get their money? It was through just as illegal means as Yanukovych and Putin did it, only everyone talks about the latter two and not about the former two.)
What if I’m equally sad to hear about Russian soldiers and Ukrainian soldiers dying in the war in Ukraine? I hate the war in Ukraine and I wish it were over for good. All the deaths from the war, on both sides, are tragic.
What if I like both the Russian language and the Ukrainian language? I speak Russian fluently. I obviously like the language if I spent all that time and effort to learn it. For goodness sakes, I majored in it! I also like Ukrainian. I’ve studied it off and on for fun. I like how I can understand so much of it due to knowing Russian. But somehow when I point that out, I’m a Russian imperialist. I have yet to figure out what is imperialist about pointing out that the two languages are closely related, a fact that any competent Slavic linguist would readily acknowledge.
(As an aside, my warm feelings for both Ukrainians and Russians may be shared by people actually over there: this Wall Street Journal article quotes a Ukrainian man who says Ukrainian people from the west and east don’t hate each other: “This is a war between politicians. It isn’t a war between peoples.”)
Basically, there’s no winning if you refuse to blindly follow one side. After arguing with people about this, I’m done. It’s just too frustrating to continue. Ever since I stopped following Russian news and politics last week, I have felt liberated. It is an amazing feeling. I have had more time and mental energy to think about my fiction writing, something I take very seriously and want to talk about on this blog more. I want to talk about language learning more, too, so I can live up to the “Fluent” in this blog’s name.
*I’ve been following Russian politics closely since 2008, so yes, I literally have been exposed to the Russia-watching blogosphere for that long.