One of my favorite professors at university was a fervent activist against the Vietnam War, and in one class he recalled the vitriol of many who saw the Vietnam protesters as unpatriotic. His words still haunt me. In a loud voice he bellowed, “It is because I love my country that I protested! I always want my country to do better!”
Today, the BBC has been continuously reporting that thousands of Russians poured into the streets of Moscow to protest Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. In one interview, a young woman lamented, “I want peace. All I want is peace.” In another interview, a man exhorted, “You know even on the television they say the soldiers were on vacation [in Ukraine]…Without the support of the government they would not be there…It is absolute non-sense.” Others confronted the wall of police with the flag and symbols of Ukraine, while others hurled anti-Putin chants.
The rally in Russia today reminded me of my professor’s words. With recent laws passed by Putin, any of these protesters are subject to years in prison just for protesting. Yet, they are brave enough to protest against what they see as a wrongdoing by their government. Such bravery can only come from a place of love for your country and wanting it to do better. May this love take root.