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Unfinished Letter to Vladimir Putin

August 3, 2013

Dear Vladimir,

Though I don’t make a habit out of writing letters to heads of state, I’m no stranger to dabbling in some light correspondence with powers that be. But you see, my previous pen pal couldn’t cope any longer and his successor appears to be at least a wee bit hip to the writing on the wall. Moreover, you’ve been on my mind quite a bit recently, and since we’re no friends on Facebook I thought it only appropriate to address you in a timeless fashion such as this.

I read that you granted asylum to Edward Snowden, which taken on its own is a commendable act from my point of view. When everyone else is passing the hot potato it takes balls to be the one to step up to the plate and give the collective might of a US government a very carefully chosen finger. So props to you for putting your cojones on display for the cause.

Of course it’s difficult to assess if your main concern in this matter was much to do with Mr Snowden’s claims to the freedom of information, or whether you simply saw an opportunity to engage in an old fashioned dick-measuring contest that is certain to be met with agreement by many of those you are eager to please. After all, it’s hardly a secret that you like parading your testicles in front of the public at large.

Image copyright by Reuters

A man, his horse and the great outdoors.

I must admit, while your carefully orchestrated image of a Man’s Man inevitably crossed borders to my own news feed (albeit accompanied by the outsider’s little smirk) I was suitably impressed by the enviable string of macho exploits credited to your persona – even if Indiana Jones was perhaps one masculine archetype too far.

I reckon that the celebration of the Top Bro is a sentiment with deep roots in the country you represent. A nation which, after decades of USSR sexual repression by and large seems to know no better than that traditional gender roles in their most binary opposition are the way nature always intended – all evidence of a more nuanced mindset be damned. If my newsfeeds are not too far off the mark, a majority of Russians hold the belief that homosexuality is sinful and abhorrent, an intolerable abomination. It’s disheartening to imagine what it would take to open this many people’s eyes to a truth that so many others, in so many other places, take so much for granted.

And the worst part of that little thought experiment – and the main reason I’m writing to you today – is that you’ve signed an idea into law to makes it virtually impossible ever to set the record straight. No stranger to prosecution, your laws have silenced yet another opposing part of your electorate – those suffering from it directly and those sympathetic to their cause alike.

I can’t imagine you care so deeply about the gay question – for better or for worse – that this ruling is actually an end game for you, but as to the real end this might be a means to, I can only speculate in perhaps another letter.

You may argue that your law merely enforces a ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, essentially only supporting traditional relations between man and woman, which “need special protection by the state” because of dwindling birth rates in your fine nation, but Mr Putin, I beg to differ.

The fact is, your crackdown is bringing out the worst in people, practically giving them carte blanche to commit heinous acts of humiliation – or inspiring to worse – in broad daylight and beaming with pride.

Image

“Infamous Russian ultra-nationalist and former skin head, Maxim Martsinkevich, known under the nickname “Cleaver” (or “Tesak” in Russian) spearheaded a country wide campaign against LGBT teens using a popular social network VK.com to lure unsuspected victims through personal ads. Mr. Martsinkevich’s numerous and enthusiastic followers started two projects: “Occupy Pedophilyaj” and “Occupy Gerontilyaj”. Allegedly they are trying to identify and report pedophiles using these “movements”. In reality, over 500 online groups have been created inside VK.com social network in order to organize illegal militant groups in every Russian city. Oddly enough their idea of fighting pedophiles targets exclusively male teenagers who respond to the same-sex personal ads and show up for a date. Captured victims are bullied and often tortured while being recorded on video.” Spectrum Human Rights Alliance Report

Are these young folks relegated to the gulag of online infamy simply collateral damage to your greater cause? Should their assailants really receive so much public endorsement?

At the very least I hope you will condemn the appalling acts of this type of scumbag, lest you truly give license to their wanton displays of fascism. It won’t be enough but it would be a start. As it stands, you’ve effectively condemned an entire generation, the damage of which is likely to linger a few more.

Many of us are looking at you lately, Mr Putin, sickened and saddened by the stories and footage emerging from Russia day after day, and we wonder what we can do to help the people you’ve tossed by the wayside.

Should we ban Russian vodka in bars? Will it help if we boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi?  Maybe you’ll be upset when the money stops flowing or if no one shows up at your party. Perhaps it would be more effective if all athletes on the podium should pull out a rainbow flag, medal after medal.

Truth is, I’m just an angry man without an answer. Until I figure it out, I pledge my support to the ones opposing your cause, to those celebrating equality:

All Out

Stop Russia’s anti-gay crackdown

 

Vladimir, may you see the error of your ways soon.

 

Until then,

Unfinished Bits

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Scenes from New Year’s Eve 2011/2012

January 5, 2012
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Live on Stage

August 4, 2011

You know there are days where I think we’re all just going about it completely the wrong way. Yes, the Internet is bringing us all closer in ways your late grandfather would have issues to comprehend, and that would be cause for celebration if the flipside of it wasn’t the incessant, inescapable maelstrom of information that tags along with it.

Being connected nowadays also means a daily chore of weeding through updates, coupons, unsolicited junk like cute cats I don’t care for, job openings I cruelly can’t or wistfully won’t fulfill – and let us not forget that weird uncle of electronic correspondence: the Act Now Viagra offer. We’re all getting wired to swallow it whole, regurgitate it with our own inimitable twist, or just copy-pasting “What he said” when inspiration is lacking fundamentally.

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The Egg (Every Now and Again)

April 30, 2011

It felt like waking up inside an egg, and maybe that’s exactly what it was. My head was clear but I remembered all of it. And while I couldn’t see it, I sensed its presence. I felt no lips moving yet we talked.

“You want to go back, don’t you?” was the first thing it told me.

I’ll spare you trying to describe what it sounded like. I couldn’t do the sensation justice and would only come across as the kind of person you’d want to shut up unless you’d been there.

“Yes,” I thought – or said; the difference was blurry but the intention so clear. “Yes, I wanna go back.”
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Famous Last Words

April 2, 2011

The man was in his exit years, no longer able to add much of significance to anyone or the world around him. A world on which it seemed he left no marks worth mentioning. He was reaching the point where his only legacy would be the words about to be etched into his gravestone, paid with the funds he’d duly been saving for the occasion.
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An Epic Poem About Sauce

January 22, 2011

There once was a man,

Very set in his ways

A bit of a bore

You could tell by his face

 

He always worked vigorously,

Never spent frivolously

Neither drank nor took drugs

He refrained from debauchery

 

What most men would yearn for, our man didn’t crave

The common and tawdry he perceived only abstract

Thus a sin or a dozen he could easily waive,

As part of the rules of his life’s daily contract

 

Rarely letting the good times roll,

He entertained but a solitary vice

Which in the end, would still suffice,

To make him cough up the final toll

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The Beginning of the End

January 15, 2011

Beer from plastic cups during Maastricht Carnaval 2011
“Het begin van het einde.” B. Didderen, Café ‘t Pothuiske.

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