When I’m in the Adirondacks, I tend to pay a lot less attention to the daily news, which is a very good thing — true stress relief, actually. I don’t have a tv or radio where I stay, and I have to drive many miles to get internet access, so I just wind up enjoying the silence and reading a lot. So much that goes on in the 24/7 news mania… er, media… does not warrant the time and effort we all devote to paying attention to ephemera of this moment in time. So, for the last couple of weeks, I cared little about Governor Mark Sanford’s trips to Argentina, Senator John Ensign’s parents’ payments to the family of his mistress (yes, you do need a flowchart for some of this), Governor Sarah Palin’s weird decision to resign her duties in Alaska, the latest Harry Potter movie craze, the bewildering adulation of Michael Jackson, the sad and tawdry demise of a former NFL Super Bowl quarterback.
Some important things did happen in the last few weeks — the Pope issued an important encyclical on economic justice, and I will blog about that in the days ahead. This year is the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, and that prompts some reverie about space exploration and the balance between going there and staying here. Walter Cronkite’s death surely is the coda to an era we will not see again. The hearings on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination for the Supreme Court were an interesting tableau of the many protagonists in the contemporary culture wars, all preening and posturing. More on all of that in blogs to come.
But of all the news gradually coming back onto my radar screen, one item somewhat buried in the middle of the paper last week galvanized me — a murder in Chechnya, an assasination of a woman who was a courageous advocate for human rights in that tortured, dismal Russian state.
Natalia Estemirova (above, AP photo) was abducted and shot to death last week, her body dumped by the saide of the road. The New York Times today calls her “A Fearless Activist in A Land of Thugs.”
She was a human rights advocate in a country that respects no human life. She risked everything to confront the horrific abuses of power, the use of torture, the tyranny, corruption, murderous regime that is indulged by the Russian leadership and that keeps the people of Chechnya in a state of perpetual terror.
Here is a real hero for our times, a courageous woman who dared to defy the powerful men who threatened her life — and she knew exactly what was at risk. She was willing to risk everything for the sake of telling the truth, to expose the horror and shame of the regime that can only hold power by destroying human life and dignity.
Natalia Estemirova’s towering courage and supreme sacrifice puts the rest of the news into the perspective it deserves, sideshows to the true struggles at the core of our civilization. Most of us cannot begin to fathom a place like Chechnya; hundreds of thousands call it home. One person tried to make it better, and she was murdered for her effort.
Who will dare to take her place in the days to come?