John Howell Sr. – editorial 3/27/2015

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Optimist or pessimist? It would help to be Russian to figure it out

During an interview on public radio following the February 28 assassination of dissident Boris Nemtsov near the Kremlin, a fellow dissident was asked about the current mind-set of others who speak out to oppose Russian President Vladmir Putin.

Downcast, was his answer. Those who oppose Putin think about Paul Khlebnikov, Boris Berezovsky, Anna Politkovskaya — Kremlin critics who died under mysterious circumstances, Alexander Litvinenko, thought to have been poisoned in London by a radioactive isotope slipped into his tea by former Russian security services men, Anatasiya Baburova and Stanislav Markelov, both also gunned down near the Kremlin. Surviving dissidents compare stories of surveillance, harassment, threats and near misses, the guy on the radio said.

A popular joke circulating among dissidents compares optimists and pessimists, he said.
A pessimist says this is terrible; they’re really cracking down, they’ve cornered us at every turn, things just can’t get any worse.

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An optimist says, ‘Oh yes it can!”
Then there was the politician who came by recently to get information on political announcements and advertising. He was a nice guy. We made small talk as his material was being prepared.

“I don’t know you, but I know your son,” he told me while I was waiting on him.
“Which one, John Jr. or David?” I asked.

“No, Rupert,” he replied.

I been trying since to figure whether to take it as an optimist or as a pessimist.