Another look at freedom

Published 8:41 pm Friday, August 17, 2012

Yesterday, three women were given a 2-year prison sentence. All three are under the age of 30; two of them have young children. They’ve already been incarcerated for five months, from the time of their arrests to their trial.
“So what did they do?” you ask.
Well, any American looking at the case might say, “nothing.”
Nothing, in that had these three women lived in the U.S., their “crime” would have earned them a slap on the wrist, at most, a fine.
The facts of the case are this: three women, dressed in revealing costumes and masks, walked into a Moscow cathedral, one of the grandest houses of worship in all of Russia, set up a microphone and electric guitar and proceeded to play 30 seconds-worth of what has been called a “punk prayer,” the lyrics of which are “Mother Mary, please drive Putin away.”
It was an act of political protest by this three-woman punk band and for it they have been accused of insulting the Russian Orthodox Church, undermining public order and have been convicted of a crime called “hooliganism,” all for performing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin. The punishment of the crime, for which they will spend two years in prison, comes from the top, down.
Ironically, it is the people of the Russian Orthodox Church, offended by the women’s actions at the outset, that have become the band’s most ardent supporters, holding prayer vigils in the prison courtyard. Many call their imprisonment persecution.
Here, in our country, our state, our town, the all-girl punk band would have likely been slapped with the low-level misdemeanor charge of trespassing, paid a court cost and maybe a fine and been done with it.
A case like this makes us think of the freedoms we have, ones that are so ingrained in our lives they’re like the very air we breathe — silent and invisible, unnoticed until they’re gone. And the most basic of those freedoms is freedom of speech, the right to speak out against our president and authorities, to protest and to question. We don’t have to silence ourselves for fear of repercussion.
We are all occasionally offended by someone else’s thoughts and beliefs. Every now and then, though, we need to step back from the words we personally find offensive — politically, socially, spiritually — and thank God, and thank America, that the words can be said, regardless.