Parting Glances: Brian 'Putin-oh!'

Originally printed 2/13/2014 (Issue 2207 - Between The Lines News)

It's Saturday last. For the past two hours I and four dining friends have been in three places one after the other, each thousands of miles apart. Detroit. China. Russia.

We met to dine at Angelina's - longtime BTL advertising supporter - across from the Michigan Opera Theater, where we had third-row seats for the opulent, athletic, dance-innovative, silk-waving, flower-strewn, Shen Yun Performing Arts troupe. It's my second performance attendance.

Our 10:30 desert-and-coffee is punctuated afterward with multi-TV coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Between our table discussion about whether LGBT athletes should or shouldn't participate, the telecast camera alternates between bright, blood-red, multi-cossack dancer pageantry and dour, formal, glimpses of President Vladimir Putin.

Oppression is an underlying nexus between the Shen Yun troupe and the Sochi Olympics. Performance by the independent freedom loving Chinese is outlawed under 60 years of atheist communist rule, and anything slightly savoring of "gay propaganda" is anathema big time in Russia.

Hate mongering, harassment, violence, genocide are nothing new to Mother Russia. The country has a long history under the imperial czars of pogroms against Jews and of severe ethnic cleansing by the wholesale shifting of millions of citizens to godforsaken Siberia by order of Joseph Stalin, a mass murderer on par with Adolf Hitler.

In keeping perhaps, Sochi is called for the winter olympics a "ring of steel." 40,000 armed guards - 10 percent of its population - are keeping two-week watch. Of the total $50 billion planning and staging costs, $2 billion has been spent for security.

Missiles, high-speed boats, submarines, sky drones, the Russian 58th Army, secure Sochi's southern border.

Under billionaire Putin, totalitarian Russia is today ultra-conservative, rightwing in family values emphasis - some say an ideological strategy borrowed from the United States. Books such as "Brave New World" are banned, immigrants hunted, journalists killed, rock bands outlawed. It's open season on gays and lesbians.

This month's issue of GQ carries "Inside the Iron Closet," by Russian American Yuri Kozyrev, who spent November pre-game time carefully, covertly exploring the LGBT hate climate there.

Reports Kozyrev, "The Russian closet has always been deep, but its getting much darker. One man was charged for holding up a sign that said 'Being Gay Is OK'. A pink triangle is enough to get you arrested, if not beaten. Or, killed."

And his timely observation: "The less prosperity Putin can deliver, the more he speaks of Holy Russian Empire, language to which the Russian Orthodox Church thrills."

Says Putin, Golubye ('blue', Russian for queer), "Are welcome; if they don't impose their habits and their will on others." HuffPost photo IDs 40 openly gay athletes from around the world who participate or attend, among them heartthrob Jonny Weir, Martina Navratilova, Greg Louganis, Renee Richards, Brian Boitano.

Just maybe it's 'newly out' skate celeb Boitano who inspires a recent New Yorker magazine cover of Putin as a campy figure skater, vetted by a dozen look-alike judges. Putin looks like he's about to lip-sync YMCA! (Or, more likely, NKVD.)*

*Russian Secret Service

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