I have returned from a brief sabbatical from Ramparts to find a world progressively in disarray. Acknowledging the responsibility that comes with Ramparts of Civilization being the currently ranked #8, 785,839 busiest internet site in the world based on on-site traffic, I felt my loyal audience would probably be able to stand a short respite from my point of view. For you few decerning readers though, the absence of commentary on the fascinating events of the last few days without the specific purview as to how it will effect the future of western civilization probably left you a little wanting and directionless. I will therefore try to do my best in my own humble way to once again try to tie it progressively together.
We start in the year 1170 with Thomas Becket, of course. Henry II of England had definitely had enough of Thomas’s irritating desire to point out his flaws, and did what absolute rulers are prone to do – make a spectacle so others might learn. Making sure the appropriate command was sent in a way that would absolve him of the need for direct action, Henry proclaimed to his court, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Noting Thomas’s proclivity as archbishop in hanging near the nation’s grandest shrine, the Canterbury Cathedral, Henry’s most professional knight assassins traveled to Britain’s most sacred ground, to make sure Thomas would no longer be a thorn in Henry’s side, and that everybody would know it. The assassins made short work of Thomas at the altar and left him for public display. With this monstrous event, Thomas had been made martyr, and Henry made his point. Like all absolute rulers committing public sin Henry thrashed about looking for Becket’s killers, but didn’t look very hard. Henry even did an appropriate amount of public penance in front of Becket’s tomb, to show his subjects his recognition of the extent of sin committed, but their king was still king in complete charge, and Becket’s influence in effecting change lost to the mists of time.
And so we lived 845 years later with another display of martyrdom of an opposition leader paying the price for irritating the absolute ruler. In a very public display reminiscent of Becket, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated by professionals in front of Russia’s most sacred church and the Kremlin, for the crime of pointing out the flaws of today’s absolute ruler, Putin. This Putin knew his Henry II role well, already “taking over” the search for his killers, and lamenting the action so brazen at Russia’s sacred ground. He has publicly apologized to Nemtsov’s mother. Well, as Shakespeare said, He “doth protest too much”. The chances of Putin finding Nemtsov’s murderer is excellent, given the number of mirrors in the Kremlin. The chances of Russia finding justice with this increasingly malevolent dictator is considerably less likely, and the message is clear to all. You defy the boss, and the boss will act.
Henry II and Putin have something else in common. Neither had any concern that the alleged leader of their world would do anything significant. Henry had his Pope Alexander, who had appointed Becket bishop in the first place, but Henry knew the Church of England was progressively his church and Pope Alexander made a Becket a religious martyr, not a political one, and nothing was done. So too does Putin have his Obama, who despite insult after challenge after provocation after crime, has stood silently as Putin has recognized his adversary for the foil that he is.
Russia is becoming a very dark place. There is no place for brave patriots like Boris Nemtsov or, in absentia, Gary Kasparov. The idea of liberty that so briefly shone when Boris Yeltsin rose onto the tank so many years ago and declared the dictatorship police state gone is a faint and withered memory. In one of the most interesting twists of history, Boris Yeltsin, as his power was waning in 2000, determined to select his successor. His assumed successor, his right hand man, a libertarian named Boris Nemtsov, was at the last moment set aside for an obscure former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin, and Russia was changed forever. Nemtsov’s Russia is now a Russia we will never know, and Vladimir Putin made sure of that.