Becoming My Own Best Self

For Yulia and Alexei

Yulia Navalnaya. Beautiful name. Beautiful woman. Proud. Grateful. In the depths of despair.

I wish I could write her a letter that I know she could read. Yulia cannot receive her beloved husband’s body to place in the earth, much less receive notes from strangers.

Don’t you also wish you could put your arms around her, wrap her in love?

I started to say I can’t remember feeling this way–but then the image of Ethel Kennedy popped into my head.

Despite compassion from the world, in the end, wives of martyrs cope with pain alone.

The sudden death of charismatic Russian patriot Alexei Navalny was the more shocking because we saw a video of him making his customary jokes in a penal colony courtroom the very day before. From The Washington Post:

“Laughing, he said to the judge, ‘Your Honor, I’m waiting — I will send you my personal account number, so that you can use your huge federal judge’s salary to fuel my personal account.’”*

Oh Yulia, Yulia.

Should Vladimir Putin feel giddy on a walk then suddenly collapse and die as did Navalny, no wife would grieve for him. Putin divorced Lyudmila Putina ten years ago. Who knows what other mothers of his children–millionairess Svetlana Krivonogikh and Olympic gold medalist gymnast Alina Kabaeva–would feel should he leave the scene.

I know what I’d feel.

It’s unseemly–stronger word needed here, Sylvia–to fantasize on the demise of any man or woman.

Isn’t it?

These are such unspeakably perilous times that, deep in my breast, it is my hope that Putin and other despots and sociopathic wannabes will vacate their scenes. Not necessarily die. I just want them to get bored or frustrated or satiated and slither away.

Meantime, good men and women and children (and, likely, not-so-good men and women, those are the odds) are suffering by the thousands because of the compulsions, indifference, narcissism of these men (no women yet, thank heavens).

Their ambitious obsession is the polar opposite of what Navalny literally gave his life to: for The People to have power returned to them.

In the meantime, what do we do?

For me, Navalny’s sudden passing is a piercing wake-up call.

For weeks now I’ve been thinking about–talking to Bill and friends about–diving in to work to help our country. Clearly to help my side, right? Right. This is not a time to sit at home and read. Knit. Watch a movie. Not the time to start seeds for the garden–I have the feeling I’ll sacrifice this year’s Italian zucchini to democracy.

I must write and mail postcards. Make phone calls. Get out the vote.

DID YOU HEAR ME? GET OUT THE VOTE!!!  There’s an old saying, All politics is local. Of course that’s no longer true. When you learn of an upcoming election for the House or Senate in a distant state, you can send postcards to folks there urging them to vote. A How To post is coming soon.

Patriotism is fun! Rewarding!

Of course you and I may be getting out diametrically opposite votes. This is the United States of America–that’s its glory. From my point of view, the crucial goal is to keep it United.

If you disagree–how you disagree–please write and tell me. Let’s tussle. It will be good for both/all of us.

But if you agree with me, then please please get involved for the sake, the keeping, of our democracy. For our children, grands, great-grands.

Let the martyrdom of Yulia’s beloved Alexei be the inspiration for standing firm, holding fast, caring.


In their names, let’s work. Act. Pray.

* Accessed 2/18/24.

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