Not Cowards
By Robert Perry
3:43 pm,
March 6, 2024

Last Friday, burdened by family problems, right after lunch I took off for employee-owned WinCo in Visalia, hoping to restock the cupboards with less-inflated grocery prices. The BBC news was airing a long report from Moscow on the funeral for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Amazingly, it unburdened my heart.

“No time to be coward,” a Russian woman said in response to the reporter who asked why she’d come despite the danger of being arrested. Earlier in the week some people were jailed simply for laying a flower at a streetside memorial. But Friday tens of thousands waited outside the Orthodox church, throwing flowers over the heads of Russian security forces when Navalny’s casket emerged. Then they walked a mile and a half to the cemetery and waited hours in the cold to pass by his grave—and leave more flowers. A mound, a mountain of flowers.

Some chanted and carried signs that read “We are not afraid,” “Forgive us,” and “We will not forget you.” One 59-year-old woman brought her documents and a change of clothes in case she was arrested. “I wasn’t always a fan of Navalny as a politician, but he became a martyr for truth and I feel obligated to pay my respects,” she said. Another woman said it was Navalny’s anti-corruption research she valued and thought had cost him his life. “Too many good people who tried to help the country and not themselves are now dead,” she said.

It was noted that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and his handmaidens, had no comment on the funeral and nothing to say to the family, except to state that it had nothing to do with Navalny’s death or the fact that it had been iffy whether the funeral even would be allowed to occur. “Putin does not ever speak his name,” said American professor Nina Kruscheva, great-granddaughter of former Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev. She said Putin is afraid, is too big a coward to acknowledge the existence of someone who stands against him, much less wagers his life on it. That’s why even small signs of recognition of Navalny are seen as a betrayal warranting imprisonment.

Flowers. Signs. Words chanted, spoken, sung. These are the weapons of resistance when the powers-that-be seem to hold all the cards. They are evidence of people tired of card games. They are evidence of a powerful force at low tide, waiting to come back in, wanting to reclaim their country. They are signs of hope when it looks like there aren’t any, especially to people like us. 

Friday, driving along Avenue 256 toward dark rain clouds and hearing these Russian people speak their minds to non-Russian journalists stationed in Moscow, I grabbed my ink pen and wrote on my left palm “No time to be coward.” In my mind I could see them there on the Moscow sidewalk, in plain view of masked Russian security teams photographing everyone, all vulnerable. I saw them recording this moment for history and for the present moment, hoping it would help someone, somewhere, somehow, and said a prayer for their safety.

Then I thought of all the excuses I hear daily for not finding some way to take action against the imperial landowners to our west who flooded out many of our neighbors last spring. I thought of our sense of powerlessness against the blind investors and hedge-fund managers who are causing a tidal wave in land values certain to wipe out another generation of resident farmers. I thought of all the people covertly hoping to sell their water rights to top-dollar consumers, emptying our aquifers as if they were private property, leaving the rest of us high and dry.

Then that brave Russian woman was sitting next to me in the passenger seat, as if she had been speaking to me specifically. “No time to be coward,” she said again.

Flowers. Words on signs, spoken, sung; written in letters of petition, rebuke—we have more places to use our meager weapons than the Russians. They are not nothing. They are evidence of a powerful force at low tide, waiting to come in. They are forms of resistance when the moneymen seem to hold all the cards. They are tools for starting a new game, one where the word “equality” has some real meaning. We are not cowards, either.

Trudy Wischemann is a writer who planted her resistance carrots Thursday before the rain. Send her your flower-power thoughts c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of the Mid Valley Times newspaper.

About the Author

Robert Perry