Top of Mind Thursday – February 22, 2024: The Death of Dissonance

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On Friday, Alexei Navalny, the leading opponent to Vladimir Putin in Russia, died mysteriously.

While his death was shocking, it was not a surprise. Anyone who crosses Putin faces a much shortened lifespan—some fall out of tall buildings, others are poisoned or shot, and still others, like Yevgeny Prigozhin, are killed when their plane suddenly blows up.

Navalny himself survived a poisoning attempt in 2020, yet he returned to Russia where he was captured as an enemy of the state and imprisoned in a remote prison camp.

Navalny was the last of the well-known dissidents to question Putin’s supremacy. Since his death, hundreds of people throughout Russia have been arrested for leaving memorials to Navalny. A Russian-American woman is being held for sending a $51 donation to a group supporting Ukraine.

Navalny’s widow vows to continue his fight, albeit from outside Russia, but how much she can achieve under the current conditions remains to be seen.

There’s a lesson for us here in the US. No one here is arrested for expressing views against a political figure. We don’t poison those who oppose the government, nor do we blow up their planes or push them out of tall windows.

But democracy is fragile. Over the last decade, we’ve seen attempts to resort to violence rather than accept the will of the people through the voting process. We’ve seen political candidates threaten to eke out revenge against their rivals if they’re elected. We’ve seen colleges and universities physically attack those who belong to a different ethnic group or who don’t subscribe to the mob’s prevailing views. We’ve seen too much effort to stamp out dissonance.

Music without dissonance is boring. But a world without dissonance is dangerous. Let Alexei Navalny’s death be a warning to us: We can’t afford to let dissonance die.

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