When Cee posted this week’s photo challenge of domes, my thoughts went to this photo I took of the golden domes of Catherine’s Palace outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. It also brought up the conflict I experience when I look at some lithographs I have hanging in our bedroom, purchased at the Peter & Paul Fortress. My daughter had lived and worked in St. Petersburg for a year shortly after perestroika. She invited me to accompany her for a return visit in 2004, and her friend agreed to sponsored us for a visa and then allowed us to stay with her in her apartment. Her friend was a marvelous host, opening up so many opportunities to meet people and experience the culture. My daughter knew the city so we would explore during the day while her friend worked and then we would spend the evening with the family, sometimes attending events. What fun we had communicating because her friend is fluent in English, her daughter knows some German, and my daughter is fluent in German and knows some Russian.
Now the Russian government is our enemy because they committed a hostile act against our democracy by interfering in our election process. Does my desire to display representations of their history and culture make it seem to others that I am complicit in condoning their intellectual and technological aggression? Should I burn and break all these artifacts of this evil “other?” Should I shun my Soviet-born daughter-in-law who is intelligent, loving, beautiful, kind and fun to be with?
No, I won’t. I don’t have a world view that there is a broad “other” who is different than I and thus bad and evil. Yes, the Russian government is a bad player and is an enemy of our country, but I am still going to celebrate the strong and courageous people born on that foreign soil. I will enjoy the brilliant composers, dancers, and artists that the country produced. I will fondly remember and celebrate the beauty of St. Petersburg and remember with fondness all the people I met and encountered. Travel always whets my curiosity about the history and culture of the places I visit so I will continue to read about it and now to also stay knowledgeable about their current political system and the players in Russia and the U.S. who colluded to impact on the outcome of our last election. This helps me to clarify what I value in my own culture and political system, and see more clearly what parts of our culture and political system need to be fixed. And I will celebrate my daughter-in-law, her family, and other friends who have emigrated from that region of the world.