Editorial: Cancel Me – Opera Wire

I tried to write again today, but I can’t write.

The war has been going on for a month.

Every time I start an article, I burst into tears. My writing is only a few paragraphs long.

Today everyone is talking about the so-called cancellation of [Russian] culture. And in normal life, I would expect to immediately become a strong supporter of it. I think others expected it too. Isn’t that what my father taught me through the pieces of dissident culture? That thoughts, words and airs are the real Russia. The country I will never be ashamed of, the homeland of Brodsky and Rostropovich, the homeland that is always with us.

As a child, I always found Russian immigration stories romantic in a way. I have always been convinced that such [never easy] experiences have a profound effect on any thinking person. Oh, how I wish I never had them. But it’s too late. Did the dissidents of the 20th century also go through what we live today?

How I feel now, I would no doubt expect from any of my childhood heroes. These feelings are weird. Cancel Putin supporters? It’s great, no doubt. Practice a little McCarthyism? Well, that might not be fair, but it’s expected.

What about Tchaikovsky? Should I be angry or offended? How wonderful it would be to be certain of what to feel (and immediately in my head “well, that’s exactly what the lucky victims of propaganda get – unshakeable confidence in what is right to feel and think.” So now I have a reason to be happy to be unhappy and uncertain).

Just yesterday, La Monnaie De Munt published a beautiful and well-written statement from its director Peter de Caluwe. I loved every line of it. He did not call Russia an aggressor. He used the word Diet instead. De Caluwe defended my native culture better than I could these days. I felt the warmth in my heart and the light. Was it hope? To not cry, to be forgiven? Even though that wasn’t his goal, it worked.

And maybe for the first time in this month, I felt really good for a while. But then… that warmth and light turned into something else. Something extremely uncomfortable. And I immediately recalled the pain, almost physical, I felt when Vladimir Jurowski changed the lineup with Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin the day after the Russian invasion began. That day, everything seemed surreal. In this agony, I tried to find refuge in my native culture, I tried to soothe my worried daughter and myself by repeating over and over again: “Russia is not Putin and his regime. Russia is Akhmatova, Russia is Tchaikovsky and Mayakovsky, my dear. And at that time, to see how an incredible musician of the same origin cancels Tchaikovsky was simply unbearable. I didn’t care about the details or anything. It was a headshot, another reason for my heart to cry.

And that feeling suddenly resurfaced, just minutes after reading the beautiful statement from Brussels. This time he yelled at me, “How dare you?!” At that moment, I felt clear about something – I don’t want to be soothed and comforted. I don’t want to be forgiven. I don’t want this heat and this light. I’m not entitled to it. Jurowski was right when he canceled, when he brought me this pain. I know he was in pain too. That’s right, that’s right. For those of us Russians who can understand with a strong mind and feel with a broken heart, it is time to suffer in silence.

No, I don’t blame my culture. I do not betray him. I stay with her, buried. And I know the time will come, and I hope it will come soon when Russian culture returns, in all its glory and power. I know for sure that he will not die silently, no matter how long the silence lasts. Putin can’t hurt him. The war can’t hurt him. It’s not a question of survival of Russian culture, but a question of how can music play, when people die, when people lose their freedom under this bloody regime? And not only the Ukrainian people, but also the Russian people.

They say the innocent always suffer in wars. And that Russian culture is another victim of this conflict. But I’m not sure about “Innocent”. In fact, I have a huge concern about this concept. The regime started this war. We know who to blame. He has a name and a face. And yet, I feel that the responsibility is shared. For all Russians. What if I protested years ago? What if I haven’t lived in Russia for several years? Am I innocent in this war? If so, why do I feel guilty? Why doesn’t everything I do seem enough? Why can’t I write?

If I think of Russian culture as part of global culture, I find it natural that it can now be muted as part of the inner (?) self-regulation of this system. Maybe that’s what I did to myself. No one blames me or blames me, and I’m the one who locked myself away for one reason: not protecting myself.

There is no place and time for a Russian culture now. For too long this has been an excuse for all of us. We have a great heritage, but we allowed propaganda in the schools. Our writers are amazing, but we have no respect for democracy and human rights. Enough. Great Russian culture was meant to educate (especially its own people).

Stop using it to hide problems and excuse crimes.


About Madeline J. Carter

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