May 9th is Victory Day, the day that the Nazis were defeated in Russia, and 2005 is the 60th anniversary. For the past couple of weeks, Victory Day posters and banners have been creeping into public space. It’s unfortunate that I read The Gulag Archipelago so recently, because it makes it difficult not to be kind of cynical about all this, particularly the ones that have pictures of old veterans that say “Thank You, Heroes!” These heroes were treated by Stalin’s regime as expendable at best, and enemies of the state at worst. And now, the few of them that are left can barely survive on their pensions and can’t even ride public transportation for free anymore. Thank you heroes, indeed. It seems to me that all this signage is propaganda intended to stir up some patriotism in people who don’t have much else to feel good about. Not that this kind of crap is unique to Russia — in the U.S. the refrain is “Support Our Troops”, which literally means, “Send them off to some unwinnable war under false pretexts.” Question this and you are obviously an enemy of Freedom(tm).

Words and posters are cheap. Doing the right thing is a lot more complicated.