Opinion: A Bond Beyond Politics
Republicans, Democrats, soldiers, sports stars, celebrities, conservatives and liberals were among John McCain's pallbearers this past week. So was Vladimir Kara-Murza. John McCain called him, "A personal hero whose courage, selflessness, and idealism I find awe-inspiring."
Vladimir Kara-Murza is 36 years old and chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, named for the admired opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was shot in the back on a bridge near the Kremlin in 2015. Five men were convicted of his murder, but it has never been determined who ordered the killing.
Kara-Murza was in a meeting after lunch just a few months after the killing when he fell violently ill. His organs shut down; he fell into a coma. Doctors said he had been poisoned. His family flew him to the U.S. to recuperate, and his father told the BBC, "If someone did want to frighten us, then they succeeded."
But Kara-Murza returned to Moscow. He became a leading opposition figure. And two years later, in 2017, he experienced similar symptoms and fell into another coma, but recovered. Doctors said he had been poisoned, but never found the source. He told The Independent, "The doctors say, if there is a third time, that'll be it. I will not survive this again." And then he continued to oppose the Putin regime.
"Vladimir is a brave, outspoken and relentless advocate for freedom and democracy in Russia," John McCain said in 2015 in Washington D.C., who was "poisoned in order to intimidate him or worse." In 2017, President Trump gave an interview to Fox News in which he scoffed at the charge that "Putin's a killer."
"There are a lot of killers," said Trump. "What? You think our country's so innocent?"
This past spring, as John McCain battled cancer, Vladimir Kara-Murza says the senator asked him to one of his pallbearers.
"This is the most heartbreaking honor you can imagine," Kara-Murza told NPR's Ailsa Chang on All Things Considered this week. "For me, the most important thing is that I will have this opportunity to say one last goodbye to someone who for me was an embodiment of integrity."
I understand why Politico would say: "McCain's choice of Russian dissident as pallbearer is final dig at Putin, Trump."
But I also see how one man, an American, who was beaten in a prison camp but refused early release with no reason to believe he wouldn't just be left to perish in that prison; and another man, a Russian, who survived two poisonings but kept working for liberty and change in his country, would have a bond beyond politics, Putin, Trump, or the babble of talking heads.
Each man knew what it's like to risk their life for their country. Over and over again.
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