Monday, July 03, 2006

Vladimir Zhirinovsky's story -- best weekend reading

Some of the best reading from the internet can't be read from the monitor. In order to enjoy the full effect the reader really needs to have hard copy and savor the story as it is read. Otherwise the full effect is lost.

Reading from a monitor is like gulping a glass of wine all at once. You waste most of the content by not savoring the nose, the head, the bloom, the aftertaste. You miss how the wine changes from the time the cork is pulled until the bottle oxygenates for a time, either in the decanter or the glass. And if you go too fast, you miss seeing the legs forming inside the glass as the wines swirls around in a half-full glass.

This next story is such a reading. For stories such as this I keep a blank word document handy, pre-formatted for two columns, margins stretched top, bottom and sides so as not to waste paper, for the purpose of copy and paste from the site. After I have captured the content, I sometimes number the pages, then print out what I want to read later. I then close the document without saving anything and my template is ready to use next time I need it.

I have little stapled piles of such keepsakes scattered about. Sometimes I revisit them or give them away. Occasionally I might toss one out, but that takes too much discipline. It is easier to keep it in a pile. Never know when you might want to refer to it again. But I digress...

This weekend's find printed out to seven pages of twelve-point, easy-to-read type. It is a swell piece from yesterday's Haaretz telling the story of how Vladimir Shirinovsky discovered his father was a Jew. Van Wallach at Kesher Talk gets credit for the link. This morning's news is too tense to try to read it on line, but the reader can capture it now and read it later.

Van had some good ticklers, but I have a couple more. The story is one that could get bogged down in Byzantine complexity, but the writers breeze through sixty years of history so fast, and pick their highlights so well that it becomes a very fun narrative. Well, fun might not be the best word to use, but it makes a great read. Zhirinovlsky has to be one of the most colorful politicians alive today from any country. I would love to see him on the same stage with Pat Robertson, Jessie Jackson and George Galloway. They all seem to be cut from the same material.

...Since his arrival in Israel last Thursday, Zhirinovsky has been accompanied like a shadow by his cousin, Yitzhak Eidelshtein. Until then neither of the cousins knew of the other's existence.

Uncharacteristically for a politician whose career has been composed of scandals that are well-orchestrated for the media, Zhirinovsky this time sought to keep the visit a secret. He was taken by surprise when his presence in Israel, and all the more so in these circumstances, was discovered by Haaretz.
[Haaretz reporter asked the cousin] Does the fact that the cousin you found is considered an anti-Semite and a nationalist bother you?

"In the conversations that I and my family had with him we did not talk about politics. I?m just all emotional and excited about the family secret that has been revealed to me, and I'm glad that I now have a new relative whose existence I hadn't known about.
[Zhirinovsky's] success is attributed to his populist and demagogic skills, as well as to his propaganda tactics. Characteristically, this week he brought to Israel bottles of vodka and cognac, cigarettes, lighters and pens and buttons with his name on them and distributed them generously.

Above all, though, he is known for his direct and blunt style of speech, which sometimes slides into coarse language. Zhirinovsky promised that if he were elected president, he would hand out vodka and brassieres. He did not hesitate to become involved in fistfights with his rivals. On one occasion he struck a Duma member. In 1995 he threw a glass of juice into the face of his political rival Boris Nemtsov during a live-television debate. Nemtsov responded in kind. It is not surprising that Zhirinovsky is much in demand as a television guest.

Toward the end of the story we get this snapshot.
Reverently, Zhirinovsky opens a transparent plastic folder. In it is an official Interior Ministry death certificate, bearing the symbol of the State of Israel. He then removes from the folder photographs of his mother, his father and of himself, a two-month-old infant, in his mother's arms. Again he breaks into tears. Then he regains his composure, perhaps because his son, Igor Lebedev (who bears his mother's name), enters the room.
Zhirinovsky's thirty-three year old son is with him. As chairman of his father's faction in the Duma, he is grooming to become a second-generation Russian politician who may or may not follow in his father's footsteps. We in America don't have to look far to find examples of political dynasties. Somehow it seems to be part of the woof and warp of democratic systems as well as tyranies. Leadership, like athletic prowess, is not only a skill but a gift. I don't think it is genetic, but there is no doubt that the progeny of charismatic politicians have as much enduring crowd appeal as those of actors and business leaders.

The reporter asked if Igor felt that being one-fourth Jewish might hinder his political career. He replied briefly but his father took the moment to fire off a volley of rhetoric that would make a Southern Senator bow his head.
"Why in the world should it hinder? What difference does it make whether you are Russian or Israeli or American or black or white?" he says in a conciliatory tone, as though he had never outrageously said the opposite. "What we need in Russia is someone with Jewish intelligence, a Russian heart, German precision, an American entrepreneurial spirit and Asian fanaticism - and do you know who has all that"? he asks rhetorically. "I do. I have Russian heart. Jewish intelligence. And because of the father I discovered here in Israel, Wolf, who has a German name, I can say that I also have German precision and a sense of entrepreneurship. After all, he was a rich man. Having been born in Kazakhstan, I also have Asian fanaticism."

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