I met Pussy Riot’s lawyers at an event at the NYU law school last spring and was inspired by their story. Now these brave women—protest performance artists I would call them-- have recovered from their incarceration and are in Sochi demonstrating against the autocratic Putin regime. Though their staged events may seem silly, their intention is deadly serious. Hopefully, it won't kill them.
Whenever I hear about a police state suppressing artistic expression, I have nightmares. The fear of such suppression—self-censorship—gives me even more nightmares. There is no reason for us to be timid, none at all, yet fear of exposure is a constant in a writer's life even in a Great Democracy such as ours. And we do have to remain vigilant in a democracy, despite our Bill of Rights. Thus, all the necessary conversation right now about surveillance.
Students arrive in my workshop—and I will have a bunch of new students next week—eager to find their voices and their subjects. It is their mandate, I tell them, to speak loud and clear about whatever interests or moves them, and to shuck the editor on their shoulder telling them not to write about this or that. We don't live in Russia. We don't live in China. We are as free as we dare to be.