Sat 2022-Mar-19

Some Unexpected Inspiration on Russia & Ukraine

Tagged: Beauty / NotableAndQuotable / Politics / Sadness

Today I came across an unexpected source of encouragement in the matter of Russia and Ukraine.

Arnold?! Wait… really?

Schwarzegger @ Atlantic: Message for my Russian friends Umm… Arnold Schwarzenegger as a source of political and even spiritual inspiration? Really?!

Yeah, really. Honest, it surprised me too.

I never had much use for the hyper-masculine image of bodybuilders, or sportsball players of any sort. And Terminator & Conan were… well, not that great as movies. And then he became Republican politician, so he’s sorta outside my regular feeding grounds, ya know?

But we must be prepared to accept wisdom from any source. We must be especially eager to recognize wisdom when it comes apparently from the “other side”, which turns out to be the same side after all.

And so it is here.

Schwarzenegger made a heartfelt plea on a YouTube video, which then got tweeted, and The Atlantic picked up the transcript as an article. [1] Some of the high points, of which there are surprisingly many in just 9min 16sec:

  • He starts, in a flourish of rhetorical brilliance, with a story of the Russian weightlifter Yury Petrovich Vlasov (Юрий Петрович Власов), whom he met as a young boy. They were introduced, somehow. Yuri Petrovich treated him kindly and respectfully, with a friendly smile. A moment of kindness can have an unforgettable impact.
    • Schwarzenegger admiringly put up a photo of Yuri Petrovich in his home in his parents’ home in Austria, causing some friction with his father. His father had been conscripted in the Nazi army in WWII, and was badly injured in Stalingrad. He spent the rest of his life in pain from shrapnel, a broken back, and the extreme emotional pain of knowing he had participated in the Nazi campaign. So he was not happy to see a Russian, and he and his son fought.
    • Later while filming in Moscow, they met again. The experience confirmed Schwarzenegger’s impression of the man as kind, smart, and generous.
  • Having established his bona fides as someone who loves Russian people, he tries to explain to them the lies they’re being fed.
    • For example, the attempt to “de-Nazify” Ukraine is laughable on the surface: it’s a country with a democratically elected, Jewish president, whose grandfather’s 3 brothers were murdered by Nazis. (3:39 - 3:51)
    • The blame lies not on the Ukrainians nor on the Russians, but on those in the Kremlin. The Russian people are simply innocent victims.
  • He speaks from a place of deep compassion:
    • He looks into the camera, and says to the Russian soldiers with incredible sympathy:

      “I don’t want you to be broken like my father.” (6:55 - 7:10)

    • He looks into the camera again, and speaking of those demonstrating in Russia against the war, says:

      “The world has seen your bravery. We know that you have suffered the consequences of your courage. You have been arrested. You have been jailed and you’ve been beaten. You are my new heroes. You have the strength of Yury Petrovich Vlasov. You have the true heart of Russia. My dear Russian friends, may God bless you all.” (8:38 - 9:16)

It takes a lot to bring tears to my eyes at the words of a former athlete in a sport I don’t like, turned actor in movies I don’t like, turned politician for a party I don’t like. But… give it up for The Arnold, because looking into his eyes at those two moments did it. There’s an awful lot of compassion for the pain of others, and a desire to help them do better. This is as we should all feel toward each other.

Seems to me like a very good message. I’d be fascinated to know what my Russian friends think of it.

And that’s not the first time he’s hit the nail on the head. Here’s a video he recorded after the events of 2021-Jan-06, when American Nazi sympathizers attempted to disrupt the official counting of the Electoral College. It’s very personal: “I grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy.”

The Weekend Conclusion

Ok, I changed my mind: this is a smart man, and a good man. I’m happy to listen to him when he has something to say in his areas of expertise.

(Well, maybe not on body-building. I mean, he’s an expert at that, I’m just not interested. But the other stuff, yeah. Good guy. Not perfect, of course, what with a couple extramarital affairs. Still, good for many purposes.)

I’m very, very happily surprised. Feel free to make fun of me for not already knowing this. I promise it’s ok, making fun of me for good purposes.


Notes & References

1: A Schwarzenegger, “I Have a Message for My Russian Friends”, The Atlantic, 2022-Mar-17.

Published Sat 2022-Mar-19

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