We’ll always have Donetsk: Travel writers have always praised late summer in eastern Ukraine.
In this morning’s New York Times, Kramer and Roth describe another of the region’s seasonal festivals. In today’s episode, a traitor is tied by the side of the road and motorists stop to abuse her.
For yesterday’s episode, just click here. Hard-copy headline included:
KRAMER AND ROTH (8/25/14): With Peace Talks Near, Prisoners in Ukraine Are AbusedJust your typical seasonal stuff.
On the sidewalk of a busy street beside a checkpoint, a bearded gunman wrapped a woman in a Ukrainian flag and forced her to stand, sobbing in terror, holding a sign identifying her as a spotter for Ukrainian artillery. “She kills our children,” it read. Because the woman was a spy, said the gunman, a pro-Russian militant, everything that would happen to her would be well-deserved.
Passers-by stopped their cars to get out and spit, slap her face and throw tomatoes at her. Her knees buckled. She struggled to mumble in protest of her innocence and to shake her head in denial.
This theatrical scene of abuse unfolded a day after the rebel movement had paraded Ukrainian prisoners of war down a main thoroughfare here at bayonet point, then dramatically washed the pavement behind them.
The drama that played out on the streets of Donetsk Monday seemed sure to ratchet up tensions. A military unit of Russian nationals from the region of North Ossetia, in southern Russia, held the woman at a checkpoint in a roundabout in Donetsk known as “the Motel,” for a nearby hotel. The men, smiling and gesturing toward the woman, waved over cars for drivers to observe or take part.
“We should hang you on the square,” one woman in the crowd yelled, then walked up and spat in the face of the victim, then kicked her in a thigh, causing the woman accused of spying to stagger back.
The gunmen looked on. At times, the pro-Russian soldiers posed beside the crying woman to take selfies on their smartphones, or playfully twirl her hair with their fingers.
At one point, a fighter walked a few paces back, crouched in the street and aimed a Kalashnikov rifle at the woman in a mock execution. The woman shut her eyes. “Open your eyes, stand up straight!” another of the gunmen yelled.
Again, we make an unpleasant point. The tendency to loathe The Other is deeply bred in the bone. We humans all have an impulse in this direction. Presumably, reflexive loathing of The Other was once a survival skill.
When our reptilian brain directs us to loathe, it also directs us to believe every unpleasant thing we might hear about Those People. It suggests that we start making up facts about how The Others are.
In various forms, this goes on all over the world. We sometimes think we see versions of this happening over here.