Frank Thoms

Prompting for Putin

Nov 13, 2022 by Frank Thoms

I soon realized, as an exchange teacher, when I stopped to ask children personal questions instead of questions in support of the texts, I could penetrate the collective: What do you think about America? Who are your favorite movie stars? What hobbies do you like? What do you want to be when you grow up?

It was as if we were in a different classroom. Hands would shoot up, right elbows way off desks. In choosing to ask questions, I was an Aladdin releasing each child’s genie, his curious inner self, which had been camouflaged by an oppressive curriculum only wanting itself to be heard. I believed the children, perhaps unknowingly, longed to break out of a restrictive system.

Putin’s early popularity reached nearly eighty percent. Now with the war in Ukraine, as of this writing, he may be on shaky ground. No one should be surprised. Truth has its ways of prevailing.

During my time in the Gorbachev years in the last days of the Soviet Union, I heard from people who were imagining living in a freer society, perhaps not a democracy but one where they could speak and write freely. Some have chosen to emigrate. Today, it would take courage for others who have stayed to speak up for a more open society. Time will tell.

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