While I have not yet read Masha Gessen's The Brothers, her investigation into how the Boston Marathon Bombing happened and what followed, her column in the New York Times this morning is well worth the time to read and think about for a while. Trials are usually unsatisfactory in that they focus on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. That is what the law is for. Why something happened and how it came to happen is where the problem gets more complicated, and yet gets us closer to the reality, to the thing itself. As she says:
"There are other questions, big and small. But these two are clearly essential to understanding what went wrong in Boston two years ago. Yet in the course of the trial they were barely discussed. Arguably, they shouldn’t have been. An American criminal trial is designed to assess guilt and administer justice, not to look for truth — and truth and justice are not synonymous. Sadly, other authorities have also failed to fully account for what happened or what can be done to prevent it from happening again."
Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and author. She is both Jewish by heritage if not by practice and a lesbian. Her parents brought her to the US during one of the periods when the Soviets allowed Jews to emigrate to Israel, and she holds dual-citizenship. She returned to Russia in the early 90s when it looked like perhaps things were going to achieve some sort of positive democracy and pluarlistic Society. Obviously, that didn't happen.
Both as a journalist and as an activist, Gessen was active covering demonstrations and problems in Putin's Russia. She adopted a child with her partner, and they were happy. However, she began to find herself feeling alienated from her homeland, and found that she had problems keeping jobs and getting freelance assignments in Russia. She wrote an exceptional book about President Putin which raised her FSB profile I suspect. She then chronicled the Pussy Riot debacle, both advocating for the women and placing their actions in context. Ultimately, about two years ago as the homophobia in Russia hit crescendos similar to the 1813 Overture and the government became more and more unfriendly toward any dissent, she brought her family back to the United States. Long a contributor to the Times, which is where I first encountered her, she writes a monthly piece on the Op-Ed page as well as writing for The Guardian and other serious publications.
I strongly recommend her work here and on Pussy Riot and on Putin as Autocrat to anyone who is interested in and open-minded about what's happening in that most troubling and confusing nation.