By Andrew Galeziowski

The death of anti-corruption, pro-democratic political activist Alexei Navalny serves as another lesson to the Russian people of what happens to those who oppose the government of Vladimir Putin. The lesson continues in the days after his passing as Russians who take to the streets to protest or pay tribute to Navalny are arrested.

Putin’s larger effort to squash Russian democracy extends beyond Navalny:

What is the lesson for the rest of the world?  In short, the lesson may be summed up by a phrase often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance”. As evidenced by the experience of Navalny in Russia, for liberty to be achieved or maintained, such vigilance must be advocated by more than a few citizens. Indeed, Jefferson’s analysis included an even broader declaration: “The influence over government must be shared among all the people.” (Emphasis added.)

Civic Responsibilities of all American Citizens

In short, the responsibility for maintaining our democracy and liberties outlined in the U.S. Constitution falls upon all citizens. Some reluctant citizens might say “it doesn’t change anything” or “I don’t have time” or “my single voice lacks the power to make change”. If anything is to be gleaned from the Navalny experience it is this: those who oppose democracy and individual liberties fear the gathering force of individual voices. That is why Putin stifled not only Navalny, but the individuals who came out afterwards in support of him.

In the name of preserving this democratic nation and the liberties we enjoy, I encourage all Americans to do what you can: stay up on current events; be a critical consumer of news by considering the bias of news sources and looking to multiple sources, especially those presenting points of view different from your own; share your voice with broader groups and most certainly with elected officials; and, of course, vote! This is the sort of vigilance I believe Jefferson espoused.

Don’t Let Democracy Die in Cold Darkness

In sum, the world’s lesson learned from recent events in Russia may best be described by the slogan of the The Washington Post, “Democracy Dies in the Darkness”. In the case of Navalny’s death, which reportedly occurred after he took a walk in below zero temperatures, Russian democracy died in the cold darkness of an Arctic prison.

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