This is not the time for a lengthy meditation on how great Google Translate is, or how many doors it opens between people in far-off places. This is not the time to explain how much I despise using it just the same, because everything I put into it comes out mangled. This is not the time to say how happy I am, as a philologist, that computers still can’t replace human interpreters. I will say, briefly, that Google Translate has exactly the right amount of artless functionality and powerful fake-thinking to situate it perfectly in the space it needs to occupy– the space between people who desperately need to say words, and the people who desperately need to hear them.
I don’t know if any of you have been following the rampant hatred and persecution that’s happening in Russia right now. The Olympics have made the issue more noticeable, but it’s been there for many years now, especially since Vladimir Putin’s re-election.
(Side note: does anyone else find it strange that a handsome shirtless cowboy is so frightened of gay people? The last time someone cultivated a beefcake cowboy image in such blind ignorance of its hyper-gay connotations, that someone was Joe Buck in the classic film Midnight Cowboy. But I digress.)
The latest piece of tragic-heroic drama in this story is that of Russian TV presenter Anton Krasovsky, who publicly came out at great risk to himself, and was of course immediately fired, disowned by his network, and shunned in the way that cowards always shun those brave enough to embarrass them. There’s a story on it here in English, and I’m sure many more detailed accounts in Russian… or maybe not, since this is the kind of news they’re forbidden to talk about.
I won’t weigh in on this either, but I saw fit to track down Krasovsky’s Facebook page, and leave behind the following letter. Since my Russian is awful, and basically ends at linguistic structure, I took the embarrassing step of using Google Translate to render it in Russian. I am publishing it here in Russian because I think it’s most important for people in that great country to stumble across. More than anything, they need to see that the insane backward hateful laws of their country represent a diminishing minority of the world. They need to see that they are not alone, that they still share this world with a few people (we Western foreigners are people too) who are worth sharing a world with.
Just for fun, I follow the Russian not with my original English letter, but with my Russian letter translated back into English, so you can see (a)how great Google Translate is, and (b) how far it still has to go.
Прости, что я не владеющих русским языком. Я буду стараться изо всех сил с Google Translate.
Здесь, в Канаде, где мужчины могут любить кого они хотят, и даже жениться кем хочу, мы не можем понять. Мы не можем понять, как это трудно для вас, потому что мы не можем представить, что правительство будет делать такие ужасные вещи для своего народа.
Спасибо за проявленное мужество, чтобы сделать это очень трудное решение. Вы вдохновения для всех тех мужчин и женщин в России, которые слишком напуганы, чтобы говорить. Не только гомосексуалисты, но люди с гомосексуальной братьев и сестер, друзей и сыновей и дочерей, признательны вам за вашу храбрость.
Но благодарю Вас также за демонстрацию к остальному миру, что не все россияне считают, ужасные вещи, что ваши законы и предложить вашему правительству. Такие ужасные вещи появляются чудовищные к остальной части мира, и очень важно, чтобы напомнить нам, что правительство не говорит за весь народ. Когда так много плохих вещей происходит в России, это вдохновляет и важно видеть, что эти законы не могут остановить изменение, которое грядет. Любовь в любом виде закона ни одно правительство не может отменить. Она может контролировать словами телевидения, слова пресса, даже слова разговора. Но правительство не может контролировать слова сердце. Возможно, именно поэтому они так боятся храбрецов, как вы.
Еще раз спасибо. Ты герой не только гомосексуалисты, не только русским, но и людей во всем мире.
In awful re-translated English:
I’m sorry I do not speak Russian. I will try my best with Google Translate.
Here in Canada, where men can love who they want, and even marry whom they want, we can not understand. We can not understand how difficult this is for you, because we can not imagine that the government would do such a horrible thing for his people.
Thank you for having the courage to make this very difficult decision. You are an inspiration for all those men and women in Russia who are too frightened to speak. Not only homosexuals, but men with homosexual brothers and sisters, friends, sons and daughters, thank you for your courage.
But thank you also for demonstrating to the rest of the world that not all Russians believe the horrible things that your laws and your government to offer. Such terrible things appear monstrous to the rest of the world, and it is important to remind us that the government does not speak for the whole nation. When so many bad things happening in Russia, it is inspiring and it is important to see that these laws can not stop the change that is coming. Love in any form of law, no government can not cancel. It can control the words of television, according to the press, even the words of the conversation. But the government can not control the words of the heart. Perhaps that is why they are so afraid of brave men like you.
Thank you again. You’re a hero, not only homosexuals, not only Russian, but also people around the world.
I can’t say I’m happy with the grammar or syntax of how this came out, but I think the sentiment and solidarity got through. I sincerely hope Mr. Krasofsky gets enough press in the West, and enough media attention, that he could emigrate if he wanted, find work as a writer and activist, and get out from under the chains of his country if he so chose. But as his story points out, Russia is by no means an entirely homophobic nation in spite of the most cowardly government persecution since the Reich: it’s important to remember before we come down too hard in our opinions on Russia or its people that only a very small minority are making the policy decisions. There is no doubt a greater cultural stigma there than here to queerness; but we wouldn’t expect Stephen Harper to fairly represent the national identity and opinions of all Canadians. I don’t think we should let Putin and his yes-men colour our perception of this centuries-old country and the people who live there, some of whom are even more frustrated looking out than we are looking in. Men like Anton Krasovsky remind us of that when we need it most.