Brittney Griner's plight
WNBA standout Brittney Griner was detained on March 5 at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow after authorities searched her carry-on baggage and discovered hash oil vape cartridges. We pray for her swift release and return.
Was Griner in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is demanding that all Americans, including Griner, being "held in Russia on false charges" be released immediately. Lee can bray at the moon all she wants, but the Russians will do as they see fit. Her claim that Griner is being held on false charges could be true or could just be Lee imposing her views on the Russians as to what she believes their laws should be. To date, however, I haven't seen anything that suggests that Griner did not, in fact, possess the hash oil cartridges.
Lee might not like it, but Russia is a sovereign nation that has strict anti-drug laws. Progressive politicians like Lee and naïve American travelers like Griner have to realize that the world isn't always what you want it to be and, more often than not, can be much crueler than what you are used to.
We feel for Griner and her friends, family, and teammates, and we pray she is released ASAP. But, at the time this happened on Saturday, March 5, after weeks warning Americans not to travel to Russia, the State Department issued an advisory that any Americans remaining in Russia should leave immediately. As Griner made a dash for the exits, she should have had the sense to leave her vaping paraphernalia behind.
It is incumbent on Americans traveling abroad to comply with the laws of the host countries. If you refuse, you do so at your own risk.
This calls to mind the precautionary albeit not wholly accurate account of Billy Hayes, in the film Midnight Express, who, during the early 1970s, was imprisoned in Turkey for attempting to smuggle hashish out of the country and eventually escaped to Greece. Sure, your heart goes out to him; his treatment in the Turkish judicial and penal system makes you kiss the ground in the U.S., warts and all. But let's talk turkey. He violated their laws and was punished for it within their medieval penal system. It's a high price to pay for such lessons learned.
We don't know if Ms. Griner is being detained as leverage for Putin as he prosecutes this illegal war against Ukraine or if Russian authorities are simply complying with Russian drug laws. But, as Hayes found out and Griner is just learning, young Americans must understand that the world can be an unforgiving place, even and sometimes especially toward Americans. Additionally, racism against blacks is more prevalent in Russia, as is open hostility toward homosexuals. Griner is both.
For Putin, who seeks not only to preserve traditional Russia as well as Russian hegemony, and sees himself pitted against a decadent West, Ms. Griner might just have been in the right place at the right time.
Image: Lorie Shaull.