Alan Turing Pardoned, Pussy Riot Given Amnesty–gee, thanks patriarchy!

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On Christmas Eve, Elizabeth Windsor issued a royal pardon, only the fourth of her reign. Long-deceased WW2 codebreaker and international science hero Alan Turing was being pardoned for, well, being gay. For his crimes, Turing was offered a choice between two punishments: chemical castration and imprisonment. He chose castration and suffered greatly because of it. The estrogen doses forced on him by the state changed his body and sped him into depression. Turing died just 16 days before his 42nd birthday. He’d taken cyanide.

Two articles, Alan Turing’s Body and Alan Turing’s Pardon is Wrong, exemplify the debate over his pardon: why pardon a man when all guilt in his case fell on the state? Where is the apology for all LGBTQ victims of state violence in the UK? Pardons are acts of forgiveness, but it was never Turing who needed to seek forgiveness. And the timing. Contrition and forgiveness are very Christmas appropriate–after all, they’re Christian ideals. But if we can count this a victory for science and for LGBTQ, then it’s a bitter one.

The same day that the UK forgave Turing for being gay, Russia passed an amnesty bill that set free, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot. Maria slammed it as a PR stunt, and Nadezhda hollered, “Russia without Putin” upon her release. Recall that they were arrested on charges of hooliganism, denied bail, and eventually convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” A third member of the band, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed on October 10th, 2012, her sentence suspended. Two other band members fled the country. Pussy Riot’s crime was, of course, protesting against President Vladimir Putin and his increasing ties to the Russian Orthodox Church and in favour of women’s and LGTBQ rights, through music.

Amnesty is a pardon with a little bit extra. Where pardons merely apologize and set free, amnesties say, offense, what offense? Let us never speak of this terrible time again. They give forgiveness and then force reconciliation. They turn the page, as politicians like to say. Orthodox Christmas is only a few days away, and the Sochi Olympics are coming up fast. Pussy Riot? Yeah, those chicks are in the past.

It’s worth remembering, next time you’re confronted with a fauxpology, just who gets to issue pardons and amnesties around here.

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Editor-In-Chief. Megan was born in Toronto. She's still there. Philosopher, space vampire, heart of a killer.

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