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Political debates to avoid

Our guests have returned home, and we have a brief lull until the next visitors arrive.

It is disgustingly quiet in the house, and we are all going through some sort of detox. We are each trying to find activities to fill an otherwise dull day. Kimmy prepared invitations for her birthday (we plan on inviting a few of her friends and have Becky entertain them in our garden), Becky caught up on reading and TV-watching, Natasha busied herself with chores around the house, while I spent most of the day catching up on family finances and cleaning up some loose ends. I also planned to work on making my office space neater than it is now – ever since the personality test, I feel an extra urge to do some tidying up – but somehow never worked up enough strength to follow through on that. So much for being a neat-freak, as the test results suggest. Was lazy lost somewhere in between of dependable, reliable, responsible, etc…?

Natasha and I are going out with a colleague of mine tonight – hopefully, that will further help to take the edge off, and then it is just a few days until we see another set of close friends, followed by another exciting trip to the continent.

We actually started working on it last night, inviting Kimmy’s school friend Gabriella and her parents over. While the kids were playing, the adult conversation progressed from subject to subject, and then firmly centered on America-versus-Russia debate, which turned into a rather heated exchange.

Valera is very pro-Russian and anti-American, with strong feelings about America’s “unlawful interference” into “internal” affairs of other countries, and with a view of the world that is closely aligned with that perpetuated by the Russian not-very-independent media. He read somewhere a quote attributed to Brzezinski about America’s stated goal to unilaterally rule the world (I have a feeling that it was a distorted translation, but I’ll have to spend some time to see if such quote truly exists) – and it certainly colors his opinions. He also carries the conviction that in America people routinely get fired for their political views (I stooped low enough to retort that in Russia, they actually get murdered, re: Politkovskaya).

In any case, I am not a Bush lover or a war apologist, but I certainly believe in most of what America stands for, including a certain moral obligation of the biggest and the strongest to stand up to tyranny and oppression elsewhere (if only we were consistent in applying this moral right…). I also read enough different press – almost none of it American, these days, – to recognize growing constraints on democracy and the rise of Putin’s personality cult in Russia. Long story short, I jumped headlong into the debate.

Regretful! As much as Valera builds his view of America on specious misconceptions trumpeted up by anti-American media, there is no way to convince him that most of it lacks verity. Conversely, despite some newfound stability in Russia over the last few years, no one can convince me that authoritarianism is preferable to democracy (of course, I admit, I define democracy in very American terms; Valera is quite convinced that what goes on in Russia today is the true democracy, while American way is all about who has more money – there’s got to be a bit of truth in that, right?). As a result, the only thing we can accomplish arguing our points of view is putting a dent in our otherwise friendly relationship, which would be a shame.

At some point, we did recognize the need to agree to disagree. We even both joked about practicing true form of democracy – healthy dialogue about different points of view. But I think we’ll both try to steer away of it in the future. Karaoke works so much better for camaraderie!

Posted in Apropos


  1. Ilya

    OK, the Brzezinski’s quote is an interpretation of his book The Grand Chessboard. I can see how the book written about the strategy to maintain America’s primacy in world matters can be viewed as a dogmatic statement of less-than-noble goals. In fact, I came across an article on the web that makes a fine game of plucking passages out of the book and presenting them as proof of America’s sinister plan to achieve complete world dominance within five years. The article is dated January 2002 – apparently, we did not plan too well…

    If you are curious, google “brzezinski grand chessboard” and follow the second link from the top.

  2. Artemka

    The argument that you guys had boils own to an old joke when an American was arguing with a guy from Soviet Union, whose country has more democracy. Look, says the American, I can prove that we have democracy in the USA by standing in a central square in Washington and yelling “Bush is an idiot”, and no one will touch me or arrest me. No biggie, answers the Russian guy, I can do the same thing, I can stand on our central square in Moscow and also shout “Bush is an idiot”, and no one will do anything to me either.

    I wouldn’t worry about Brzezinski much.

    Or even about the more dangerous one, Soros, with all his billions (did someone say it was about money?) I wouldn’t give too much credit to “complete world dominance within five years” (типа пятилетку – за три года) theory either. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE is trying to save the world in his own unique way these days. Instead, we should all try to enjoy whatever system we choose and try lead a strong, honest life, free from brainwashing and morale slavery. But if one day we find ourselves attacked or killed by the system, than, I guess we have chosen a wrong system.

  3. Ilya

    The funny thing is that I did use this same joke in a reverse way, mentioning recent Kasparov debacle to contrast “Bush is an idiot”…

    Well said about the systems. I wish I was smart enough to say something of the kind instead of pursuing useless arguments…

  4. Dima

    Thanks for representing our interests abroad. Your friends there probably did not use to a pro-American opinion. I agree that sometimes we should be mindful of picking up the battle, especially the one that may weaken the friendship, especcially away from Home.
    It’s all about what makes you happy. In the U.S., we ALL work hard in order to achieve material and moral (maybe) satisfaction and to provide for the financially secure future of our kids. Yes, financial stability is one of the primary means to our happiness, along with another one – FREEDOM.
    Back in USSR, we did have “freedom”: “free” education and medicine (based on our parents’ подоходный налог). The only problem was we did not have many good choices with either due to financial limitations (ability to bribe). And what about our “freedom” of movement, or lack thereof? Your friend – why he lives in the western country – even England but still a democracy – not for the financial reasons? These kinds should be challenged, not appeased. These kinds are same people that laughed over Sakharov’s dead microphone (disconnected by Gorbachev) despite of his greatness and love for his country. Same kinds agree to follow “Father of the Nation” (Stalin, Brezhnev, or Putin) as long they have bread and butter. Who cares that Russia is back 25 years with its level of free speech but even than the journalists were not killed, just jailed.
    As to [Sbignev] Brzezinski – he was known anti-Semite, along with Carter – two “supporters” of democracy and “friends” of Israel. Remember, it was under their watch when we lost Iran to ayatollahs and Afghanistan to Russians.
    Overall, don’t take it to close to your heart. Just remember, we are with you!

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