With all the hoopla going on about Russia’s “influence” in the recent election, one has to wonder, what is it that makes Russia so particularly threatening? It’s no secret that despite the economic trends everywhere ourUS economy is still better, our military is better equipped and better trained, and we have clear enemies which are outwardly evident, and are in fact common to both countries.
These enemies are no less native to Russia than US. If the alleged communications (albeit inflated and stretched at the issue itself) would be related to another country, like Canada, Italy or Australia, would the accusations and concerns be just as rampant? The apparent answer is – probably not.
A first –hand opinion might be that the antiquated and even traditional mentality toward Russia never truly changed in the US. Despite the fall of the Berlin wall, information sharing, open trading and commerce, the by-and-large perception of Russian culture is no different today than 30 years ago. It is not the most popular travel destination despite having many appealing places to visit, and the average American probably couldn’t tell you Ukraine from Belorussia from Georgia. Or care. That same average American is blissfully ignorant of major changes in one of the largest countries in the world, and takes whatever information his favorite news source feeds and pre-chews. Considering the information out there, the image of the former enemy number one is still of a big scary brown bear.
Aside from the lack of knowledge, it might just be that United States and Russia have moved in completely opposite national and geopolitical trends. Whereas the US has seen a divisive, counter-patriotic trend of defining freedom with burning flags, assaults on law enforcement, and talking versus doing, Russia’s nationalism has been true to its roots.
A country with a strong sense of itself which can only rival the true American patriotism, Russian pride never vanished. In true fashion of a country that has been torn down and rebuilt by enemies and forces from outside and within for hundreds of years, the identity of that country has been rebuilt once again. In a place where conscripted service is still alive and well, freedom of expression does not mean disrespect, moral ignorance, or spewing complaints while doing nothing.
Despite civil wars, politics, and economic challenges people are simply not able to rely on someone else to improve their situation. Political issues notwithstanding, Russia, along with several former neighboring republic turned sovereign nations, has worked hard to become a productive member of the European community. To this day these efforts have been met with resistance and cultural bias, of which evil world domination is not a distant accusation. Many would appreciate a political approach of never letting a guard down, but you have to wander if all of the one-sided concerns are worth the effort of ignoring the real threats.
There is also a striking difference in how our leaders run their respective countries. And ultimately that is where it all starts, or ends, whether at the individual, community, city, state, or national level. We pride ourselves as an example of the democratic world, and at least in theory have a model democratic system. We encourage and help other countries become autonomous, independent, democratic and progressive, although at times we witness that our own system has swayed far from her roots and these ideals.
Yet despite this, our leaders often act and function like monarchs, our legislative bodies as exclusive to standards and norms, and at times, no less than elitist. In contrast, and contrasted more so by the mainstream media, Putin has been either a president or prime minister for about 16 years. In an environment that is not expected to be democratic, the system has worked to implement a democratic approach. While our leaders work from offices, armored cars, and reply through email and staffers, Putin has been shaking hands, visiting factories, farming the fields, driving tanks, and holding big business accountable. So if the memes are true, can we stop with the chatter and get back to work?
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