Russia is the country of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitzyn, and countless other brilliant, soul-filled writers with hard to spell names. It is also the country of the Siberian tiger, of famous bears, and of at least nine native breeds of pig. And yet Americans still tend to overwhelmingly associate Russia with the Cold War (probably more because Russia is so famously cold than because of the prominent Russian involvement in that famous conflict).
It is time that our country move on from such simplistic understanding of former Governor Palin's next-door neighbor. We need to learn to see their most famous current political leader less as the Chechen Destroyer of fishing-picture fame (who optimistic bookies are still hoping to get into a match with California's Governator), and more as a kind and gentle man with a soft spot for kittens. We need to learn more Russian geography, about this country that stretches from sea to sea to sea to shining, frozen sea, and about its great cultural regions, like the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (a lesser-known destination for Yiddish language enthusiasts, snuggled sweetly on the border with China). We need to understand Russians as a people more interested in our first lady's gardening than in her clothes, and Russian schools as places where it's a good idea for an American President to occasionally give a commencement address.
And maybe, if we do, Russians will start to understand us, not simply as rivals, or as the home country of Coca-Cola and McDonald's, or as exporters of shallow and mindless materialism, but as...um...er...yeah.
I'll have to get back to you on that.
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