Creating a World Free of Absolutes

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Shrinking World

I was born in the 1956 and as I grew up I was taught to fear and hate Russians.  Nikita Khrushchev appeared to be a mad man on the evening news screaming and pounding his shoe at the United Nations in 1960.  I recall preparing for the dread Atomic Bomb in first grade.  The teacher played the "Duck and Cover" Civil Defense Film to teach us to hide beneath our desks to avoid the Atomic Holocaust that thankfully never came.  The star of this feature was ironically named "Bert the Turtle".  Even though no reference to the Soviet Union was expressly made, we knew where it would come from.    

Now it is over 50 years later, not a long time in the grand scheme of things.  The menace of the USSR has been replaced by Maria Sharapova and designer vodka.  Suddenly faceless Marxists bent on the destruction of democracy no longer populate Russia.  With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Perestroika and Glasnost replaced the iconic posters of the Marxist Revolution that had, for me, typified the Russian people: stern women in matronly uniforms and mustachioed men incapable of smiling, glaring toward the west.  Where did they all go?

The Russian people have not changed.   The landscape of the nation remains, albeit with altered borders.  How can these people be the same as those I was taught to fear throughout the Cold War?  If they are the same, then why were they so frightening just a short time ago?

They are gone because they never existed; what were presented to us were absolutes.  Communist Russia the oppressive Black to the shining White purity of the United States and Democracy.   No hint of grey existed in the equation.  We rarely heard anything positive and whenever we did it was presented with the proper shade of Black overlain.  The only "good" Russian was one who defected, who had seen the error of their leaders and sought the White glory of Democracy.

While I am a firm believer in the principals of Democracy and invested 20 years of my life in this nations defense, I believe that the tendency to paint THEM (whoever they may be at the moment) in absolutes is no longer feasible.   The world is simply too small.   We travel at light speed across the Internet to share ideas.  In the world of MTV and Hyper Text we must see the grey shades.  We have to realize that we are Humans living on a single Planet.  From orbit their are no borders.

We must begin to seek out and celebrate the grey in our midst.  We must no longer remain mired in the absolutism that can only result in a dystopian future for all mankind.  The next time you see something on the evening news and you find yourself thinking "those people" remember the Russia of the Cold War, now a distant memory. 

To quote Sting's lyrics from the song "Russians":

"I hope the Russians love their children too." 

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