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The Olympics are Over. Let the Games Begin

March 4, 2014

Ukraine Despite my obvious fixation on the Cold War, I don’t love it. Not in THAT way, at least. I love that we won, of course. We deserved to. The world needed us to.

But I’ve never longed for it’s return. Especially not to watch a sovereign nation get manhandled by a second-rate Bond villain like Vladimir Putin: vain, inelegant, cheating his way through the high-stakes poker game played on the international stage.

I’m sickened by what’s going on in the Ukraine.

It feels all too familiar, yanking me back to the kitchen table of my 80s youth – a small black and white TV broadcasting the latest Soviet highjinks: the invasion of Afghanistan, the shooting down of Korean Airlines Flight 007, the propping up of puppet governments in Africa, Central America and elsewhere. My parents looked on in horror, while Sting crooned from my boom box, reminding us that the “Russian’s love their children, too.” As if that had anything to do with…well…anything.

It was scary then, uncertain, but at least it was better than the seventies – when it felt like we were meting out our lunch money to an assortment of class bullies everyday. What made it worse was that we didn’t even allow ourselves the moral high-ground. Vietnam had given us a complex, I guess, and we sunk deep into a piss-warm pool of moral equivalency. Like the cheating spouse who hates herself for having shagged her mechanic in the backseat of her Volvo. Even if her husband did call her fat all the time. And broke her nose after last year’s Christmas party.

Thank God for the “miracle on ice” of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The one where our Bad News Bears hockey team trounced the six-time gold medal-winning Russians. miracle on ice

My grandfather, a Czech Olympic hockey player who played in the 1936 Olympics (yes those Olympics – Hitler’s Olympics) cried when our boys won. For him, it was a spiritual victory. A moral victory. And he knew something about those.

For my grandfather – and all of my family – that win was nothing short of a light from above shining down on us. Reminding us that even though we are far from perfect, we didn’t need to be sinless in order to be right and good.

I wonder what he would have thought about our hockey win against the Russians this year. Not as big – that’s for sure. But perhaps a gentle nudge that things haven’t changed so much. A softer light pointing in the direction of right and wrong.

dark cloud with light

I don’t know what the solution is to the madness that’s going on in the Ukraine. I pity any president that has to deal with wars stemming from horrific terrorist attacks, and then lightning bolts of Cold War aggression from a Russian leader who’s been deeply embarrassed. First, by a string of twitter feeds detailing cartoonish misadventures in the Olympic village, then by successful protests in a neighboring country he thought he had by the balls (if you’ll excuse my French). In retrospect, given Putin’s propensity for flaunting his bare chest and slaying tigers and riding bears for heaven’s sake, we could hardly have expected him not to pull some grandiose act of thuggery.

I guess I just expected he’d wrestle a lion, or poison another spy, or shoot a journalist – the way he always does. Not threaten an entire people.

Putin as emperor

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18 Comments
  1. Your perspective of the Cold War is huge and very first hand. My experienced having spent the 70s in the USA and the better part of the 80s in Western European Countries was that most Americans grew up with the mantra ‘Better Dead Than Red’ and to most Western Europeans with the mantra was ‘Better Red than Dead’.
    To me it seemed that the “end of the cold war” was a huge block of countries declaring bankruptcy (I may be very wrong here, I speak as a very detached observant).
    These are very different times and it is scary to wonder how it will unfold, I certainly hope to see Putin fail and with economic sanctions on Russians with interests outside their country he hopefully will.
    The Georgia/Russia mess in 2008 was quickly overshadowed by the global economic failure, but the loud voices calling this administration ‘Feckless’ …Were they saying the same thing to G.W. Bush then?
    I live in an area that has a good size Russian population and I have always heard them say that things will not change, not really for a good 50years when the ‘Old guys’ like Mr. ex-KGB Putin are no longer viable in any way shape or form.
    But the Cold war did end… and I cannot help but ask….Is this really OUR fight? As an American who is originally from Latin America, the voices that surround me the loudest are of course for Venezuela, but again there previous administrations let it be…. I know as a pacifist I speak from a point of view that many disagree with. I love to eavesdrop at Starbucks and stay uninvolved but I feel a chill at some of the war drums beating in some…..

  2. You know, I struggled with this post because I’m not advocating military involvement and I totally agree with your assessment of the 1970s USA vs Europe mindset. I, obviously, grew up in a Soviet-hating European family, so I’m a bit of an anomaly, I suppose. Russia scares me not because of their ideology (although I’m not sure they even have one anymore) but because of their blatant disregard for human life – let alone human rights. And your Russian friends are so right – the old guard has to die before things can even begin to change. Until then, I don’t know what the answers are – it just makes me sad.

    • It is very sad Vic, I think that you are a great communicator and fantastic window to a combination of mindsets. Hope it is our Cuban missile crises a lot of smoke and no fire …..

  3. So entirely RIGHT ON! Ever thoughtful and beautifully written — particularly liked the line: ‘…we sunk deep into a piss-warm pool of moral equivalency…’ It’s the image our country is portraying to the world that miffs me so much, and I put much of the blame on our ‘sophomoric President’ Yes, I’m an old man and I believe in ‘change’ — change predicated on lessons from history. This US President’s vision for our country is far off the mark – in my humble opinion…
    Beautiful blog, Vic! xo

  4. thanks, Billy Ray 🙂

  5. me, too, Catalina.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your well-expressed thoughts, Victoria!

  7. You know Victoria, there’s so many elements about this post that I’m swooning over I can’t even begin to number them. I know that sounds as though I missed the big picture and the message you we’re trying to get across. But trust me when I say, I got it, I loved it & the writing was fanfuckingtastic! (Pardon my French!) lol. As a reader & writer, when I read something that resonates in my soul, stimulates my mind & feeds my artistic soul….it can leave me at a loss for words or have me shouting to the mountain tops. Although I hate quoting an Authors words back to them as if they don’t know what they wrote, I must:
    “Vietnam had given us a complex, I guess, and we sunk deep into a piss-warm pool of moral equivalency. Like the cheating spouse who hates herself for having shagged her mechanic in the backseat of her Volvo. Even if her husband did call her fat all the time. And broke her nose after last year’s Christmas party”
    BRILLIANTLY said my dear!! And last but most definitely not least:
    “that win was nothing short of a light from above shining down on us. Reminding us that even though we are far from perfect, we didn’t need to be sinless in order to be right and good.”

    mmmm…& that’s how you write! We network with thousands of writers so to say we’re not ever exposed to stellar writing & brilliant minds would be a monstrous lie. But in a sea of talented people there’s always one that will stand out as special. You my dear are the one!! I actually came to your post with curiosity as to what you would say about the current event. Having been here before I’ve laughed & gobbled up your post mentions of the Charismatic Russian Leader Vladimir Putin. I can’t tell you how amazing this post was & how brilliantly you put this scenario into words! Great post & most definitely sharing now! 🙂

  8. I don’t even know what to say. Thank you so much – that means so much. You ladies always make me smile – on Facebook, everywhere…

  9. I’m in awe of the comments, even.

  10. Thanks, Middlemay. Love your blog.

  11. fakhbros permalink

    Reblogged this on fakhbros and commented:
    get it

  12. Good blog post. I definitely appreciate this site.
    Continue the good work!

  13. Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from
    an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick.
    I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start.
    Do you have any tips or suggestions? Many thanks

    • It’s so easy!! Go to WordPress.com and they will literally walk you through the process. It took me twenty minutes! This is assuming you have a pretty solid idea of how you want your blog to look and what you wish to write about. If not, spend a few days with your thoughts and write them down. It’s not a bad idea to have a few blog posts written before you set one up. It creates momentum. Above all, once you start blogging, do so regularly and follow other blogs in order to create a dialogue and a community. Good luck and enjoy the rest of your summer.

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