Archive for category Politics

Through the Glass

We are about a year behind on episodes of The Americans. Our being behind is not a reflection on the series; it’s just that there’s so much good stuff to watch. But as the series goes on, I find myself more and more impressed with the writers’ ability to project the opposed mind-sets of the Soviet spies versus the American FBI. I like the way the two sides sometimes try to communicate, and I like the way they get things wrong. I like the way both sides misunderstand both enemies and allies.

The Americans aims for a dispassionate view. FBI Agent Stan Beeman, his boss, Frank Gadd, and Gadd’s secretary, Martha Hinson, all want to do the right thing, even though they sometimes get things terribly wrong. The Russians are also trying to do the right thing–the right thing in their eyes anyway–even as they commit havoc, mayhem, and sometimes, murder.

Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings were born, raised, and indoctrinated in Mother Russia, but have been living in the U.S., speaking English, raising two children, and pretending to run a travel agency for the last couple decades. To a greater (Phillip) or lesser (Elizabeth) extent, they have gone a bit native. We meet other Russians–handlers, and embassy personnel, each with their own view of themselves, of home, and the U.S. Some are true believers in their system; others are ambitious, seeing the U.S. posting as a tremendous opportunity. Everyone is looking through a different pair of glasses.

Elizabeth and Phillip don’t see themselves as others do. They often don’t want other people to see them; they wear a multitude of disguises to fool the subjects of their missions. But out of disguise, they are unable to convince their daughter of their integrity. The power to play roles, take on identities, has distorted what can be seen of them.

Both as individuals and as a nation, we tend to see our own power as benign. Sure, we make mistakes, but our heart is in the right place, right? When someone sees threat in our actions, he seeks to thwart us. This happens between neighbors and between countries. Everyone feels misunderstood and put-upon. Everyone knows exactly what is wrong with everyone else.

Whoever we are, wherever we are, we are enmeshed in our own, flawed view of ourselves. We look in the mirror, and left is right, and right is left. Our emotions magnify some of our ugly, while blinding us to other sorts of ugly. We put on makeup to enhance and to hide ourselves.

The passage of time can further change what we see. Elizabeth and Phillip are decades removed from their training. They do what they do for their country, but we wonder if they even know what their country is at this point. We the viewers know they are only a few years away from the collapse of the Soviet system. In earlier seasons, I felt kind of sorry for them, for that. Since the 2016 election, I see the situation differently.

The show makes a point of not naming top government officials. When Frank Gadd goes to “see the director,” he doesn’t call him by name. The show open shows a series of American and Soviet leaders in quick succession, emphasizing neither the current Soviet Premier not the current American President. The show absolutely wants to be about individuals trying to function in the system (more than one system, actually) while trying to see through the wrong side of one-way glass.

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A view through Berlin Wall remnants, west to east

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Do We Have To Keep Listening To This Nonsense?

Okay, so here we go again.

Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen implies that Ann Romney is unqualified to comment on women’s economic issues because “…she hasn’t worked a day in her life.” Although Rosen, a mother herself, has apologized, saying she knows being a mom is the hardest job there is, and placing the comment within her larger point about Republican economic policies, there was something she left out of her response. That something was left out of the other comments by the DNC and the Obamas, as they distanced themselves from the “never-worked” statement.

Here it is: We never know, truly, what another person’s life is like–whether it’s easy or difficult, fulfilling or not. Nor do we know the extent of another person’s knowledge, empathy, expertise, or understanding. We don’t know what Ann Romney or anyone else knows. We don’t know what they’ve overcome, because many of life’s accomplishments are private, and don’t show up in public. It is the height of foolishness to characterize another person’s life based on what that life (even a public one) looks like from the outside. Period. Don’t do it. You’ll always get it wrong.

Now let’s move on to the Republican response to Rosen’s gaffe, particularly that of Sabrina Schaeffer, who is quoted thusly: “Many, many people in the Democratic Party view the choices that Ann Romney made as the greatest threat to feminism.”

Really? How many is “many, many?” Ten? One hundred thousand? A million? Have you taken a poll? Because hey, I’m a registered Democrat and semi-retired stay-at-home mom, and that’s not what I think at all. You, Sabrina Schaeffer, don’t know what I think. You don’t know until I tell you. And, I’ll bet you don’t know what most or many or some other Democratic women think of Ann Romney’s choices either. You need to ask, not just make s%&* up, because you’re so sure you know. You don’t know. Remember that.

You don’t know what I think. Please stop pretending to.

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