Tanks rolling over the Ukrainian border, able to bulldoze any resistance. Olympic athletes testing optimistic for banned substances. Poison within the bloodstream of Putin’s political opponents. Digital fingerprints on assaults in opposition to the very bedrock of our republic. It’s no surprise that, for a lot of People, the psychological picture of “the Russians” consists of Soviet stormtroopers, marching with flawless unison in a army parade throughout Pink Sq..
“The Russians” conjures up these photographs for me, too. Nevertheless it additionally describes good associates, who just about attended my wedding ceremony. It describes former college students, just like the little boy who saved choosing his nostril whereas I attempted to clarify the English language’s previous easy tense. It brings to thoughts tables overflowing with scrumptious kebabs and hearty soups, at luncheons meant to welcome me as a visitor. It brings to thoughts the Russian dads I met, who had been all the time keen to point out me no matter venture they had been engaged on of their storage or yard. And it jogs my memory of the moms I met, who at the moment are anxious about how they may afford groceries, as sanctions hit and their economic system begins to falter.
It’s a easy distinction—however one which’s essential, and all too simple to neglect—the Russian persons are not their president.
Vladimir Putin is an evil man, as evidenced by his option to invade Ukraine. Sadly, the Russian army is completely prepared to shed harmless blood at his command. The Russian media will painting this invasion because the smart, even ethical, factor to do. And to Putin’s delight, many Russians view him as a twenty first century tsar, with all of the earthly and divine authority that entails.
However many in Russia, in all probability greater than those that help invasion, will regard Putin with even higher contempt, mistrust and concern as battle breaks out in Ukraine. (Calling it “the Ukraine” is a delicate strategy to reinforce its standing because the Russian borderlands, thereby supporting Putin’s imperialism, by the best way.) They’ll pray for the security of their neighbors in Ukraine, a lot of whom have family members in Russia. They are going to be disgusted by their very own nation’s actions, as we’ve typically been disgusted with ours.
But our state officers and media alike will nearly actually attribute the outbreak of violence in Japanese Europe to “the Russians.” I concern we’ll equate their president and his troopers with the Russian folks — together with those that have immigrated to our nation. I concern we’ll forgive ourselves for letting Trump lock youngsters in cages on our border, whereas we blame all Russians equally for the violence on their border. I concern we’ll neglect that, in some nations, it’s unlawful, even deadly, to criticize the president.
I hope I’m improper. I hope I’m improper about all of it. However in case I’m not, I counsel all of us attempt to bear in mind the shared humanity that binds us to these residing on the opposite aspect of Putin’s carnivorous border. I imagine we can’t discover our manner again to peace except we keep in mind that bond.
Whereas Russia, as a nation, has earned its ugly popularity, not all of its persons are chilly, merciless, and callous. The Russians I’ve met are fairly the other: form, beneficiant, curious, and humorous. Discover out for your self. Attempt visiting the closest “European grocery retailer,” or going to a restaurant that serves shchi, plov, or shaverma.
If that’s not an possibility for you, then take my phrase for it. I’m married to a Russian. She bears no resemblance to her nation’s autocrat.
Christian Sears, Medford, Mass., was born and raised in Sugar Home and is a graduate of the College of Utah. He taught English in Vladimir, Russia, from 2018 to 2019.