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The US Owes Russia an Apology over the RussiaHoax - I'm Not Holding my Breath

. . . the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood”

(Revelation 6:12)


This post first appeared on Russia Insider


Now that the feeding frenzy of Russia hunters has subsided, at least for the moment, the conclusion of the Mueller report brings with it a sense of roundedness that allows us to examine the hysteria as a whole. It may be beneficial for us to remind ourselves of the human cost of the relentless hammering into the brains of Americans that all things Russian are evil.

Much has been written about the cost, official processes, and statistics of the Russia-gate investigation, whose roads lead inexorably to the UK’s machinations and back-room dealings of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Little has been offered in print, however, concerning the distress produced in individual Russians, Russian-Americans, and American students of the Russian language and culture by the constant battering of the media. It is nothing less than a narrow-minded ideological indoctrination intended to produce a reflexive antipathy towards anything related to Russia. And the corporate media does not desist in its efforts: The cover of the latest issue of Time magazine, with a malevolent Putin hovering over the globe plotting the conquest of the world, provides only one case in point.i

As a Russian Studies professor, I routinely function in various contexts related to Russia—academic courses, conferences, and situations of everyday life. Ignorance about the Russian language, deeply humane literature, fascinating though difficult history, and vibrant culture is ubiquitous among Americans—mainly since foreign languages, history, and the arts in general are poorly represented on the high school and college levels. Russia is a lived and felt experience for me, not an abstraction encountered only in textbooks.

I am ethnically Russian, with relatives originating in the areas of the Caucasus, Crimea, and Ukraine. My parents were prisoners-of-war in Germany, where I was born. I remember well the first McCarthy era, when honorable and hardworking Russian immigrants were slandered and demeaned because of their ethnicity. In recent years I witness once again the various reactions to the hostile environment in which people with Russian connections find themselves as a result of what has now become the second McCarthy era.

The following examples should suffice. One of my colleagues said to a large class of students, “Why would anyone want to go to that hellhole [Russia]?” Another colleague said to me, “I would never go there [to Russia].” One colleague from Russia developed migraine headaches as a result of the lies and injustices aimed in Russia’s direction.

Students of the Russian language and literature have been criticized by their professors in front of other students for studying Russian. One Russian Orthodox husband and wife with two children left the U.S. to return to their native village outside of Moscow because of the bewildering anti-Russian environment they encountered in a provincial American city. A young woman walking her dog casually remarked to me, “Russia is not our friend.” One Russian Studies student was brought to tears in a restroom in Washington, DC by an employee who criticized her for having positive things to say about Russia (the student had studied in Russia for one semester and was speaking based on eyewitness experience). One Russian colleague was similarly brought to tears when an elderly American man pointedly told her that the U.S. had won World War II and that Russia had not done anything. She knew better.

Americans who understand the lies and deceptions concerning Russia are sympathetic to the slander of an Other. However, surely at some level they also must breathe a sigh of relief that they are not “Russian” and therefore not subject individually to the harassment. But for those who are affected personally by the anti-Russian mindset prevalent in the U.S. today, the reactions run more deeply. The affront is personal, ethnic, and cultural. It tramples on vital aspects of individual identity and well-being.

The U.S. owes Russia an apology. But how can this happen when the country cannot even apologize in an organized fashion, through national educational programs and monuments, to the native Americans and the brown- and black-skinned slaves and their descendants for the atrocities committed against them in the drive to colonize the land and create a comfortable way of life for the privileged?

An apology can come only as a result of repentance and humility. In Christian theological terms salvation can be hoped for when a sinner believes in the trinitarian God, is repentant, and manifests humility. One must be truly sorry and comprehend the genuine awfulness of the sin. Even in secular terms it is universally accepted that when an affront has been carried out towards an Other, an apology should follow.

What does it say about a nation when one of its vice-presidents, George H.W. Bush, stated in the aftermath of the downing of an Iranian passenger airline by the USS Vincennes guided missile cruiser of the U.S. Navy on July 3, 1988 (killing all 290 people aboard), “I will never apologize for the United States—I don’t care what the facts are . . . I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.” Even if Bush’s remarks were uttered as a general principle, the attitude they betray is arrogant and morally bankrupt. The implication is that only American lives matter. They remind us of Pres.

Donald Trump’s recent veto of the resolution passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress that would, among other things, end U.S. support of Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen—an armed conflict that has created the greatest humanitarian disaster since the lives lost and displacements of World War II. Instead of focusing on the actual suffering of the Yemeni people, many of them young children, Pres. Trump framed his decision in personal terms and on the potential effects on the American military: “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.”ii The president’s statement not only manifests a disregard for the will of the U.S. Congress, but, more shocking in moral terms, an extreme cruelty in the face of preventable starvation and disease.

The U.S. would do well to learn from the examples of Germany and Russia. Germany’s national apology, financial reparations, museums, and monuments to the victims of the Holocaust—which I define in broader terms to include the Jews and Slavic peoples—is well documented and institutionalized in the nation from the top down to educate all layers of society. Russia is well underway in this same process in its national commitment from the top down to apologize to the victims of the Stalinist repressions through Gulag museums, monuments, and educational programs.

Where are the U.S.’s apologies to the victims of its own persecutions? Where are the apologies to Iran and the Yemeni people? In the same vein, an apology to Russia is more than warranted. Will the U.S. apologize to the Russian government and Russian people for the media blitzkrieg of lies and distortions lasting at least as far back as 2014, when the U.S.-supported coup in Ukraine did not go as planned?

At the end of the film Casablanca (1942) Captain Renault states to a subordinate in the presence of club-owner Rick, “Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.” In the case of Russia-gate, the rounding up of the “usual suspects” has ranged from the unfounded accusations of Russia in the Skripal affair by the deeply corrupt UK government, to the politically motivated use of Russia as a scapegoat by the U.S. to cover up the latter government’s failure to serve the interests of its people.

The U.S. is badly in need of Native American, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist prayers for a national entity in danger of self-destruction. The country and its leaders need to deepen their awareness of the effects of their actions on others, and need to develop attitudes of honest self-reflection, repentance, and humility. The salvation of the American people can come about only with leadership of depth, intelligence, education, and compassion. The country needs to be sprinkled with holy water, blessed, and washed clean of its belligerence and exceptionalism. This process will give it the strength to reanimate itself so that it can rise again in a newfound form. Readers and commenters without religious affiliation perhaps can interpret this trajectory of recovery in some other metaphorical framework.

I have published before on the practice of Russia’s diplomatic dealings with other countries in terms of moral equivalence, whereas the U.S. treats other political units from the standpoint of moral superiority.iii Only when the U.S. government and the American people as a whole can view their country as one in a family of nations, rather than as the supreme model of political organization that others must be coerced to follow, will the world be able to work towards peace among nations.

The U.S. owes Russia and the Russian people an apology for all the humiliation, mean-spiritedness, and gleeful witch-hunting of the past several years. But I will not hold my breath for one.


i https://russia-insider.com/en/time-magazine-putins-nefarious-plot-dominate-world/ri26831

ii Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-trump-yemen-war-veto-20190416-story.html.

iii https://russia-insider.com/en/politics/clash-worldviews-moral-equivalence-or-moral-superiority/ri20229


Valeria Z. Nollan is a regular contributor to Russia Insider. She is professor emerita of Russian studies at Rhodes College and has a faculty affiliation at Texas Tech University. Her books and articles on Russian literature, religion, and nationalism have made her an internationally-recognized authority on topics relating to modern Russia.


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