Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Putin the Pious, Czar of All the Godly Russias

Some 24 minutes into "Week in the News" on ON POINT Friday, 13 Jan. 2017, Elaine from Wisconsin praised Donald Trump (and Jesse Ventura) for friendship with Vladimir Putin as the strong leader who has overseen the re-Christianizing of Russia and making it (therefore?) a free country. So what's on my mind is that some groups of voters who'd been pretty reliably anti-USSR could lately be pro-Russia, now that Russia is free of godless Communism and helping Christendom become great again.

I grew up with the image of Alexis de Tocqueville in the middle-ish 19th century looking at a map and predicting the competition for global influence in the 20th would be between the Russian Empire and the USA; and I figured that's what was happening, with the godless Communism v. Capitalist free-market freedom schtick largely propaganda. I knew that some "old China hands" took the "godless" bit very seriously, but .... But I underestimated how seriously many of my fellow Americans saw us as "one nation under God" and not in Great-Power competition with the Russians but a Manichean, Apocalyptic, John-of-Revelation struggle against godless Evil.

Now that Vladimir the Bare-Chested has come to Jesus and dragged a lot of Russian culture with him, hey, he's okay.

Uh, no. Not really.

The Russians are still competitors with us for influence and power, and those competitions can get very rough without major ideological issues: Europe's Wars of Religion were major horror shows in the late 16th and 17th centuries, but World War I was sufficiently nasty, thank you — plus there's also the possibility of the USA as a secular Republic v. Holy Mother Russia, the Third Rome and Protector of the Orthodox Faith.

We need to cooperate with the Russians on Syria and the "Levant" more generally, plus issues of nuclear overkill and proliferation plus climate change plus anti-terrorism plus ... well et bloody cetera. However, the competition and conflicts are there and serious and a bunch of Americans enthralled with Putin the Pious would be "useful idiots" for him, reinforcing what may turn out to be the US "Idiot in Chief" (if Trump isn't a political genius, fooling enemies into underestimating him — but, nah, what we see is, probably, what we get).

The problem with literal Manichean views is that they're more figuratively Manichean, dividing the world into neat categories and allowing people to zip over from hating the USSR and its godless Communism to enrapture with a new Russia basking in freedom (for the Church).

Buckle up, buckeroos, and be sure the airbags are working; it's going to be a rough ride through dangerous territory.

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