So Let's Talk About Russia

By Emily Chambers | Last Week Tonight | February 20, 2017 |


A couple of big things from last night’s episode:

1) Does John have just the slightest hint of a mustache? Are you growing a gross lip warmer, John?

2) Russia.

And as much as I’d like to focus on that first issue (you are aware that the Pajiba 10 is coming up, right, John? How do you expect to get into the HoF with that thing? I can’t do this all on my own), it’s probably the second that’s more interesting.

Because seriously, what’s up, Russia?

Both Putin and Trump use the “You’re shit. We’re shit. Everything’s shit. Never try for a better world because it doesn’t exist” mentality to excuse Russia’s actions. And while Putin is doing it to avoid addressing any criticism of his regime, Trump is doing it in order to support his argument that the U.S. should improve relations with Russia. And shockingly, I don’t disagree with the President on this particular point. I only disagree with his reasoning as to why and how we should improve this relationship.

And to be clear, I’m not pretending for a second that Putin isn’t an authoritarian murderer who has blatantly robbed his people, killed his political opponents, and implemented horrifically abusive policies. He’s a terrible person. I’m not arguing that we work more closely with Russia because Putin and his administration aren’t that bad. I’m arguing that we do so because the Cold War was a clusterfuck of a policy that most likely prolonged the U.S.S.R’s rule, and escalated the U.S.’s military-industrial complex. Both of which were terrible things, and neither of which need to have a “Putin and Russia aren’t as bad as we make them out to be” clause in order to address. We have before and we will again work with leaders and administrations which are questionable at best. We do so because it’s politically expedient, and because, unfortunately, if every country in the world worked only with those countries which completely embodied their own ethics and principles, no one would work together on anything. I’m pragmatic enough to acknowledge the reality of the situation, and to demand that we not paint a rosier picture than we currently have.

Aside from it being disingenuous to pretend that Putin isn’t that bad, it’s unnecessary. For instance, I consider the over-prescription and overuse of antibiotics a very serious issue. We have, within the course of my grandparents’ lifetime, gone from miraculous-wonder-drugs-that-can-save-all-of-humanity to rendered-useless-by-newly-created-super-bacteria- because-we-just-cannot-get-enough-of-that-good-good-penicillin-trip. I believe we need to investigate other avenues of controlling bacterial infection, drastically reducing the rate at which we consume antibiotics, and generally stop losing our collective shit about raw chicken being in the room. You notice what I’m not arguing? That dying from untreated syphilis isn’t really as bad as the media is making it out to be, and maybe we should really reconsider our position RE: dying from minor bacterial infections. We can address the flaw in our current system without making the alternative seem any more appealing.

Which means there’s simply no good reason to try to paint Russia’s actions in better light. It seems like a reasonable response to the years of Cold War, us vs. them, Wolverine bullshit mentality, but it’s still unnecessary and dishonest. Or as I like to put it, “Putin is shit. The U.S. is shit in some aspects. No single country has yet perfected a governing system. Never dismiss valid criticism of your country or leader based on petty arguments of other countries being as bad, because the only way to improve is by accepting and improving upon our flaws, and thus to create a better world.” It’s not as catchy, but at least then we don’t have to lie about how OK Putin is.



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