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From Russia with tears

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There’s a little-known monument to the 3,000 Americans lost on September 11, 2001. The “Teardrop Memorial” is a 100-foot-tall bronze tower, in emulation of one of the towers of the World Trade Center, with a jagged split down the middle and a 40-foot-long polished nickel-plated teardrop suspended in the gap. It stands on an 11-sided slab of black marble carved with the names of every person who died that day, as well as the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The brightly-lit memorial, on the waterfront of Bayonne Harbor in New Jersey, is visible even at night from the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, the Staten Island Ferry and other locations around the Hudson River.

It was tersely characterised by Vladimir Putin as a “gift from the Russia people” when it was dedicated on September 11, 2006. No doubt it was one of those distasteful but necessary public relations duties Putin had to perform before he got back to the real business of running his government. For example, at the time of the dedication he was plotting the murder of a British citizen, Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko died the following month from polonium 210 poisoning. (A little more than five years ago Dawn Sturgis, a neighbour of mine, was murdered by Putin’s binary nerve agent “novichok.”) Putin’s name on the dedication to the monument was recently covered up.

Until now I’d never heard of the monument. But the idea that it was a “gift of the Russian people” rings true. The sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, reportedly spent 12 million dollars of his own money to complete the sculpture. In any case it reminded me that our enemy is the Russian government and not the Russian people.

The whole of the people of Russia are no more represented by Vladimir Putin than the whole of the people of America are represented by Donald Trump. Indeed, I would venture to say that Trump — and by extension the Republican Party — represents very few Americans. Like Putin hiding his evil behind such edifices like the Tear Drop Memorial, Trump and his party hide their evil behind symbols with vague attachments to American nationalism and ideals of patriotism that our gullible fellow Americans mistake for the real thing.

But why else would Republicans consign the “big issues” of the government to culture wars about “wokeism,” the relentless pursuit of Hunter Biden and “proving” that our President is, simultaneously, a befuddled old coot on the doorstep of Alzheimer’s and the evil mastermind of the “Biden crime family”? Why not just run on the issues?

Because the issues are so execrable and disgusting that Republican leaders know very few of their constituents will continue to follow and donate money to them if they knew the awful truth. Republicans are intent on raising taxes on the poor and lowering them for the rich. They claim they are for infrastructure but they voted against it. They claim they are for lowering the cost of prescription medicine but they voted against it. They claim they are for more manufacturing jobs and less inflation but they voted against the CHIPS and Science Act and the Build Back Better Plan.

Republican leaders are only for the things they themselves propose, which includes the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was a gift of massive tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires that Americans are now paying for, and the weaponization of government against innocent people like Hunter Biden, fact checkers and whistleblowers. But they can’t actually come out and tell their constituents those things. So they distract them with culture wars. As Pete Buttigieg once so aptly put it, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a culture war.”


Like Vladimir Putin, Republicans must occasionally appear to do good things and support good things. But in reality they disguise the evil that they are because they know they would fail to attract the support they need to win if they tipped their hands completely. Because like the Russian people, most Americans are decent and good. The majority of those who have fallen for Republican lies are just like the majority of Russians who have fallen for Putin’s lies, naive but mostly well-meaning, and angered by issues that simply are not real and fears and bigotries that are founded in lies.

When you strip away the falsehoods they are told and the fears they have been manipulated by, most people across the world are decent. Put another way, I have known very few truly evil people. I have known plenty of truly evil governments. The government of Vladimir Putin and the one being proposed in America by Republicans are truly evil. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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