Culture, Plain Speaking, Politics

A Meditation on Russian Birds Brides and the Men Who Love Want Them

I don’t know how many of you follow Bari Weiss, but I find her to be pretty insightful.  She’s an extraordinarily bright and accomplished woman with a fascinating and–as the children like to say–‘impactful’ life, who’s best known today only for her most recent high-profile move in which she resigned from the New York Times citing their narrow editorial perspective, their regular capitulations to Twitter mobs, and the fact that their

stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.

If that last sentence doesn’t sum up, in 35 words or fewer, the pap the mainstream and national media feeds us on a regular basis, I don’t know what does.

I don’t always agree with every word she or her contributors write in her regular Substack column, Common Sense (subheading “Honest News for Sane People”), but I do subscribe to it, because I find there’s often very often much food for reflection–as is the case in a recent posting by Peter Savodnik, The Danger of Our Idiocy.  One which really lit me up and pressed any number of my womanly and existential buttons.

So, here we go.

Let’s get the first disclaimer out of the way.  Early in the piece, Savodnik writes:

There was something about Russia that resonated with the American right. They thought it was the last redoubt of white, Christian civilization, which was a joke. As the novelist Vladimir Voinovich once told me: “During Soviet times, everyone was a communist, and there were no communists. Today, everyone is a Christian, and there are no Christians.” That didn’t matter. It was a powerful myth.

Well, that’s a touching–and sad–commentary from Voinovich.  But what about the other, from Savodnik? That the American right widely viewed Russia (and by extension Putin) as “the last redoubt of white, Christian civilization.”

I know plenty of folks on the “American right,” folks at all levels of society, with all levels of education, and in all walks of life.  A great many of them are my neighbors.  And my friends.  And I read, and listen to, a lot of stuff on the Internet.  Other than one absurd comment I saw weeks ago, on an insignificant vanity blog somewhere in cyberspace, and which–imagine my complete lack of surprise, considering the source–nailed both aspects of Voinovich’s assertion fully (essentially it said, the Russians are white so I trust them more, and Russia is now Christian, so in both cases I choose Russia over the Chinese and I bet the Ukrainians will too**), I don’t know anyone on the Rational Right who seriously asserts that Russian “whiteness” or Russian “Christianity” is the reason we should either admire or support what my Polish grandmother-in-law used to call the “Russian devils.”

Oh, sure.  Maybe there’s some vanishingly small contingent of loons, religious or otherwise–such as the tiny group of the embittered, deranged, and permanently aggrieved on the blog I mentioned above–who think this way, but for Savodnik to paint with such a broad brush and portray the attitude as representative of the “American right” strikes me as a straw man of the highest magnitude.

Now that’s out of the way, on to the rest of the column!

First, I disagree with my new BFF Peter Savodnik on the matter of the “polarization” of our society.  To buttress his case, he sets up Candace Owens, Tucker Carlson, Madison Cawthorn and Donald Trump on one side.  And the ladies of The View, Keith Olberman, and Patrick Maloney (whoever he may be), on the other.  If push comes to shove, I find myself agreeing with Candace and Tucker more often than not, I think Madison is a bit of a showboat, and Trump is gonna Trump, regardless (or irregardless as the case may be) of whatever I think or do.  The View ladies are some of the dumbest women in public discourse, Keith Olberman has been the punchline of many jokes for decades, and Patrick Maloney is what–and whoever, and wherever–he is.  DKDC,

Reality check:  I think society in a (very) few parts of a (very) few blue cities may be that polarized.  As far as my own experience, (out here in what–pace Jussie Smollett–actually very much is MAGA country), I think my neighbors and I are pretty nuanced and pretty smart.  That’s my final answer, and one which doesn’t owe much to a slavish attention to what’s going on in either Hollywood or New York, or to the men and women living entitled lifestyles in places where they need private jets to escape them, or (above all) to the moronic yammering of those who’ve gone Galt and are trying to entice their vanishingly few number of followers over to their side, for their own malign purposes.  The polarization, I think is mostly in the eye of the beholder.  Please.  Get your heads out of your asses, stop projecting because you think your particular variety of butthurt trumps (see what I did there?) reality, talk to those whom Bill O’Reilly (someone else I’m not always on board with) calls “the folks,” and you’ll find that 1) we’re a lot smarter than you think we are and 2) we don’t care which side of the political aisle you are on if only you talk sense more often than not.

So much for current affairs.

As is often the case though, it wasn’t so much the thrust of the article as it relates to what’s going on today as it was a peripheral story that captured my interest.  Savodnik recounts (at some length) his experience as a contributor to GQ, and his assignment in that role, as a hanger-on and participant in a 2007 trip to Russia with a contingent of soi-disant men who were looking for “Russian” brides to bring home with them.

Lord.  Threw me right back to an employment situation (circa 2007–so the timeframe is right) in which one of my employees (I’ll call him ‘Ted’ although that wasn’t his name) vanished for several weeks on a similar–and (at the time) secret–mission.

I’d inherited Ted when I took on a management role at the hospital where I worked.  Intrinsically, he was pretty bright, (or at least cunning and sly**) but his life had ongoing train-wreck potential which prevented him from giving his full attention to his professional work,  These distractions included a mentally ill wife (eventually they divorced), several rather challenging children, some chronic health issues, and a few addictions.

Lovely.

After I got to know Ted, who was–in his own way–marginally competent, inoffensive, and obviously vulnerable, I found myself feeling really sorry for him.  And I probably overextended myself trying to save him from himself.  (In hindsight, I should have taken the eventual lesson to heart but it took me slightly more than another decade before it really registered.  BLTN, as the children also say.)

One day, somewhere late-2007, Ted announced that he was going on vacation.  That he’d be gone for two weeks.  That he was going by himself.  And that he didn’t want to talk about it.

This is the point at which my recollected experience with Ted, and Peter Savodnik’s Common Sense post began to merge.  Per Peter Savodnik (sundry emphases are mine):

One story: In December 2007, I spent three days in Kiev—at the time, pretty much everyone spelled it Kiev—with several American men looking for Russian brides. Technically, they were looking for Ukrainian brides, but it was all the same to the Americans, who included three Larry’s, a Jack, a James and a guy named Ty Cobb who told me he’d been a professional football player. (That was a lie.) I told them I was with GQ, and I wanted to write an article about them. (That was not a lie.) They were with a tour group called First Dream, which was led by another Jack, Jack Bragg, a large, garrulous man from Dallas who was “on his third or fourth Natasha,” as his translator put it.

The reason they had come to Kiev, Bragg said, was that the women in Moscow and St. Petersburg had gotten uppity. If you wanted to find love, you had to go where the girls were still really poor. They weren’t that poor in Kiev, but they were poor-adjacent. The next stop on the tour was a village an hour south of the capital. “That’s where they get pretty desperate,” Jack explained.

Most of the Americans had never been to the former Soviet Union, but they seemed to know a lot about it: They thought that the men were manly and that the women were beautiful—submissive. Everyone was white. Everyone believed in God.

OMG.

The president was tough. They had all seen the photo of him, shirtless, fishing in a river in Siberia. They liked that he spoke in short, brusque, sentences, even if they didn’t know what they meant. He rarely smiled. He never hugged. He knew how to handle “his black people,” which was how one of the Larry’s described the Chechens.

OMG.

They owned small businesses (a car wash, a tractor-repair company), they belonged to mega-churches, and they wore a great deal of cologne.

OMG.  Ted excelled at cheap cologne.  I always thought it was to cover up the smell of the drink.  Perhaps not.

They were lukewarm on W. They had a dim view of Hillary Clinton and no view of Barack Obama. They were Trump voters before there were Trump voters.

Really, Peter.  Please stop digging.

They had become convinced that America was rotten that the media, even Fox, were all liars,

Sounds more like the Left than your average Trump voter to me.

that you had to go far away to find a wife because American women hated makeup and were faithless sluts, which sounded like a riff on the old Catskills joke: The food is awful—and such small portions!

Yeah.  Pretty funny.  And revealing. And pathetic.  Given what I’ve see on the male ejaculations (SWIDT?) about American women since.

They were with a tour group called First Dream, which was led by another Jack, Jack Bragg, a large, garrulous man from Dallas who was “on his third or fourth Natasha,” as his translator put it.

The reason they had come to Kiev, Bragg said, was that the women in Moscow and St. Petersburg had gotten uppity. If you wanted to find love, you had to go where the girls were still really poor. They weren’t that poor in Kiev, but they were poor-adjacent. The next stop on the tour was a village an hour south of the capital. “That’s where they get pretty desperate,” Jack explained.

American men who came to Ukraine to find wives, and who were–after checking out the wares in Kiev–on their way to a “village an hour south of the capital,” because the women there were even more poverty-stricken and “desperate?”

Glory be.  Who’s the more desperate one here?  Maybe not the women.  Maybe it’s Jack Bragg, already “on his third or fourth Natasha, as his translator put it.”  And his fellows in the group.

But, i digress.

To return to Ted.

He made it to his destination.  He discovered that his dream woman–for whom he’d almost bankrupted himself and traveled half-way round the world to gather into his arms–was a snare and a delusion.  What we, in the twenty-first century, call a “scam.”  Oh, sure, she existed all right.  But Ted was only one of a few dozen men she’d enticed into sending her tens of thousands of dollars for medical and family expenses, (what I’ve learned from family experience that the SE Asians call the “sick elephant syndrome”) and who she’d promised to “love” forever if he took her “home” to the United States.

If only she’d been the one to profit.

Do any of you seriously think she was the one to profit?   Or do you think she was being used just as “Ted” was?

Yeah.  No.  And.

And yet, Poor Ted.  There he was, somewhere near the end of 2007  Broke, devastated, in (what he’d been led to believe was) love, and stuck in Eastern Europe.

In a marvelously cinematic and ironic twist, his “Natasha’s” father–apparently a stand up guy–came to his rescue and paid for his plane trip home.  And Ted was returned to the bosom of his family and his workmates who–after several baffled and rather angry and intransigent sessions among themselves (which I was lucky enough to have to moderated) welcomed him back if not exactly with open arms, at least with Christian forbearance and an interest in getting on with our respective jobs.

Poor Ted.  A few years after the events recounted above, my successor fired him  She’d done everything she could to keep in in the group. But Ted–as with many others–had his hand at his throat–and was determined to jump.

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

And yet,, when it comes to those who apparently still don’t know better, it still makes me sad.

Glory Be.  American  men.  Wherever you are.  Please man up.  Women aren’t your playthings.  Grow up, please.


**US Army Officers Guide.

***Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here’s the exact quote, on the public Internet (not going to provide a link.  You can search it out  if you like):

Crimenutely.  The world is full of naïve twits, even very bright ones.  The Ukrainians–who have some experience in the matter–would rather not fall under the yoke of Soviet power and aggression yet again.  Because (and perhaps you should have listened to me when I said this): Rosyjskie Diabły.  Come the day (and it may not be that far off), I don’t expect the Poles to go quietly, either.

 

1 thought on “A Meditation on Russian Birds Brides and the Men Who Love Want Them”

  1. I read that piece too and agree that his comparison of Carlson with the twits of the View was low. Still, I see others comparing Carlson with Tokyo Rose, and that one I think hits closer – some of his phrasing has been almost verbatim with Russian sympathetic outlets I’ve followed out of a sort of morbid curiosity, and because Russian media is so dominant in Christian Orthodox circles. I really would see, in the run up to the Ukraine invasion, some phrasings in circulation, then see them in Carlson transcripts a week later almost unmodified. Put another way, I do not trust Tucker judgement here – he’s no View idiot, but I do think he’s sunk into a sort of despair about America’s own troubles that blinds him to seeing the nastiness in Russia, or Putin’s aggressions over the last 20 years.

    And he’s not alone in this. The Orthodox Church here in the states has more than it’s share of Putinophiles and anti-NATO-ists who draw moral equivalences between our own foreign policy blunders and Russian meddling (e.g. “We invaded Iraq on false pretences of WMDs, so who are we to criticize the Russians for going after Nazis in Ukraine!”). [Nota bene: I wish people would put aside the damned WMD thing with Iraq – it was just ONE of the reasons Bush gave, and pretty low on the list, but it’s like everyone forgot Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds and other horrors of the 1990s, while Bill Clinton gutted our military – I have many criticisms of Iraq, but not of the reasons we went in, only of how we turned it into a political football afterwards]. Anyways, lots of Orthodox people are genuine fans of Putin for all sorts of reasons, not least because they think he’s somehow protecting Christ’s Church. And yes, no small number of these Putin fans are also die-hard Trump fans too, of the type who brook no ill word of either. Both are, to hear them, if not directly doing God’s work, at least chastening His enemies with righteous fury. I’ve followed a lot of Orthodox media over the last 5 years, but so much is Kremlin directed, or Kremlin adjacent, and so much is parroted by Carlson et al.

    Meanwhile I weep for Mariupol, Cherson, Kiev, and others, and curse the thuggish bastard in the Kremlin both for those he kills, and for those whose hearts and minds he poisons in the church.

    BTW: I check this Youtube channel every day right now. If this young mother has a video up for the day, I sleep more easily.

    https://www.youtube.com/c/WHATISUKRAINE

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