The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming

by Jim Longworth

My first experience with the Red Menace was in elementary school. The year was 1962, and America was seemingly on the brink of war with the Soviet Union, who had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. As a result, my classmates and I had to practice bomb drills in which we were told to bend over and place our head between our knees. This technique was supposed to keep us safe from radioactive fallout, much as duct tape now protects us from bio terrorist hazards.

Last week I was reminded of those frantic drills when the FBI arrested 11 Russian spies who had been living here in the United States since the 1990s. Members of the spy ring had been posing as typical American suburbanites while gathering data on everything from presidential elections to White House policy on Iran. By day they worked as accountants, real estate agents, architects, professors and other benign positions. One of the covert Ruskies even liked to post seductive photos of herself online. What could be more American than that? All in all, they just didn’t seem dangerous. Strangely enough, I wasn’t frightened of the Russians 48 years ago either.

Perhaps I suspected then what I know now: that the Cold War was more contrived than coerced. I was raised on Boris and Natasha, and their repeatedly failed attempts to blow up Bullwinkle. I also read “Spy vs Spy” cartoons in MAD magazine which demonstrated that the good guys and bad guys were essentially mirror images of each other. I watched James Bond movies and various imitators, which romanticized secret agents. And then there was the film which defined (and brought into clear perspective) the Russo/American relationship. In the end, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming showed that our two peoples shared common feelings, and posed no threat to each other, despite what our respective governments wanted us to believe.

It’s all too coIncIdental. after all, the fBI had Been keepIng an eye on these russIan spIes for nearly a decade, so why round them up now?

Back then the Soviet Union was led by Nikita Kruschev, who was more like Boris Badenov than Joseph Stalin, and most Russians were not even members of the Communist party. The Cold War was largely manufactured and sustained by intelligence officers from both nations in order to justify expenditures for military and covert operations, and to distract their citizens from more pressing problems of the day.

Today, President Obama is catching hell for failing to cap the largest oil spill in history. His bailout program is still netting bonuses for greedy bankers who are, in turn, making relatively few loans. His so-called healthcare reform did nothing to abate the rising cost of insurance premiums. His jobs program hasn’t netted any jobs except temporary ones for cen sus workers. And his plan for ending the war has instead resulted in unprecedented escalations, including more US troops killed in June than in any other month since our ill-advised invasion nine years ago. If ever the president could use a distraction, it’s now. And, voila! There’s a sudden return to the good old days of xenophobia towards the Russians.

It’s all too coincidental. After all, the FBI had been keeping an eye on these Russian spies for nearly a decade, so why round them up now? Even Vladimir Putin was shocked, calling the feds “out of control” and pointing to the “positive gains that have been achieved in our relationship” in recent years. I’m not saying that Obama planned the raid, in fact, he denies even knowing the agents were living here. But I’m sure the White House isn’t at all upset that a spy saga might bump the president off of the front pages for a while. Let’s face it, we are a nation whose collective attention is easily diverted away from real problems whenever something glitzier comes along. That’s why we love to hear about Jesse James, Sara Ferguson and Al Gore. And who’s to say a little distraction isn’t good for us in these troubled times? For myself, I’m not going to think about oil, healthcare or unemployment. Instead, I’m going to prepare for an attack by Russian spies. I’ll just bend over, place my head between my knees, and wait for everything to blow over… or blow up. Oh, and can someone please pass me the duct tape?

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).

Wikipedia: The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming is a 1966 American comedy film.