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Understanding in a Car Crash

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I wrote this a few years ago, while living in New York City. It seems relevant now with all the negative talk about Russia in the Western press of late. 

When I moved to NYC I did not anticipate that it would lead to a deeper understanding of the Cold War; but it has.  Both of my roommates (as well as everyone else in the building) were born in what was then called the Soviet Union.  The great majority of my students (at a language school in Brooklyn) were also born in the scattered republics that surround Russia and were once part of that same bloc.  And so, I spend a significant part of my time these days conversing with people born and raised in “the evil empire.”  Life is just full of surprises.

I’d had very little expose to these cultures before I moved to NYC, and it’s been interesting to learn.  Everyone seems so proud in a way that borders dangerously close to arrogance.  The edges seem rather rough, and the common worldview seems to involve judging their own culture as superior to others in the world, a certain self righteousness mixed with a lack of knowledge (or want there of) about how other places actually function.  In sum, they seem a lot like Americans.

Maybe the cold war was the result of similarities rather than differences.

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