Befriending a Russian Spy
A few days ago, I video chatted with one of my best friends from college. Our freshman year was his first time in the United States; learning English, assimilating to the culture, and attending an American university.
Becoming close friends with someone from a totally different country (especially one with a tense historic relationship with your own) is a truly rewarding experience. We would compare and contrast our cultures, politics, and norms; bond over soccer and MMA; and knowingly and unknowingly teach each other more about the world we live in.
I was reminded of each of these delights as we spoke over WhatsApp the other day. Here were my biggest takeaways:
I got to catch up with an old friend, which is always a treat.
He told me about how the Russian media vehemently reports on all of America’s mishaps. Since our nations have an incredibly checkered past and present, they waste no time portraying us as a failing and chaotic country. He asked me questions as if we completely eliminated our police force and as if almost every American had COVID.
When I did my best to answer his questions and clarify my opinions, I realized it was the first time in my life where I was able to have a truly objective conversation about my political/social thoughts (i.e. talking to someone who didn’t agree or disagree with me). Living in Moscow, nearly 5,000 miles away, he has no dog in the fight. When I articulated my opinions–which I normally hold back for fear of retribution–he listened to every word, responded to the arguments instead of the emotions, and provided his third-party take. This is not me saying, “I’m right about everything and finally someone gets it.” It was just an incredibly refreshing experience to comfortably talk about my thoughts and opinions without a filter…something I think we should all be able to encounter more than we currently do.
And finally, we made jokes about the abrasive relationship between Russia and the US. It’s insane that we’re able to generalize a complex situation by saying something like, “the Americans and the Russians hate each other.” I’ve been in black-out stupors with this guy. This guy carried me home when I couldn’t walk. We’re planning a trip around Russia in the coming years. He’s coming to my wedding if I get married…The point is: regardless of national ties, we’re all human beings with senses of humor, likes, dislikes, emotions, goals, regrets…We’re all made of the same stuff (though I think Russians have more vodka coursing through their veins).
I couldn’t be more grateful to maintain such a friendship. When the Russians take over, and the KGB takes everyone away, I will take a shot of Stoli with my buddy and pledge allegiance to our lord and savior Vladimir Putin.