Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Hey America, stop laughing at Russia

With the Olympics being held in Sochi over the last couple of weeks, Americans have taken to social media to relentlessly make fun of and complain about the other superpower — Russia.

Well, not really “the other” superpower anymore, because there are many powerful countries and trade unions that influence economies and cultures in today’s world. But many Americans still live in a Cold War mentality in which America is the best and Russia is a backwards land that lost the battle for influence when the Soviet Union crumbled.

This is an ignorant attitude to stick to in our ever more connected, global lives.

Constantly sharing memes mocking Russia and tweeting with the hashtag SochiProblems are only advancing a negative stereotype of Russians that is, quite frankly, insulting. Russia is a diverse country of about 150 million people, and they all deserve to be treated as equals to Americans.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Ridiculing every little problem at Sochi just shows arrogance and unwillingness to learn about another country beyond the Buzzfeed headlines. To equate every Russian person with the old punch lines about the Soviet Union (lines spun essentially as propaganda for Americans to feel superior – an ugly quality to possess) and its eccentric President Vladimir Putin is to be blind to the ideas and opinions of another culture.

The beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg gave the best critique of Americans’ opinions on Russians in his famous piece “America” written in 1956:

“The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages. Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our filling stations. That no good. Ugh.”

These lines are dripping with sarcasm, obviously. Ginsberg, in the time of McCarthyism, saw through the anti-Russia propaganda that was widely believed by Americans. This is not meant to be a defense of the Soviet Union or communism — the point is Americans should not continue to buy into the idea that Russia and Russians are inferior to America and Americans.

This is not to say there are no issues in Russia. The country has countless problems including a number of human rights abuses, unclear freedom of speech laws, and a class of oligarchs that still exerts a large amount of power over a young democracy.

But America has its problems too, and they are not so radically different from Russia’s.

While I do not support the Russian law banning the promotion of homosexual relationships, it was passed by a democratically-elected parliament. Several U.S. states, eight according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, have somewhat similar laws that prohibit schools from promoting homosexuality to children. Democracy can let some crazy ideas become law, but that is the risk you run when you put your faith in the power of the people. When you encounter new cultures and places, sometimes you have to accept that they may have ideas you do not agree with.

And the continuing over dramatic articles on Russia not allowing U.S. shipments of Chobani yogurt to Team USA are just plain ridiculous. The New York Times wrote about it as if it were talking about a hostage situation and Politico called it a new Cold War. Please, it is just overpriced chunky yogurt.

The U.S. government and the Russian government may have trouble working together on issues from Syria to Snowden, but that does not mean that citizens of the two countries need to have trouble tolerating each other.

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Hey America, stop laughing at Russia