I feel like I’ve been cheated out of the Cold War. With the Sochi Olympics dominating the news and the Internet, pictures of athletes kicking their way through broken bathroom doors, stubborn Olympic rings that refuse to function properly during the opening ceremony, and of course that spirited performance of “Get Lucky” by the Russian men’s police choir, I’ve realized that this is the closest that I’ll get to experiencing a taste of what it must have been like twenty or thirty years ago, when the US and Russia had a real thing going.
Now it’s just a big joke. It’s like I’m really bored on a Friday night, so I grab a bunch of snacks, turn on the TV, and lay down on the couch. Everything is nice for the first couple of hours or so, but as the late night lineup starts, I can’t find the remote, I’m stuck watching a channel that’s no longer playing any programming that I’m even remotely interested in. But I’ve already eaten too many snacks, and I haven’t moved in quite a while, so getting up is out of the question. I’m left watching a reunion show for a sitcom that went off the air way before I was watching sitcoms on TV, like Murphy Brown or Cheers, and I’m seeing best-of clips, all out of context, everything’s dated and none of the references make any sense.
But whatever, everybody says “Norm!” when that fat guy walks in, so I can’t help but laugh. And that’s kind of what watching the Sochi Olympics is like, from a Cold War perspective. Like the men’s police choir, all of those guys are dressed up in these olive green military uniforms, the kinds of costumes I’d expect an army of villains to be wearing in a James Bond movie from the 1990s. But instead of making sinister threats or trying to steal a bunch of nuclear launch codes, they’re all dancing around and singing an operatic Daft Punk cover.
And I don’t know, maybe everything just seems cooler in retrospect, maybe living through the ever-present threat of a nuclear standoff with a foreign superpower wasn’t the action/adventure movie I’m picturing in my mind, but the news that we are getting right now from Russia makes me jealous that I didn’t get to experience that national mindset, a whole era where Americans defined themselves not just by their Americanness, but also by their non-Russianness.
The games are barely underway, and most of the headlines coming out of Sochi have thus far been centered around how silly everything is. Look at the Russians as they scramble to install shower curtain rods and cable boxes at the hastily constructed hotels. Did anybody hear about the snow leopard cub that attacked the reporters after having finished a snuggle session with President Putin?
And what about that malfunctioning Olympic ring during the opening ceremony? That was almost too easy, like I kind of felt bad as everybody pointed and laughed at such an easy symbol of technical incompetence. It’s like watching a little kid score on his own net at a Sunday morning soccer game. Yeah, everybody laughs, and then everybody feels guilty about laughing, and then when you think about it later, it wasn’t really that big of a deal anyway, just poor timing, an unfortunate mistake.
But then I started reading all of these headlines on my Facebook feed, stuff like, “Man in charge of Olympic ring malfunction is found dead; Russian police rule out foul play.” And who knows if this is even true? None of the major newspapers are reporting it. So far it just seems like another crazy Internet rumor.
But it’s this type of news that makes me jealous that I missed out on the Cold War. Some guy messes up a robotic ring so the state orchestrates his murder. Wow, that’s cold. Good thing we live in America. If you mess up here, at least you get a participation trophy. It must have been awesome growing up back then, regardless of how poorly life is going, at least you could imagine how much worse things could be, if only you had been born on the other side of the iron curtain.
America won the Cold War. We stand unrivaled in our supremacy. If we had the Olympics in the USA, not only would that fifth ring have operated like it was supposed to, but I guarantee you there would have been extra rings also, six, seven, eight Olympic circles, all of them red white and blue. But without a rival superpower to rub in their face how awesome we are, what does it mean? It’s all kind of empty.
If things aren’t going great now, we can’t point to Russia anymore and make ourselves feel better. I mean, we can, right now, because it’s the Olympics, but the Olympics are going to be over soon and then we’ll forget about Russia and, who knows when it’s going to enter the national consciousness again? If I have a bad day at work tonight, I can laugh it off when I come home, at least the cops aren’t planning to cover up my murder. But three weeks from now I won’t have that luxury. It’s no solace imagining bread lines or gulags in 1980s red Russia. Whenever I complain, it’s just like, hey asshole, get back to work, what the hell are you whining about? Your parents’ generation won the Cold War and all you do is sit around and bellyache.
I’m just saying, I wish I had my own Cold War to help keep things in perspective.