Frolic and Friction

    The initial subject of this post was to have flogged Properly Stirred, the 2013 Slow Boat Media explicit exploits extravaganza. (Properly Stirred is available through Amazon Kindle.) However, incipient background upheaval and a timely dovetailing of international relations with anecdotal observations favor the topical subject.

    President Obama’s recent cancellation of bilateral discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin has set the “be afraid, be very afraid” segment of America into full peek in the closets/check under the beds mode. For them, the sudden spate of bug-out embassy and consular evacuations was soothing music. More sanguine Americans saw these closures as large scale security theater panic.

    Aware of history and the threat against our nation, menace cannot be discounted. Yet in the 21st century haven’t we yielded common sense vigilance to Bernard Breakdown instances of quivering uncontrollable fear?

    Similar to Breakdown, a Dick Tracy villain from the early 1980s, it takes little to disrupt the security apparatus’ coping mechanism.  

    After Obama’s announcement he ditched his head-to-head with Putin, the more alarmist among us claimed the sky is falling! No. They suggested the president’s “snub” of his Russian counterpart could be an opening gambit to a renewed Cold War.

    Readers, Barack Obama is no Cold Warrior. Vladimir Putin may idolize Cold Warriors, having lapped curdled milk from their wizened breasts, but he too lacks their gelid resolve. Aside from his public petulance, Vlad’s somewhat grounded on international matters. He just takes roundabout ways of getting there. The only people who never want Def-Con 5 enacted less than reasonable Americans are every Russian from Putin on down.

    George Kennan pretty much stated the above nearly 70 years ago. Look him up.

    Those Americans, okay, Republicans and right-wing barking heads, insisting Obama is spineless obviously failed the tough guy course. Naturally there is no tough guy course. At least none those nellies could pass. Either you have brass or you’re clanking aluminum. Exhibitions of the latter vogues abound continuously on Fox News.

    While Obama’s calm demeanor frustrates easily angered critics, his lack of showy combustion, his deliberate nature exacts results. Seemingly glacial, yes, because despite our country’s reputation for innovation and speed, it’s a cautious land. Elsewhere morning street manifestations can force afternoon governmental or societal changes. Here, we often only gain through enduring layers of resistance. 

    Affordable health care has proven that. Still does.

    American history is pockmarked with progress only achieved after Sisyphean efforts. Just because some movement or legislation will benefit Americans, that won’t deter a dedicated native opposition. Usually some mob of sunshine patriots who’ve misinterpreted the Constitution and confused it with the Bible.

    Obama’s leaving Putin to sit and stew by the phone alone at home accomplishes many objectives. First, doesn’t matter how big the nuclear arsenal maintained, boorish behavior never rates facetime with the chief.

    The Russians under Putin have repeatedly engaged in global pique. Not so much it’s their policy. More like from whimsy. From because they can.

     Russian intransigence about Syria is immaterial. The Syrians will solve their own problems. Same with the Egyptians.

     However, Edward Snowden is a different matter. He’s our problem.

    Isn’t Snowden a traitor? Hasn’t betrayed his country? Our country. By his impetuousness, hasn’t he jeopardized us all willy-nilly? He and his equally deluded supporters proclaim him a whistleblower. What have the contents inside his big bag of one-time secrets revealed that should improve systems, functions and lives? True whistleblower goals. For us, the people he ostensibly enlightened?

    For those the West chases, entities and their agents who wish us harm, he blew an alarm, not a whistle. The bad actors now have a better grasp of operations directed against them. By reworking their own pathologies they can roam with greater impunity for a while. This will compel the West back to investigative Square Ones.

    In “enlightening” us, Snowden has obscured the prey’s tracks. Obviously his high school dropout curriculum never included classes which filtered reasoning. Hey. This mook fled to Russia for asylum. Isn’t that akin to visiting Utah for Happy Hour?

    Intelligence officials here want Snowden back. What he’s disclosed may be an immense unknown variable. And knowing that can permit agencies to rebuild and rethread accordingly. Unfortunately, Putin’s having a lot of empty fun at his peril.

    Isn’t it the province of the insecure to do his utmost humiliate the assured no matter how injurious to both?

    Obviously Barack Obama can’t rap Vladimir Putin across his knuckles. He’s a former (wink!) KGB mucky-muck. Experts have rapped his knuckles already. And he must’ve sailed through it because reaching atop the old KGB pole meant circumventing greased spikes. 

    But humiliation goes both ways. Putin messed up his big-man summit with Obama. Maybe the president will use that now open date to engage in substantial dialogue with whoever runs the Faroe Islands over tacos in the Blue Room. Then send Putin a selfie inscribed, “Tovarich, this could’ve been us!”

    Unlike contrarian Republicans, Putin will come around and do what his country requires.

    Nonetheless the Russian president’s conduct isn’t an aberration. Aberrant maybe, as well as indicative. Yes, a cliché, but nestled in the simple Russian soul resides a coarse peasant. One who beyond the country’s borders allows his or her inner uncouth free release.

    An acquaintance spent July in the south of France. (Must’ve been tough.) Originally from Nice, Lillian is now a naturalized American. One who has plenty of family in Old Europe.

    Other than meals, wines, pleasures offered by proximity to the Mediterranean (sigh!), the sand nagging Lillian and her fellow French vacationers were Russian tourists. Those lifetimes in the Soviet Union and the Russia which came after glasnost failed imbuing them with travelers’ graces. In fact, regaled by Lillian, the Easterners seemingly went out of their way to behave as bumptiously as possible.

    Maybe it’s not their former isolation so much which made that particular band of Russians arduous guests, but the sudden windfalls which have granted them Cool Millions riches. Showy, flashy, cheap and vulgar could be the very public consequences of wildest beyond dreams wealth. Adults as they appear, to French annoyance, at least a lot of French in Nice, the Russians were teens who behaved as if the world owed and revolved around them.

    Following Putin’s lead, his countrymen visiting Nice beaches exhibited no effort to accommodate, compromise or understand matters from their hosts’ side. The Russians arrived as foreigners. They grew into damned foreigners. The kind whose money ultimately insulated them from deserved rebukes regarding lousy strand etiquette.

    In any language doesn’t money always talk loudest?

    Lillian ticked off a slow boiling litany of rude conduct. But first, French as is her background, she appraised the misplaced Black Sea beauties. Not a willowy tennis player among them. More like weightlifters and tractor pullers.

    Red corpulence prevailed. Stout, loud, and pushy on the highway to sunburned and peeling, the French would’ve given them wide berth but the beach was only so large. The Russians exhibited lack of spatial recognition. I don’t know whether French beaches are regimented, but according to Lillian they are orderly. The Russians disrupted that order. Somewhere between taking up too much space and never respecting the locals’ understanding of proximity.

    These particular Nice beachgoers followed a custom of patronizing boardwalk establishments for their drinking and dining needs. Seems pretty civilized. Instead of lugging picnic baskets as well as carting beverage coolers which absorbed that much more tanning space, sunworshippers sated their eating and imbibing needs at promenade businesses catering to that traffic.

    After all, isn’t charmingly brittle repartee more likely in a semi-enclosed setting than the beach’s plein air? (Hey. It’s France.) Besides, eating seated at tables offers way more elegance than balancing plates and juggling sporks on laps or blankets.

    Well, the Russians weren’t into dexterity, whether it have been verbal or banqueting. More than relish good times, they attended French beaches to parody having fun. Each interaction a kind of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday as roughly reworked by Eisenstein or Tarkovsky.  

    Much like Vladimir’s occasional Il Duce-esque posturing, his countrymen abroad intended leaving inflated impressions. The French ridiculed their swollen Russian guests. Americans, particularly those alarmists seeking to exploit the slow August news cycle, need to see the Russian president akin to a muscular uncouth oaf.

    He’ll flex. He’ll snarl. He will intimidate weaklings. Instead of frighten, though, he annoys or amuses confident adults. Reacting alarmed, awarding his antics greater attention than deserved, simply pump such beasts.  

    Containing Putin, the boorish in general, demands unmistakable issuances of high-dungeon displeasure. Size and power allow Putin and the Russians seats at big tables. But as many have realized, seating does not guarantee fawning service.

    By cancelling his sitdown with Putin, Obama has delivered a deflating moue. An aspirational man, Putin esteems prestige. Forget being a prima donna. The cat could be the Heather’s prom queen.

    Even if the leaders’ conversations resulted in nothing substantial, likely considering Obama must contend with an obstructionist House and contentious Senate, the symbolism nevertheless would’ve conferred further stature upon the Russian president.

    One of the few times Putin would’ve preferred being seen as an “equal.”

    Instead, done baldly, Barack Obama’s personal rejection of Vladimir Putin tells the world his Russian counterpart just doesn’t rate. He’s also dispensable. Slapping Putin’s ego will yield grander results than any tirades.

    Obama’s gesture is certainly more effective than all of August’s scattershot right-wing haranguing.