A Russian historian recently claimed that Russians have historically sold out their freedom in order to conquer a great empire, and one of the government’s own favored media ovaries claimed that Russia had no choice between becoming an empire or a colony. And sure, it has become the largest country in the world, but most of that is uninhabited Arctic desert. I really don’t see how Russia has proved itself any more adept at empire-building, or to have sacrificed itself for any greater gains, than Canada, a country that calls its money the loonie and is so timid that it remained a colony for five decades after its colonizer had ceased bothering to govern it. But Russians must have convinced themselves that they possess a wondrous and priceless domain, otherwise they wouldn’t have piled up mountains of tanks and bombs to defend with such great vigor their birch trees and mud. They’re almost as bad as North Korea, about whom I recently saw a news item alleging “Tension on Borders”. That’s basically all North Korea is, a border plus tension.
People like Mitch Albom aren’t armchair philosophers but philosopher-armchairs. The sportswriter Bill Simmons said that a rivalry like Duke-North Carolina doesn’t depend on the people involved, that it’s all about the buildings and uniforms. Well, after all, the same thing has been working for the Catholic Church for hundreds of years now. Hearing and seeing the steady flow of Tyrekes and Dajuans in college basketball, I’ve realized that being a letter in a ghetto name must be a terrifying ordeal, never knowing what you signify or into what dissolute company you will next be thrown, jangling against your companions without pre-constructed harmony like chimes in the wind. If I could get full by pantomiming the motions of eating, I would have found my way to God.