When I was a wee lad in the late 1960s and early ‘70s in Dallas, we held monthly drills at school in case of nuclear attack by the dreaded commies of Russia.
We would march out to the hallway in perfect single file (never daring to giggle unless we desired a visit to the principal’s office), get down on our knees, put our hands behind our heads and bend over into a tight position for about a minute or two (the phrase “put your head between your knees and kiss your ... goodbye I don’t believe had been invented yet, but would have fit perfectly).
We loved it when they would happen right in the middle of a test and hated them during gym, but for the most part they just seemed silly.
My parents did not talk about it much, but I was always a bit intrigued by what they called a “Cold War” being fought behind an “Iron Curtain.”
There was a Russian leader whose last name was funny because it rhymed with my friend’s name, Jeff, but other than that I never understood how a war could be “cold” and that it must be a really, really large and heavy curtain.
Yes, I was a naive goofball, but hey, apparently so was everyone else at the time, especially the adults.
Fast forward a few decades, and whether you choose to give Saint Ronnie credit or not, the Evil Empire folded, and we were eventually able to start enjoying secret “cool” wars (Iran-Contra, Somalia) with only a few hundred deaths leading up to “hot” wars where thousands of soldiers were slaughtered along with untold innocents (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again, etc.).
Throughout it all the former USSR creeps were nowhere to be found.
And now, in what on the surface appears to be all of a sudden yet anyone with more brains than a former New England Patriot tight end actually knows, a new Cold War has begun. Thanks to Vladimir Putin and his former KGB cohorts, Russia is once again rearing its ugly head like North Korea, only these guys are well-fed and screaming for respectability.
Leaving the Russian secret service in 1991, Putin was first in the Yeltsin administration (as in Boris), but since 1999 has either been president or prime minister, the difference between the two becoming a bit cloudier each year.
From shirtless horseback riding to shooting polar bears to martial arts demonstrations for the press, his macho tough-guy image has escalated to the point that instead of being the economic savior of Mother Russia, many now live in fear of a new dictator in training, and Putin is the one doing the training.
And now with the silly incident involving a Super Bowl ring and the reality of Edward Snowden being in his possession, Comrade Putin is suddenly pulling the international strings of American discontent, leaving the CIA and the NSA scrambling to figure out his real long-term goals.
He is a contrarian toward anything we do in the Middle East, doing his best to ignore the dollar while courting the Chinese yuan and basically thumbing his nose at America across the board while planning to entertain the world at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
If anything, we’re being treated like the whole thing is a “cold shoulder” war, and that’s one that America hasn’t had to deal with in a few hundred years.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.