It's funny how, for some Americans like myself involved in the Cold War "struggle," USSR "flashbacks" occur now and then in the very country that, according to pop-Hegelian Francis Fukuyama in his adolescent phase, ended history on behalf of democracy and capitalism -- I refer to our beloved USA. Most of my US Foreign Service career was spent in Eastern/Central Europe; I specialized in Russian history in graduate school and studied in
Today, after reading with much delight on the Internet about the well-deserved accolades regarding the engineering feats of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in brilliantly succeeding (at a price tag of $2.5 billion, paid for by the taxpayer) the "Curiosity" probe to land on Mars, I headed to the Van Ness/UDC Metro station in the District of Columbia (where I happily live, but at far too excessive cost) for transportation to an appointment downtown, proud, as I should be, of being an American, given that "we," in the form of a robot far smarter than ourselves, had just landed on Mars in great scientific style.
As I entered the poorly-lighted "Metro" (why is it not simply called a "subway"? Does DC have something against NY?), I noticed (as I'm sure many other commuters did) that two of the three main elevators of the station were not functioning. This minor but frustrating incompetence in providing basic public transportation services, of course, happens all the time in the imperial capital.
So, mentally stimulated by the impressive success of "Curiosity" and the failure of the DC metro (the "new normal"), I had yet another
This was just like the old Soiuz ("
In our neglect of public transportation -- planetary exploration seems far more important, or at least from a "news/federal funding-making" perspective -- we're becoming just like
In all fairness, the metro system in the Soiuz was not to be sneezed at -- but, as I walked down (very carefully) the steep, somehow pleasantly motionless DC escalators stairs (so badly lighted that someone falling off them is an accident just waiting to happen), I could not resist but to sing (silently, to myself) the Soviet (inter) national anthem as an inspiring reminder of institutional incompetence.
I felt proud, here in
We made it to Mars! Forget the escalators! It's the hooligans/terrorist spies who conspired to sabotage our great socialist escalator achievements!
We spectacularly fulfilled the plan on the Red -- yes Red! -- planet! The East (better put, the entire universe) is red! The world admires us!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!, I repeated to myself sotto voce when I reached, somewhat out of breath, the bottom of the escalator, imitating the outbursts of crowds at Soviet demonstrations honoring the achievements of the classless society.
P.S. Did you ever hear the Soviet joke? Good news: They've found Lenin's mother. Bad news: She's pregnant again.