City 40

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City 40

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Remember that time this spring when a Russian naval destroyer was patrolling the Gulf of Mexico, dangerously close to the US mainland? The Russians became furious when an American fighter pilot buzzed dangerously close to the Russian destroyer.

Of course you don’t remember it. It never happened. The real incident occurred when a Russian fighter aggressively buzzed a US naval destroyer in the Black Sea. Russia doesn’t routinely patrol in the water in our backyard. But we do it to them.

In the relationship between the United States and Russia, we are the aggressive bullies. Russia is a tireless enemy of militant Islam and it is located 5000 miles away from the continental United States. But the bone-headed Cold Warriors in the military establishment still find a way to pretend that Russia is a threat to us.

Yes, Russia still has a powerful nuclear arsenal. But that’s all the more reason to try to be friends with Vladimir Putin and let him do whatever he wants in Syria and the Ukraine. You know, the countries that are in his backyard; not ours.

Since the knuckleheads in Washington have been calling Russia our enemy for 70 straight years now, it’s hard for us to imagine that the Russian people are civilized westerners who are pretty much like us.

That’s why the documentary “City 40” is valuable for American viewers.

It shows that A. The Russians were and are deadly serious about their nuclear weapons program. And B. There is no sane reason why Russians have to be our enemies.

In the late 1940s, The Soviet Union founded its nuclear weapons program in a picturesque town in the Ural Mountains. It was simply called City 40. It wasn’t named. It wasn’t on any maps. No one was allowed to enter. And if residents left, they weren’t allowed to speak of the place.

Life for the people of City 40 was a series of huge trade-offs. On one hand, they got the pride of doing something important for their country. And Moscow made sure that City 40 had the best of everything – including sports arenas, entertainment venues, and stocked supermarket shelves. On the other hand, the residents were essentially prisoners. And the men who worked with nuclear material died young at a predictably disturbing rate.

While their situation seems alien to us, their response feels very American.

There are two main characters in “City 40”: a single mother Civil Rights Lawyer who is fighting the government to open the city and acknowledge the damage that it has done to its citizens. And there’s a jolly journalist who doesn’t see what the big deal is.

“I respect her,” the journalist says. “She is tough and brave. But she asked me the other day: ‘don’t you think that the barbed wire around the city violates your rights?’” The journalist gives a big belly laugh. “’I quoted Ronald Reagan: read my lips, it doesn’t violate my rights.’”

This argument between an uptight liberal and a contrarian conservative felt distinctly American (right down to the conservative using a George Bush quote and accidentally attributing it to Ronald Reagan).

In the end, I just can’t find any sane reason why we can’t be allies with these like-minded people.

Presidential candidate Jill Stein announced that she wants to bring every American troop back to the United States, in part to stop antagonizing foreign powers. Donald Trump has taken heat for his desire to achieve détente with Russia and forge a productive friendship with Vladimir Putin.

Basically, the only people left who think Russia is our enemy are close-minded Cold Warriors who are willing to risk thermonuclear annihilation rather than turn the page of history.

 

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