Following the Thread

As intrepid travelers not willing to let “advancing age” stand in the way, we met in Istanbul and then boarded a 12:15am flight bound for Uzbekistan…on the far side of the Caspian Sea. Some five hours later in Tashkent, we were met by our very knowledgeable “professors” and astute guides: Vedat Karadag, a folk art specialist and tour guide in Istanbul, and Marat Karimov, his Uzbekistan partner, who is based in Tashkent.

There, they led us on an incredible insiders’ journey along the fabled Silk Road from the Ferghana Valley in the east to Nukus in the far west and then back through the ancient walled cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand to marvel at glorious architecture, monuments and vistas.

The Yodogorik Silk Factory shop.

This 16-day tour in May, sponsored by Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Museum of International Folk Art, included visits to some of the Uzbekistan artists who have participated in the International Folk Art Market held on the grounds of the Museum each year over a July weekend (next year July 5-9, 2023). They included Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov, an ikat master from Said Akhmad Khoja Madrasa, a little city in Margilan. There, as in other madrasas we visited, we came to appreciate the fact that there can be more to a madrasa than memorizing the Quran, and that the type of education madrasas offer can differ dramatically from country to country. In the nearby village of Rishton, we spent a very pleasant morning with the world-famous UNESCO-protected master potter Rustam Usmanov and his son, Damir Usmanov, who would be participating in that year’s Folk Art Market. So some of us decided to wait to buy their pottery in Santa Fe, rather than trust fragile treasures to the airline baggage handlers.

But it was no holds barred (except for running out of cash) when it came to textiles. Fortunately, we were warned about the scarcity of ATMs and were told that the U.S. dollar was the preferred currency for major shopping—what with the exchange rate being some 2,500 Uzbekistan Sums/US$1. that spring (compared to 11,145/US$1. today).

The Yodgorlik Silk Factory, housed in spacious adobe buildings in the 2,000 year-old city of Margilan, which turned out to be one of our favorite “shopping centers,” stood as proof that private enterprise has succeeded the years of Soviet domination and state planning since it was transferred to local hands in 2000. There, we watched the whole wonderful process: the extraction of silk thread from the cocoons boiling in a vat to the winding of the warp, tying of the intricate ikat designs, and the handweaving to the pressing of finished yardage between giant rollers.

Another unique treat dating from the Soviet era was the Karakalpakstan Museum of Art in the city of Nukus (a two-hour flight northwest of Tashkent), which had an extraordinary collection of Central Asian archaeological objects, in addition to applied and contemporary art and the Savitsky Collection of Russian avant-garde art. Who among those of us who had been enchanted by the film, The Desert of Forbidden Art, which ran for weeks at a local art film theater two years before, had dared dream of ever having the chance to see the works in person? The late Igor Savitsky, a courageous Russian artist-archaeologist, had managed not only to smuggle some 40,000 stunning works of banned art out of the Soviet Union, but also raised the funds to pay the artists, as well as build this museum to house the collection. And our gracious hostess, who led our tour of the museum and treated us to lunch, was the very woman he had designated as the one and only director, Marinika Babanazorova.

Still, Uzbekistan may be a land too far for some folks. So for those who would rather experience Uzbekistan vicariously and yet collect some of its exquisite crafts, we suggest that they attend the International Folk Art Market.

Meet multi-lingual Marat Karimov, our wise, witty Uzbek guide, who is still leading tours for the International Caravan Travel Service.

Marat Karimov.

Jean Ranc is a psychologist retired from the University of North Carolina.

Featured: “A Girl of Khiva,” by Pavel Petrovich Benkov; painted in 1931.

Russophobia: A WMD (Weapon of Mass Deception)

Resume: Russophobia, as psycho-social-political pathology, is diagnosed as a disorder in the West since before the 1000-year-old Roman-Orthodox religious schism that then manifested with a vengeance in the course of 2013-14 in attacking Edward Snowden for his revelations of mass surveillance by the U.S. and its covert activities leading to the Ukraine coup in February 2014. And ever since, the West has continued to wield Russophobia as a weapon of mass media-political deception: setting up Russia as “The Enemy” to justify pushing NATO troops, war planes and ships right up to Russian borders. Thus, The West’s relentless propaganda and aggression provoked the Russians to defend themselves against this existential threat by means of its military intervention in Ukraine this past February 24 to “de-militarize and de-nazify” the region adjacent to Russia and also to protect the mainly Russian-speaking population, which had been under neo-Nazi attack ever since the 2014 coup.

Indeed, in the spring of 2018 we witnessed a blatant example of Russophobia being wielded as a WMD when we heard the BBC “breaking news” about the “Russians Poisoning the Skipals.” All we heard were allegations, not facts, as there was no real evidence to present before a judge and jury for a just trial, only media propaganda which provoked even more fear and hysteria apparently meant to distract people from the government’s bungling and high level of anxiety over Brexit by instantly blaming Russia for a manufactured crime. Never-the-less, it prompted politicians to administer instant sanctions against Russia as punishment.

That first day, the “evidence,” presented in the usual clipped, “authoritative” British accents, included interviews with a conservative British MP and the former US Ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow (2001-05), then a member of the notoriously hawkish U.S.-based think tank, the Atlantic Council. Thus, the three of them (the BBC “journalist” and the two “experts”) colluded to transform false allegations into “facts”… fueled, as always, by their perpetual prejudice, RUSSOPHOBIA, in the course of their propaganda war to force Russia to surrender to American-led Western domination or else: have their economy destroyed and their people suffer. Indeed, it is a threat to the whole world played to the discord of rattling nuclear swords, with a chorus of vindictive Russian oligarchs, whom Putin expelled for robbing the Russian people. At the time, living in London as expats, these oligarchs might have been considered the more likely culprits. Meanwhile elsewhere in London, thanks to our “special US-UK relationship,” Julian Assange was excommunicated as an exile in a tiny “cell” at the Ecuador embassy for revealing embarrassing American secrets via Wikileaks. That is, until last year when British authorities illegally broke into the embassy, seized Assange and incarcerated him in an actual London prison ever since, while “legal proceedings” play out over his fabricated extradition for trial in the US.

There we have it: the poisoning of our minds by the media and politicians, which are owned and controlled by the US-UK-EU 1%, who benefit from Western hegemony. So, these deluded few are now desperately defending it from the rising powers led by Russia and China with India not far behind, demanding a multi-polar, democratic world order.

My search for the roots of this particularly vicious and extremely dangerous hate campaign began in a Dartmouth College Russian Foreign Policy course, which led me to the book, Russophobia: Anti-Russian Lobby and American Foreign Policy by San Francisco State University Professor Andrei P. Tsygankov (2009). And there, the detoxification of my mind began, as I studied his deft, well-documented deconstruction of the political propaganda disseminated “by various think tanks, congressional testimonials, activities of NGOs and the media” (Preface p. XIII).

Then in Italy the following winter, I discovered the work of the Swiss journalist, Guy Mettan, in the Italian geopolitical journal, LiMes, an excerpt from his book, Creating Russophobia: From the Great Religious Schism to Anti-Putin Hysteria (2017). There, Mettan informs us that this psycho-social pathology in Western Civilization goes back more than 1000 years: to the division of Christendom between the Orthodox and Roman churches. Indeed, his research into the depths of history confirms the diagnosis by our renowned American psychiatrist, Robert Jay Lifton, in his 2003 book, Superpower Syndrome: America’s Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World. Therein, Lifton states: “More than merely dominate, the American superpower now seeks to control history. Such cosmic ambition is accompanied by an equally vast sense of entitlement, of special dispensation to pursue its aims” (p. 3). And Mettan’s analysis of Russophobia also underscores the work of University of Chicago Professor John J. Mearsheimer, our leading international relations “realist” in his three Henry L. Stimson lectures at Yale University November 2017: “The Roots of Liberal Hegemony,” “The False Promises of Liberal Hegemony” and “The Case for Restraint,” as an introduction to his latest book, “The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams, International Realities” published in 2018.

But what about “Russian Aggression” in Crimea and now Ukraine?

In the first place, it was the astute Mearsheimer who, in the Sept-Oct 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs, informed us “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin.” But the American foreign policy establishment, together with ambitious politicians and the me-too media, paid no heed, and continues to repeat its own fabricated “facts.”

Never-the-less, Mearsheimer is backed up by Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent. In Sakwa’s book, Russia Against the Rest: The Post-Cold War Crisis of World Order (2017), we turn to the section on “Reality Wars and American Power” on p. 217 to read: “It does indeed seem that Russia and Western elites live in totally different worlds, divided by different epistemological understandings of the nature of contemporary reality. The Ukraine crisis crystallized the profound differences between Russian and Atlanticist understandings of the breakdown and its causes.” And he continues on p. 218: “Elite and policy-maker perceptions and attitudes forged in the Cold War years sustain these legacies and frame the discussions of such crucial issues as NATO enlargement, democracy promotion in the post-Soviet area, and strategic arms talks.” Adding that these “are no longer so much legacies as self-regenerating narratives and modes of discourse that preclude a more open-ended understanding of the dynamics and concerns of Russia today.”

Karl Rove: “We’re an empire now; we create our own reality.”

[In 2004, journalist Ron Suskind wrote in The New York Times magazine that a top White House strategist for President George W. Bush—identified later as Karl Rove, Bush’s Deputy White House Chief of Staff—told him, “We’re an empire now, we create our own reality.”]

Thus, we’ve become trapped in a contrived “reality” promulgated by neo-conservative warriors under cover of neo-liberal “democracy-spreading-humanitarian-interventionists” to justify an American Empire promoting itself as the indispensable “Liberal World Order.” However, under that global order, as Sakwa points out on p. 219: “If a foreign power is considered to have violated ‘international order’, then it can be overthrown” as a rationale for American “regime change” anywhere around the world: whether to control the supply of copper in Chile or oil in Iran. And, with its eye on Russia’s vast oil, gas and other natural resources, America claims the right to threaten Russia by ringing it with weapons which we would not abide were the Russians to place missiles in Mexico…as the Soviets did in Cuba to defend it after our “Bay of Pigs” invasion that brought humanity to the brink of nuclear war. Thus, Russia was defending itself in Ukraine against further NATO expansion, while in Crimea, where the great majority of citizens are Russian-speaking, they voted in a democratic referendum to rejoin Russia as they had been one country ever since the reign of Catherine the Great in the 18th century…except for an interval in the 1950s when Crimea was” gifted” to Ukraine, while they were all members of the Soviet Union.

Then, as long-time Director of the Moscow office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dmitri Trenin, proclaimed last December 28, 2021 in Foreign Affairs journal: “What Putin Really Wants in Ukraine: Russia Seeks to Stop NATO Expansion, Not to Annex More Territory.” Thus, we were warned by Trenin: “As 2021 came to a close, Russia presented the United States with a list of demands that it said were necessary to stave off the possibility of a large-scale military conflict in Ukraine. In a draft treaty delivered to a U.S. diplomat in Moscow, the Russian government asked for a formal halt to NATO’s eastern enlargement, a permanent freeze on further expansion of the alliance’s military infrastructure (such as bases and weapons systems) in the former Soviet territory, an end to Western military assistance to Ukraine, and a ban on intermediate-range missiles in Europe.” But it was dismissed and after the Russians took action on February 24th to enforce it, the West proceeded to send Ukraine weapons to fight and die in their on-going proxy war against Russia, together with brutal sanctions… which have since only boomeranged to the detriment of Europe, Ukrainians and the rest of the world which is dependent on Russian exports of food, fuel and other critical resources.

“Ditching Solzhenitsyn, Defender of Russia”

And not to forget that in 1974, after being expelled from the Soviet Union, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and his family fled first to Zurich then to Vermont in 1976 and lived on a farm near Cavendish, where he continued to write and publish his work. Meanwhile, Mettan, as a journalist covering events related to Russia, became quite distressed over “the widespread prejudices, cartloads of clichés and systematic anti-Russian biases of most western media.” And he went on to say that “the more I traveled, discussed and read, the wider I perceived, the more the gap of incomprehension and ignorance between Western Europe and Russia became evident.

“That was why, during the 1990s, I was shocked by the way the West treated Solzhenitsyn. For decades, we had published, celebrated, and acclaimed the great writer as bearing the torch of anti-Soviet dissidence. We had praised Solzhenitsyn to the skies as long as he criticized his native country, communist Russia. But as soon as he emigrated, realizing that he preferred to isolate himself in his Vermont retreat to work rather than attending anticommunist conferences, western media and academics began to distance themselves from the great writer.

“The idol no longer matched the image they had built and was becoming a hindrance to their academic and journalistic career plans. And once Solzhenitsyn had left the United States to go back to Russia and defend his humiliated, demoralized motherland that was being sold at auction, raising his voice against the Russian ‘Westernizers’ and pluralist liberals who denied the interests of Russia to better revel in the troughs of capitalism, he became a marked man, an outdated, senile writer, even though he himself had not changed in the least, denouncing with the same vigor the defects of market totalitarianism as those of communist totalitarianism.

“He was booed, despised, his name was dragged through the mud for his choices, often by the very people who had praised his first fights. Despite that, against all odds, against the most powerful powers that were trying to dissuade him, Solzhenitsyn defended his one and only cause, that of Russia. He was not forgiven for having turned his pen against that West that had welcomed him and felt it was owed eternal gratitude. A dissident today, a dissident wherever truth compelled, such was his motto. This deserves to be remembered” (Mettan, pp. 15-16, in Creating Russophobia).

Russophobia: akin to Racism

From another perspective, Mettan’s chapter on “German Russophobia” set me thinking that this “Western Supremacy” political-cultural pathology known as Russophobia is like the racism which I knew growing up in totally segregated Oklahoma. Until in high school, I became so perplexed and appalled by the curtain of hate and “justifications” in which we were smothered (the Negro schools on the other side of town? and why were there separate waiting rooms, drinking fountains & restrooms in bus and train stations?) that I began poking holes in the curtain to see what was outside, and found a book in the library: South of Freedom by Carl Rowan, an African-American Minneapolis Star Tribune journalist, describing his journey from South to North. So, thanks to what I learned from Rowan, I began to tear the whole damned curtain down… at least in my mind.

Whom the Gods would destroy, they first drive mad?

So, here’s a Swiss journalist punching a hole in this wall of Russophobic Western Supremacy… and through that gaping hole, we are reminded that the Russians are Europe’s neighbors who sacrificed more than 26 million of their own lives to save Europe, America and Russia from the Nazis. These are not poor “niggers” from the Eurasian ghetto we’ve been trying to club into submission as second-class citizens of “The Liberal World Order” dominated by US; they’re nuclear-armed and no longer willing to sit at a separate, inferior table with no vote and no voice over who makes the rules…nor are China, India and Brazil. And in 2018-19, while the wave of Russophobic hysteria over alleged “Russian poisoning” was rolling out of the UK and engulfing the Western world in the latest siege of mass madness…with only Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labor party, having the courage to stand up in Parliament on the Ides of March and demand Evidence! only to be pilloried by the mindless politicians and media…led by the once esteemed BBC. And the week following the August 7, 2018 Trump-Putin Helsinki summit, will surely go down in psychiatric circles as another case of mass media-political delusions led by cheer-leader-in-chief, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

Meanwhile, not to forget that it was Hearst newspaper propaganda that whipped the American public into a war frenzy to support our first step in empire-building: our 1898 intervention in Cuba’s war for independence from the Spanish Empire which had dominated all of Latin America for 500 years. As the former NYTimes journalist/bureau chief in Istanbul, Berlin and Central America, Stephen Kinzer reminds us in his latest book The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, Twain, Booker T. Washington and even Andrew Carnegie leading a handful of other anti-imperialists…were not able to prevail against Roosevelt with his Rough Riders and the Hearst newspapers’ war propaganda.

Regime Change Comes Home

Never-the-less, after a very long run of American “regime change” abroad leaving a bloody trail of destruction, dictatorships and chaos from Iran in 1953, when we joined with the British to overthrow the democratically-elected President Mohammad Mossadegh to maintain the Brit-US control of its oil…on through Guatemala, Vietnam and Chile…to name a few of our interventions…we were back for a second round with “coalitions of the willing” (or not?) in the Middle East where our regime-change machine managed to plow its way through Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya…before breaking down in Syria. Until 2016, when it was brought home again, renovated and renamed “RussiaGate” for another attempt at removing a President for trying to mend US relations with Russia. Though even after more than a year of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigations, accompanied by such cinematic support as the movie, Felt, another “Watergate” re-run, did anyone else notice the resemblance between “Felt” and Mueller? And despite the media’s commemoration of its 44-year-old “moment of courage” with the movie The Post to promote Trump’s ouster, our democratically-elected President remained in power. However, in this rush to “regime change,” didn’t the our 21st century “ruling elite” read Jane Mayer’s “The Danger of President Pence” in the 10/23/17 New Yorker? At least the 1970s’ “ruling class” was smart enough to remove an unqualified Vice President Spiro (who?) Agnew…before “regime changing” Nixon and replacing him with the more or less benign Gerald Ford.

A Florentine Epiphany

But back to January 2018, in Florence, Italy, when I was hiking in the hills beyond the Piazzale Michelangelo, with its spectacular view of that Renaissance city and its centerpiece, the Duomo, I came across the Villa Galileo, which had been the scientist’s last home after his trial as a “heretic,” during which to save himself from torture and execution, he was forced to deny his helio-centric vision and henceforth lived under “villa arrest,” from 1631 until his natural death in 1642. While pondering his fate, I continued walking along the gently rising, ever-narrowing road between ancient stone walls overlooking villas and olive groves, until I reached the peak, where I felt as if I were standing on top of the world as I contemplated both the Arno and Ema river valleys far below and where I swear I heard Galileo declare: “The world does not turn on an American axis!”

The 21st Century Inquisition

So, how is it that we now have contemporary inquisitors persecuting so many truth tellers…such as Edward Snowden, our electronic age “Solzhenitsyn?” in Russian exile; Chelsea Manning, imprisoned some seven years for revealing US brutality in Iraq, then despite Obama’s “pardon,” jailed for another year in Alexandria, Va for refusing to testify against Julian Assange, until she was released after attempting suicide… and again; Julian Assange confined to his Ecuadorian Embassy exile in London, since August 2012 and now in a London prison; Katharine Gun, a whistleblower attempting to stop the Iraq invasion, who faced two years of British imprisonment before her case was dropped; James Risen, former New York Times journalist who was persecuted by our “justice” system for revealing our government’s surveillance of US!

Any Good Sense Left?

So, do we the people have enough good sense and independent thinking left to follow the advice of Henry David Thoreau?

“Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality” (Walden, 1854).

If not, the Doctor prescribes intensive therapy:

For a week, a month, or however long it takes to cleanse and open the mind, one must adhere to strict abstinence from Mainstream Media propaganda, junk news, pseudo analysis, fake photos, TV & videos, including absolutely no phony “for, by & of the people” NPR, PBS, BBC or other Government-funded Neo or LibCon Imperial tranquilizer.

In addition, take one, two, three of these prescribed satirical pills morning, noon and night for a week, a month or whatever length of time required to get the message and laugh at our self-deception. Then altogether come out on the street to dance and demand PEACE!

Pill #1: The Potemkin Empire

Hill & Billy from Arkansas: as President and Empress-in-Waiting (1992-2000)…until she found him in the Oval Office closet with Monica, then slept in a single bed unhappily ever after (1993-2001).

Bush the Shrub: but better known as the Hop-a-Long Cowboy, who never learned to ride a horse (2001-09).

Obama: The Emperor as Empty Suit: half ‘n half ~ black ‘n white. In Kenya he might have been the First White President! (2009-17).

Donald the Great: The Bull in the Imperial China Shop (2017-21).

Uncle Joe: The fading candidate of the Goldman-Sachs Democrats who thought they had their own Reagan. They do! He, too, is asleep at the wheel, but it’s not “Morning in America.” It’s past midnight and to the NeoLibs’ and Cons’ dismay, they’ve missed the New Century train, which has long since left the station and is halfway to Asia, filled with passengers from China and Africa to Latin America.

Dedicated to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian Orthodox Prophet. Exiled from the USSR, he and his family came to live in America on a farm in Cavendish, Vermont from 1976–1994. But who was listening? Not the Clintons, who sent US down this slippery slide by expanding NATO eastward to threaten Russia.


He was hospitalized with arterial sclerosis in 1989 and died in 1991, after which the huge hulk was hauled off to the taxidermist to be preserved then exhibited as a tribute to the long-suffering Russians and finally stored in the basement of The Hermitage as a relic of the Cold War.

However, when the American Triumphalists led by Harvard Professor Warsacker arrived, they claimed responsibility for his death and confiscated him as a war trophy. Then after Victory Marches wheeling him around St. Petersburg and Moscow’s Red Square in front of the humiliated Russians for several days, they auctioned him off along with the rest of the former soviet state assets cheap to Russian & American oligarchs.

Hence, the globalist financier, Georgio Soroff, paid only 36 rubles for the gigantic bear and promptly shipped it to the United States for display in his Open Sesame Museum as a trophy boasting that he was Founder-in-Chief of American-style Free Marketeering Democracy in Russia. But despite the fact that his project flopped, it could still be preserved one day as the epitaph on his tomb stone.


The Old York Times missed it because they were too busy cranking out their “Russian Hacking” series: 87 +/- allegations from mid-June 2016, right up to the eve of Trump’s inauguration January 20, 2017, by which date, at the rate of essentially the same set of allegations published every three days, The Times’ Alchemy Machine had transformed that pile of haywire, not into gold… but fake “facts” firmly planted in most folks’ minds… or at least those of the true blue Coastal Cosmopolitans.

But the unpublished “October Surprise” of 2016 was that a Bernie backer in the basement of the Vermont Teddy Bear factory in the village of Shelburne, VT had confessed to Green Mountain investigators that she, Goldie Lock, not Putin! had hacked the DNC emails in order to reveal that the Democratic National Committee had sabotaged her candidate. Furthermore, she explained that “Fancy” and “Cozy” Bears, about which there had been raging CIA suspicion and much media hysteria regarding their alleged “Russian identification,” were actually two of their most popular plush products. So, thanks to all of the free media marketing, the factory had geared up to meet the demand for a bear in every Vermont Christmas stocking and made enough profit to mail a free baby bear to every Vermont family for the New Year!

However, after Bernie, Vermont’s very own Socialist Senator, didn’t get the Democratic party nomination, then made the big mistake of campaigning for Hillary, Goldie, who was previously best known for her expertise in sewing button eyes on the bears and never suspected of being a hacker, together with her comrades at the factory, had called a press conference to declare that “It Only Took a Village” to depose a phony and demanded that “Hillary must go!” So, she lost the election and they got four years behind the scenes of the DC Reality Show & the Mainstream-Media-Fake-News, to restore The American Republic which had been divided and almost conquered by the 1% and its media: The Old York Times, The Bezos Post and the rest of the me-too-media and almost two more under Sleepy Joe and his Ukraine Nightmare. But now in November, we have another chance for to vote for change.

Let the Red, White & Blue Plush Revolution begin!

Jean Ranc is a psychologist retired from the University of North Carolina.

Featured: “A House of Cards,” Puck, January 20, 1904.

The West’s Addictive Dance with Death

In 1963 when the James Bond spy thriller, From Russia With Love, came out, just a year after the Cuban missile crisis, which pushed us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, if anyone had predicted that one day I’d be taking a boat to Moscow, I’d have said they were crazy.

And if I’d been told that I’d find centuries-old, stunningly beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedrals within the Kremlin, which we’d been led to believe was home only to the Soviet government and KGB, I’d have thought they were hallucinating.

Yet, there we were standing in the great red-brick-walled Kremlin (originally constructed of wood in the 12th century), thanks to a riverboat cruise sponsored by the Albuquerque International Association with its Russian ex-pat director, Marina Oborotova. We toured the grounds before entering the Assumption Cathedral, where all of the Russian czars and emperors had been crowned.

But stop the camera right there, to add that it was due to my travel in Cuba 2001-2, which included a visit to the site of the U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion of the island in April 1961, where I discovered that the U.S. invasion, not the subsequent Soviet defense of Cuba, had provoked the ‘62 nuclear missile crisis (complete with Americans frantically building bomb shelters in their basements!). In fact, the invasion had been planned during President Eisenhower’s administration, then carried out by the young, insecure President Kennedy, who was afraid to cancel it. Thus, the following year, his ominous warning to Soviet President Krushchev to “Withdraw the missiles or else!” was actually a response to the Soviets coming to the defense of Cuba by installing missiles on the island to prevent yet another U.S. military attack… likely including bombers! Yet even after negotiations with Russia, which resolved the confrontation peacefully, Kennedy still sought to assuage his humiliation over the Bay of Pigs debacle by ordering the CIA to assassinate Cuba’s President Fidel Castro. But that, too, failed; and to hide their half- cocked attempts (such as exploding cigars and flesh-eating powder in Fidel’s scuba suit), the evidence was hidden in classified documents. Thus, lacking an authentic investigation, endless speculations re: possible Cuban connections with Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 have circulated ever since.

So, with the history of the ’62 brink of nuclear war still being distorted by our media and shelved in next-to-never-read books in the stacks of university libraries… today, we are once again on the brink of nuclear suicide. This time it’s due to Russia’s refusal to surrender to Western hegemony and aggression. Instead she’s defending herself against a repeat of our 90’s-style rape, when she was prostrate after the collapse of the Soviet Union, followed by 30-some years of U.S.-NATO abuse and provocation ever since… including our installation of missiles right on Russia’s borders… despite our promise to Gorbachev in 1990: “to not move NATO one inch east of a unified Germany,” if the Soviets would peacefully remove their troops, which they did. But we broke our word. This, in contrast with Krushchev, who heeded Kennedy’s ultimatum and negotiated the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba in exchange for the removal of our nuclear missiles in Europe threatening the Soviets. Instead, we and our docile European “allies” have disregarded all of Russia’s warnings over the years, including their last December’s ultimatum, up to the eve of their “Ukraine intervention” in February. Instead, we blindly launch sanctions, which boomerang as food and fuel shortages with inevitable inflation, even as we insanely* pour billion$-worth of weapons into our proxy war against Russia and sacrifice the very Ukrainian lives, we pretend to be protecting.

But enough of the West’s current dance with death: this time orchestrated by the Viagra Generation and their desperately-seeking sisters such as Hillary, the former 1964 Goldwater Girl waving that warrior’s presidential campaign banner: “Bomb Vietnam Back to the Stoneage!” And after that folly , we watched her metamorphosis into an East Coast Liberal Yale Law School grad and marriage to her classmate, Bill, thereafter-to-become Governor of Arkansa then President. But as First Lady, she was apparently so humiliated by her husband’s antics in the Oval office closet with Monica that she vowed to become the first female President: “break the glass ceiling,” and pantsuit-clad, to be tougher than Obama or even her husband, who’d been reluctant to put “boots on the ground”… and instead cowardly bombed a pharmaceutical plant in the Syrian desert (to distract the press and public from his troubles with Monica?), and Serbia… where he enraged the Chinese by “mistakenly” bombing their Belgrade embassy. But after Hillary was defeated by Trump, another compromised New Yorker, who was so humiliated by Obama at his White House correspondents dinner that he swore to replace him as President… Hillary cravenly blamed Putin, the Military-Industrial-Media-Complex’s Favorite Fabricated Enemy.

But not to forget another prominent war-witch, Victoria Nuland, the former Assistant Secretary of State under Hillary, who now, under Biden is determined to redeem the $5 billion they invested in Ukraine, while he was VP, in covert sabotage then cookies and sandwiches to celebrate the February 2014 Ukraine coup they’d concocted in her little State Department kitchen.

But enough of that suicidal soap opera, let’s return to the relatively peaceful days (when the only “visible” U.S. wars playing on back stage marquees were “Afghanistan” in its 10th year and “Iraq” in its 9th). This was a couple of years before the Snowden-Manning-Assange revelations set off the explosive chain reactions, which continue today, including the slow, would-be crucifixion of Julian for his “sin” of speaking truth to power: our very own 21st century “Roman Empire,” with Assange on the cusp of extradition to a cross in Washington, D.C., 2022 A.D.

Flashback to July 2011 after… we’d just flown to St. Petersburg and were immediately transferred to our ship, the M/S Maxim Litvinov, docked on the Neva River. Founded by Peter the Great in 1707, this elegant city with its river and canals, sometimes called “the Venice of the north,” is 100 years younger than Santa Fe and almost the opposite: with its waterways vs. the desert, its baroque stone architecture vs. adobe and only 60 sunny days per year compared to Santa Fe’s 283.

The highlight of our St. Petersburg visit was the State Hermitage Museum, the former winter palace of the czars. However, we had time to see only a small portion of the vast art collections displayed in the extraordinarily lavish rooms in which the former rulers had lived and entertained. Then there were the summer palaces: Catherine the Great’s in the village of Pushkin, 15 miles south of St. Petersburg and Peter the Great’s, known as Peterhof, 18 miles west of the city, on the Gulf of Finland. In Pushkin, we toured Catherine’s glittering blue, white and gold palace, while at Peterhof, we bypassed the palace, in favor of the dazzling gardens and fountains inspired by those of Versailles just outside of Paris (evidence of Peter’s desire to emulate Europe and modernize Russia).

Finally, we had to leave this fairy tale city. So, along with 200-some other American, British, German and Chinese fellow travelers on our boat, we headed for other intriguing destinations along the rivers and lakes, where one of my favorites was tiny Kizhi Island. Described as an open-air Museum of Architecture, it’s comprised of a unique collection of ancient wooden structures gathered from around the country, then set amid wild flowers and grasses, fields of rye and flax all connected by foot paths. Walking beneath a brilliant blue sky, we were enchanted by this idyllic island and touched by the tales of the families who had lived and worked in the rugged two- and three-story homes, with their livestock on the ground floor, through the long, harsh winters.

And contemplating the Church of Transfiguration with its 22 onion-top domes, constructed in 1714, of aspen shingles without any nails, we were reminded of Santa Fe’s Loretto Chapel, with its mysterious wooden spiral staircase, also created without nails.

As we continued our cruise, we enjoyed changing vistas: great expanses of forests dotted with little clearings for farms, dachas or country homes, monasteries and occasional sawmills loading logs onto barges, as we leaned on the railings of our floating “observation” decks, from which we also watched with wonder as we transited some 20 locks.

James Bond, with all of his beautiful women and death-defying missions, never had it so good as we did, basking in our all-too-brief love affair with an old-new, pre- and post-Soviet Russia, which is transforming itself into a democracy and a mighty economic power.

“There is no truth where there is no love,” according to Alexander Pushkin.

*Diagnosis: Superpower Syndrome: America’s Apocalyptic Confrontation With the World by Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.-psychiatrist in 2003, for which he received the National Book Award, his, after his renowned research into Nazi doctors’ killings, interviews with Hiroshima survivors, study of Chinese thought reform under Mao’s revolutionary regime, then the violent extremist Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, plus the Vietnam War experience and veterans. And yet in 2022, the West’s American-led Dance With Death continues.

Jean Ranc is a psychologist retired from the University of North Carolina.

Featured: “An Allegory of Death and the Rich Man,” by Frans Francken the Younger, ca. 1601-1642.