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And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars

For how much of everything you know do you have first-hand knowledge? When I get spun up on existential fear, I try to remember landing in Russia in transit to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport.

It was 1990 and we were only there long enough, was it, to swap the crew and to fuel up. I was catching a bargain charter from Germany to Nepal by way of Munich on the heels of the first days of Operation Desert Storm. While I flew over the still Soviet Union, there were entire fields of aircraft carcasses.

I was on that flight instead of in my seminars at university because the moment the West waged war on Islam and the Middle East everyone canceled their holidays to anywhere even vaguely Oriental, including trips to Nepal. Their loss was my gain.

From the desolate land seen from 30,000 feet to the ancient airfield and ramshackle refueling station, it occurred to me that maybe the Soviet Union was a paper tiger, about as threatening to the safety of the United States as Idaho or Wyoming.

I remembered thinking about how ravaged the CCCP was after losing 26 million Soviet citizens and 11 million soldiers during and as the direct result of World War II. And that’s after 20 million Soviets died at the hands of Joseph Stalin.

How many adult men could be manifested towards fighting the cold war after so many of the most virile young and middle-aged men were killed during the 30s through the 40s? Compare that to the modest, by comparison, 418,500 American lives that were lost. Half a million lives are no joke, surely, by anybody’s measure; however, 46 million Russian lives lost during the Soviet Empire is an order of magnitude greater. Is that 110 times more Russians dead than Americans?

Before the war, the USSR had a population of 190 million to America’s 130 million. Today, in comparison, America has a population that is double that of Russia without its satellite countries. 144.5 million Russians in 2017, compared to 327 million Americans. More women than men and a true post-war population growth failure.

Russia never recovered after World War II and yet we spent the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s shitting our pants and spending like literal drunken sailors on literal aircraft carriers over the threat of Communism, a land war, proxy wars, Soviet moles and spies, and the existential threat of thermonuclear war.

To me, the plausibility of Russia ever being enough of a present threat to drive America into the froths we found ourselves in during McCarthyism reminds me of an out-of-context Matthew 24:6, “you will hear about wars and reports of wars. Don’t be alarmed.” While Matthew meant actual wars; to me, rumors of wars are not enough proof to me that there were or are actual wars behind them.

I’ve felt this way long before watching The Fog of War or Wag the Dog. Way back on a desolate Siberian airfield I already felt that way. At only 20 years of age. Russia is an empty country filled with people who are as over war as their German and Japanese—and sometimes British—counterparts.

To this day, I conflate Matthew 24:6 with FDR's "so, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance," resulting in a mash-up such as "you will hear rumors of war but the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

It's sort of my mantra, a reminder to my busy busy brain, that I intersperse with "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

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