In 1959, Chuck Berry had a hit with a song called Back in the USA, a rock ‘n roll propelled love anthem to America. The lyrics went:
Oh well, oh well, I feel so good today
We touched ground on an international runway
… New York, Los Angeles, oh, how I yearned for you
Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge
Let alone just to be at my home back in ol’ St. Lou
.… Well, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A.
Yes, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A.
Anything you want, we got right here in the U.S.A.
Just about a decade later, in November 1968, the Beatles led off their White Album with a tongue-in-cheek riff on the East-West divide going on at the time, a track called Back in the USSR, a shout-out to Chuck Berry.
The Beatles lyrics went:
… back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSR
Then the Beatles segued into a spoof of the Beach Boys – California Girls:
… Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the west behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
And then back to:
… I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boys
Back in the USSR
The Beatles brought many new Russian fans on board with Back in the USSR, among them a certain Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the very same thug now directing genocide against the people of Ukraine. But the Beatles were just messing around. Back in the USSR was not a love anthem to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had just invaded Czechoslovakia in August of that same year, 1968, and the Beatles were well aware of that. The song had its base in irony.
In a changed world, Paul McCartney later sang the song at a concert in Moscow’s Red Square in 2003, and Putin was in attendance. At that Red Square concert, everywhere you looked Moscovites were rockin’ and rollin,’ happy as hell that they were being acknowledged by McCartney. Putin was deadpan, perhaps already fixated on how he might recreate the empire that the Beatles had satirized and that McCartney was now flaunting right in front of him in Moscow. Putin was not amused by the irony.
All water under the bridge now that Comrade Vlad has directed his military might to invade and attempt to choke off life in Ukraine.
Despite the passage of time, inter-connected world economies, the acceptance of Russia as a partner, glasnost, the internet, Facebook, TikTok, Telegram and Twitter, here we are looking at an East-West divide, the likes of which we never imagined possible at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century.
And what the fu .. why (expletive removed)?
Well, just maybe because Putin, going about his daily life as a dictator par excellence in Russia in 2022, has an ego even greater than Trump’s. Putin is mega-egotistical, eager for a mention in history equal to that of his heroine Catherine the Great, paranoiac in the extreme and, unfortunately for the rest of us, someone with a uniquely manhood-threatened view of civilization. He has his finger on a nuclear trigger, something that Stalin and Hitler never had. His mention in history, if the there ever is a history after this, is sure to be in the column of the latter.
Once, we might have imagined, in our innocence, that Paul McCartney knew what he was doing, penning a guitar-driven rock song that the world – Russia included – could twist-and-shout to.
Oh, how silly we were.
All the while, our real future was being decided in Comrade Putin’s mind.
Here in the USA, we were dutifully electing a new President every four years. Back in the USSR of his dreams, the de facto ruler of Russia since December 1999, according to Wikipedia, Putin was upending the last 22 years of history, consolidating power, readying his new Russia for the moment when he might recreate some semblance of his lost Soviet empire.
Soviet, you might just reasonably ask, What is that exactly?
Basically, Soviet is a synonym for Communist, an elected community council that makes decisions for a society, a country, no dissension allowed.
It’s a world vision that went out of favor in 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved, an empire that consisted of none other than Russia, but also Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
In the world at large, we may have thought Soviet was forever gone from our reality, a thing of the past.
In 1991, the Soviet Union was replaced by something called the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Bush Administration at the time quickly recognized the independence of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. And some of those newly independent states immediately understood their opportunity. Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, fast aligned themselves with Europe and the West, and over a relatively short period of time became NATO members.
And so Soviet was gone from the world stage, or so we wished ourselves into thinking.
Except, Soviet was not gone. Soviet had one major shareholder remaining.
That major USSR shareholder was not at all discouraged, put off or disheartened by past Soviet setbacks or failures, but in a cockeyed view of world politics, found himself not only the President of Russia, but capable of invading a previous ally to inflict unprecedented death, pain and destruction on Ukraine.
That shareholder’s name is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
To drag us all back to a pre-McCartney, pre-Beatles era, to a psuedo-utopia, a ghost empire that he has convinced himself he can regroup called the USSR?
What a blockhead, what a fu..-up (expletive again removed.)
Pardon my French.