There’s been a lot of finger pointing in Washington recently in regards to the Russians. While it seems that most of the White House brass has had contact with the Russians, very few want to admit to it.
In the interest of transparency, I hereby go on record declaring that I have had contact with the Russians and I stand ready to deal with the consequences. Please don’t confuse me with the political prevaricators that populate our nation’s capital.
My contact with the Ruskies goes back to the Cold War days of the 1960s. Back then, Russia was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Soviet Union as it was more commonly called.
It was the autumn of 1965, as I recall. I was a semi-innocent senior in a small rural high school in north central Iowa. Ours was a small class — 42 graduates in all — and American Government was a required course.
During a class discussion on citizenship and what was required for a foreign born individual to become a naturalized citizen of the United States I raised an issue no one in the room could address. “I wonder,” I thought aloud, “what it takes to become a naturalized citizen of the Soviet Union.”
At that time Soviet citizens were risking their lives to escape the Communist nation and I sure as heck didn’t want to become one. Nonetheless, I was curious as to how that process compared to becoming an American citizen.
The ensuing discussion was brief and the teacher moved on to a less troublesome topic.
Later in the day, however, I went to the school library and found the mailing address of the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. That night I rolled a sheet of paper into my trusty typewriter and wrote a letter to the Soviet ambassador, asking how one would go about becoming a citizen of his country. To keep it real, I did not explain the circumstances of my inquiry.
A few weeks later I found a reply in our mailbox. Some embassy staffer typed out a polite response and mailed it along with a brochure explaining in simple English how one could become a Soviet citizen.
I took the letter to my American government class and excitedly shared the contents with my instructor and classmates.
At the tender age of 17 one’s ability to comprehend consequences is not yet fully developed and so it was that I came to realize my simple, innocent inquiry might have significant consequences.
“Oh my gosh,” one of my classmates exclaimed, “you could get in trouble for that!” “For what?” I asked… worriedly.
“You might get in trouble for asking how to become a citizen of the Soviet Union. Someone might think you are disloyal to the United States.”
Holy espionage, I hadn’t considered that. I loved America (still do) and would never want to be considered disloyal. The thought of a draft deferment did flash through my mind but it quickly disappeared.
The rest of the day was a miserable and continual worry of what could happen to me, a simple extra-large country boy who may have opened Pandora’s Box.
That night I sat down at my typewriter again, rolled in a sheet of typing paper and wrote a letter to H.R. Gross, our Congressman. I explained to the congressman what I had done and why and asked what, if any, consequences I may face for having done so.
A week or so later I found a letter from Congressman Gross in the mailbox. I hurriedly opened the envelope and was relieved to learn that I had nothing to worry about. I proudly read Mr. Gross’ letter to my classmates, assuring them there was no chance of me being sent to Fort Leavenworth… or Siberia. I have always wondered if all my classmates viewed that as good news.
So there. While the two-faced ninnies in Washington try to hide their contacts with the Russians, I stand before you in full declaration of my international relationships. Or should I say “relationship.” Perhaps that word is too strong, as well. I stand before you in full declaration of my letter to the Soviet embassy.