Here Come the Russians

I recently took a day trip to one of the more touristy spots in the area. Along with the usual people attracted to touristy areas - namely tourists, who try to cram as much fun, fun, fun into their short time in the area, and relax more at their busy jobs than during a relaxing vacation – I noticed a lot of Europeans. Eastern Europeans. Russians.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist about it, frankly, I don’t mind. Diversity is refreshing – it reminds us that, though we often forget, we are not the only country or culture on this planet. But there were a lot of them, more than I would expect in a white-collar touristy area that mainly attracts golfers, boaters, and families in large SUV’s or European luxury cars looking to cram as much fun into a day as is humanly possible. And honestly, I can’t say they were all Russians – I can’t discern one Eastern European language from another. They could have all been locals of Polish or German heritage, which are common to the area.

But more often than not, I’d be standing in line behind one talking their native language to a family member. Or overhearing some talk in a public area. Or listening to their boisterous joviality when sitting near them at a restaurant. It was if I was the only native in the uppity-scale community, as if the Eastern Bloc had invaded the affluent town.

Then I thought the worst. These are the people who are trying to influence our elections, trying to alter our democratic institutions, trying to change our American way of life.

Fortunately, I only thought it for a brief moment before realizing how ridiculous it sounded. Certainly there is evidence of foreign governments trying to affect our elections and democratic institutions. But their agents do not need to travel to Midwest America to inflict their ideologies, and wouldn’t anyway, preferring to hack from a distance in their comfy chairs in the locations where they cannot be detected, arrested, and prosecuted. I’m sure they know they can do more damage using subversive Facebook accounts and Twitter feeds than they can chatting to family members at marinas, golf clubs, and steak joints.

The vast majority of people who do travel to this country do so to experience the best of what we and our culture have to offer. They do it to compare what we have to what they have at home. And, if they relocate here, chances are they are doing so because they see something better here, and will additionally bring with them the best of what they have to offer. As I said, diversity is good. No free culture wants to change for the worse, all want to change for the better, and will adapt the best parts of other cultures to do so. It is simple human nature.

The problem is most of us lose sight of that. It is easy to do when the majority of the population has never traveled outside of their own locality, much less ever traveled to a foreign country. It is difficult for our culture to change for the better when the members of our society have nothing to compare it to.

At the end of the day trip, I left the tourist spot feeling invigorated by the experience, thinking, if the Europeans are still traveling here, we must still have something good to offer. At least for now.