Superheros Come to the Capital

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 15, 2019 - 08:36:00 AM

On Thursday morning I woke up to listen to an obviously intelligent man speaking on my bedside radio in full sentences using occasional big words and teaching me a lot I didn’t know about what we used to call “The Ukraine”. That would be the modern struggling nation of Ukraine, whose capital, now Kyiv, is what we used to transliterate as Kiev. And Trump’s henchmen, Rudy, Lev and Igor, had recently been detected hanging out there.

There was a time, when I was taking the Russian History course and/or reading Russian literature, that I fancied I knew something about Kiev. All I’ve been able to remember recently, fifty years or so down the line, was the origin story about how Orthodox Christianity came to what we called Russia.

The star of that story was Prince (or Saint) Vladimir of Kiev, who round about the end of the first millennium decided that his “pagan” people needed to take up one of the Abrahamic desert religions to keep up with the modern world. He did the grand tour of Judaism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Legend has it that he settled on the last of these because when he visited the gorgeous golden-domed Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople (previously Byzantium, now Istanbul) and heard the sumptuous Greek liturgy “he didn’t know if he was in heaven or in earth.”

I’m not sure if I learned this in my history or my language/literature classes, and even that much I had to look up on Wikipedia to remember the names.

From my radio lecturer I learned a whole lot of new things, notably the recent history of the post-Soviet independent Ukraine, now separated from Russia, even though Prince Vladimir in his day ruled most of Russia. I turned on the computer to livestream what turned out to be the impeachment hearings, and learned a whole lot more.

Based on how George P. Kent explained his understanding of what’s happened lately regarding relations between the United States and Ukraine, at a guess I’d say he’s Clark’s younger brother. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see him step into a phone booth, remove his trademark bow tie and three piece suit, and leap into the air clad in spandex. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that he’d studied Russian history and literature some thirty years later that I did. Smart, articulate, well-educated, humane—in other words, the anti-Trump. In the movie, he’d be played by Jimmy Stewart, if he wasn’t dead. 

And his colleague, Ambassador William Taylor, could be played by Lionel Barrymore, or maybe an older Jimmy Stewart(still dead, however). He’s everyone’s dream grandpa, old, wise and brave, a breath of fresh air after all the bad press old white guys have been getting lately. 

What a pair. Maybe there’s hope for America after all. How many of these solid gold citizens are still left in the State Department? 

And today we saw a third one, a real Joan of Arc, fighting the good fight against corrupt oligarchs way out there in Ukraine while dastardly Trump and his evil minions plot to burn her at the stake, figuratively speaking. That would be Marie (born Marya?) Yovanovitch, Masha to her friends. She stands up straight, looks the nasty Republicans in the eye, and shows a sense of humor occasionally to boot. 

That is one of Bill Taylor’s best qualities too. When an evil twin, Nunes or Jordan, delivered an unusually ludicrous diatribe, the camera revealed Taylor struggling not to crack a smile. 

Being both retired and life-long political junkies at my house, we had no trouble consuming the whole fourteen hours or whatever the hearings added up to. (I got a lot of laundry sorted while I watched.) In a period dominated by the sordid antics of the likes of Trump and the loathsome Stephen Miller(outed this week by leaked emails which showed him to be a rabid white nationalist) watching Kent, Taylor and Yovanovitch speak truth to power was restorative. 

Not only were the heroes heroic, the villains were suitably villainous. The Repugs’ hired inquisitor, a man named, I kid you not, Castor, presumably after the Oil, had a narrow face which resembled a malicious ferret. Truthfully, the Dems’staff attorney was a bit ferret-like too, but their congresspeople were excellent: crisp, disciplined and to the point. 

At night, after the hearings were over, I’ve been reading John Le Carre’s brand new spy novel, a self-indulgent purchase of the latest from one of my all time favorites. It’s good, like his many previous works, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the real deal. My favorite moment so far is Bill Taylor revealing that one of the legendary 3 Amigos took a Trump call on an unsecured phone in a restaurant with three people listening (no, really?). Or perhaps, even though the intent was to intimidate, it was the revelation that the Tweeter-in-Chief was trying to bully Ambassador Yovanovitch in real time while she was testifying in front of a huge online international audience. 

Is he crazy? It’s times like this that you’re tempted to believe that the 25th Amendment is more relevant than impeachment. 

But don’t take my word for it. Watch the tapes on youtube yourself on the weekend. Better than most movies.