Monday, July 12, 2010

Move Over, Moose and Squirrel

Because Boris and Natasha aren't done yet. And neither is the spy swap saga. It might just be getting longer--and more unnecessarily dramatic--than the Twilight saga.

It seems, now, that everybody is getting into the spy swap that recently occurred between the United States and Russia after ten folks were arrested in the US for spying for the Motherland. As any casual viewer of Cold War-era politics can tell you, the US and Russia don't have the most trusting of relationships, and frankly, these sleeper agents shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. During the late days of the Bush Administration, when the US worked to stiffarm compliance with its proposed missile shield, feelings ran hot, and US plans sparked tension--and dissent--from Sarah Palin's across-the-Bering-Strait neighbors.

But now, the spy swap is starting to obtain a sort of cult, "OMG Britney Spears shaved her head!" status. Recently, two of the Russians expelled from Moscow in the swap--Igor Sutyagin and Anna Chapman--have been sighted in a London hotel. Not just sighted, mind you; technically, they've been reported as "being undercover" in a hotel. And now there are questions of where they're going to go...can they get visas? Will Chapman, who has a British passport through a previous marriage, be permitted entry into the country?

This is, by now, a usual pH/Penguin in the Machine complaint...but (1) why are people surprised that there are still spies and undercover agents, (2) why are these the headline-grabbing current events instead of things that might be of more import to daily existence, and (3) while I feel this would make an interesting human interest story or essay...why don't we focus on the policies and the public personas of the governments these spies were representing? Why don't we ask why they were spying, for what they were searching? It's a question that requires introspection, as opposed to a sort of oohing and aahing that apparently comes much easier.

We have more important concerns. Like snapping photographs of spies in hotels. Just you wait, in the future photographs of a spy at a fountain will be like postage stamps: everywhere, yellowed, thumbed over, and seen by everyone.

A recent Least I Could Do strip provides, I think, the best possible response to this conundrum: Get the experts after all of these spies. I imagine they'd do just as well, and it wouldn't have the predictable inanities of a soap opera plot.


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