Vladimir Putin’s invasion into the Ukraine, and make no mistake, it has been no minor incursion, has rightfully united the West and much of the rest of the world against him. But I plead with all of us as Americans not to scapegoat those in American who have a Russian accent. It is NOT their fault or doing that Mr. Putin’s actions have taken a treacherous course in causing the death of innumerable civilians, along with the mass destruction of buildings in the Ukraine, that are intrinsic to that that country’s culture.
An underlying guiding principle of the United States is that immigrants coming here would bring their culture and wares but their primary allegiance would go to America. These new Americans take the oath to become American citizens with the desire to melt into the culture with the many immigrants who have come before them. They could practice their religion the way they chose along with their customs they brought to America. One of the more wonderful outcomes of this inflow of different people from all over the world allowed the establishment of all sorts of cuisine and new enterprises that people could taste and experience as a first.
America has thousands of Russian immigrants who came to the U.S.A. in the ‘70’s and afterwards when there was a thaw in the Soviet Union’s relationship with the West. Many of those immigrants were Jews who had been persecuted and treated badly for years by Soviet authorities. But others may have been Ukranians looking for a better life. Of course, their common language before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, was Russian. Once in America, those that came might communicate in Russian with each other, but their presence in American helps reduce any form of national antagonistic feelings of a negative nature against each other. They can be friends. It is precisely this that is the beauty of America.
Similarly, it was wrong to blame Jews, when the Israelis defended themselves in attacking Gaza in May of 2021. Whether you agree or don’t agree with Israeli foreign policy, it is simply wrong to attack Jewish people because Israel is a Jewish State. However, I have read and have been told several Jewish students at different universities were attacked by virtue of their religion. Chinese Americans were similarly mistreated after the CoVid19, a virus that had its origin in China, had become a pandemic.
It is almost reflexive to find a scapegoat as a substitute for one’s grievances. This is the easy way of dealing with tragic occurrences that take place from time to time, and as I caution my clients, it is System 1 thinking (see Kahneman and Tversky, 2011). Unfortunately, this type of thinking, that can be called automatic thinking, does not lead always to a good result. System 2 thinking, requiring deliberation and rationality, might allow us to reconsider our instinctive nature to point fingers at others. System 2, in this sense, tells us to take a moment away from the immediacy of our feelings by monitoring them with some deliberative thought. Hopefully, this type of thinking will serve as a beacon to guide us into a more constructive way of looking at such situations.
If, In the future, we may start seeing “Russian” villains on all kinds of media (e.g. movies, animated cartoons, games and T.V.) Let us keep in mind that such caricatures are not of “Russian” Americans. Here System 2 thinking will help us not to forget that distinction by reminding us of what it means to be an American.