First it was reported that the National Security Adviser had discussed sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador. Then it turned out that the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser had held numerous meetings with the Russian ambassador, supposedly to establish a line of communication with the Kremlin by connecting two cans with a really long string. Then it was rumored that the President’s campaign manager had met with Russian intelligence officials, not “knowingly” but thinking they were landscapers giving an estimate on clearing brush in the campaign manager’s backyard.
A foreign policy adviser to the campaign denied having meetings with Russian officials, but then admitted meeting with the Russian ambassador, explaining that “meetings” is totally different from “meeting” because one is plural and the other is singular. And it was rumored that the founder of a major security company secretly met with an unidentified Russian rumored to be close to the Russian President, and while it was rumored that the founder was not involved in the Presidential campaign, he was rumored to have been a major contributor, and was rumored to have been close to the President’s chief strategist, and was even rumored to be the brother of the President’s education secretary.
The Attorney General, when he was advising the campaign, had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador, but claimed he had done so not as campaign manager but as the result of a wrong number. And a former adviser to the President admitted that he’d communicated with a hacker persona called “Guccifer 2.0” that may have been a front for Russian intelligence, but could have just as easily been a new operating system for men’s leather shoes.
This was all bad enough. But then the mayor of my town was said to have spoken to the Russian ambassador about weakening NATO and adding a traffic signal at that busy intersection near the supermarket. And my daughter’s math teacher was reported to have sold arms and protractors to the Russians for $250 million. Our favorite pizzeria was temporarily closed while the FBI reviewed the sauce for microphones. And even the greeter at our Walmart was questioned because a customer—exactly who was never revealed—testified that instead of “Hello, welcome to Walmart,” the greeter had said “Zdravstvuyte, dobro pozhalovat’ v’Walmart.”
A special investigator appointed by Congress issued a subpoena to the local library branch for “records of all patrons who borrowed War and Peace or any other ridiculously long Russian novel” (although that subpoena was eventually quashed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit). And my paperboy was implicated after his smartphone was confiscated by federal agents working undercover (although they kept getting so many popup notifications to backup to the cloud that they gave up). There were even reports that my neighbor had been in talks with Russian scientists about a new type of genetically engineered grass seed that would give him the nicest looking lawn on the block.
These reports, releases, revelations, and rumors pommeled me, one after another, for months. I felt like I was living not in America but in a far-flung province of the Russian Empire. Then one morning I woke up feeling especially lonely and sad. I realized that everyone—from the very top levels of government, to those neighbors who leave their garbage cans out by the street even though it’s not garbage day—had been in contact with the Russians.
Everyone, that is, except me.