In the fall of 1980, I was a sophomore in high school enduring another American Literature class, probably trying to figure out how to do damage control on the previous spring’s dating debacle, when Sister Pat Duck got off on a tangent about the Russians. The Russkis. Commies.
What’s that? Oh right. Her name wasn’t really Sister Pat Duck. It was Sister Pat something — I don’t remember. But one day, a friend of mine drew an infamous portrait of her with — well, a duck’s bill. And it stuck. We were, of course, oh so clever making quacking noises in the back of the class and in the halls afterwards. Talk about sophomoric humor.
So, despite living in a convent, with its communal living space, lack of personal property and being part of the world’s largest religious bureaucracy, Sister Pat Duck was a seething anti-Communist. And one day, she hit us with this: (I paraphrase)
“Not only do the Russians seek to defeat us militarily, they want to destroy from the INSIDE! You see, kidsths (she did have a bit of a lisp) in Russia, they’re raising kids that are brought to America and are programmed to infiltrate society, corrupt it, all the time spying for the Commies. They won’t have Russian accents. They will look and act – JUST! LIKE! US!”
For a moment, we all looked uneasily around the classroom at one another, suspiciously. Then someone let out a muffled quack, her brief command of our attention shattered.
Well, it seems that maybe rather than a high school English teacher, Sister Pat Duck should have been a Hollywood screenwriter, because this week the F/X network debuts a new drama, The Americans. In it, a couple of KGB officers are trained to be EXACTLY WHAT SISTER PAT DUCK WARNED US ABOUT!
I have to say that I’m curious to tune-in to the new show (and by “tune-in”, I mean DVR and watch sometime later). It’s good to see Keri Russell playing against type and I’m curious as to whether they’ll be able to capture the grim Cold War vibe that I grew up with as a teenager.
I recall my friends and I having bravado-laden discussions of the Mutually Assured Destruction of nuclear war, taking an absurd pride that the Philadelphia area — a major refining area and then the 4th largest metropolitan population — was sure to be on the Russian’s “first strike” list. So we didn’t have anything to worry about. We’d all be vaporized, probably while we were playing the ultimate no-win Cold War video game: Missile Command.
I wonder sometimes how that affected us as teens — blithely pretending we didn’t care about the end of our civilization. Most folks born after say 1985 probably never really considered the possibility that seemed so very real to us. Of course, I didn’t have to worry about getting gunned down in my school, church, or movie theater. So there’s that. But, of course, teens today play a lot of video games with rampant shooting, so maybe we’re really not that different — only the method of pointless slaughter changes.
I wonder what Sister Pat would have to say about that.