Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
From the first days at school American children are taught to write the word “I” with a capital letter. In any place of the sentence, because everyone is unique and inimitable. So it is like this that more than 300 million of complete uniqueness, like two drops of water, live.
Natalya Severin – a Russian emigrant living in the United States – quotes the letter of her friend who also lives in the US, who had the misfortune of being at the crossroads of two mutually exclusive cultures.
In America, a country of continuing barratry — instructions for work are very popular, deviation from which threatens the employee with substantial fines, if not imprisonment. And it would be okay if it concerned, for example, the ban on smoking in the workshop of a gunpowder factory. In this case, in Russia you will also receive a slap on the wrist in order to better remember where it is forbidden to smoke. No, here it is a question, for example, about a rule, according to which a doctor or nurse who finds themselves with a patient in a burning building will at first save themselves.
In Russia such things are simply impossible to imagine. The principle “perish yourself, but rescue your comrade” works at our place everywhere. Doctors will till the last moment pull out their patients from the fire while they imagine better than others the consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning. Nurses during the Great Patriotic War over and over again under shelling left safe blindages to pull out from the battlefield the wounded who are incapable of moving. Rural paramedics alone went at night through the woods teeming with wolves in order to be in time for the patient. But all this is in Russia.
In the US in such a case there are instructions that must be observed. So Natalya’s acquaintance Severin acted according to instructions. During the fire she put an oxygen mask on the patient and moved to the exit, because she knew that firefighters were already at the scene, and nothing threatens the patient in a mask.
Americans perceived the events are normal, but unfortunately for her the patient also appeared to be a Russian migrant, and now he fairly considers that the doctor left him in trouble. Moreover, he described his story in the community of emigrants, and now the unlucky female doctor is despised by all the local Russian community.
“How is it possible,” said the distressed emigrant, “I understand that we were always heroes, and Americans are shameful cowards. But without acting according to the instructions, I would lose my job. Now among Russians I have the label of traitor, and Americans don’t understand my problem”.
Indeed, this problem rears its head the most at the everyday level. The idea of the uniqueness of their own “I”, driven since childhood, makes Americans capable of spitting on their duty, friendship, even on family relationships for the sake of themselves. Numerous lawsuits of American children against their parents serves as confirmation of this.
But also at the international level the United States demonstrates a similar approach. Where Russia agrees to take a risk in order to help an ally in the fight against terrorists, the US pursues its own interests and if it is at some point more favorable to play for terrorists, America won’t stop to think for a second before committing another vile act, cowardly covering itself with doctrines and instructions.
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