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Kristina and I set out for a walk yesterday morning, taking a leaf-covered bike trail and then an offshoot that goes through the cemetery. A loud boom when we were yet a great way off failed to alert me to what might be going on in the cemetery on Veterans Day. But as we got closer we could see cannon, and then it dawned us that we had stumbled onto Concord’s annual flag-retirement ceremony.

After getting a bit of history from costumed representatives of the Concord Independent Battery, we walked over to where retired flags were being burned. Kristina’s church choir led the assembled veterans and supporters in “God Bless America.” The song seemed to take on added weight this Veterans Day, as many of us held in our hearts an America built on the Bill of Rights and the wish to see justice for all.

May our military continue to be asked to defend the bedrock of the American experiment as they always have.

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A political analyst from Russia who has lived in the U.S. off and on for 20 years has written a book for Russians thinking of living in America, and it’s a knockout hit. It turns out that even Russians who are not planning to go to the U.S. find our culture deeply puzzling and want to learn more.

Reading about Nikolai Zlobin’s book in the NY Times is helping me understand how differently Russians see some everyday things. Live in a cul-de-sac with few neighbors? That’s a dead end. Very dangerous! Leave curtains open at night, and let people see what you’re up to? No way!

“In Russia,” adds Ellen Barry, “children are raised by their grandmothers, or, if their grandmothers are not available, by women of the same generation in a similar state of unremitting vigilance against the hazards — like weather — that arise in everyday life. An average Russian mother would no sooner entrust her children’s upbringing to a local teenager than to a pack of wild dogs.

“But of course much in everyday American life sounds bizarre to Russians, as Mr. Zlobin documents meticulously in his 400-page book, ‘America — What a Life!’

“It seems strange, 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, that ordinary Russians would still be hungry for details about how ordinary Americans eat and pay mortgages. But to Mr. Zlobin’s surprise, his book — published this year and marketed as a guide to Russians considering a move abroad — is already in its fifth print run, and his publisher has commissioned a second volume.” Read more here.

Photograph: James Hill for the NY Times
Nikolai Zlobin, the political analyst and author, in central Moscow near the Kremlin.

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