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August 12, 2020 | Rome, Italy

V-man

By | 2018-03-21T19:46:35+01:00 October 31st, 2015|At Large & Sports|
Sometimes, you just get lucky with villains.
A

fter we found the ogre in the ditch I started getting worried. Here was bearded Saddam Hussein in the hairy flesh. The bully was ours (a timid and ugly one, if you ask me). But with Saddam gone, who’d fill the prime time quotient? We’re a country that needs bullies to feel better about our national purpose. That doesn’t mean they aren’t bad men, they are, only that we depend on their badness to help trumpet our goodness, which is a key part of our national mission statement.

So, no more Saddam. Russia, as in the Soviet Union, aka Evil Empire, once had an assembly line of bullies that took care of most of the post-Hitler 20th-century. After than and before Saddam you had Slobodan Milosevic, whose name sounded bad enough, never mind how much he liked killing non-Serbs. But the Slob Slav was arrested and died in captivity, while on trial in The Hague (rhymes with plague).

Osama seemed ripe for the role starting in 2001, but the guy had bad kidneys and lived in a cave. You can’t hate what you can’t see, or what doesn’t show off. That left Saddam in the driver’s seat, and he sure knew how to fill the job description. Never mind WMDs, the guy looked self-satisfied and ornery. He was also arrogant, which we love to hate (unless it comes in the form of Donald Trump or an evangelical Christian, or even an opposite-of-prom queen banshee operator who wants to be president). Saddam got kicked around for years, pre- and post-invasion, until the stupid ditch incident (SDI) made notions of bully-doom seem pathetic.

Round about ’08, when Barry Obama took over, we were pretty much minus major bullies. Sure, there was a chubby little baby dictator in North Korea, but he wasn’t much good for anything beside bad Hollywood comedies. Cults of personality aren’t what they used to be, not when most of your country doesn’t have electricity.

But I’m here with good tidings. Russia, sensitive to this annoying void, decided to make a late bid on behalf of their guy, Vlad Putin. Now then, V-man had been around for more than a decade. We even loved him for a while, never mind that he once worked for the KGB. We even called him our favorite word, a reformer.

But then he turned bad. He stopped agreeing with us all the time. He decided to thump his chest about Russian destiny. He oversaw a war in Georgia. Seeing that wasn’t enough, he made for Crimea and Sevastopol, never mind all this student government-style fuss about sovereignty.

Even more perfect, he kept showing abs, and hanging around models, and windsurfing or snowboarding, or parachuting, or playing hockey, or just basically doing what guys in their American mid-50s don’t do: preen (hey, most over 50 American males are two-thirds dead and one-third purple pill).

Suddenly, V-man was a made-to-order, ready-to-impale bully, a blue-plate special, everything we wanted and needed, and recognized (since Russia is a lot more impressive than North Korea).

These days V-man is lampooned right and left, and by right and left. He’s gag material. Say “Putin” and you mean monster. He hates gays, which is perfect in this gender-equals-identity era. He’s been compared to every other available bully, alive or dead. Some of his sworn opponents have great names, like “Pussy Riot.” His caricature makes it into mainstream TV (check out Viktor Petrov, VP, the V-man in “House of Cards.”) He’s the real deal.

Even better, because he controls his country’s electoral system he’d likely to be around until at least 2020. By then he’ll be nearly 70 and can climb Mt. Everest with Miss Moscow in tow while having his secret police tickle gay activists until they renounce their aberrant sexuality. What more could a judgmental country ask for than someone like the V-man?

So, Vlad, here’s looking at you, and stay away from ditches.

About the Author:

Joel Stein
Joel Stein is the pen name of an author who has written the magazine's occasional humor column since 2013.

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