The Russians are already here
Touring the Altronix facility in Brooklyn, N.Y. this past month (see related story: "Altronix launches new branding campaign"), I noticed something others might have missed. Many of the cautionary signs you see around a manufacturing facility--"Keep this door closed"; "Don't extinguish cigarettes on the floor"--at Altronix were also written in Russian, just below the English. And this wasn't just due diligence; there were no translations to Spanish, for instance, which you often find in similar facilities.
No, it just so happens that a number of Russian immigrants work at Altronix, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that owner and president Alan Forman's wife is Russian. It's unimportant. What fascinates me is how far we've come from the xenophobia of the now-defunct Cold War, when the Russians were coming--and bringing their nuclear bombs with them.
In college, as a Russian minor, I was fascinated with the Russian culture. Their literature is full of dark and brooding anti-heroes, a reflection of a people who have long been oppressed, be it by czars, or communists, or now "presidents" who don't seem to come up for election very often.
I knew then that the vast majority of Russians were humble people, largely poor, and generally uninterested in what form of government they lived under, considering that no leader yet had been able to adequately feed their children, keep them warm, or provide many of the conveniences experienced in more prosperous Western countries.
Yet, when my peers, nurtured as part of the generation that saw Olympic boycotts and military-infused May Day parades, discovered my interests, they would sneer that I was sidling up to the communists. My love of the language and culture was enough to make me a possible pinko myself, even after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union.
So, imagine my glee in seeing Altronix, a company that prides itself on delivering products "Made in America" and housing its headquarters in a former naval shipyard, employing a host of Russians.
You might even say that Altronix, in serving the security industry, operates in one of the most patriotic industries in the United States. Imagine that: Russians helping to keep America safe.
It's enough to give one hope for the world, even as the war on terrorism has us all looking over our shoulders and watching out for unattended baggage. How long will it be before our current enemies are helping to keep America safe?