America Going All 'Give Me Freedom Fries Or Give Me Death' Again

America Going All 'Give Me Freedom Fries Or Give Me Death' Again
File:Anchorage Alaska Museum Russia Exhibit - Stolichnaya vodka ...

There was a time a long, long time ago, where one would read in books full of weird facts about how, during World War II, people started calling sauerkraut "victory cabbage" and referring to hamburgers as "liberty steaks." The latter was particularly awkward, since hamburgers are not a German food and have absolutely nothing to do with the city of Hamburg, despite being named for it. It was the kind of thing you might look at and go, "Oh jeez, people were really weird back then."

Surprising though it may seem, we used to have a lot of things like that.

But then came Freedom Fries, and we could no longer laugh at "liberty steaks," because good lord, that was even worse. We weren't even at war with France. France had simply opposed our invasion of Iraq, which it was correct to do. And much like the "liberty steak" situation, once again, french fries were not actually French, but Belgian. Since then, they have become a lasting symbol of American ignorance.

One would think at some point, there would come a day when we, as a country, said "You know, let's not and say we did on this one." Unfortunately that day is not today. This time, people are taking their anger out on vodka (and not in the usual way).

Utah GOP Governor Spencer Cox and New Hampshire GOP Governor Chris Sununu have both requested that liquor stores remove Russian and/or Russian-branded vodkas from their shelves, in an attempt to show Russian President Vladimir Putin that they do not approve of his invading Ukraine. Bar owners across the country are pouring out vodkas in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

The problem? Two of the brands getting pulled, Stoli and Smirnoff, are not actually Russian and have not been for quite some time now. Stoli is manufactured in Latvia, a NATO member, and its headquarters is in Luxembourg, also a NATO member. Both of those countries are our allies. Smirnoff's parent company, Diageo, is British, and it is manufactured in Illinois.

In fact, less than one percent of vodka sold in the US is even made in Russia, the only widely sold brands being Russian Standard and Green Mark, and I actually don't think I've heard of either of those.

Despite all of this, we've got USA Today publishing an op-ed titled "Our silly little bans on Russian vodka may be inconsequential. Support them anyway."


In said op-ed, New Hampshire resident Steven Porter argues that even though the bans on Russian vodka aren't going to do anything and the vodka isn't even technically Russian anyway, the bans are good because jingoism. I guess.

The unfortunate reality is that individual Americans, privately owned businesses and even our state and local governments have relatively few good options for responding to Putin's deadly power trip, as our federal government and allies carefully impose sanctions to inflict political and economic pain on the Kremlin.

But if there's any chance that our seemingly insignificant democratic actions at the ground level – our marches, our social media posts and, yes, even our vodka boycotts – might help to orient ourselves and the international community toward a more just future, then by all means, let's commit.

That doesn't even make sense though. It just makes us look stupid and ignorant, which some of us actually find rather demoralizing.

Aside from that, our issue is not with Russia as a concept. The actual Russian people, many of whom are protesting this invasion, are not our enemy. Russian students studying in American Universities are not our enemy. Putin is. And certainly we all know what it is like to have a leader we despise doing stupid and cruel things and randomly invading other countries. Particularly those of us who lived through the Freedom Fries era.

Americans have a way of making war "feel good" — because let's be real, it's a lot easier to tolerate war when your experience of war is just meaningless gestures of patriotism and tiny flag pins. There's a reason the Bush administration banned the media from showing the coffins of American soldiers coming back from Iraq. We may not be at war with Russia, but if that does somehow end up being the case, it's something we should take more seriously than we have in the past. It's a solemn decision to decide to risk people's lives in that way, not a GO USA pep rally. We should, at the very least, take it seriously enough to boycott the right things, if that is what we are going to do.

[USA Today]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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