Obamamania Meets Cousin Max

Late January, we inaugurate Barack Obama as our new president. My eyes fall as I write this on a photograph my Cousin Max emailed me the day before the election. As a journalist, I find this photo remarkable. And, in a happy way, it reminds me to be proud of the work we journalists do and why I wanted to be a member of the press in the first place. Looking at it --- a man, Max, standing with a campaign worker in front of a Vote Obama sign --- you may not, at first, see why. But clearly there is a connection.

Let me explain.

When I was a girl, pondering what I felt would be worthwhile work to choose, becoming a journalist was high on my list of “an important thing for a person to do in the world.” Not just what it did for you  --- the travel, the chance to meet people, the front row seat. But also what you would do for others.  To enlighten people. To  bring them information. To give them stories that plugged them into the larger world.  Let's call it being part of the free flow of information. I wanted the work I did to matter, to be of service. Noble, even. To help people.  And, to me, that sounded like a job that counted for something.

As for Max, when I was a girl, I never knew that branch of the family. That would have been impossible. I had only heard of them. In whispers.  Because, you see, my Cousin Max is actually my Cousin Maxim. The St. Petersburg he lives in is not the one in Florida. It’s the one in Russia. The one which, when he was born, was Leningrad. In the country that at the time was the Soviet Union.  As a girl all I knew of that side of the family, or my grandfather’s sister’s existence, was letters that came not just from Russia, but worse, from Siberia. Letters that arrived with big holes in them, sections scissored out, courtesy of the Communist authorities. No free flow of information there.  When my grandfather died, the letters stopped coming and we lost track.

Even so, I used to dream someday I would find them. When I grew up and became a journalist I would fantasize I might one day breach the Iron Curtain if I worked for a network that would send me to Russia reporting on a story, While there I would look them up, arriving in Siberia with a mike and a camera crew and we would all be very emotional.

© Maxim Romas

Cousin Max with an American campaign worker abroad.

By the time I actually found them a decade ago, the Iron Curtain had fallen. Anyone could jump on a plane and go to Russia, and once I tracked them down, so I did.  In fact, I was doing a story --- which was about finding them. And, yes, we were very emotional.

But here’s my point.

Within an hour of checking into my hotel, with Maxim at my side, and, thankfully, with him speaking perfect English, I mentioned something that was happening back home in the USA. Dang nab it if I can remember what now. But, in any case, it was Max’s answer that mattered.

I figured I would have to explain it. But, no. Whatever it was, Max knew all about it.

“ How did you know that?” I asked.  Very surprised.

“ Oh,” he answered. “ We watched it on CNN. “

Since then we have visited, emailed, phoned, kept in regular touch. And all the time whatever I know, I know Maxim knows, too. The competition between Hillary and Barack. The latest Woody Allen or Steven Spielberg movie.  My opinion of Joe Cocker.  All the twists and turns of the presidential campaign. The heading on the email with the photo Max sent was “Russia for Obama too!” He’s plugged into the world.  He knows how and, even more, wants to be a part of it. And that’s because, somewhere in the world where information freely flows, some journalist is doing his or her job, covering politics, pop culture, the latest poll standings in the race for the White House, or what Paul McCartney’s up to. And in his living room in Russia, Max is watching.

Here, where a free press is old news, there is much we hear of the hype that often comes with coverage. Of all that’s silly and dumb and over-baked.  So it may be easy to lose sight of the fact --- until we are reminded by someone whose grandmother’s letters used to come with holes scissored out --- that the free flow of information is a lifeline. Valuable. That it makes a difference.

Late January, we inaugurate Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Many journalists that day, and in the days to come, will be doing their job.

And Maxim will be sitting in his living room in Russia. Watching it on CNN.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Eileen Douglas is a broadcast journalist turned independent documentary filmmaker. Former 1010 WINS New York anchor/reporter and correspondent for “ABC-TV’s Lifetime Magazine,” she is the author of “Rachel and the Upside Down Heart,” and co-producer of the films “My Grandfather’s House” and “Luboml: My Heart Remembers.” She can be reached at www.douglas-steinman.com.




Contents Page Editorials The Platypus Links Copyright
Portfolios Camera Corner War Stories  Dirck's Gallery Comments
Issue Archives Columns Forums Mailing List E-mail Us
 This site is sponsored and powered by Hewlett Packard