I experience suburban life as a form of exile and estrangement. I lived an urban life with my first wife, got divorced, got engaged, then moved to the suburbs. The difference in lifestyle underscores the difference between my pre-divorced and divorced selves. Living here in this place, another byproduct of divorce, I wonder how people decide to get divorced in the first place. One dreads separation from one's family, but when it comes it's much worse than one could have imagined. If people knew how bad it would be, how hard it is to live apart from one's children, would they proceed with the rupture?
With apologies for the strained and awkward transition between my personal life and my passion for Soviet history, I see a connection between the decision to divorce and the decision to dismantle a country. The decision to embrace the pain of separation and exile may have its analogy in Soviet history. I think of Gorbachev. How was it that the statesmen, and men like him, finally decided to pull the plug on the Soviet system? The decision can't have been an easy. Taking the plunge would ultimately lead to the end of an empire, the loss of economic stability, and the misery of millions. The decision to reform Russia led to consequences which, in the short run at least, were even worse than the problem of communism.
Of course, Gorbachev and his supporters could not have known exactly where they were headed when they decided that "things can't go on like this." They were even determined to salvage something good from the wreckage of Russian communism. Even so, these Soviet reformers knew the country was sick, mortally sick perhaps, and they eventually decided to risk killing the patient in order to move forward. They wanted to see around the next corner of history.