Thursday, July 15, 2010

Spies like us

They say hindsight is 20-20. How could anyone think that the spies from Montclair, N.J., Richard and Cynthia Murphy, were Irish?

Not that I’m prejudiced or anything. All my life, people have asked me if I’m from New York, even though I’m a California native and have lived here all my life.

It’s all about ethnicity.

But ethnicity is not a defining characteristic in upscale suburbs like Montclair or La Canada Flintridge. Whatever our backgrounds, our present-day lifestyles are very similar. In these family-centered, upwardly-mobile enclaves, we go to work, raise our kids and socialize. Our children play soccer or baseball. We leave work early to watch their games. We tell them to do their homework, hire tutors and watch them succeed.

Whether our grandparents came from New York or Korea, from Ohio or Italy, we La Canadans have more similarities than differences. We love our kids, drive around, work hard, play hard and live the American dream.

It’s more fun to read about the sexual exploits of 28-year-old spy Anna Chapman, than to imagine living next door to Vladimir and Lydia Guryev, who masqueraded as Richard and Cynthia Murphy. Vladimir, with his broad Slavic forehead, and thick neck. Cynthia, with her exotic eyes and well-defined "Russian" cheekbones. Did people really think they were Irish? And why was it so easy for Mr. and Mrs. "Murphy" to fit in socially? For Mrs. "Murphy" to snag a $135,000 per year job? That Mrs. Murphy’s accent was Belgian?

Some have questioned the resources spent to track the 11 Russian spies. I have no criticisms.

Our security agencies have the duty to do exactly what they did. Others have dismissed the spies as ineffective, reminiscent of the Conehead skits on Saturday Night Live ("We’re from France.")

Others have expressed concern for the American-born "Murphy" daughters, ages 5 and 11, who are now headed back to Russia to be with their parents.

They may look like us. They may sort of talk like us. They may drive SUVs, but the fact remains, America doesn’t need Russian spies. We don’t need spies who register to vote.

We don’t need spies slithering their way into our BBQs and suburban enclaves. We don’t need them to take $135,000 per year jobs that give them access to the power elites.

Several of the spies had teaching positions. One was a journalist. Innocent? Not.

After their arrests, the Murphy’s neighbor Jessie Gugig, 15, joked that Mrs. Murphy could not have been a spy. "They couldn’t have been spies," Gugig said jokingly. "Look what she did with the hydrangeas."

Not really. It takes more than hydrangeas to be an American.

Around Town: July 15, 2010

The spies like us -

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