Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today's fakes: deep-cover Russian spies (and maybe every bourgeois)

Those arrested yesterday as part of the Russian spy ring:
... were accused of spending years living undercover in American cities and suburbs, posing as ordinary couples working ordinary jobs, chatting to the neighbors about schools and apologizing for noisy teenagers. Their purpose, according to prosecutors, was to patiently penetrate what one coded message called American "policy making circles."

... Neighbors in Montclair, N.J., of the couple who called themselves Richard and Cynthia Murphy were flabbergasted when a team of F.B.I. agents turned up Sunday night and led the couple away in handcuffs. One person who lives nearby called them "suburbia personified," saying that they had asked people for advice about the local schools. ... Jessie Gugig, 15, said she could not believe the charges, especially against Mrs. Murphy. "They couldn't have been spies," she said jokingly. "Look what she did with the hydrangeas." (NYT article)
More than fifteen years ago, during the heyday of Queer Nation, I tried to write a short story for an anthology the theme of which was "Queers as spies in straight society." The notion was that queer people infiltrate and in some cases pass in straight society, and that we were uniquely qualified to report on that society as presumed members of it. My story was unsuccessful (I used the occasion to write about my father's funeral, but it just never worked as a short story) and in fact I'm not sure the anthology ever was published, but the notion of being an undercover spy is an exciting one, and somewhat reassuring for someone like me who has, like the deep-cover Russian spies just arrested, come to own a house, have a straight job, fit into bourgeois society, and otherwise resemble what I feared I would become, namely a middle-class consumer indistinguishable from my neighbors. How reassuring, how ego-stroking, to tell myself I'm not really a bourgeois, I'm really a spy.

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