DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.





Come Sunday mornings Bill Maher, the HBO comedy guy and I read the weddings notices in the New York Times’ Style Section. Don’t ask me why we do it, we just do – it’s the contrarian in us yearning to be free and it’s a great read with your morning coffee. Lately, many of the featured couples were brought to marital bliss by internet dating sites like OK Cupid, Tinder, Match and eHarmony. Why this is duly noted at the end of each notice is something the Times fails to explain but is in keeping with its migration to an on line digital edition.

Many of the reported ceremonies are not officiated by Priests, Ministers, Rabbis, Hindu Pandits or Muslim Imams but by just plain guys and gals whose credentials and authority were purchased on the internet from religious diploma mills such as the Universal Life Ministries, the Universal Brotherhood Ministries, Rose Ministries, the American Fellowship Church, Christian National Church, United Christian Faith Ministries, United National Ministry or the Universal Life Church.  

Over the years, I have been called many names but I have never, ever been called “Reverend” or “Minister”. So, on Monday morning I logged on to the Universal Life Ministries web site, the institution that had ordained many of the people performing these new non-traditional marriage rites. I wanted to try the moniker of “Ordained Minister” on for size and see how it fit.

I wanted to be ordained so that I would be ready, should the need arise, to step in and perform the sacred rites of marriage. You never know when that could happen. It’s good to be prepared. But I was unprepared for the cornucopia of heavenly choices that the Life Ministries offered once I logged on.

The initial menu offered ordination as a Pastor, Minister, Reverend, Officiant, Preacher or Chaplain. The description of their privileges and immunities were somewhat vague and confused but they all promised conformity with “Christian Ordination, as well as independent Baptist ordination, Catholics, Jewish, Islamic, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Quakers, Methodists, Presbyterians, Wiccans, Pagans, Bahá’í, and any others…” beliefs and a universal “search for enlightenment”.

Once you start the registration process only the basics are necessary: your name, address, birthdate and your credit card, American Express, Visa or MasterCard.

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Serio-Comic War Map for the Year 1877


Back in the days of Empire two great powers indulged in the “Great Game”, a geopolitical term made popular by Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and The Man Who Would Be King. It was yesterday’s Game of Thrones, international politics in real life, not an entertainment streaming on Netflix or a series playing on HBO – actual genocide, nation building and destruction, treason, diplomatic double dealing, greed, military adventurism and mayhem, lots of mayhem.         

Great Britain, the Empire that ruled the seas, used sea power to conquer and subjugate new territory – the Indian subcontinent, more than 1.7 million square miles, a wealth of natural resources and a population in the millions. Russia, the other player in the Great Game, then an Empire of 8.8 million square miles, of even more natural resources was dead set against England’s expansion policies.

This was the yin and yang of the Great Game: England’s dominion and control over lands it had conquered running counter to Russia’s further expansion and incursion into Asia.

Originally the playing field was Turkestan, Persia, Afghanistan, parts of India [Pakistan] and Tibet [China]. But the field of battle shifted over the decades. It migrated to Europe, Asia and the Middle East during the First and Second World Wars. Nominally Great Britain and Russia were allies but try and sell that story to Tsar Nicholas II who was deposed and assassinated after the Allies surreptitiously repatriated Lenin, dropping him off at the Finland Station in St. Petersburg, or to the Allies once Hitler was dead and Germany defeated.  

After the Second World War things changed; the Great Game’s reset button had to be pushed. Once the Game was booted up a new player, the United States was substituted for England, who was no longer the stuff of empire. Russia, now the USSR now supported by the Warsaw Pact nations was still in the game. In response, the United States countered with NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

For the next 50 years, the Great Game was an exercise in restraint and equilibrium – a series of calculated tit-for-tat moves by one side with a calibrated response by the other.  Russia got mired in a decade long Afghan war until United States provided an exit strategy. America is now bogged down in its own never ending Afghan war but Russia is noticeably absent and non-involved. America has been left twisting in the wind with the conflict remaining local and not subject to the rules and constraints of the Great Game. 

The Great Game’s pas de deux played without misstep for decades even when unexpected events threatened stability – the Hungarian Revolution, the Suez crisis, the Vietnamese War, the fall of the Berlin War, the breakup of the USSR, the invasion of Iraq did not upset the applecart.

Of late with Obama in charge a change is evident. Obama and the West became intent in expanding the NATO franchise far from the cold waters of the North Atlantic. They want NATO in the warm waters of the Black Sea, co-opting the Ukraine at the very doorstep of what is now a diminished Russia. The sandy beaches of Greece and Turkey’s Aegean Sea are not enough. This is a marked departure from the status quo.    

The obvious response - Putin’s “liberation” and annexation of the Crimea - was appropriate and expected. Both players made the appropriate bellicose statements and comments. After an exchange of shots across bows and borders the players called “time” – time to regroup and recalibrate before things got out of hand.

We have just witnessed an unexpected, dangerous, unprecedented response which is yet to be proven and documented. Vladimir Putin, fearing the continuance of the Obama worldview and NATO expansion should Hillary Clinton be elected, interfered in the 2016 American Presidential election – a serious breach of the unwritten rules of the Great Game. The extent of this intrusion into domestic elections is still classified but there is consensus amongst all United States intelligence agencies that it did in fact take place. 

The unforeseen consequence was the election of Donald Trump - an unknown, untested and possibly suicidal populist leader in the mold of Huey Long, Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. The introduction of this wild card into the Great Game should give us all pause.

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United Kingdom release poster ■ Entertainment One ■ Staring & directed as noted ■ 2015

While a guest on Long Island’s North Fork I casually picked up Suite Française, a novel by Irène Némirovsky, my hostess’s current read, a paperback with a handsome Humphrey Bogart-Casablanca flavored World War II cover that had caught my eye.

As the back page of the dust jacket advertises Suite Française, like Casablanca, made it to silver screen complete with strafing Messerschmitt fighters, dashing Wehrmacht officers in dress uniforms, a soupçon of the Résistance to be and the tragedy of the loss of love in time of war, playing out in the beautiful, bucolic, romantic country side of Normandy.   

What caught my attention was that the novel, a romance of some sort, “chick lit” if you will, had an Appendix. Not one, but two. I was reading the Appendix at page 177 when the very first paragraph on the page caught my eye:

“The French grew tired of the Republic, as if she were an old wife. For them, the dictatorship was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realize she’s dead. Their Republic. Their freedom. They’re mourning her.”

I thought of that day’s dinner conversation, about the present state of affairs with Donald Trump the President of these United States. In my mind, I altered Ms. Némirovsky’s paragraph to read:

“Americans grew tired of democracy, as if she were an old wife. For them, the Trump Presidency was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realize that she’s dead. Their democracy. Their freedom. They’re mourning her.”

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