Unprompted: Richmond's Rasputin 

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He was a likable fellow, seemingly trustworthy in every way and oh so popular, especially with people in high places. The Russians called him Rasputin, but his real name would be rewritten a thousand times in years to come.

Czarina Alexandra fell under his spell almost immediately. He came to her with an assortment of elixirs and other magic potions with promise of great results, one of which was to cure her child of an otherwise fatal illness. Alexandra, not being equipped with the best of rational thought, rushed to comply with her new friend Grigori Rasputin.

What Rasputin was feeding the czarina’s child is unknown, but it probably hadn’t been approved by the Russian food and drug administration, so nobody knows whether it was any good, or just another placebo, something to believe in regardless of the evidence.

Rasputin, or Jonnie if you will, was clever enough to know that without government regulation he could claim anything he wanted about his stuff and nobody could prove otherwise. Dietary supplements are that way. Here, take this. It will cure whatever ails you.

Then under his spell, the first lady approached her husband, and told him of the magic that awaited them. If the husband would put his stamp of approval on Jonnie’s medicine, a world of problems could be solved. Who knows, wonderful things can happen when there’s magic in the air.

The husband was also a godly man, always eager to say so. Timidly he began to accept Jonnie as his angel on earth. The czar continued to bask in his own perceived righteousness, even as the empire rotted around him. He was temporarily distracted when Rasputin gave him and his wife gifts. He was the first head of state to sport a fine timepiece encrusted in diamonds with the image of Jesus on its face. Jonnie said the image miraculously appeared on the face, he had no idea how it got there. About that time the Bolsheviks took the czar and his family to a basement for their final moments.

The husband tried in vain to save himself, pointing his finger at his wife and blaming everything on her. It was she, she gave me the timepiece. The couple by this time had grown apart, sharing mutual love for their children but having little to do with each other. She said little because she was never very good at understanding things. Nicky was unable to successfully throw her under the wagon, though in his best Christian moments, he tried. The czar’s house by this time was filled with Russians who wanted justice. Then the wagon rolled over them both.

Sad tale this, but the story of Grigori Rasputin preceded the royal disaster of 1917-’18 by thousands of years, and remains true today. As long as there are people who will believe anything, there will be others who will sell them anything. Nicky might have escaped some of this if he had not spoken so highly of himself while he flashed his fancy timepiece. But it had become the symbol of something badly out of order. Nicky smiled as he sank. But he was sure God would take care of him.

So here we are, knowing that it’s likely that nobody will go to jail because nobody broke the law. The law, wimpy as it is, wasn’t violated. But there has been great damage done. Some things can be fixed, but it’s virtually impossible to repair a reputation.

The guy who wrote the Garden of Eden story blamed the woman for succumbing to the snake and then passing on the bait to her male friend. The snake was punished, he no longer could walk around on four feet, or so the story goes. So the fall of man was successfully blamed on woman. In many parts of the world women are still being punished for that fatal flaw.

So what happened to Rasputin the serpent? Well, details are unclear, but apparently he slithered off to another state where he could disappear into the swamp. He may surface with something else to sell. That’s what snakes do.

But no matter what swamp he’s in, or what he’s selling, there will always be somebody who will buy it. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.



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