When a Smile Comes Home to Roost

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Photo of Vladimir Putin “smiling”. 

 

Whenever I see a picture of Vladimir Putin I see a man who has eaten more than his share of canaries. Even a visually impaired person knows a cruel face. In my experience the most dangerous faces are possessed of half-toned smiles. Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote: “Others will love what we have loved,/And we shall teach them how.” Putin’s face suggests a smug untouchability, and unteachability–and so his smugness is magnified, more terrible for its presentiments and predicate intolerance.