August 6, 2008

Our Loss of Memory

Donald B. Hawthorne

Jonah Goldberg writes about Forgetting the Evils of Communism: The amnesia bites a little deeper:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is dead. Peter Rodman is dead. And memory is dying with them.

Over the weekend, Solzhenitsyn, the 89-year-old literary titan, and Rodman, the American foreign-policy intellectual, passed away...

What I admired most in both men was their memory. They remembered important things, specifically the evil of Communism. And, perhaps nearly as important, they remembered who recognized that evil and who did not.

Rodman, for example, was an architect of the Reagan Doctrine in places such as Angola and Afghanistan. One of his books, More Precious Than Peace: The Cold War and the Struggle for the Third World, was the quintessential defense of thwarting the Soviets in ugly spots of the globe where Americans were understandably reluctant to spend blood or treasure.

In Berlin on July 24, Barack Obama’s history of the Cold War sounded cheerier. There was a lot of unity and "standing as one," and we dropped some candy on Berlin, and now we need to be unified like we were then.

But unity was hardly the defining feature of the Cold War. There were supposed allies reluctant to help and official enemies who were eager to do their share. There were Russians — like Solzhenitsyn — who bravely told the world about Soviet barbarity. Here at home, there were a great many Americans, including intellectual heirs to the "useful idiots" Lenin relied on, who rolled their eyes at self-styled "cold warriors" such as Rodman. And from Vietnam through the SANE/Freeze movement, liberal resolve and unity were aimed most passionately against America’s policies — not the Soviet Union’s...

But it’s worth remembering how evil Communist governments really were. Stalin murdered more people than Hitler...The Black Book of Communism, a scholarly accounting of communism’s crimes, counts about 94 million murdered by the supposed champions of the common man (20 million for the Soviets alone), and some say that number is too low...

In 1974, when the New Yorker reviewed Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, George Steiner wrote: "To infer that the Soviet Terror is as hideous as Hitlerism is not only a brutal oversimplification but a moral indecency." When Ronald Reagan denounced the "evil empire" — because it was evil and it was an empire — he too was accused of absurd oversimplification.

The real brutal oversimplification is the treacle we hear from Obama, that victory in the Cold War was some Hallmark-movie lesson in global hand-holding. The reality is that it was a long slog, and throughout, the champions of "unity" wanted to capitulate to this evil, and the champions of freedom were rewarded with ridicule.

"This is the moment," Obama proclaimed, "when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday." Rodman and Solzhenitsyn understood that such talk was dangerously naive. People free from the "shadows of yesterday" forget things they swore never to forget.

Solzhenitsyn and Rodman are gone now, and a generation that learned such hard lessons is leaving us too quickly. The amnesia bites a little deeper.

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Mr. Hawthorne has the most consistently grounded writing- grounded in history and ideas, and usually interesting. Yet it is sad he still manages to turn every subject into an attempt to "blackball" Senator Obama. It's a far reach, Mr. Hawthorne. 5 will get ya 50 that Barack Obama has read Solzhenitsyn and understands his views thoroughly, while John McCain has not. McCain is not the appalling lightweight, mentally, that George Bush is. And McCain is a pretty decent guy, but now in desperation he is "going along" with a series of laughingly "low blow", idiotic ads. Paris Hilton, Barack, and Ms. Spears are now "celebrity soulmates"-- Mrs. Obama is one uppity angry black woman-- oh we know the stereotype all too well. The McCain campaign, instead of channeling greatness and reaching to Solzhenitysn for an example, is instead battering Obama with all the finesse and fervor of People magazine. That's John McCain's election Bible.
Oh, you right wingers may win yet! It is true that a large number of white men can be scared off by the thought of a smart, strong black man in charge. Work them over. You have a chance.
I am no novice, I have worked on political campaigns for 38 years, and I have seen it all.
Please keep writing about intellects like Solzhenitsyn. I met him in Vermont in the 1970-80's several times. My Russian medieval history professor at college in NH was friends with AS and I used to go with him to visit. AS hated America almost as much as the Soviets, you know. We were terribly decadent and corrupt- all of us, not just Democrats. He thought that western capitalism was a very poor system and a trap. Soviet economics was worse, but he had very bad things to say about Reagan and supply side economics, I remember. He was a real man without a country for many years, until Russia became "free", if you call Putinopolis free.
McCain is on the low road, sinking out of sight.

Posted by: Bluebird of Happiness at August 6, 2008 4:14 AM

If an actual strong smart Black man -Colin Powell-had run in 1996,he'd have won hands down,and with the votes of the very "scared White men"you stereotype.
Do you have tunnel vision or did communism not perpetrate three massive holocausts(Russia,China,Cambodia),the first two of which put THE holocaust which is the only one addressed in our schools,to shame in terms of numbers.
Bluebeard,something tells me you're not living under a bridge cooking on a sterno stove,and yet you have that anger at our system that I find inexpicable considering all the other systems worldwide.
I am fairly sick and tired of people like you screeching that if one is against Obama because of his appalling lack of depth and appreciation of the world situation,then we are narrow minded and scared.
His wife doesn't matter one way or the other.Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer we did survive the Reagan years(in pretty good shape)as I recall.
George W.Bush is about as shallow as a
Petri dish,but Jimmy Carter was not and he caused many of the problems we have today with his mishandling of foreign policy and immigration(the most underrated legacy of Carter's mismanagement)-so being "book smart"as Obama undoubtedly is,but not being grounded in the realities of the world battleground,is the wrong recipe for a successful Presidency.

Posted by: joe bernstein at August 6, 2008 6:15 AM

I am amused. My minister father had an FBI file for his outspoken support of MLK, Jr. in the 1960's and for his speaking from the pulpit about civil rights issues as far back as Q1 1964, a time well before any major civil rights legislation was passed and there was any societal consensus on civil rights matters. I was an active and outspoken supporter of a black man's U.S. Senate campaign in 1992.

With those family and personal legacies, I am amused by Bluebird's generalization that criticism of Obama is somehow connected to white men being afraid of strong black men. It isn't the color of his skin that's the issue here. Rather it is the content of his character and the resulting impact on his world view which has many of us concerned. More thoughts here.

Regarding the attempts by others to define criticism of Obama as off-limits and due to racism, Kirsanow responds.

As to AS, here he is on Reagan.

More generally, Victor Davis Hanson on AS:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ended up bothering almost everyone. Liberals once welcomed him to our shores in the 1970s as a kindred voice of free expression and resistance to authority — only to see him work at the Hoover Institution and then lecture them at Harvard in 1978 on the moral consequences of left-wing appeasement of the Soviet Union. And when he condemned protesters that had opposed the Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg, and American popular culture, the estrangement from the American Left was complete. Who in the post-1960s wished to be reminded that a surrender to the appetites, material gratification, atheism, and an absence of pride in one's own nation were the classical ingredients of civilizational decadence and decline?

Yet many Reaganite supporters of democracy grew to become worried that he sounded ever more the ultra-Russian nationalist — with all the baggage that it entails, from religious fundamentalism to anti-Semitism. Conservatives sometimes got the impression that he didn't like the West or the United States all that much, as he saw the proper antidote to both totalitarianism, and Western-style free-market capitalism and individualism, in a proud Czarist Orthodox, all-powerful state-something akin to what is fossilizing in Putin's Russia today.

No matter. Solzhenitsyn's life was a roadmap of the horrific 20th century — the grainy picture of an enfeebled Solzhenitsyn with his Gulag-issue will forever haunt millions of his readers. It is hard to imagine how anyone other than Solzhenitsyn could have survived the Great Terror, World War II on the Eastern Front, the Gulag, cancer in the Soviet medical system, exile, the best efforts of Pravda, the KGB, and the Kremlin to destroy him, and scorn and abuse from those liberals who once proclaimed him a genius — or have written about it all any more brilliantly in fiction, narrative history, and poetry for over 60 years.

In the end, his epitaph is that no one in the 20th-century did more than he to bring down a horrific and bloodthirsty system that sought at any price to destroy the free mind and all that it entails.

Separately, I have already shown I agree with Bluebird that AS was quite critical of the West, not just "Democrats." And that relates back to the issue of criticizing Obama. Some of us have openly criticized Obama, McCain (whom I wrote previously is not presidential material based on his lack of commitment to free speech and open debate), Bush, the Republican party (whom I said deserved to lose their majority in the House in 2006), ACORN, corporate welfare, the poverty industry, the federal government as well as state and local government on these Anchor Rising pages.

The goal is to advance the quality of the public debate by skewering everyone's sacred cows through the exercise of free speech. And may the best ideas, always connected to lessons from history, triumph in the end.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at August 6, 2008 7:14 AM

Oh, you right wingers may win yet! It is true that a large number of white men can be scared off by the thought of a smart, strong black man in charge.
This is, so far, the most direct expression of "any criticism of Barack Obama is racist" to appear on this board, though probably not the last.

Posted by: Andrew at August 6, 2008 10:23 AM

What's more racist- criticizing a black man, or assuming that said criticism is due to racism?

"Methinks thou doth protest too much."

Posted by: EMT at August 6, 2008 11:00 AM

I voted against John Kerry in 2004 because I disagree with him on a wide number of policy matters, and I think that his judgment is not reliable.

My observation of Sen. Obama is that he's pretty much the same as Sen. Kerry on most important issues. Maybe he's more liberal, maybe he's not. With regard to judgment, Sen. Obama has not given me any reason to think more of his than I did of Sen. Kerry's. And, of course, Sen. Kerry has many more years of experience in government, than Sen. Obama.

If I voted against Sen. Kerry -- as I did -- why would I vote for Sen. Obama?

Oh, wait, I see . . . because if I don't vote for Sen. Obama it would make me a racist . . . ?

C'mon people!

Posted by: brassband at August 6, 2008 11:25 AM

Leftists always assume they have the moral high ground and try to put everyone else on the defensive.It's okay to explain your position to them,but never do it as a form of excuse for your beliefs.They can never admit to being wrong-it goes against their "dialectic"or whatever.They think in terms of group dynamics,never allowing for the intuitive greatness of the individual.Weirdly enough many truly talented people hew to the left wing agenda-my only explanation is that they don't realize that the theories they espouse would negate their own creativity if put into practice.How ironic.

Posted by: joe bernstein at August 6, 2008 11:46 AM

Given that it is "progressives" who stand by the NEA / AFT's blockage of universal voucher programs, which would help minority children access the kind of quality education that will help them climb the economic ladder ... preferring instead to collect teachers union money on the backs of minority children trapped in the inferiority of seniority and tenure dominated mediocrities, and

It is "progressives" who support "affirmative action" which inherently presupposes that minorities cannot compete or succeed without government intervention, and thus are de facto inferior to non-minorities ...

Conservatives have nothing to explain or apologize for.

Racist, thy name is "progressive."

Oppressor of minorities, thy name is "progressive."

Posted by: Tom W at August 6, 2008 11:58 AM

C'mon people is right.

All you need to do to see clear evidence of the existence of communism deniers is visit the RI Future blog.
But caution:

RI Future should not be taken on a full or empty stomach. The spin may cause dizziness, vomiting or dry heaves. RI Future may cause diarrhea, cramps and is a leading source of acid reflux and excessive gas. Do not visit RI Future if you are pregnant, or expecially if you are trying to get pregnant. You should take RI Future with other medications and excessive amounts of alcohol.

Posted by: George at August 6, 2008 12:10 PM

That "low blow idiotic ad" has received more attention than any ad yet this election; and has now prompted Paris Hilton to join the fray with an opinion that seems to echo McCain's.

"The People Magazine Approach" resonates. Sad but true.

I'm just happy to see the Democrats no longer monopolize the idea of marketing for votes rather than winning them. You'd think the Republicans would have learned from the sucesses of "Rock the Vote" in 1992.

Posted by: JP at August 6, 2008 1:28 PM
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