I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently, specifically about Soviet Russia and how Communism actually worked. It’s been terrifying, enlightening, sobering, and clarifying. My view of American liberty has shifted and evolved as a result. My view of Communism has also shifted and evolved. I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the horrors of communism before now and I’m still struggling to grapple with the vastness of its evil.
So, let me rewind for a moment.
One of the books I’ve been reading is by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, called The Gulag Archipelago. It’s one of the most revolutionary and enlightening historical accounts of Soviet Communism ever written, and friends, it’s mind-blowing.
I’ve also been listening to a few various fiction books about characters in Soviet Russia. While some of these stories are biographies of real-life people and others fiction, the Soviet Communist backdrop is not fiction and is staggering.
The primary enlightenment I’ve had is that there’s one emotion that must be present for any government to possess such an iron-fisted grip over its citizenry, able to daily round-up innocent citizens and execute/send them to Gulags for various, innumerable, and undefined “political crimes”.
That emotion is fear.
I never realized just how much suffocating fear had to be present in the Soviet Union for Communism to truly work. Every citizen is driven by fear, fear that they’ll slip up and say the wrong thing to someone, look the wrong way, act outside of the way the state expects, or an undefined list of things that causes individuals to disappear with the KGB in the middle of the night. This fear makes real relationships almost impossible because anyone, even family, maybe the one to denounce you in order to save themselves.
But it’s not just the citizenry who live in fear. Everyone in power also lives in fear. Fear is what drives them to keep exerting their power in lethal, cruel ways. They fear that if their loyalty to the state is ever questioned by the state, they too will be swallowed by the state they perpetrate. And this horrifying, stifling way of existence pervades every aspect of the society, including all those in power.
It’s a truly miserable, loveless, hopeless, horrifying way of existence, to the point that the fear turns into a silent acceptance of the inevitable. Read this quote:
For several decades political arrests were distinguished in our country precisely by the fact that people arrested who were guilty of nothing and were therefore unprepared to put up any resistance whatsoever. There was a general feeling of being destined for destruction, a sense of having nowhere to escape from the GUP-NKVD…And even in the fever of epidemic arrests, when people leaving for work said farewell to their families every day, because they could not be certain they would return at night, even then almost no one tried to run away and only in rare cases did people commit suicide. And that was exactly what was required. A submissive sheep is a find for a wolf…
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs,
…paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if… We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure! … We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.
-The Gulag Archipelago
Such a sad and foreboding example of what happens when a people doesn’t fight for their liberty; when fear paralyzes them to a point of mindless submission.
I’m trying to paint a picture here, a picture that can never match the masterpiece that Solzhenitsyn painted. Please take time to read his words if you want to fully grasp the horrors of his story.
When I take a moment to pull myself out of the dystopian horror show that was Soviet Communism and turn my eyes back to America, I can’t help but see American liberty with new eyes, with fresh eyes.
Fellow Americans, do you realize how blessed we are?
What absolute precious liberty we have. We don’t have to go to bed at night fearing that we may be taken by the “American Secret Police”, against our will, simply because we said something slightly disrespectful to the “state” in a letter to a friend.
In fact, we’re allowed to spew slanders and hate against our country and government all day every day with little to no repercussions.
IN FACT, today, it seems the most social repercussions come to those who speak out in support of America.
What liberty we have!
Friends, I can never look at American liberty the same. It truly is a miracle.
And it’s not liberty to do whatever we want. No, it’s the freedom to live absent of the fear and control of an arbitrary power being used against us at any time. We do not live in fear of being silently taken off the streets for slipping up and giving a fellow American a suspicious glance. We are not subject to the arbitrary will of another.
Because our government’s power is not arbitrary. Our government’s power is confined by something.
So, to conclude, I’ll draw attention to the reason, (aside from the horrors of Communism in the past) that my readings were terrifying. Yes, I developed a greater appreciation for American liberty and the Constitution.
Only to then be sobered by the reality that there’s a new emotion beginning to take root in the hearts of many Americans today.
Need I say more?
The Liberty Belle