It has always been mysterious to me . . . not in the serious “Is there in truth no beauty?” sense, or in the fun “Is there a Loch Ness monster?” sense, but in the “How did anyone vote for George Wallace?” wonderment . . . why people give Soviet style communism a moral pass.
Millions of people (God knows how many) were butchered by evil men. On my desk is a 1918 copy of the Rochester Herald with the headline: “Bolshevik Reign of Blood Most Awful in Human Annals.” That turned out to be an accurate assessment, but somehow getting worked up about this murder is impolite. Generations of students came to my classes knowing to hate Naziism (thank God for Indiana Jones!), but before “Crystal Skull” knowing nothing of Soviet evils.
By grad school I discovered my antipathy to Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin made me a bit foolish seeming. Polite company that would never spend a minute justifying bloodthirsty dictators on the Right would spend valuable time pointing out the good sides of Lenin, Trotsky, or Stalin. They would point out the barbaric violence of counter-revolutionary terror as if one evil justified another.
Not let me dispense with one problem: Marx is not be responsible for Soviet or Communist atrocities. Let me accept that there may be some version of Marxism put into place that does not end up killing thousands of people . . . though it hasn’t happened yet. Let us all agree that Lenin and company had noble sounding intentions, but they also put those dreams into place by creating a nightmare state.
Stalin merely perfected and used the terrorist state Lenin left him.
Surely nobody now defends the Soviets?
And then I read stories about schools that think celebrating a regime of mass murderers is merely educational. Many of us knew people or the children of people whose families suffered murder, looting, and assault during the Russian Revolution. The Communists ended a Russian experiment in democracy and replaced it with a one party state. The Soviet Union allied herself with Hitler and enabled that monster to start World World II.
That any educator thinks that celebrating a regime that until the 1980′s was torturing dissidents can now be imitated for a history lesson is beyond comprehension.
Who thinks: “Let’s dress up like Soviets! The kids will love that! LOL!”
The time may come when we can be more sanguine about the Red Terror, the way we have become about the bloody French Revolution, but that time is not yet. While grandmothers still weep for lost sons, government schools have no place parading the symbols of their murderers.
My fear is that because the Terror was an evil done by secularists and leftists it gets a pass. Inquisitors tortured in the name of God and so we all condemn them. Soviet psychiatrists tortured in the name of reason or science and so we are less hasty. There is something fearful in that hesitation, as if the “treatments” were only bad because the science was bad.
But surely any educated person knows that science never can give us morality: studying what is will never tell us what ought to be.
And yet an American high school parades about with a regime that a 1918 paper could describe with these headlines:
“mass slaughter their weapon against people”
“thousands shot, thousands dying in prison”
“women outraged, robbery and pillage the order of the day”
“people cowed by terrorism that has had no equal in history.”
The paper is yellowed, but the memory is fresh for many as is the knowledge that for once the headlines did not tell half the horror. But there is an explanation:
Rebecca Harbaugh, the superintendent for the Conewago Valley School District, told Fox News that the band’s performance was “not an endorsement of communism at all.”
“It’s a representation of the time period in history called St. Petersburg 1917,” she said. “I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am.”
“If anything is being celebrated it’s the music,” she said. “It is what it is. I understand people look at something and choose how to interpret that and I’m just very sorry that it wasn’t looked at as just a history lesson.”
Let me summarize:
We can celebrate the music of a terrorist state. Having students parade with Soviet symbols, as the murderers did in my lifetime, has been misunderstood. We are “taking” the performance as a celebration of the Soviets when all that is being celebrated is an event that led to the death of millions, music that trumpeted it to the world, and a culture of death. Saint Petersburg in 1917 was all about Communism . . . and the music of the butchers. Nobody need sing the songs of those that dyed or were silenced.
This is moral bankruptcy.
Soviet communism birthed in the second Russian Revolution, the superintendent doesn’t seem to know that the Soviets overthrew a revolutionary regime, was a reign of blood and the death of freedom in Russia. Did this “history lesson” leave students aware of this fact?
Soviet communism isn’t controversial: all good men and women know it to have been evil, but apparently that lesson was lost in Pennsylvania. Again the Rochester Herald in 1918:
“A reign of terror has been instituted by them, and their acts of frightfulness were such as to cowe the entire population. The entire city, the report said, was like a vast graveyard, not only because of the bodies of the dead, but also because of the awful stillness that followed in the wake of the murders.”
Evidently, however, there was some good band music and as a history lesson Conewago Valley School District celebrated this soundtrack for mass murder.