First generation American remembers the Cold War as a junior high student in Orange County, California
My parents met in Los Angeles some 50 plus years ago. They had just escaped from their mother Russia, where communism was gripping harder.
I was born in Los Angeles and as a first generation American I wanted to be as American as possible. I ran away from my parent’s Russia, their culture, and their language.
But yet, my Russian-ess did not escape my junior high school mates. They knew and like most kids looking to tease, it was a reason to ridicule.
As I read about today’s memorial dedication in Washington, D.C., to communism’s victims, to the “more than 100 million people” who have died under communism since Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, I am reminded of my American junior high classmates.
The memorial is aimed directly at the West’s ‘moral blind spot’, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. They ask rhetorically, “While the horrors of Nazism are well known, who knows that the Soviet Union murdered 20 million people? Who knows that China’s dictators have slaughtered an estimated 60 million?
“Who knows that the communist holocaust has exacted a death toll surpassing that of all of the wars of the 20th century combined?”
These are legitimate questions. I saw this ignorance first hand, when at an Orange County, California school during the Cold War of the 70s, some students would mock my being Russian. They would call me “commie”, not even comprehending that my parents escaped communism, hating it as much as anyone…or how American I wanted to be.
To add to the ignorance, on a few occasions, the mocking came in the form of the boys “goose-step” marching past me…not knowing the difference between Germany’s Nazis and communism’s soldiers…the Nazis marching was distinctively Hitler’s, not Stalin’s.
So, yes, this memorial foundation is right on que when it talks about the West’s “moral blind spot.” It takes no stretch of the imagination to see how poorly versed the majority of Americans are on global history.
The apathy towards recognizing true evil is astounding. No wonder many Americans don’t realize that Saddam Hussein was the weapon of mass destruction, not just fodder for late-night talk show hosts.
Remembering isn’t always easy, but ignoring will be far more disastrous down the road.
Evil is real. It might take a memorial to open the eyes of some to that reality.