THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
is replete with stories of American writers, actors, academicians, politicians, intellectuals, both the real and the pseudo variety who fell in love with Marx, Lenin, Stalin & Company. Being a son of the Church and listening with all the attention I could muster to the voice of my spiritual mother telling me that socialism and its more virulent strain, communism, was a great evil, I could only wonder at the blindness of those who were fellow travelers or worse, card carrying members of the Party.
As the Berlin Wall collapsed I rejoiced along with all freedom-loving people, especially the East German people who were prisoners behind that wall. I had personally experienced the terror of that wall when I traveled from West Berlin to East Berlin in September, 1978, to catch a flight from East Berlin to Warsaw on my way to meet with Carol Cardinal Wojtyla. I was stopped at the checkpoint and held by the East German police for hours while they checked my passport and my reasons for traveling to Poland. I still shudder at the recollection of what it was like to be held even temporarily in the grasp of the Communist police state.
All the more reason whey I was shocked at the failure of President Obama to mention anything about Communisim in his video message that he sent to the German People on the occasion last week of the celebration of the destruction of the Wall. Jeff Jacoby has commented on this:
PRESIDENT OBAMA was too busy to attend the celebrations in Germany this week marking the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago. But he did appear by video, delivering a few brief and bloodless remarks about how the wall was “a painful barrier between family and friends” that symbolized “a system that denied people the freedoms that should be the right of every human being.” He referred to “tyranny,” but never identified the tyrants — he never uttered the words “Soviet Union” or “communism,” for example. He said nothing about the men and women who died trying to cross the wall. Nor did he mention Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan — or even Mikhail Gorbachev.
He did, however, talk about Barack Obama.
“Few would have foreseen,” declared the president, “that a united Germany would be led by a woman from [the former East German state of] Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it.”
As presidential rhetoric goes, this was hardly a match for “Ich bin ein Berliner,” still less another “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” But as a specimen of presidential narcissism, it is hard to beat. Obama couldn’t be troubled to visit Berlin to commemorate a momentous milestone in the history of human liberty. But he was glad to explain to those who were there why reflections on that milestone should inspire appreciation for the self-made “destiny” of his own rise to power.
My fear has always been and is even now greater that individuals who have never lived during the Cold War will consciously or unconsciously bring the beast to life again.
Father George W. Rutler recently observed: “ The political philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski, died this summer in Oxford. His father had been killed by the Gestapo during the German occupation of Poland, and he secretly taught himself to read. Having hoped Marxism would change things, he eventually saw through it and was expunged from the Party. He wrote: “Communism was not the crazy fantasy of a few fanatics, nor the result of human stupidity and baseness; it was a real, very real part of the history of the twentieth century, and we cannot understand this history of ours without understanding communism. We cannot get rid of this specter by saying it was just ‘human stupidity,’ or ‘human corruptibility.’ The specter is stronger than the spells we cast on it. It might come back to life.”