“Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it”
Nov. 9, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I plan to be there to write about it and report on it, to remind the world what it means in the face of Putin and world politics today.
I was there on my honeymoon when the wall came down. But the irony goes deeper.
I met my husband in the very church, in the very place, where Winston Churchill made his “Iron Curtain” speech. We married in that same place on the Westminster College campus four years later, just two weeks after I graduated from my undergrad program. We honeymooned in Europe and chopped on the Berlin Wall at the same time as President Reagan, alongside those who had been caged by that wall. We then returned from Europe to see President Reagan dedicate a massive portion of the Iron Curtain just outside the little church where we married months before that day. We still have pieces of the wall to remind our children that history can repeat itself and that we have been witness to its atrocities. This isn’t a movie, or a myth. Evil is real.
There will be huge celebrations marking the occasion in Germany, especially Berlin, but one wonders whether the rest of the world will even notice it. Perhaps a Hollywood production team will do a film to bring the horrors of Soviet tyranny onto the radar screen of our millenials, most of whom weren’t even born then. Casting a young heartthrob might help.
Sarah Palin was mocked for rightly predicting aggression from Vladimir Putin, and President Obama mocked Mitt Romney for saying Putin was our greatest threat. Let’s see who’s laughing now.
As Adolf Hitler was taking the coward’s way out of the horrific war he started, the No. 1 most murderous man was determined not to be captured either by the U.S. or our ally of convenience, Josef Stalin, the world’s No. 2 most murderous man. The allies were racing to Berlin from East and West in part to simply cut off the head of the war beast, but also to beat each other to capture the prize that is Berlin, Germany, one of the great capitals of the world.
While the U.S. was looking to liberate Europe, Stalin was looking to enslave it. He wanted Berlin. The allies met in the middle, and Stalin immediately began to wall off that portion he deemed to be his. In their race to capture Berlin, the allies cut a narrow path through what would ultimately be called East Germany, which unfortunately allowed the Soviets to expand their empire, making “West Berlin” an island of liberty in the middle of tyranny.
Recently, I watched two libertarian friends of mine discuss the nature of evil in a post on Facebook. One of them actually commented that “evil” is an abstract concept. He is wrong. Evil is very real. Those who want to deny evil have perhaps never been behind the Iron Curtain. I have. If you do not believe in the reality of evil, you either lack a coherent definition of it, or your public-school-educated skull full of mush simply refuses to accept it. Is mass slaughter of innocents not evil? Is Charles Manson not evil?
Is it evil to imprison businessmen and take their businesses for yourself? Is it evil to kill reporters who criticize your regime? Is it evil to carpet bomb whole sections of your country? Is it evil to threaten to freeze people to death by cutting off their natural gas? Is it evil to sacrifice orphans as a weapon, condemning them to hideous lives by cutting them off from adoptive families? Vladimir Putin is evil.
Let’s not forget where Putin comes from. He was not some low-level communist party operative. He was the director of the KGB, a very high-level member of the Communist Party. He was steeped in the ideology of Vladimir Lenin, Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. When the empire collapsed, do we suppose these communists all gave up and realized that their evil, depraved oligarchy was fatally flawed and that capitalism is the only way to true freedom and prosperity? Can a zebra really change its stripes?
Consider that the man (Putin) who never held a job outside of government is considered one of the richest men in the world. He got that way because he took by force anything he wanted.
Now Putin is taking Crimea by force, and our leaders are actually engaging in debates about whether or not that is legal. We are threatening to restrict Russian tourist visas. That will bring them to their knees.
I have also traveled in Russia and met Duma members and citizens who know the real heart of Vladimir Putin. They whisper that he is the definition of evil, and he sees himself as a legacy of those before him in the tradition of Stalin, Lenin and others whose ghosts still haunt the bricks of the Kremlin in ways more insidious than we in America can know.
No one is suggesting that we should deploy bombing strikes and send in ground troops today, but at the very least we could send a carrier group to the Black Sea and mobilize troops to other parts of the former Soviet Republics to reassure the world that we will not allow more people to be re-enslaved.
Something no U.S. born Millenial could fully appreciate is the passion of liberated former Eastern Bloc prisoners. I have friends who escaped Communist Russia and they told me they would rather die than go back there.
In California, Vietnamese Americans are a solid Republican voting bloc (more so than any other Asian group) because they hate the Communists and what they did to their country.
As I have written in this space before, the statists have done a tremendous job of placing communists on the left and fascists on the right. Both are total government dictatorships or oligarchies which makes them two sides of the same coin, not polar opposites. It is almost funny to watch Putin refer to the Ukranian freedom fighters as fascists. I suppose it takes a fascist to know a fascist.
On March 5, 1946, at the request of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. (population 7,000), Churchill gave his now famous “Iron Curtain” speech to a crowd of 40,000. Churchill gave a name to what his former ally, Stalin, was doing when he gave the line of demarcation between tyranny and liberty the label “Iron Curtain.” The name stuck as he delivered one of the greatest speeches of all time, “The Sinews of Peace.”
The Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury was brought from London as a bombed-out wreck of Nazi tyranny. It was lovingly rebuilt to commemorate that speech. It stands to this day as a memorial to the dark days of tyranny wrought by evil men. It stands so subsequent generations will not make the same mistakes. It stands so free men will unite to protect each other from evil men.
My husband and I were married in that church, and its significance in our lives is profound. We left there to honeymoon in Europe where we had the life-changing experience of chopping down the Berlin Wall inches from East German border guards. We literally helped to tear down a cage and set people free. These were not friends, or relatives, or even acquaintances. These were human beings endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. We had the amazing honor to be a part of history, to see real-life liberation. That was after we had seen the home of Anne Frank and gas chambers. Evil is real.
What I find the most stunning about Putin’s actions are the parallels to Hitler’s actions. If the leftists, pacifists and libertarians cannot get excited about fighting the communists, can they at least appreciate the fight against a nationalist fascist?
When Hitler was building the German Empire, the “Third Reich,” he started by taking the German people of Austria without a shot being fired. He then took the Sudetenland in the former Czechoslovakia, on the pretense of protecting the “ethnic Germans” there. Then he took Poland. All the while, the world did nothing.
As Martin Niemöller essentially said, first they came for others, and I did nothing, and ultimately they came for me. How much will the world allow Putin to take before it is too late? As Edmund Burke famously said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
People who never endured real tyranny have no idea what real evil is and cannot possibly grasp the urgency and fear of the average Ukrainian about being sucked back into the control of their former oppressors. Imagine being enslaved, set free and then facing re-imprisonment and watching the world do nothing other than debate the legality of your would-be oppressor’s actions, or speaking in high-minded prose about the evil of war. War is horrible, but not as horrible as watching people be slaughtered and doing nothing.