Thursday, October 22, 2009

There and Then vs Here and Now

Svetlana Kunin in IBD:

USSR, 1959: I am a "young pioneer" in school. History classes remind us that there is a higher authority than their parents and teachers: the leaders of the Communist Party.

The story of young pioneer Pavlik Morozov is required reading. Pavlik reported his father to the secret police for disobeying government regulations. His life exemplified the duty of all good Soviet citizens to serve their government.

From the first year in school, all of us are made aware of our ethnicity (ethnic Russian, Jewish, Asian, etc.) and class (proletariat, intelligentsia), around which society is structured. This inherent divisiveness makes it easy for the government to stir ethnic and class tension and in this way distract from economic failure.

Newspapers and TV transmit government-approved news. Any critical voice is immediately suppressed and publicly denounced.

My parents, as all citizens of the USSR, work for state-run companies. All workers are unionized — another way the state controls the citizens. There is no private enterprise in USSR.

Whatever small private farms or shops that existed before 1930 have been taken over by the state. All medical care and schools are state entities. The government regulates what kind of technology, service and compensation are allowed.

From school age through adulthood, citizens are called to public service four to five times a year. Activities such as farming, cleaning places of work, and paper/metal scrap collections are mandatory.

Religious symbols are forbidden in schools or on state property. Most old religious buildings are transformed for secular use.

The Soviet government imposes the Iron Curtain. The state has strict control over our ability to travel abroad. This prevents us from realizing the discrepancy between the media's image of the great socialist country and the reality of our low standard of living.

USA, 2009: "Progressives" control the government. Children in some public schools sing songs about the president and study his directives.

Progressives view people not as unique individuals, but as groups. They play on class envy, or divide people by ethnicity (African-American, white, Hispanic, etc.). From early childhood they remind children of their ethnic identity. The idea of a color-blind society united under the American flag is not politically correct.

The mainstream media are aligned with the government. Those media outlets critical of government policy are publicly criticized by government officials and are in danger of suffering repercussions.

Government seizes a majority stake in two major auto companies and, through TARP money, has control over major banks. Congress discusses capping salaries in private businesses and is in the process of increasing its control over the health care industry.

Big labor union leadership is fully aligned with the progressives in government. There is strong pressure to eliminate the secret ballot in order to increase union membership.

Cap-and-trade, if passed, will drive a lot of small businesses into bankruptcy and create a fruitful soil for favoritism and government control over private entities.

Sept. 11 is declared a day of national service by the administration. It is no longer a day of remembrance for the horrific attack perpetrated by terrorists.

The American Constitution protects the separation between church and state. Atheist zealots pervert this ideal in order to force out religious symbols and traditions from public space. It is fashionable in progressive circles to ridicule religion and religious people. "Tolerance" is applied only to anti-religious values.

As a former citizen of the USSR, I heard and experienced all of this before. I listen to the speeches by the president asking people to sacrifice and serve. So what are we to sacrifice? For what? And to whom? I think I get it now.

Citizens of America, sacrifice your elders and forget your selfish aspirations of prosperity for yourself and your family! Sign onto and serve your government!

• Kunin lived in the Soviet Union until 1980 and now lives in Connecticut. She wrote "The Perspective of a Russian Immigrant" that ran on the op-ed page Sept. 8-11.

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