Communists and America
In some parts of America and a number of other countries, the worst thing that one can be called is a Communist. At once there are identifications with Gulag, starvation and lakes of blood.
I am not a Communist. I did however have a grandmother who was a card-carrying member of the Soviet Communist Party, and she was not an evil person at all. She loved me and did a lot to help me along in my education, resulting in me becoming a star student. She was a math teacher in the school and was very dedicated to the work that she was doing. She was also constantly doing things like cooking dinner and cleaning the house even though she did not have to. Hate Communism as much as you want to, but leave my grandmother out of it.
There are all sorts of good people who fall for bad causes. Obviously not every German person in 1930s and 1940s was a sociopath or a monster; but they fell for Nazism anyway. As much as I disagree with much of what goes on in the American South, there are good people there as well. The same is the case with the former Soviet Union.
Certainly much of what took place under umbrella of Communism was very wrong. But that doesn't mean that everyone who's ever had Communist sympathies was a bad person. There were people in Communism who believed in it to the same extent as many people in America believe in liberty or in Jesus. And many of those people - such as my grandmother - actually did productive things.
I do not seek to resurrect Communism. I seek a better memory for those in Communism who did right things. Yes there were scoundrels in Communism; but not every Communist was a scoundrel. My grandmother, her Communism notwithstanding, was a loving, responsible and hard-working person. All things that many American conservative women see themselves as being - and all things that are also practiced by many people who have nothing to do with "traditional values," with Christianity or with America.
If you look anywhere in the world, you will find people who choose to do good and people who choose to do ill everywhere. This is not limited to one country or one religion. Besides good Christians there are also good Jews, good Muslims, good Buddhists, good atheists and - yes - good socialists. Every ideology has possibilities for good uses and bad uses; and, given everything that exists in humanity, we will see good things and bad things done everywhere in the name of any religion or ideology.
Are Stalin, Pol Pot and Kim Jong Un to be excused? Absolutely not. My grandmother, however, should be. She believed in something, and she worked very hard to bring it about. This makes her similar in character to American patriots who also believed in something and worked very hard to bring it about. The ideology was different; the character was the same.
Often wars are fought by people who are much like one another. The same kind of people who in the Soviet Union were hardline Stalinists - the military, much of the countryside, and the power-hungry - in America become Republicans. The same kind of people who in the Soviet Union were liberal-minded - the more educated, the city dwellers, the artists - in America become Democrats or Greens. The ideologies differ, but the character is similar. The same kind of people who in America wanted to hang the Commies became, in the Soviet Union, the most vocal Commies to be found.
I want more people to understand such things, as doing so results in more informed action and greater compassion. Ideologies come and go; what remains is common humanity. My grandmother was a good person who went for a bad cause. And there are any number of good people in America who also fall for bad causes, such as the Tea Party.
Neither Communism nor capitalism are the root of all evil. There are all sorts of things that people can do wrong and all sorts of things that people can do right in any system. Not everyone who's ever been affiliated with Communism is a bad person. Indeed many of Communism's most ardent participants were similar to many of the American conservatives in their character and their conduct.
What are the implications of this? Well, for one, it is to end the blanket demonization of people who've been involved in Communism. There were jerks in Communism; there were also good people in it as well. Another is to look at things from standpoint of opportunity. If these people can believe as strongly as they did in Communism, they are likely to also believe strongly in something else if convinced of its validity. And finally, it is to look at how much can be accomplished when one is dealing with people who were willing to work as hard as my grandmother, if they are given a reason other than Communism to work this hard.
I am not against America. I want America to do well. But it is also important to do away with wrongful attitudes. The Communists are not uniformly evil, and there are many good people who've been involved in that cause. Give them another thing to believe in that is more compatible with American values, and you will see them work just as hard as they did in Communist setting to benefit, this time, America and its system rather than the Communist Bloc.