Friday, June 15, 2007

Forgetting to remember? Remembering to forget?

OK, OK - I know what I said yesterday. I really hadn't intended to spend most of the week at Dictators of the World going on and on about communism, Sometimes, however, that's just the way it turns out. So it's fitting that on the day I wrote about history's "killing joke" and took a moment to ponder communism's earth shattering body count, a monument was dedicated in Washington DC to the victims of the world's bloodiest political ideology.

President Bush was on hand to dedicate the Victims of Communism memorial in a small park between Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenues in Washington, but in an age where the president of the United States can't even take a leak without at least 300 reporters following him around, this event received fairly minimal notice. The memorial itself was created in 1993 by an act of congress which sought to dedicate some sort of memorial to the more than 100,000,000 people who died as a result of communist oppression, slavery, mass murder and genocide. In typically bureaucratic Washington fashion, the most memorial was finally finished a mere 14 years later. Depressingly, that long since nearly everyone in America had stopped caring, and long enough to realize that kids today probably won't be learning much about it in schools.

Right on cue, China denounced the memorial, saying that it "[provoked] conflicts between different ideologies and social systems". China, of course, may have simply been somewhat embarrassed. In the truly epic body count caused of communism, somewhere between 20 to 30 million people starved to death - the worst famine in world history - during Mao Zedong's disastrous Great Leap Forward. It's a predictable denunciation. After all, a communist party - even if it's communist in name only - still runs the show in China, so it stands to reason that their culpability in the senseless deaths of so many dozens of millions makes them just a bit uncomfortable. It probably also doesn't help that the memorial statue itself looks like a certain statue that featured prominently in the 1989 Tianamen Square demonstrations.

America's memorial, however good the intentions were in building it, feels a day late and a dollar short. A number of countries in the former Soviet bloc have built their own memorials to the victims of communism that evoke something ours cannot - the horror of familiarity. It's a good bet that schoolkids in Prague and Warsaw will not be forgetting the lessons of communist rule because their parents' generation won't allow it to happen. In fact, making sure our own kids learned the history of communism's deadly legacy would be worth more than a hundred of these memorials, and better still, would make the memorial itself irrelevant in practical terms.

The sad fact of the matter is, as long as the system's apologists continue to be so robustly overrepresented in academia, the arts and even in governments around the world, the victims of communism will never really be at rest. Who cares about a memorial when the horror it remembers is not only still alive, but even remembered fondly?

UPDATE: Michael Weiss writes a stellar piece blasting the "faux-cialist" movement over on Jewcy.

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