Scared for America
by Dmitry Zaslavsky
“Son, please, please do not post anything, do not say anything. Remember how we lived in Moscow. You have a mortgage and a kid in college. You don’t want to lose your job,” my mother’s voice is urgent and anxious. “I don’t know where we could go. Australia?”
I grew up in the Soviet Union. I vividly remember my parents spinning anti-Soviet jokes in our tiny kitchen. An American tourist tells his Russian acquaintance, “You know, I can go to the White House, pound on the President’s desk and tell him that I don’t like how he runs the country, and nothing will happen to me.” “I can do the same thing!” the Russian replies, “I can go to Kremlin, pound on the General Secretary’s desk and tell him that I don’t like how the American President runs his country! And nothing will happen to me either.” I was instructed by my parents in very strict terms to never repeat what I heard at home outside our apartment. As I started school, I had to wear a red star pin with young Lenin’s profile in the center. At nine, the pin was replaced by another and supplemented by the red necktie. As I entered high school, I became a proper member of the Young Communists League – I wouldn’t have been able to get into college without their recommendation. It was a game that had to be played, or else…
Thirty some years later, as an American citizen, I’m not sure that one can criticize a Democrat Speaker of the House, question the methods of addressing climate change, express religious beliefs, or audit an election result without being publicly smeared as a sexist, racist, science denier, and insurrectionist, banned from social media, possibly fired or denied promotion. The old Soviet joke does not work anymore. The joke is on us, Americans.
Pravda (The Truth) was the name of the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Its humble editorial board ensured that no fake news was disseminated, which could inadvertently poison weak minds of their fellow comrades. It was certainly done in the best interests of the population. The censors were all extremely well educated with advanced degrees from the most prestigious Soviet colleges. So I’m not surprised that our intellectual elite from Google, Facebook, and Twitter decided to better the world by eliminating lies and promoting the Truth. I’m not surprised at all. I am scared. About fifty million people perished just in my country of birth because at one point or another they crossed a truth-teller. Add to that number the lost Chinese, Germans, and Cubans. Last year my daughter’s friend almost lost her ivy league college admission because somebody didn’t like her innocuous post on one of the media boards. She is in school now, but on probation. Yesterday I heard on the news about the need for reeducation and the threats of domestic terrorism from a long list of ‘-ist’ groups, and “even libertarians.” And now watching on TV how leftist groups burn police stations and Democrat party offices, I wonder if there’s anybody left in the country besides the Congressional Democrat Caucus who could not be labeled a terrorist. Well, a terrorist is the enemy of the people and, thanks to my Soviet education, I know exactly how they need to be dealt with. And I’m scared.
You can write me off as a fear mongering immigrant who does not see the difference between a bright American democracy and the backwards world of Eastern Europe and Middle Asia. But when Bill Maher and Steve Bannon agree on something – the rest of America should listen.