How many Americans, born in the Soviet Union, would be good soviet citizens?
While living 2 1/2 years in Ukraine, I saw a lot of photos of my Ukrainian friends growing up in the Soviet Union. The photos were always black and white--Soviets didn't have color cameras like Americans did.
What surprised me was how politics was always absent from these photos. There were photos of families on the beach, families having meals, families traveling to other cities, and school photos. I never once saw the red Soviet hammer and sickle in the hundreds of photos which my friends shared. My surprise that these photos lacked any politics was probably a result of being effectively taught Cold War propaganda. Like all Americans, I was taught that Soviets had a lot of military parades and were devoted to destroying the “free world”. The reality was much different. These Soviets citizens were similar to the average Americans. They had families, they had careers, and they had a small group of friends. When these photos were taken,in the 1970's and 1980's rarely did politics directly affect the average Soviet citizen. My friends left the government alone and as a result, the government left my friends alone.
Tonight I was on my break and reading my book “Inevitable Revolutions” in the break room. One of the security guards was sitting close to me, and asked me what I was reading. I told her I was reading a book about Central America, how America supports dictators and overthrows popularly and democratically elected leaders. (I should have added that Central America to America is like Eastern Europe was to the Soviet Union. America has its own iron curtain south of its border.)
The security guards eyes glazed over in a typical way that I have seen a million times, and I could tell she could care less. She quickly began talking to someone else. No intellectual curiosity, no interest at all.
After my break, as I was working, I listened to a lecture series on my headphones about the fifties McCarthy witch hunts. The author touched upon some of the political prosecutions of communists and socialist which I have been reading a lot about.
I realized tonight that the vast majority of Americans, 99%, possibly more, if born in the Soviet Union, at the same time as my Ukrainian friends, would have been good Soviet Citizens.
In times of economic stability, less than 1% of all an industrial countries population are political dissenters. Like those Soviets in those black and white pictures, most people have families, they have careers, and they have a small group of friends. Politics is unimportant to them, the day to day routine of life consumes them. 99% of the population do not question the basic foundation of their beliefs.
Ever society has a minute group of dissenters, which every society treats the same way: with political prosecution. America persecuted communists and socialists, and the Soviet Union persecuted Western thinkers.
The more I learn about history, the more I realize that the notion that America is somehow different from other countries is yet another widely held belief. A foolish myth.