Pet peeves are things that get us angry; they are the buttons that people can push inadvertently without knowing they are doing it that get us riled. They are the subjects, the annoyances, that get us to start pontificating at inappropriate moments, so that our significant others roll their eyes and want to hide under a table or at the very least pretend they don’t know us.
I have pet peeves, and I wonder sometimes if I’m the one being unreasonable, or if the behavior I am getting upset with is what is actually reprehensible.
One of my pet peeves involves communism. Maybe I’m just unusually sensitive, having grown up during the Cold War and having had an Air Force Chief Master Sergeant as a father, a father who twice went to Viet Nam and twice received the Bronze Star. Or maybe it’s the time I spent working on a kibbutz in Israel, or the friends I’ve known who have been brutalized by dictators before they escaped to this country. Or maybe it’s from reading all three volumes of Solzhenitzen’s Gulag Archepeligo and most everything else he’s written. Or maybe it’s from reeading Gao Xingjian’s One Man’s Bible about his experiences during the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Mao. Or maybe it’s the exchange students we had from Taiwan, whose families fled the communists on the mainland a couple generations ago. Maybe it’s from having majored in history as an undergraduate and taking a course in Russian history, or maybe it’s because I read Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. Who knows?
A few years ago the LA Times wrote a front page article about a retirement home for old communists; it was a glowing piece. I wrote them a nasty letter that they actually published. The next day I got a phone call from a total stranger who had fled the communists in Romania, thanking me in tears for the letter.
Maybe I have reason to be peeved?
In August, 2005, The National Geographic Magazine had a piece on a commune called East Wind in Missouri. They wrote the following:
“We thought we were going to change the world,” says Deborah, 56, one of the group of friends who left Boston in 1973 to create East Wind. Back then it was still possible to believe a socialist revolution was sweeping the globe. “The east wind is prevailing over the west wind,” said Mao Zedong in 1957, when he was chairman of the People’s Republic of China. His vision of socialism blowing away capitalism gave East Wind its name and helped inspire its mission…
Such things puzzle me immensely. It seems to me unlikely that anyone would publish a similar article about a neo-Nazi group in Idaho, calling them say “fascists” or “old rightists,” or that they’d speak sympathetically about their being inspired by Hitler’s Mein Kampf while waxing nostalgic over their lost causes.
Why is it then, that murderous thugs on the far left evoke such feelings of warmth that they can’t even be called what they actually are: communists? Or murderous tyrants? What makes dictators and those who worked for their evil and unworkable cause worthy of such fawning? It is, frankly, disturbing. Marxism is as bad as Nazism and deserving of equal opprobrium. Mao is responsible for slaughtering at least 50 million of his citizens while oppressing the rest, sending millions to slave labor camps, and depriving all of them of basic freedoms. The Soviet Union slaughtered nearly as many, oppressed a dozen other countries, and sent millions to the Gulag.
And yet how often do we see people walking around in a T-shirt with a picture of Mao or Che as if it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do? Personally, I think that wearing such symbols should be considered as offensive and as socially unacceptable as walking around wearing a T-shirt with Hitler or Goering on it.
I really don’t understand it. Murderers are murderers. Why this nostalgia for murderers on the far left? If someone was involved in communist activities in the past, perhaps motivated by youthful ideals of equality and such, they should now feel as mortified by their past involvement as any child who joined the Nazi German Youth. I’m really peeved at the pass that is regularly doled out for Marxists and Communists. They are no better the Nazis. And deserve the same shaming and disgust.