For Aleksandr's Sake (2008)


Yesterday acclaimed novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died in Moscow at age 89. He was Russian born and much of his life was spent eloquently opposing the soviet system. So effective were his courageous efforts that he was arrested and deported from his homeland in 1974. For over 20 years he lived reclusively in Vermont where he continued writing, it seems, exclusively in the Russian language. His enduring charge to writers everywhere is to "unmask the lie"—no matter where you may be.

From communism and fascism through benign monarchies and democracy there are far fewer differences than similarities. Today's America, the leader of the free world, under the guise of preserving freedom and liberty, routinely practices highly repugnant acts once attributed exclusively to the soviets during cold war years—things like kidnapping, torture, indiscriminate and indefinite detention, the killing of innocents (and innocence), and so forth—methods disrespecting freedom and quite inconsistent with the preservation of liberties. And it has all come about exactly as old Aleksandr once described:

"To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good... Ideology—that is what gives devildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. "

Through lifetimes of more or less voluntary conditioning many Americans believe their government to be as pure as the driven snow. And it is through such conditioning that spreading freedom and spreading democracy have become euphemisms for rolling that kick-ass American killing machine into various foreign countries under various pretexts masking very real, underlying economic interests. Support our troops has become the tyrant's cry against would be critics and cooler heads who believe a shrinking globe makes conquest and confiscation ultimately unfashionable and perhaps obsolete. And as old Aleksandr once said:

"Violence can only be concealed by a lie ... Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle."

And that is a proverb to be mulled over—I would hope, for Aleksandr's sake—by all the supporters, employees, beneficiaries, and aficionados of the American military-industrial complex—all those well-meaning cogs stuck in the perpetual killing machine—who also need to keep in mind one of my alcoholic aunt's favorite expressions: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Or "you can't have your cake and eat it too".

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