This essay was written in 2008, and includes certain facts that are now dated. I have left them that way as an illustration that the growth of tyranny in the intervening years has not been checked, and continues to grow.
Standing at a restaurant counter one rainy October day, I asked the young woman who was handing me my hot chocolate about her country of origin. She had an unusual name printed on her name tag, which I found interesting. She was from Albania, and told me that she had left in 2001. She also said, “I bet you don’t know much about Albania.”
“Well, I know it was communist,” I replied.
Her answer truly surprised me. She said that she thought that Albania had been much better under communism. We didn’t chat for very long, but she referred to corruption and human trafficking, which she implied didn’t happen under communism. I wished her well, with the hope that Albania could find a better alternative.
Later, a quick web search on “Albania” brought me to the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report,1 an annual report produced by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, managed by the U.S. Department of State. Albania is on the department’s “Tier 2 Watch List,” and is described thus:
Albania is a source country for women and girls trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; it is no longer considered a major country of transit. Albanian victims are trafficked to Greece, Italy, Macedonia, and Kosovo, with many trafficked onward to Western European countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands. Children were also trafficked to Greece for begging and other forms of child labor. Approximately half of all Albanian trafficking victims are under age 18. Internal sex trafficking of women and children is on the rise.
The Government of Albania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The Government of Albania is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons over the past year, particularly in the area of victim protection. The government did not appropriately identify trafficking victims during 2007. It also has not demonstrated that it is vigorously investigating or prosecuting complicit officials.
The young woman in the restaurant left Albania in 2001, when the State Department rated Albania as a “Tier 3” country, the worst rating available, because Albania had “not yet made significant efforts to combat trafficking.” Since she left, the country has improved to some degree, but one can understand why she was unhappy with the corruption that appeared in her country after the fall of communism left Albania in an ideological and ethical vacuum.
I still felt amazed, however, that she would propose that life under communism was better. Then I realized that in 2001, she was probably a teenager and had not had much experience of living under the tyranny of communism. Her view of history may have been distorted, or simply inadequate. What did she learn about the true history of communism from Albanian schools?
An article by Steven Groves, “Advancing Freedom in Russia,”2 published by the Heritage Foundation in 2007, states that a recent poll found that:
. . . 54 percent of Russian youth ages 16-19 believed that Stalin was a “wise leader” who did “more good than bad.” Only 17 percent believed that Stalin was responsible for the execution and imprisonment of millions of people. A majority viewed the United States as a rival and an enemy and believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy.
Groves’ article assumes that the above attitudes are at least partially caused by revisionist curricula placed in schools by the Russian government.
This is truly scary, because one would think that Russia, Albania, and the other former Soviet satellites would be teaching exactly the opposite version of history, simply as a matter of self-preservation. The Russians and Eastern Europeans are the children of the victims of communism. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., estimates that 100 million people were killed by communist governments.3 The late Dr. Rudolph J. Rummel wrote in “20th Century Democide”4 that the real figure is closer to 150 million people, and that Stalin was responsible for almost 43 million.
150 Million Victims of Communism
Half of America’s citizens, from the middle of Tennessee to Alaska and Hawaii, all slaughtered.
It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around 150 million murdered citizens, but just imagine that you were driving across America and reached a spot where, from that point on, everyone in every town lay dead on the street. Half of America’s three hundred million citizens, from the middle of Tennessee to Alaska and Hawaii—all slaughtered.
That’s what communism did, in only seventy years. Yet we now have teenagers in Russia, and a young Albanian immigrant in a roadside restaurant in Maine, all believing that communism was just fine, thank you very much. It is a horrifying prospect to realize that new generations of young people are growing up ignorant of the history of communism. How can one swear “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man,” as Thomas Jefferson did, if one is ignorant of the true history of totalitarianism?
I feel grief for the Russian people, who suffered under the tsars for centuries and then had their deep religious natures crushed under the iron boot of Marxism-Leninism. Seventy years of atheism and totalitarianism profoundly damaged the spirits of the citizens of Mother Russia. Now, in 2008, they find themselves dominated once again by former KGB nomenklatura who do not have their best interests at heart.
The Necessity of Morality
The American historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. stated that “a totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul.” In every country where it has come to power, communism has betrayed and destroyed the souls of its citizens. Not content with establishing what Rummel calls “mortacracies” (“a type of political system that habitually and systematically murders large numbers of its own citizens”), communism did its best to kill the human spirit of the people it dominated.
Thus, we saw corruption appearing in formerly communist countries as soon as individual freedoms were made available. Marxism-Leninism taught its citizens that they were economic animals. Spiritual values and ethics, stemming from a belief in a higher power such as God, were entirely eliminated from communist classrooms. When the controlling tyranny of communism was removed, what ethical compass remained to guide its former citizens?
One need not look very closely to see that Western law and society are rooted in Judeo-Christian ethics and the Ten Commandments. It is true that Western countries have not always lived up to those moral codes. Here in the United States, for example, we have made many mistakes in our relatively short history, mistakes that could have been avoided if the national consciousness of our people had resonated more consistently with our own high ideals.
John Adams, while speaking to the officers of the Massachusetts Militia in 1798, stated, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
During the Civil War, it cost the lives of over six hundred thousand Americans to remove the tyranny of slavery from our society. That was the price paid to partially reform a society that had not followed its highest ideals. The early colonial Americans were generally moral and religious, but their morality sometimes had boundaries that didn’t include all people, of every race, including Africans, American Indians, and immigrant Chinese, many of whom were treated in a violent and horrendous fashion.
An Apology to the People
of Eastern Europe, East Germany, and North Korea
The United States made numerous other mistakes: one of them the truly dreadful mistake of allowing Soviet Russia to occupy Eastern Europe, East Germany, and North Korea. I believe that America owes a profound apology to the people of Eastern Europe, East Germany, and North Korea. Although I am only an individual American citizen, I offer this apology now. The United States had the opportunity and the power to prevent the communist domination of these countries, but we failed to act. Our wisdom and sense of responsibility and love did not extend quite far enough.
The Rise of Tyranny in 2008
Now the world is in danger of falling prey to tyranny once again. Orthodox Shari‘ah Islam is marching toward the goal of world domination through the combined methods of terror, the manipulation of public opinion, and efforts to replace local laws with Shari‘ah law. Part of the fuel driving this march is corruption in Western society. Orthodox Muslims find it easy to criticize sexual degradation in the West, or the vacuum of mores created when communism left countries like Albania. Islam and totalitarian Shari‘ah law are held up as moral alternatives.
Morality can be skewed, however, depending upon its roots. If we state that unselfish love for others and respect for individual freedom and human rights are central pillars of a preferred moral system, then how does Islamic Shari‘ah law fit that paradigm? Will the world under Shari‘ah law be a good and free place to live?
Writing for the daily online magazine American Thinker, James Arlandson presents the “Top Ten Reasons Why Shari‘ah Is Bad for All Societies.”5 Arlandson’s article is long and well documented. Each of the ten points he lists is explained, and is also documented by links to supplementary articles. Here is his list:
10. Islam commands that drinkers and gamblers should be whipped.
9. Islam allows husbands to hit their wives even if the husbands merely fear highhandedness in their wives.
8. Islam allows an injured plaintiff to exact legal revenge—physical eye for physical eye.
7. Islam commands that a male and female thief must have a hand cut off.
6. Islam commands that highway robbers should be crucified or mutilated.
5. Islam commands that homosexuals must be executed.
4. Islam orders unmarried fornicators to be whipped and adulterers to be stoned to death.
3. Islam orders death for Muslim and possible death for non-Muslim critics of Muhammad and the Quran and even Sharia itself.
2. Islam orders apostates to be killed.
1. Islam commands offensive and aggressive and unjust jihad.
Let’s make this analysis personal. How would you like to live in a society dominated by Shari‘ah law? I can tell you that I would hate it with all my heart. If this question seems nonsensical, it is truly not, for as you read this article, Shari‘ah law is being pushed across the globe, including in democratic countries like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and the United States.
Laws and systems of laws can be changed by voters or their representatives. Even the U.S. Constitution can be changed. Will we allow Shari‘ah law to transform our society, using the incremental tactic of boiling the frog in water that gets hotter by slow degrees? I hope not.
Chavez a New Castro?
In other areas of the globe, tyranny is on the move with people like Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has decreased liberties in his country, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who seems to be gearing up for regional military aggression. Will Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela be the heir to Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and become a country that exports aggression to its neighbors? Why else would Chavez buy billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from Russia? The Russian periodical PRAVDA On-Line reported in 2007 that “Russian arms help Chavez launch guerrilla warfare against USA.”6
The Daily Telegraph reported in September 2008: “Hugo Chavez wants Venezuela to build nuclear programme.”7 The article stated, “Mr Chavez has supported Iran’s nuclear project and turned the Middle Eastern nation into a strategic partner, combining efforts to restrict oil production to keep prices high and engaging in joint economic ventures. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Caracas in September last year.”
A Worldview of Peace
It is indeed a frightening world, with madmen still seeking to gain dominion over their neighbors. The madmen worry me, but the truly scary phenomenon taking place around the globe is the distorted education of our youth, the leaders of tomorrow. Whether they’re receiving false revisionist history lessons in Russia, or virulent tirades in orthodox Islamic schools, or almost no history at all in some American schools, the net result is that the world’s youth are not being adequately educated to care for the world with compassion and love.
Building nations of freedom, responsibility, and love requires that we teach young people about the history of tyranny and the cost of ignoring the past. It requires that we provide them with an ethical compass that is directed by the timeless value of compassionate love rooted in the spiritual nature of humankind and the universe.
I believe that it requires that the free nations of the world reach a consensus on a worldview that is common to all humankind, which we can then teach to our children. Such a worldview must reject aggression and the mistakes of the past, including prejudice and religious intolerance. To formulate this worldview will require input from many people, but may be easier than we think. If we cut through all the rhetoric, I believe that the core of goodness in each person can be described in rather simple terms.
The “Death of Tyranny” can become a reality, but only if we remember Thomas Jefferson’s words that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” It will become a reality if we all do our very best to act for freedom, by speaking out, writing, lobbying our representatives, sharing with our neighbors and friends, and standing up for the virtues of freedom and liberty for all human beings.
1. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, “2008 Trafficking in Persons Report,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2008/105376.htm, http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2008/index.htm, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/105656.pdf
2. Steven Groves, “Advancing Freedom in Russia,” Heritage Foundation, http://www.heritage.org/research/worldwidefreedom/bg2088.cfm
3. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, “Mission”, http://victimsofcommunism.org/mission/
4. Dr. Rudolph J. Rummel, “20th Century Democide”, http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM
5. James Arlandson, “Top Ten Reasons Why Sharia Is Bad for All Societies, ”American Thinker, reprinted with permission from the publisher. http://www.americanthinker.com/2005/08/top_ten_reasons_why_sharia_is.html
6. Alexander Timoshik, “Russian arms help Chavez launchguerrilla warfare against USA,” PRAVDA On-Line, http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/25-06-2007/93950-chavez_guerrilla-0/
7. Jeremy McDermott, “Hugo Chavez wants Venezuelato build nuclear programme,” The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/venezuela/3103439/Hugo-Chavez-wants-Venezuela-to-build-nuclear-programme.html
All web page references accessed in October 2008