‘I miss the Commies’

Reading David Brooks’ opinion piece in the New York Times struck me deeply: “For most of the past century, human dignity had a friend— The United States of America. We … helped defeat fascism and communism and helped set the context for European peace, Asian prosperity and the spread of democracy.”

I’m sensitive to this perspective because I grew up in the developing world, a world of actual bodies-on-the-street starvation, disease and desperation. My dad came back from World War II with post-traumatic stress disorder and found his cure by dedicating his life to helping those who needed it the most. He showed me housing projects where roads and water were installed and families were given a lot and the materials with which to build a home. Communities that had a school and potable water for the first time ever. Farms that were using high yielding crop seed developed right here on the Palouse, and much more. For decades after the big war, America was the main force behind making the world a better place for billions of people. But today, America’s sense of self is in shambles. Disinformation from Russia and sources here at home has wormed its way into the minds of those who lack a sense of history and critical thinking skills. Trumpians don’t believe that engaging with the rest of the world is even worth it, or that other cultures have value and deserve our respect and compassion.

Before she died, I recall my mother commenting, “You know, I miss the Commies. They really brought us together.” Maybe some existential threat like climate change will do that for us now.

Let’s hope that very many people will not have to suffer and die before we as a nation achieve the common forward-looking identity we had not so long ago: to keep on making the world a better place for all.

Michael Jennings

Moscow

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