Better Red Than Dead

I was back in the Cold War not so much pro-Soviet Union as I was anti-American.  I was a teen and scared to death of being nuked.  But I just couldn’t stand those bumper stickers that said “Better Dead than Red.”  First I thought they were just plain stupid; I would rather be alive under almost any conditions (excepting a few); so being Red didn’t seem all that bad to be if I wasn’t Dead.  And without knowing a single Russian person, I felt confident in believing that many of those reds preferred red to dead.

Also I had read a number of novels and short stories, admittedly mostly from the 19th century, that convinced me that Russians were actually human beings and not some sort of moronic sub species.  Those books also convinced me that Russians were in some ways more spiritual than Americans.  They were not really into material things but were concerned with the big issues like dying and what it means to be a human being.  Of course, I also recognized they were not concerned with material things because they didn’t have any.

 Before the Revolution, the serfs lived in abject and utter poverty.  You have to remember too that legally speaking the Czar owned all of Russia.  Every bit of it.  So the idea of not having private property was not an alien concept when the commies came along and declared the end of private property.  As I see it the behavior of the Russian people has far less to do with Communism than it has to do with their very long history as a people.  Their history had pretty much prepped them for no property and autocratic rule by a corrupt few.  And that history now repeats itself:  the people have nothing and are rule by a few predatory, mafiaesque “capitalists.”

I remember a saying about Russian people that goes something like.  These two Russians.  One has a coat and the other with no coat is freezing to death.  So the one with the coat rips it in half and gives half to the freezing Russian.  A capitalist would say, screw you, I am keeping my coat.  I earned it by exploiting the labor power of my neighbor. You freezing guy are a lazy shiftless no good son-of-a-bitch.  The Russian solution, their idea of community, is to make sure everybody is equally miserable.

So they do have equality; the equality of misery. You could do worse than that and we have done so in these United States.  That doesn’t mean I am anti-American.  I am American to the bone.  I continue to believe in the ideals of this country, though daily it seems we move further and further from realizing them.  Who knows, though, maybe I should have been born in Russia.  I have a colleague whose wife is from Russia.  Sveta is her name.  I have given my colleague some CD’s of the songs I write, and he says Sveta loves my droning.

Over there, people write and sing songs about dying, depression, pessimism, despair and futility. And they like them.

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