Communism is real, and it’s very, very dangerous.
My husband grew up in Warsaw, Poland at the height of communism. I grew up in an all-white community in an all Mormon neighborhood, in Orem, Utah at the height of the Regan administration. To say we come at life differently is a vast understatement. My early years were mostly spent worrying about who won the B.Y.U. football game and who got a new Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas. My husband’s early years were spent in communist Poland standing in bread lines.
The black and white picture you see here, the one that looks like late 1800’s Russia? It was taken in 1979 in Poland after my sister-in-law’s christening, and the toddler in the middle of the photo is my husband. The church behind them was still battered from World War II. Poland was heavily occupied by the Soviets in the 1970’s (they came in right after the Germans left in 1945 and stayed until 1993), and reparations from the war were slow, to say the least. Communist occupied countries lag behind their democratic counterparts for decades after occupiers leave, and often never catch up.
In the mid-1980’s my husband and his family fled Poland and came to America as refugees under political asylum, with the shirts on their backs and not much else. Here’s what’s important to know about refugees: they don’t leave their homes without imminent threat from an oppressive government. Which is to say, if they stay in their home country, they will almost certainly die.
My husband’s family lived and died in Poland all through the Bolshevik Revolution, World War I, World War II, and nearly all of the communist Russian occupation, which only ended in 1993 (NINETEEN NINETY THREE). Four generations of his family lived in a constant state of war, and most of them didn’t survive to see the end of World War II. Our children are the fifth generation, and the only reason they’re alive is because my husband made it out of Poland.
If I didn’t live with a man whose entire life was shaped by generations of war and oppression, I wouldn’t understand the dangers of a rogue totalitarian government. I wouldn’t understand how quickly a country can go from peaceable living to martial law. I wouldn’t understand why people are so upset about the outcome of a presidential election in a proudly democratic country like America.
But I do understand, in a small way. I understand because the horrific stories from my husband’s family are the repercussions of a world full of people who looked the other way in the face of evil. Of people who didn’t stand up for what was right, because they were scared, or because they weren’t scared at all.
Initially when Hitler ran for office, people laughed at him. He was totally unqualified, he was crazy, and he wasn’t even considered to be a viable contender. Sound familiar? He threatened people, was eventually appointed chancellor of the Nazi party, and used that office to spew hateful rhetoric at the starving masses of a Europe reeling from the economic consequences of World War I. He created a scapegoat for the poor and war-torn in the form of Jews, homosexuals, people of color, and anyone else who got in his way, including 6 million Poles. When people tried to reason with Hitler, he had them killed.
Am I being a little dramatic comparing Hitler and America’s current president elect? I don’t think so. The hate speech and divisive rhetoric we’ve heard pounded into speaking pulpits across America for the last 18 months is the exact. same. language Hitler used 80+ years ago. Marginalizing entire populations of people, blaming them for the economic and moral problems of a country, is exactly what every dictator in the history of the world has done. We’ve been lulled into false complacency in America, while this behavior has been normalized one news report at a time.
People in post-WWI Europe weren’t scared enough by Hitler until it was too late to do anything about him.
The president elect of the United States has appointed a white supremacist to be his chief strategist in the White House. The KKK and American Nazi party, along with Vladimir Putin, have given high praise to his leadership. If these aren’t giant waving red flags, I’m not sure what is.
Acts of violence and hate speech, in the name of American nationalism, happened all over America the very night our president elect was announced the winner of the presidential election. Hispanic children were threatened by classmates and told to go back to where they came from. People of color were called names I won’t dignify on my blog, and threatened with lynchings. Almost 300 hate crimes have been committed in less than a week, and those are the ones people were brave enough to report. People aren’t marching in the streets because their candidate didn’t win, they’re marching because this is America and this man does not represent a safe democracy. He represents fear and evil, hate and oppression.
It’s your job as a citizen of this country to be aware of what’s happening. You need to stay informed about why this violence is happening, and you need to do whatever you can to shut it down. Read real news, reach out in your communities to people who are different than you, and ask them about their experience right now; people who aren’t your same color, or religion, or political party. When people tell you what they’re afraid of, LISTEN to what they’re saying. Don’t minimize their fear. It’s real, and it’s justified. Don’t be defensive about your vote for this man, get out in your communities and states and figure out how to fix it. Here’s a list of how to get in touch with your local representatives, to hold them accountable for what’s happening in your communities, and at the highest levels of government.
Don’t think for a second that America is strong enough to be immune to the dangers of history. It isn’t. Complacency is the same as complicity, and you have the power to stand up against this hate. It’s your responsibility to use that power before it’s too late.