Tom Finneran: The Crime of the Century

Friday, November 01, 2013


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And what was the Soviet Union's response to human beings yearning to be free? Barbed wire fences, guard dogs, trip wires, minefields, and machine gun-toting soldiers.

The twentieth century holds the disgraceful distinction of being the bloodiest, most violent, most vicious century in recorded history. In the long litany of man’s inhumanity to man, no other century comes even close to measuring up against the various slaughters of the twentieth.

From the gaseous trenches of World War I, through the hateful insanity of Hitler’s Holocaust, to the criminal rape and subsequent rubble of Europe, through Lenin and Stalin’s murderous carnage of millions, and Mao’s stone cold killing of many more millions, nothing else can possibly compare. Thanks be to God for small blessings. Compared to these brutes, Pol Pot might be given a humanitarian prize for restraint.

Flipping through the grisly catalog of misery and ruin brought on by these monsters, how does one possibly choose the winner of “history’s worst crime”?

Having just returned from a visit to Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Library, I have nominees------the mental and physical architects of the Berlin Wall, and the savages who policed it. The specimen of the Wall placed on display at Reagan’s Library captures all the criminality of the age and it adds a hideous dimension to it---a dimension of cruel and deliberate imprisonment for the crime of seeking freedom. Of all the chilling consequences and mountainous grief which arose from the world wars, nothing strikes the heart so coldly as the reality of men and governments using concrete, barbed wire, and machine guns to deny human beings the essence of the effort of liberation.

Most striking to me was the mental significance of the wall. That a family’s desire for freedom was seen as such a threat to a very sick ideology that it must be physically walled in is simply beyond my comprehension. The notion that people are the slaves of a “system” rather than the masters of their lives and their government is utterly appalling, particularly after millions of freedom-loving people had given their lives to save many unknown others from pillage and enslavement.

The murder of a family is hideous enough. The murder of an idea is even worse. For what dies with the family, however unjust, however barbaric their deaths may be, are the immediate lives of that family alone. And those lives, and deaths, can be mourned and even avenged. What dies with an idea however are the hopes and dreams of many thousands, even millions of fellow human beings.

Those human beings sense that a cage has been placed over them and that they are henceforth forever constrained in their thoughts and in their words, even in their worship. And the cold reality of that cage reduces a part of their humanity to that of a caged animal---sullen, suspicious, wary, and overwhelmingly sad. The birth of children into such a caged and surveilled society must be a cause for weeping rather than a cause for joy. How sad, how cruel. How criminal.

It is pathetically and utterly ironic that such crimes were committed in the name of liberty, fraternity, equality, and progress. Orwell was right. Words can be more dangerous and do more damage than bullets. The Wall was 28 miles of concrete and reinforced hate. Guard dogs lunged here, floodlights illuminated every corner, trip wires and minefields sent a clear message to all who strolled near, and quick-to-shoot soldiers carried machine guns along a no-man’s zone of death. Such was Soviet Russia’s answer and response to simple human beings yearning to be free.

That certain academics romanticized the Soviets and their gruesome system is yet another crime. Apologists for thugs were and are rampant in the academic world. It should therefore come as no surprise that so many of those same academics would express their scorn for Reagan’s words, describing the President as an ignorant warmonger for speaking so critically of their favorite utopian society.

How dare Reagan see what they would not see and say what they would never say? No truer presidential words were ever spoken than those Reagan uttered about the “evil” Soviets. Nor were any words more comforting to the dissidents slowly dying In Soviet gulags, beaten, tortured, robbed, and ultimately killed by a system that was a top-to-bottom lie.

Reagan’s ultimate line matched JFK’s electrifying declaration “Ich bin ein Berliner”. As with JFK’s superb moment, Reagan’s was a simple line, carrying with it the renewed dreams of people all over the world:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. Famous words, worth remembering and worth celebrating. It was democracy’s closing and winning argument in the crime of the century.


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