Mariana was a classmate of mine when I was in middle school. She was a beautiful girl, and also very smart and hard working. She was popular: the other girls felt privileged to be her friends, and all the boys had a secret crush on her. Her grades were always high, and she helped others in their studies. In the schools back in the days of Communism, the teachers decided who sat where in the classroom, and the banks were always double (to save space). Whoever was assigned to sit next to her felt privileged. And yet, she was always quite humble, and her popularity never spoiled her, and she was always nice and polite to everyone. Her parents had trained her well.
Until one day, the principal came to our classroom, and said that Mariana will from now on sit in the back of the classroom, alone. Something had happened, but no one told us what. We were actively discouraged from playing with her in the recesses, or from asking her for help in our studies. The girls stopped being friends with her; we, the boys, felt something had changed, and that we shouldn’t try to approach her or pay her compliments, or even offer her help.
Years later I found out what had happened: Her father was caught listening to “enemy radio stations” like Radio Free Europe, BBC, and others. How he was caught, I have no idea.
For about 40 years in Eastern Europe, and 70 years in the Soviet Union, the “people” had an “enemy.” Or at least, that’s what the official propaganda said. The enemy was the West, its capitalists, its military leaders. The enemy was ready to invade us, to crush us, if we weren’t always ready for battle. If it wasn’t for the enemy, our economy would flourish, and we wouldn’t have to have all these limitations on our freedoms. The American imperialists were looking for every opportunity to steal our liberties and our prosperity. (As my father once wittily remarked, “They must be really desperate.”) We drilled nuclear attacks, we were instructed to watch for spies and traitors, we were taught to put up with curfews and shortages and blackouts – all in the name of defeating the “enemy.” Even slogans and placards reflected it; I still remember the one they had at the entrance of a government poultry plant in my town: “Every egg a stone, every hen a bomb in the imperialist camp!” These American imperialists, they were evil and wanted to take what we had.
In the final account, it wasn’t the Americans we fought but ourselves. The West was only a convenient scarecrow for the Communist governments to wage a war on their own citizens. It was the citizens of the Soviet Union and of the nations in Eastern Europe that were the main target of the propaganda of “American threat.” At the end of the day, millions of them were arrested, enslaved, beaten, killed, or molested in the name of fighting the “enemy.” And their children too, because as much as Communism didn’t believe in the traditional family, the wife and the children of a “traitor” suffered with him. Everyday we were finding the enemy, and it wasn’t the West; it was us. And our own governments treated us as the enemy; or worse.
This last week we discovered who the true enemy of the War on Terror is. It has never been the Muslim terrorists. To the contrary, our own government for the last 20 years has been flirting with them, has been financing and arming them, and has been allowing them free entry in America. No government program for foreign aid to Muslim nations has been abolished in the War of Terror; to the contrary, even with the numerous proofs that in the most part American taxpayers’ money to the Muslim world goes directly to terrorist organizations, we still keep giving. Muslim leaders are courted, and Islam has been declared a “religion of peace” by our own politicians. The War on Terror never really started; just like the “threat of the West” in Communist Eastern Europe, it was only a rhetorical device to convince the American public to accept the crackdown on another enemy: the American people. It was only designed to make us accept the Patriot Act, the TSA humiliating rape of Americans, the violation of all moral and legal and Constitutional rule by our own government against its own citizens.
And this last week, we saw our own representatives in the Senate voting to allow for indefinite detention of American citizens without a due process of law; and in fact, against the due process of law. Yes, even Republican Senators.
In short, we found the enemy that our Federal government is fighting against, and it is not Muslim terrorism. It is US.
The people of Eastern Europe eventually revolted and won the war against their own governments. No government can win a war against its own people, if the people realize who their true enemy is. It’s a good lesson for us today.