Posts Tagged ‘the Soviet Union’

Another Take on Freedom (Life’s Little Ironies)

August 9, 2012

One day back in the mid-to-late 1980s, I met an emigre couple from the Soviet Union. Having studied the Russian language in high school, I took a special interest in them. I don’t remember the details of their situation, other than that they’d become deeply dissatisfied with life in Russia and had gone to great lengths to come to the United States. When I asked them how they liked their new lives ┬áin America, they looked at each other nervously, their eyes clearly saying, “Dare we answer him honestly?” I assured them they couldn’t possibly tell me anything that would upset me. This was the Reagan era, and I was profoundly disgusted with my country. After much reluctance on their part and much encouragement on my part, they finally managed to stammer out, “It’s so unfree here.” Not what I expected to hear! I laughed out of surprise and some confusion. I asked them to explain. They said that in the Soviet Union they could go wherever they wanted, that they could just start walking across the earth in any direction without restriction, save for, I assume, military bases and the like. But here, they were constantly encountering “no trespassing” signs and other private property issues. They said they felt like cattle being herded through a set of narrow chutes. I have never forgotten their perspective.

Today’s News

June 11, 2009

This morning I was listening to the “news” on the radio. It was one of the regular corporate news stations. The two local anchors were interviewing a reporter from the Los Angeles Times about the upcoming Iranian elections. While discussing the possibility that Ahmadinejad might actually lose, one of the local anchors wondered if it might not be better if Ahmadinejad won the election since that might make it easier to create an international force against Iran. It was treated as a serious question.

I used to know an American who spoke Russian and had spent time in the Soviet Union. He told me that one big difference between the US and the USSR was that most Russians knew they were being propagandized, but few Americans realized that they were being propagandized, too.