Tuesday, November 21, 2017
If you’re an early baby boomer like me you grew up with a sinister presence in the background of our American life—the threat of nuclear war with the USSR. On the distant edges of all that fear we could almost hear the low rumble of a Cold War; it was perpetually being waged somewhere in the world between “us’ and “them.”
We young Americans were told that those Russians over there in the Far East were perpetrators of terrible, repressive political system called Communism.
In 1956, the Premier of the USSR, Nikita Khruschev, began to talk about the widespread abuses that were heaped upon the a Russian people through Josef Stalin’s cruel network of surveillance and prisons.
It was said that many, many citizens, perhaps millions, of Soviet citizens were unjustly persecuted, arrested, imprisoned and executed without due process of law. American paranoia about the threat of Russian aggression and enslavement grew more and more intense through the 1950’s and ’60’s. We generally heard and believed reports from our Western news-gatherers, both military and journalistic, warning us about the nefarious presence of a horrific Communist empire on the other side of the world.
In 1973, Alecksandr Solzhenitsyn managed to publish to the world his voluminous report on the Soviet system of imprisonment. His book, Gulag Archipelago, was written from personal experience. Its IronCurtain-busting contents became for the world generally, but also for the Soviets, a basis for a widespread re-evaluation of the Soviet Union and its immense network of prisons and slave camps.
In 1989, the peoples of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fomented a revolution in which they overthrew the old communist system and began to replace it with something new and far more democratic than Russians had ever known. The great thrust of this revolution was powered by the people being sick and tired of communist oppression and cruelty.
In 2017, I learned that a woman in my hometown is daughter of a man who survived eleven years in the Soviet gulag, in a slave camp in Siberia, above the Arctic Circle.
Having heard about this stuff all my life, I was amazed to meet someone whose life had been directly affected by that infamous gulag archipelago.
In her historic book, Years Stolen, Birgitta Gottlieb McGalliard releases to the world her father’s own written account of his enslaved life, which was imposed on him by Russian soldiers in Bulgaria in 1944. That long imprisonment included months of miserable train transports, years in Lefortovo and Lubyanka prisons in Moscow, and ultimately Arctic imprisonment at Vorkuta slave labor camp in the faraway, frozen Siberian north.
Yes, Virginia, there really was a Siberia. And it was absolutely as bad as anything you ever heard about it. This terrible tale was not made up by yankee Red-baiters.
Birgitta’s account, obtained and documented meticulously from her own father’s memoirs, is a truly amazing testimony of his survival saga through unimaginably cruel, cold conditions. Roland Gottlieb wrote and spoke of his real life experience there after his release in 1955. Birgitta’s writing about his ordeal is laced with the tenderness of a daughter’s love; it is also strengthened with a visceral thoroughness that painstakingly communicates the immensity of Roland’s achievement in surviving eleven years in the gulag.
If you have ever doubted all those post-WWII reports of Soviet oppression and cruelty, this book will dispel your doubts. Thank God the people of the former USSR have seen, since 1989, the light of freedom and are now following that hopeful star of democratic reforms instead of the old Red Star of communist enslavement. One reason that beacon burns brightly in our world today is because of the testimony of survivors like Roland Gottlieb, as reported by his daughter, Birgitta.
The book is, as they say, a good read. Buy it now and you will be much the wiser after this textual journey into the hell of suffering that some humans have historically imposed on other humans.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
You can kiss ole George goodbye.
He was great as a Father to our country. He was courageous as Commander of the Continental Army, when they ran King George’s redcoats back to England.
He performed wisely as our first President. Washington’s dignified leadership tempered the contentious impulses of our first politicians, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, et al.
As a legendary figurehead of American leadership he has served well for over two centuries.
Young George’s honest admission about the cherry tree incident still inspires us to honesty and integrity.
But as the face on the dollar bill, his days are numbered.
Most of your purchases are (are they not?) far beyond the 1-$2 range. And, think about it, what can you buy with a dollar bill these days? A sugar drink at a convenience store? Probably not. They’ll supersize you into greater quantities of go-juice with your gas and you’ll be whipping out the plastic stripe.
These days all that used-to-be-money is just swiped stripes and inserted chips and electrons flowing around the globe.
And that old greenback—what is it really? Used to be a silver certificate, then a Federal Reserve Note. Now the Fed has got the legal tender’s stability all figured out, so that the value of a buck walks a fine line between what it was last year and a what the CPI will allow you now.
Which isn’t as much as it used to be.
So these days we have, and have had for quite a while now, a comfortably numb currency inflation. That Federal Reserve Note in your pocket appreciates at a predetermined rate of 1-2% per year, and this calculated depreciation compensates for the variability of our paper dollar’s value since we ditched the gold/silver standard back in the 1960’s.
But I think this waffling Dollar will be with us for only a little while longer.
How much longer?
Washington’s greenback will probably float around until such a time as BrettonWoods doth move against Dunce’nGame for the last time. Then the weight of the world will be too much to bear. Tensioned Tectonic shifts in the world’s monetary plates will render our legal tender to disability status, and those Federal Reserve Notes slipping in and out of international accounts will no longer be the world’s reserve currency.
’Tis then the Treasury will nudge Ole George into retirement. He’ll be on Social Security like the rest of us, with direct deposit, never even seeing the checks, never handling the cash, merely reaping the debit presence of those positive credit numbers. ’Tis then they’ll gently compel Ole George into retirement. Maybe they’ll give him a gold watch for old time sake.
So long, George. We’ve felt so fat and happy having your pocketbook visage to enable our consumer shopping excursions. Your accomplishments have been Notable, expansive and historic, like Norman Rockwell scenes from our magazine covers and dime store excursions in all those bygone petrol-fueled Main Street purchase excursions.
Fare thee well, George. But I’ll never forget the smooth, crisp feeling of your fibered texture between my digits. Ah, those were the days, the dollar days! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KODZtjOIPg.
King of Soul
Friday, November 10, 2017
On this Veterans' Day 2017, I say to all men and women who have served our United States as soldiers and workers in our armed forces, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard. . .
Since you have served us, at risk of life and limb, and then lived to tell about it, please know that we are glad you made it through your dutiful missions, still alive and kicking.
We consider it a good thing that your name is not carved into this wall.
But we also consider it good that your service is recorded in the annals of our history. You were recruited to defend our freedoms. You answered the summons that many of us resisted. You did your duty. In so doing, you defended also the freedom of many people throughout our troubled world. Thanks for your courage in doing that.
Sometimes we prevailed in our immediate mission; sometimes we did not. Nevertheless, our collective mission as defenders and exemplaries of liberty remains intact because of what you have done.
And are still doing.
Especially all you Vietnam Veterans. You chose, or were compelled to, defend us and our way of life while so many of us were lollygagging around in the blood-bought liberty that you have assured us.
Especially to all you Vietnam Veterans, I offer to you the greeting that my friend, Jim Shoemake, himself a Vietnam Vet, tells me is the most precious message of all:
Keep up the good work.
King of Soul