Super Bowl Central
Stein, Benjamin J., The American Spectator
Like an episode of the world's finest cartoon, "Ren & Stimpy," this story begins with yours truly stretched out on a couch watching television while rain falls outside and a crackling fire burns in the hearth. On TV is the umpteenth episode of the CNN documentary "The Cold War." The current installment is about how the hippie era came to both the U.S. and Eastern Europe. I was cued to watch it by an advertisement I heard on our local CBS radio station, KNX 1070, the weekend before. It went approximately as follows: "The Flower Power revolution erupted in America and the Kremlin looked on. But what would the Kremlin do when the Flower Power revolution reached the Kremlin's own people in Czechoslovakia and the rest of Eastern Europe?" (I want to emphasize I'm paraphrasing here, but it's darned close.)
I knew I was going to have a problem with the episode by that reference to "the Kremlin's own people," as if the Czechs and the rest of Eastern Europe were by some ancient rule under the sway of the Kremlin more by blood than by iron.
Anyway, I watched the "documentary" and saw pictures of people with flowers and long hair in Washington, D.C. and Prague. I noted the narrator's fine English accent comparing and not contrasting the conditions that gave rise to the hippie anti-establishment movements in both places and I had a majorleague brainstorm:
I combed my little cerebrum for my memories of the first several episodes of "The Cold War" series. There is grainy footage of the overthrow of the czars and the takeover by the Communists. There is even some mention of the purges and the show trials in which Stalin got rid of his "rivals" in the 1930's. There is footage of World War II. There's footage of the Red Chinese taking over China. There is John Foster Dulles. There's the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The hydrogen bomb. The Hungarian uprising. The U2 and an angry Khrushchev.
And there's Castro and the Bay of Pigs, and then, little by little, we get to the hippies in Czechoslovakia.
As far as can be determined from the interviews with former Communist bosses translated into elegant English, the Russians were just responding to American moves. Then the Americans responded and the chess game of the Cold War was played out-huge American expenditures, huge Soviet expenditures, a war or a police action here and there, one side the same as the other.
But this misses almost 100 percent of what the Cold War was all about. The Cold War was about a good side that largely believed in the dignity and worth of individual human life, albeit with some lapses, versus an evil side that believed that human life was worthless garbage, useful only for its value to the Elders of the Communist Party. On one side were people who, when they were mad at other people, called them names. On the other there was mass murder, planned starvation of entire nations, and the deaths of thirty to sixty million people at Stalin's orders. These victims were not in any sense "rivals" of Comrade Stalin. We fought the Cold War to save the idea of human worth. It was. not a game and the sides were not morally equivalent. One side was good, the other bad.
To miss this point is to miss everything. CNN's series reminds me of a famous conversation that Churchill was said to have had with Lady Astor. When she asked, "Why are you fighting so hard against Hitler?" Churchill replied, "If we stop, you'll find out."
If we had lost the Cold War, the people at CNN who made that documentary would have found out.
I'm also thinking about a documentary that PBS showed on January z4-zs about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Again, the struggle was largely depicted as a chess game over who gets to control a tiny piece of disputed land. Vital contextual points were missed entirely. One of the most basic is that Israel and the Arab states surrounding it are not moral equivalents. …