Monday, March 9, 2020

A Book Review Breaking Stalin's Nose, by Eugene Yelchin

A John Newberry Award winning Childen's Book: Breaking Stalin's Nose

Sometimes the best way to learn a lesson is through a child's personal story. “Breaking Stalin's Nose” depicts a loyal young boy named Sasha who is devoted to Stalin's teachings and deeply proud of his father, a member of the Secret Police. He dreams of becoming one of the Young Pioneers who march in the parades and take their oath of loyalty to their Leader. The mysterious arrest of his father sends him on a quest to alert Comrade Stalin of this great mistake, unaware that his neighbors had falsely accused the father of a crime in order to steal the family's bigger room in the apartment. The book exposes the living conditions, the government secrecy, and the events surrounding the disappearance of other neighbors and friends of Sasha, including his mother. The boy's eagerness and faith in his Leader, Comrade Stalin, tugs at the heart.

The story is fiction but it springs directly from the life experience of its author. While Mr. Yelchin wasn't born until the 1960's in the Soviet Union, and Stalin reigned from 1923 – 1953, the communist way of life was firmly established and the government practices borne from the Stalin era were still in use during the author's childhood. In the author's own words: “The communal apartment where Sasha lives with his father is similar to the one I grew up in. In addition to my family, several other families had to share one kitchen, one toilet, and one sink with a cold-water tap. My father and mother, my grandmother, and my brother and I were crowded into one small room. At night when the sofas, cots, and folding chairs were converted into beds, the only room left for my small cot was under our round dinner table.”

The book was written in 2011, many years after the author migrated to the USA and became a US citizen. But the interim years after his departure from Russia were spent researching and learning the Stalin regime. He writes in his personal note: “All of my schooling in Russia – elementary, middle, high school, and college – happened under Communist rule. Any information about the crimes of Stalinism had been repressed. Any attempt to gather or disseminate such information was severely punished. Now, I was living in America, a citizen, a father myself, but for the first time in my life, I was discovering the full extent of the events I had been only vaguely aware of. I realized it was my duty to tell the truth.”

The short story has black and white, but very realistic, drawings that highlight the chapters. It is recommended reading from the Newberry Honor Book as a distinguished American children's book. It is best understood by readers eleven and up. Younger readers may not grasp its meaning. The last section of the book is as equally captivating as the central theme when the author answers a Q&A on both his childhood and his Soviet life. I highly recommend this book which can be read for free from your community library or purchased for $7. I bought it to give as a gift after reading it at the library because I felt it imperative for my younger relatives to know. The author says it best: “I set this story in the past, but the main issue in it transcends time and place. To this day, there are places in the world where innocent people face persecution and death for making a choice about what they believe to be right.”

DISCLAIMER: The thoughts published on this blog, in total, are the opinions, thoughts and considerations of the writer/author of every post published.

>>>>>>All artwork contained on this blog entry as well as archived/historical entries belongs to ©Lightwritingmatters 2015<<< permission must be requested and approved by the author to reproduce in any format and for any reason.√† 

NOTE: Artwork not copyrighted by Lightwritingmatters 2015 stands with this statement: “no copyright infringement is intended” or is otherwise attributed.

©Lightwritingmatters 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Sheepish About Freedom of Speech?

Silenced Sheep
If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” – George Washington

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” —George Orwell

For several years there has been a changing [I would even speculate a 'challenge] of thought—culturally—about freedom of speech. Younger folks want much less of it because it seemingly offends them. Freedom of speech is attacked via many angles not just head on. We have become adept at use of euphemisms to ‘soften the effect’ of the actual word that would directly explain our thoughts. George Carlin had a great routine he did exposing political correctness. He died in 2008 and yet much of what he said in the 1990’s is still applicable today with this exception: it has escalated to a tyrannical obsession! Interestingly, this too was addressed by actor Charlton Heston who opined: ‘Political Correctness is Tyranny; Just tyranny with Manners’?

There is no need to itemize the many ways our speech is now censored, curtailed, monitored and protested all of that is daily in our face from news and other sources.

What happens now as we approach a time when the elected leader of the free country of America may be a self-described socialist? How will you deal with your speech at that time when freedoms are absolutely abated? If right now, social media algorithms censor speech which doesn’t measure to the proper level of alleged political correctness as regulated by the 'ordained' yet one sided pillars of speech, what then? When a comment about a former fascist leader from the 20th century is removed as a violation of ‘posting’ standards; Or, merely a photo of that same person is removed and the person’s account that featured it is closed or put on temporary time out? If, for instance, one was to write a tidbit of truth germane to some conversation about freedom of speech which showed historically what happens when freedom of speech is forbidden by some dictatorial leader, what then?  When even the mere allusion to the example above, as a way to remind people how important it is to be free to express one’s self is penalized, what then? How can you teach lessons from the past if your words are censored? Better yet, your words being censored actually turn out to be disproportionate censuring by the very one who removes it. Then both you and your speech have been wiped.

There are topics that are of no interest to many of this world. Some people actually have a vehement response to things like religion, right to keep and bear arms, and now, who you believe to be the most reliable candidate to support your values!  Freedom of speech is verboten in many places, not by the government so much as by people who have authority over others among them educational, social media, and sadly, even in our circle of family and friends. Soon the generation who could have a lively debate between one another yet walk away with no damage to family or friendships will be gone and the only example for them will be ostracizing the individual at the very least, or death for defying acceptable decorum and etiquette as established by the ‘big brother’ class of the time, most generally the oppressive government.

Those who want to continue to enjoy not only their own freedom of speech but that of others but who continue to be thwarted by ‘time outs’ must figure out what best to do with their frustration. Exactly which battle to fight and which one to die on, figuratively speaking, as time passes and the squeeze on how we self-express is ever constricting.

On November 3rd. 2020, people will cast a vote for the candidate that best represents their values. It, in and of itself, is a manner of freedom of speech, or self-expression. If you are leaning towards democratic socialism, which is actually a mutually exclusive term, please do your research on the actual historic right to free speech in any of the known socialist or communist countries during the 20th century and those now in totalitarian power around the world. There are historic and current iconic photos of young people standing up to their tyrannical governments wishing to express their freedom of speech. In those countries things remain the same for decades. So, what about western nations who are voting for ‘democratic socialism’? They believe it is some utopia where ideally everyone will simply embrace their speech restrictions. And if they don’t? Reeducation centers will help them.

The word ‘construct’ has become synonymous with what one believes then being framed by a person’s assigned identity. For instance, now my years of life on earth where my belief has been formed through empirical, experiential and intuitive knowledge actually frames my worldview. Am I not the sum of a life of my own observations or am I reduced to my assigned identity as a specific ethnic, religious, gender, age thus? What if I am from an era already redefined by revisionists as hate filled whose sense of pride in this country is colored with such terminology as racism, bigotry, etcetera? See, while I was raised by two parents in a home with 3 siblings and a four legged canine family member in a small town and taught the wonder and privilege  of being born in this country; because I hail a specific religion, I adhere to my beliefs faithfully, am married to a veteran who shares my values about family, faith and pride of country; the construct foisted upon us is that of ‘white privilege’ and ‘racism’. And frankly, that entire construct is altogether inapplicable in our case. Yet, the frustrations we feel when we see an entire culture just wholly accepting such thoughts almost as if via osmosis, is sad to watch. Sooner than we think, an entire generation of people will be so inculcated with notions which run antithetically to freedoms and rights they will not be able to comprehend what independence in all things and pride in one’s individualism and uniqueness actually looks like, feels like and is like. When they care more that a calf needs its milk so dairy farmers should be closed down than a baby being murdered via abortion any moment from conception to after being born -- the values of that generation and possibly the generation itself will be doomed.

How do we forestall that unsatisfactory reality? Perhaps, by teaching everyone what free speech really is; by living an independent and individual life; by making sure we inculcate in young minds the idea that their elders have much to share in knowledge and wisdom and their choice to live the beauty of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, to experience a truly free press [not governed by corporate agendas designed to garner maximum dollars], the freedom to gather together and the freedom to redress our government when we feel they have wronged us. It means they know implicitly the only way to secure all our freedoms is by way of the second amendment which ‘shall not be infringed’. When they inquire of us why and how we can think and act the way we do -- we take the time to explore why and what they refer to that you may clearly explain with the answer they seek. Be sure to remind them they have a right to form their own opinions and those opinions can be changed with more information. To be fair, this is important to do with all people who object to your life. We have individual rights – not collective rights. We have equal rights but not all things happen equally.

Do not sheepishly paw at the ground in frustration. EXPRESS YOURSELF!

DISCLAIMER: The thoughts published on this blog, in total, are the opinions, thoughts and considerations of the writer/author of every post published. It is assumed that research by the reader will lead the reader to their own conclusions. It is not the writer’s intent to make a judgment of anyone.  

>>>>>>All artwork contained on this blog entry as well as archived/historical entries belongs to ©Lightwritingmatters 2015<<< permission must be requested and approved by the author to reproduce in any format and for any reason. 

NOTE: Artwork not copyrighted by Lightwritingmatters 2015 stands with this statement: “no copyright infringement is intended” or is otherwise attributed.

©Lightwritingmatters 2015