Thursday, May 17, 2007

This and That

Paper Clips is a documentary film about a Tennessee middle school project in which the children collected paper clips to represent the Holocaust deaths. They created a memorial which consists of 11 million paperclips inside of a railcar. It is a worthy thing, but it reminds me how much attention the Holocaust gets, while the victims of Communism are virtually ignored.

If we study the Holocaust with the aim to never again allow such a thing to happen, then equal attention should be given to the victims of Communism. While 11 million killed by the Nazi's is frighteningly large number, death-by-Communism is nothing to slouch at.

At the low end, the total number is at least forty million since 1900. At the high end, communism may have been responsible for the death of 250 million people. China's "Great Leap Forward" alone was responsible for at least 30 million death.

I'm am not criticizing attempts by educators to teach the horrors of the Holocaust, although in my personal experience it was a well, and often taught subject. What bothers me is the lack of attention given to the evils of communism. Who hasn't read or at least heard of Ann Frank's Diary? Among adults, it is something with which just about everyone is familar. And, as fodder for for Hollywood, it has been well represented; popular (and award winning) films include Schindler's List, LIfe is Beautiful, The Pianist, Into the Arms of Strangers and several versions of the Ann Frank story.

Who remembers being taught, in their K-12 experience, about Communism? When have you seen it depicted in a Hollywood movie? From the Cato Institute:

Anti-Nazi movies keep coming out, from Confessions of a Nazi Spy and Hitler, Beast of Berlin in 1939 and on through The Great Dictator, The Mortal Storm, The Diary of Anne Frank, Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, right up to the current Black Book. And many of these have included searing depictions of Nazi brutality, both physical and psychological.

But where are the anti-communist movies? Oh, sure, there have been some, from early Cold War propaganda films to such artistic achievements as The Red Danube, Ninotchka, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Killing Fields, East-West, and Before Night Falls. But considering that National Socialism lasted only 12 years in one country (and those it occupied), and Communism spanned half the globe for 75 years, you'd think there'd be lots more stories to tell about Communist rule.

And, there are a lot of stories to tell about Communist rule:

No atrocities, maybe? Nazis and Brits were vicious, but Communists were just intellectually misguided? Well, that seems implausible. They murdered several times as many people. If screenwriters don't know the stories, they could start with the Black Book of Communism. It could introduce them to such episodes as Stalin's terror-famine in Ukraine, the Gulag, the deportation of the Kulaks, the Katyn Forest massacre, Mao's Cultural Revolution, the Hungarian revolution, Che Guevara's executions in Havana, the flight of the boat people from Vietnam, Pol Pot's mass slaughter—material enough for dozens of movies.

And, unlike the Nazi's, Communism is still with us, making the subject matter that more relevant. But, I won't hold my breath waiting for Hollywood to tell these stories.

An excellent novel about life under Stalin (during the Nazi invasion) is Paullina Simons's The Bronze Horesman. For a more academic approach, try The Black Book of Communism, which is better taken in small bits.