For the lack of a Solzhenitsyn!

This past Sunday another citizen of the world, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, started his walk in that never-ending pilgrimage we refer to as immortality. And he did it, not just as a laureate man of letters, but as a man of well thought-out choices, conscience and true humanity; a man who proudly and joyfully accepted his Russian beginnings, but also conceded highest priority to dignity and humanity as inalienable rights for every man.

News of his death came to me over the Internet as I was reading an article by AP writers Charles J. Hanley and Jae-Soon Chang, “Seoul probes civilian ‘massacres’ by US,” that had just come over the wire. Thoughts from those two pieces of news were running parallel in my then emotionally-charged mind: here is a man searching for truth (Solzhenitsyn) and, running parallel to it, here is truth searching for a man, some American great man acknowledging that truth… and finding no one.

While reading data of the horrific victimization, actually murder, of countless Korean civilians – as usual, mostly women, children and old people – at the hands of the US military during that 1950-1 period, I couldn’t help but think of the Gulag created by Joseph Stalin, “the whiskered one,” as described by Solzhenitsyn, and emulated militarily by followers of our own American empire: first in Korea, later in Vietnam and, these days, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

How many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, innocent civilians were strafed by bullets, or napalmed, in Korea? Indiscriminately, yes, for our soldiers couldn’t tell “one gook from the next,” as they claimed… from the North, in flight to the South… or simply trying to find safety, refuge…anywhere. Over 200 incidents; some, like the one that happened at No Gun Ri, where survivors estimate 400 Koreans died at American hands, have been kept under wraps from the American citizenry; all the military brass needed to do is just classify any and all the facts with the “secret” or “top secret” stamps thus letting the angry-radioactivity cool off, as if converting it to depleted uranium or denying it to be uranium at all, until two or three generations have passed. By then, who will be charged with war crimes? It’s not a cover-up since Americans pretend, and some actually believe, that we never engage in torture or cover-ups. The White House has for decades given a free hand to the Pentagon… after all, crimes of war “just happen,” and the only crime Americans are not permitted to commit is one which may result in lowering the morale of the troops; or one bringing dishonor to the country.

Then I thought of Solzhenitsyn, and his recollection of being an officer in the Soviet Army, observing the inhumane treatment that the Soviets had inflicted on the Germans, military and civilians, in 1945 as WWII came to a close; perhaps crimes that many would excuse as retribution for what the Germans had done years earlier to them; a retribution that he would not find acceptable.

Today’s counterpoint is simply the ease in which the American military accepts crimes of war, often candy-coating them and making them PR-acceptable, as simply “collateral damage.” Our American military has gained vast experience at decriminalizing many repugnant acts of war during the past six decades, from No Gun Ri to My Lai to Fallujah, expecting future generations to be the ones passing judgment, if at all. It will probably be three decades or more before we get to know the truth of what happened in Fallujah, Haditha and some of the other unresolved war crimes committed in the Middle East. Documents will then be declassified as memories fade and many, or most, of the witnesses to the war crimes, as well as the perpetrators, are dead. Also, after much of the anger in the victims’ families has subsided.

Solzhenitsyn was a loving son of Russia and its history; but his humanness made him a great citizen of the world. He denounced what to him needed to be denounced in every facet of life, whether it pertained to the inhumanity of man towards man; or the way modern society was evolving, including such areas as music. To his regret, and in spite of his desire for privacy, he was used in propagandistic ways by men he did not hold in high esteem, such as Ronald Reagan; and even criticized by many liberal-secularists who failed to understand that his acceptance of religion in the form of Christian Russian Orthodoxy had little to do with faith, and the inhumanity that faith may have caused, and much to do with history and tradition as basis for change.

Why is it that here in America we don’t produce notable figures, heroes of humankind? Do we prefer not to be “snitches” to those who commit crimes, not to be “traitors” to the ugly face our country may show at times; this, when in truth we really are, maybe without realizing it, whitewashers of crimes… and traitors to our own humanity?