Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Has Communism Failed?

The last three years have been quite scary for me as I relived many things that I thought I left behind in communist Romania when I decided to immigrate to the United States in 1978.

I have deja vus every day. I wake up wondering what freedoms have I lost today completely, have been curtailed, or are in the process of being curtailed through laws that none of the Congressmen who voted for them have read. How much closer am I today to living in a totalitarian society?

I wondered to myself, "What happened to the separation of powers" and to the famous American "checks and balances?" What happened to the rule of law and equal under the law that Americans were so famous for? People shrug their shoulders, give me puzzled looks and cannot answer my questions. Everybody is putting their hopes on November's mid-term election and its outcome. What if the election does not turn the way we hope it will? What then? Are we going to be content to live under communism? International law? One world government?

These third world countries running the United Nations who desire and push for such one world government can barely run their own countries without a hefty handout and financial support from the United States. They are corrupt, fraught with civil and religious wars. Are we going to trust our future and fortune to a corrupt world government that hates America and everything that we stand for, who is biting the hand that feeds them and protects them from wars, harm and natural disasters?

I used to think Romanians were so fortunate to not know how unfortunately poor and miserable they were in their daily lives. Now I think how unfortunate it is that Americans don't know how fortunate they are to live in the world's best country. The question I ponder is, are we going to be able to sustain our superpower status? Are we going to be able to keep our freedoms?

I don't take my freedoms as a naturalized American citizen for granted. I thank God every day that he gave me the opportunity to immigrate to this heaven called U.S.A. where I could become what I wanted if I was only willing to work hard, learn, and seize the opportunity to become a better person every day, unencumbered by total government control. "Carpe diem," said the Romans, "seize the day," I could do so because America had freedoms.

I am still in awe that I can make an appointment in a timely manner with a wonderfully trained doctor who cares and is willing to listen to my aches and pains, is bound by the Hippocratic Oath and values human life.

I can go to an Emergency Room anywhere in the country and I am treated within a reasonable amount of time even though I may or may not have insurance. There is an ambulance that will come if needed, even a helicopter.

Ambulances were a joke under communism. They came with no staff, no emergency equipment of any kind, and arrived not just hours later but days. There were drivers who would stop on the way to the hospital to pick up hitchhikers in order to make extra money. If the patient had days to live from God, he/she would survive through the medical neglect and potholes on the way to the hospital. Often the ambulance drove straight to the morgue.

I don't take for granted the fact the I Can buy drugs that can ease my pain, cure my illness, or treat my symptoms. I still remember the pain as a teenager having root canal without anesthesia, blood spilling everywhere, screams of pain, while the dentist talked to his nurse and spat in my mouth. After five months of such torture, the tooth was pulled anyway. The root canal cost me nothing, but I got nothing but pain and torture.

Drugs were free, sort of, but the pharmacy shelves were always empty. I could bribe the pharmacist or buy them on the black market, if I had enough money. Black market prices for drugs were high if the low wages were considered. The communist elites decided how much each profession could earn. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, engineers made lower salaries than mechanics or miners. Farmers survived on next to nothing. Their lands had been confiscated and the communist co-operative decided how much grain they could get after they worked all year long, usually not very much.

Medical vaccinations in schools were done with the same three syringes and needles, boiled every morning in a rusty pan, not autoclaved. What saved me from Hepatitis and other blood born diseases what the fact that my last name started with A and therefore I was the first one to receive such injections.

Polyclinics and hospitals used the same boiling practices, washed and re-washed bandages, gauze, and cotton. Patients' families had to provide food, sheets, and nursing care to their sick ones while in the hospital. Doctors would send them on the black market to buy medicines in order to treat the patient as the hospital pharmacy had ran out of drugs and money to purchase them. Rationing was the way the communist government offered FREE care to everyone.

I have lost many family members to medical malpractice, lack of care, lack of drugs, gross medical negligence, and rationing of care based on age or lack of connections to the elites in power. People lingered for weeks in hospitals, ignored by medical staff, untreated, unfed, literally screaming in pain amidst wards of 30 beds lined up against the dirty walls, with no drugs available unless doctors and nurses were bribed.

We define civilization by our humanity. There was no humanity under communism. Life was worthless unless it was the life of those in power. A baby born with a slight handicap was left to die unattended and incinerated. Communists had no time or money for imperfect human beings, they were expendable. They also ignored and mistreated the elderly. It was a family's duty to care for the elderly.

Communism did not just fail socially and medically, they also failed economically. We always carried a shopping bag with us and lots of extra cash. There were no credit cards or checks. The one Central Bank did not allow checking accounts, only savings and withdrawals from savings. We had lots of cash on hand because we never knew when we might walk by a huge line, wrapping around for endless blocks, selling something. We never knew that the store was selling, but because the line was so huge, we knew, whatever it was, we needed it. There were chronic shortages of everything because planning was done centrally by the communist apparatchiks who pretended to know what economics was. Most of them were not educated at all, they were crass ideologues who carried the communist party line.

We were issued rationing coupons (looking like little stamps) for flour, cooking oil, sugar, butter, milk, and other staples. We could only eat vegetables and fruits in season. I will never forget my first trip to the American grocery store in January 1978! It was filled to the brim with every imaginable food that I had dreamed of when I was really hungry in Romania.

I remember being six years old and standing in line with my mom at 4 a.m. in frigid weather to buy one liter of milk, butter, and sour cream. Sometimes, when the store opened at 6 a.m., we were told that only 30 people in line would be lucky enough to buy that day because that is all the truck had brought in that morning. The rest of us had to go home empty-handed.

We did not buy milk to drink, we reserved it for babies, or for cooking. It was a luxury to have a hot cup of cocoa with milk. We could not even buy vitamins in order to supplement the lack of calcium in the diet. Vitamins were hard to find, only available if you got sick. Even then, the shelves were often empty.

The communist system failed us judicially. The justice system only favored the people in power, it was us, the proletariat, the unwashed masses, against the ruling communist elite. We had no due process, we were guilty until proven innocent. And the police was not there to protect us but to harass us.

The communist system did not allow us to pray to God, believe in God, own a Bible, or have Bible studies in the home. It was against the law! Only in marriage, baptism, and death were we allowed to go to church. Funeral homes did not exist so churches were the logical places for last rites.

Communists failed to recognize private ownership. Nobody was allowed to own anything in excess of what they made and people were encouraged to snitch on each other and even paid extra to do so. The population was tightly controlled economically. Freedom to move from job to job, from town to town was highly discouraged. Any citizen had to report within a week any move whether permanent or temporary. Foreign visitors were not allowed in a private home as they were considered potential spies and thus we would be collaborating with the enemy. Housing such foreigners would be punished by jail time.

Traveling was discouraged. If a visa was issued, few people could afford the travel expenses and the rest of the family was held hostage on the promise of jail time if their family member did not return from the trip. My dad was jailed and beaten up many times when my mom defected to the U.S. after a three month trip to visit me. He eventually succumbed to such a beating on May 12, 1989.

Communists confiscated our guns in the middle of the night under the guise of safety. They confiscated our land, paintings, furniture, cars, stores, money saved, gold, jewelry, anything of value under the guise of collectivization and fair distribution of wealth. People who had more accumulated wealth had to go to jail in addition to having their wealth confiscated because they were bourgeois. One of my uncles served 7 years in jail for having too many houses and a store. He survived the 7 years of hard labor but was very ill for many years afterwards from the lack of proper care and nutrition.

We had the right and obligation to vote but there was only one candidate on the ballot. They came and got us from home and watched over our shoulders while we filled the ballot. The voting records were always 100% for the communist party. Who wanted to go to jail?

Life was very hard, we had chronic shortages of electricity, water, and heat. Few people owned a TV or refrigerator. Our refrigerator was the window sill in winter time. Birds learned really fast and made frequent raids on our handy outdoor storage. If we needed 1 million pairs of black boots for winter, the centralized government, without any forethought, would deliver only 50,000 pairs of white boots and a battle and bribery would ensue over these boots. People were so demoralized, "they pretended to work and the government pretended to pay them."
That was the communist work ethic. A barter exchange of stolen goods from the work place developed as a tool of survival. A butcher shop worker would steal meat to trade for milk with the worker from the dairy.

I think I have made my point that communism is a disaster on every societal level and a failure in every country that has tried it. Even the few remaining communist countries are now beginning to move away from this failed model, yet the United States is charging full steam ahead in the direction of the proverbial iceberg that will sink the Titanic.

My question and challenge to you is, are we going to allow it to happen? Are we going to destroy our 235 year old republic, the most successful country on the planet on an empty promise from a didactic and ideological administration? What would our Founding Fathers say today? What would all the heroes say, who have sacrificed their lives so that we may live free? We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave the republic better than we have found it, not worse.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An American by Choice

Why did I decide to move to the U.S. and become an American citizen? Because I wanted to be free! I wanted to have children and a family in the freest republic in the world, the shining city on the hill.

I can still see my dad hunched over our huge short wave radio broadcasting Voice of America, a glimmer of hope in his eye that someday freedom would arrive in our home. He always gave me a wink as if to say, don't worry, we have a secret pact, we will succeed.

My move to the U.S. started three years before I ever set foot on the plane to New York - endless audiences to various vice ministers, police, secret police, passport office, translators, notaries, attorneys, and mayor's office. I had to prove that I had no debts, no criminal record, no communicable diseases, mental illness, associations to undesirable people and organizations; each document had to be translated into English in multiple copies, notarized, typed only by state-approved functionaries, approved and re-approved by the state, ministers, and security police. Few Americans give much thought to standing in endless lines or fighting daunting bureaucracy. That is because they are seldom faced with such possibilities in everyday life.

By the time I finished the entire process, I was exhausted, had no dime to my name, and had lost all my rights as a Romanian citizen. I was literally a person without a country, a persona-non-grata, with no rights whatsoever. I had a Romanian passport with a single visa to the U.S., but no home and no ability to make a living.

I had to pay back my schooling although the Romanian Constitution stated clearly that education was free to all Romanian citizens at all levels.

I was stripped of all rights simply because I petitioned for a visa to come study, work, and live in the U.S.A., land of the free, home of the brave. Americans have no appreciation for their citizenship by birth, at least not until they are in danger of losing it.

I was so elated to be free, I was ready to kiss the frozen ground when I landed in New York. I was so penniless, I could not even afford a soda or a phone call, but I was finally free!

Was it easy to become an American citizen? No, not really. After my arrival in 1978, I lived for two years as a resident alien. I could not vote and had no rights. The Romanians had rejected me but Americans (well, some of them) were embracing me. I did not march in the streets demanding same rights as American citizens because I understood I was NOT an American yet. I had to earn the rights, privileges, responsibilities, and the honor bestowed upon American citizens.

I did not wave the Romanian flag in the face of Americans while shouting angrily in the streets that America will someday be mine. I respected and saluted the American flag for giving me and millions of other immigrants freedom from oppression. I knew what totalitarian control was.

I learned English better each day. I had studied two years in high school, but it was not good enough. I had to learn idiomatic expressions. I did not demand that everything be translated into Romanian for me, or press 2 for Romanian. I paid to have my babies delivered in a hospital and did not expect free medical care or demand it.

I wanted to become part of the fabric of this society, to understand it, honor it, respect it, and immerse in its culture. I did not want to lose my heritage. I kept it alive at home, but I wanted to be an American. I taught my daughters both English and Romanian and, as they grew older, they appreciated the bilingualism, their Romanian roots but they were Americans first and foremost.

After two years of being a legal resident alien, I felt competent enough to apply for citizenship. I had to study the Constitution, take a test, pass it with flying colors, and be interrogated for three hours by an immigration officer in Memphis why I belonged to the young pioneers, the precursor to the Communist Party. In a communist society, indoctrination started in pre-school whether parents agreed to it or not. I had to speak English well, could not show up with a translator for the citizenship test or the swear-in ceremony as they do today for Spanish-speaking applicants.

I knew more about the U.S. history and Constitution than most Americans. I spoke better English than most Americans. I spelled English better than most Americans. I was truly prepared and deserving of being an American.

The paperwork was daunting, difficult to obtain, expensive to translate yet again, and the fees to the U.S. government were quite high. As a poor student, just driving three hours to Memphis several times a year was prohibitive. I had to decide sometimes whether I paid for documents and gas to the Immigration Office, or for food and shelter for my family.

It took two years and a half before I was approved and finally sworn in as Naturalized Citizen in the Court of Oxford, MS. It was a proud day for me and almost eight years in coming. My dad's spirit was with me and my mom and daughter were in the audience. I was no longer persona-non-grata, I had gained a country, a language, safe borders, and country resplendent with a tapestry of many nations, ethnicities, all united by a common language and goal, freedom. We were truly a melting pot, not a tossed salad bowl.

I don't take my citizenship lightly and I abhor the burning of our flag. I get tears of pride and joy when the National Anthem is played and the Pledge of Allegiance is recited.

I respect all legal immigrants just like me who are waiting their turn patiently, filling out forms after forms, waiting years sometimes to receive or be denied a visa to freedom. Vast oceans separate them from our borders. Does that make them less deserving of becoming legal residents of the U.S. because they are not able to jump a fence or swim across the Rio Grande?

Illegal aliens are law-brakers, they are not "undocumented citizens living in the shadows," or "new citizens," the euphemisms that liberals keep supplying to justify an illegal act that should be punished according to the law of the United States. We are defined by borders, language, and culture. If we don't defend our borders, we cease to be a nation, we become a lawless land.

May 20, 1982 was for me the day when the vast ocean that separated Europe from the United States no longer existed and I became a free American citizen by choice.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

PC in Life

I always found politics boring. I am a typical American who loathes the deceptiveness and hypocrisy of Washington. If a person fails at anything else, he/she can still go into politics. It does not require a high I.Q., college education, or a blue blood background - just street smarts, cunning, a lot of money, donated through legal or illegal means, perhaps a vast personal fortune, and the ability to persuade voters that he/she is the best candidate for ANY job, even a snow job. An honest, poor individual stands a very slim chance at making it in public "service." I never understand why it is called service since nobody really serves its constituents once in office, only their own interests and the advancement of their careers.

Politics has a price directly related to the self-importance of the politician and the hierarchy of public office. Morally speaking, the price of politics is sometimes one's lost soul.

It is hard to stomach politicians dodge questions artfully, while deceiving and covering illegal deeds and shady shenanigans. To an outsider, it looks like all politicians attend the same grooming school of artful dodging, misrepresentation, and purposeful deception via ridiculous rhetorical euphemisms and seldom fulfilled promises.

It is so painful to watch politicians lie, cheat, claw, and steal their supremacy to seats of power, leveraging friends, family, acquaintances, fortunes for the chance to make a pact with the devil. They don't mind throwing their parents, wives, and children under the bus if it helps them gain few votes. A secret handshake, an empty promise, a check pressed against sweaty palms during a handshake, a free golf trip in an exotic location, perks a la Nancy Pelosi on the government or privately owned luxury jets, jaunts in exotic locations, buyouts, financial swaps, all in the name of representing the downtrodden who have a hard time finding or keeping a job, feeding their children, keeping their homes.

Politicians tend to deliver on promises to the very poor by offering them a nanny existence from cradle to grave, assuring perpetual poverty and dependence on the mighty government who, through its largess, enslaved them in perpetuity for a measly vote. This vote will always be there, even after they passed away. Generations of Democrats create a tradition of poverty in the slums.

Everything in life IS political: education, religion, military, employment, government, medicine, clubs, housing, marriage, family, etc. It starts before a child is old enough to talk - parents manipulate the system to make sure their progeny is accepted in the best day care and pre-school. God forbid they should attend public schools, they are doomed!

Admission to Ivy League schools is often based on a family's tradition of attendance; the student might be weaker, but the family's blue blood past and financial contributions to the alumni fund are stellar. Preferences are even given to minorities over better qualified and scored students. Quotas and Affirmative Action are a political method to level the playing field and soothe the conscience of the trust-funded. After all, it is "social justice," a code word for communism. Politics is thus controlling who can and cannot attend institutions of higher learning. As the government has taken over student loans, the control over university attendance will become more and more politicized, to the disadvantage of the more conservative students. Preference will be given to liberal students and to those who are registered Democrats or contribute heavily to Democratic causes.

Hiring and tenuring of faculty is political - liberals always get promoted first, the darlings of the administration; conservatives are often denied tenure. Spouses of sought-after professors are hired over much better prepared applicants. Union hacks and College of Education ideologues with thin resumes and easy degrees such as Sociology, Psychology, Social Work, and Women's Studies are the darlings of the conference circuit and professorial committees. The more controversial and outrageous a professor's class, the more beloved, prestigious, and higher salaried they became. Graduate school teaching assistantships tend to go to foreigners, particularly in science where the language barrier creates a problem for tuition paying Americans who expect clear and precise English language delivery of lectures. It is expected politically to favor those who are here illegally and are sub-standard students. Their mere presence expiates all the perceived wrongs committed in the past by previous generations of Americans against poor, unfortunate souls, whoever they may be. The responsibility of such wrongs does not have an expiration date, each new generation of Americans must be made financially responsible for the sins of the past.

Religion is particularly difficult to climb into the ranks of power. The politics are evil, corrupt, and down right mean. Members of a congregation cause hurt and pain to many people during the week, but pretend to be good and pray on weekends. Somehow, all the sins of the week are washed away by the goodness of attending church on Sunday and filling the coffers of the church. Teenage and out of wedlock motherhood are praised, celebrated, and encouraged in the name of political correctness.

Military members rise to the ranks of power through family tradition, quota system, affirmative action, nepotism, manipulation, protege status, and dirty maneuvering. PC has put in danger the lives of many a soldiers, yet few are complaining in the halls of power. Complain and your career is dead.

Employment is seldom based on merit. Connections, luck, education, experience, nepotism, personality traits, talent or lack thereof, being in the right place at the right time, good looks, dressing well are some of the variables that come into play when successfully gaining employment. Being deceptive, blackmailing, using sex as a weapon, bribery, cheating on tests, are acceptable political maneuvers to get a desired job.

A hospital is a microcosm of politicians vying for a larger slice of the political pie - better working conditions, better pay, better benefits, sex with doctors and nurses, access to drugs, no accountability when life and death mistakes are made, perks to exotic locations conferences, and yearly promotions. How many times are politicians held responsible down the road, years after they've exited public office, for the disastrous policies they've voted for, which have impoverished and destroyed the lives of many generations of Americans? How many doctors are held responsible or even care what happens to their patients once they leave the hospital? Yes, we have lawyers, but try to sue a doctor for malpractice and see how successful you are. The politics of legal precedent get in the way.

The competition for government positions is cut-throat but less visible than the fight for a political post. Politicians fight in full public view - their laundry is aired every day and skeletons uncovered, unless they are the darlings of the communist media, in that case, they can do no wrong, everything is glossed over or ignored. In government, careers can literally be made or destroyed overnight with one mistaken decision. Employees use the media to advance their agendas the same way politicians and actors do but less visibly.

Club membership is very political and elitist at the same time. Even presidents or heads of state can be denied membership in such rarefied environments. The name of Ronald Reagan comes to mind, he was denied membership in a prestigious golf club. Private clubs can certainly deny access to anybody they wish without really stating a reason for such denial. Using huge annual fees that are prohibitive to most people is another way in which "undesirables" are kept away. Public clubs cannot exclude people, at least on the surface.

Housing is a communist commune which has HOAs with complex rules of residence, behavior, maintenance, expensive fees, and arcane rules and regulations, which can exclude many people. Political boards can refuse any person they wish to keep away from their neighborhood. Even flying the American flag can rub a resident alien the wrong way and it has to disappear. We no longer cater to the majority but to a very strange, leftist minority with an anti-American agenda. I am not sure when the switch occurred, but it is here to stay, like the tentacles of an octopus that embeds each razor sharp tooth into the skin of the nation.

The politics of family are as varied as are the families in the U.S. Everybody has a strange aunt, a weird parent, an estranged wild child, a libidinous cousin, a curmudgeon grandparent, and a favorite or disliked yearly event that they must attend in order to keep peace and harmony. We cannot pick and choose who our relatives are or how they behave publicly and privately. We love to hate them or hate to see them even once a year, it takes a lot of strength to pretend otherwise. Publicly, they are the best relatives or the best family on the planet. And that is political astuteness to lie with a straight and confident face.

Marriage is more difficult to describe as politics, but it is. It is a contract between two people who know full well they are going to violate it at some point, yet they go ahead and swear on the proverbial Bible that they will represent the will of the people, in this case, the two married people, until Death do them part.

Justice is a political sport, opponents jousting for the truth yet employing only half-truths in the process, bogus science, manipulated statistics, false testimony, and fake court briefs or "amicus curiae." Judges are very much political appointees or politically elected. Justice is no longer blind and no longer balanced.