From the Left
By Brendan LeRoy
Based on our triumphs and tragedies as a nation, we have built a collective consciousness that we hold as undeniable and universal truth. We wrongly believe these values are based on indisputable facts that cannot be manipulated due to our authoritative, yet ambiguous, claim to freedom. The perception that Americans are free from government distortion of reality is far from the truth. We hold tightly to beliefs that are false and persecute others based on those warped ideas. America has become the largest power the world has ever known, and we are blindly following government propaganda that we deny even exists. This notion is frightening.
It is a pity if you are not aware that our education system distorts the truth on European colonization, the American Revolution and Native American genocide among others. However, there are fabrications that run far deeper in order to boast America’s image. Did you know the Soviet Union, not the United States, ended World War II both against Germany and Japan? Distortions such as disregarding the role of the Soviet Union in WWII are perpetuated to promote America’s status as the world’s heroic superpower.
The lies piled up, beginning with the Cold War, and have lived on well past the fall of the Berlin Wall. The United States did not win the war against the Nazis; 90 percent of all German casualties came from Soviet armies. The atomic bombs did not win WWII; swift attacks led by the Soviets resulted in Japanese surrender. The Soviets sent the first satellite to space and first probes to Venus, Mars and the Moon. The Cuban missile crisis struck the public with fear, but our government placed missiles equally close to Russia in Turkey. The United States remembers Reagan’s rhetoric and applauds him for ending the Cold War, but Reagan did not have to dismantle the United States. It was Gorbachev who had to make substantial sacrifices to dismantle his country, bringing an end to the Cold War.
Americans accept that our military intervention is justified while the Russian annexation of Crimea is an illegal act at the hand of an autocratic regime. The reality is that the democratic government of Ukraine was overthrown by rebels and instituted an illegal and unconstitutional president, which was immediately welcomed by the West. America has been waiting patiently for this overthrow having provided the pro-West rebels with $5 billion. It does not matter that Crimea was a part of Russia for 170 years, that the referendum to join Russia was legal or that a long-standing agreement allows for Russian occupation. The West rejoiced in the illegal government while ethnic Russians feared that the ultra-nationalist takeover of Kiev would be damaging to communities in eastern Ukraine.
A Russian major who recently studied abroad told me of a household on the Ukrainian border where not all of those living under the same roof will claim to live in the same nation. This is a region where ethnicity trumps political borders — a difficult concept for Americans to grasp. How can Americans possibly expect to understand Russian culture if we live by these blatant distortions? Without considering Russian history, we will fail to recognize the justified actions taken by the Russian government.
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Ottoman Empire killed 80,000 Russians and took 2 million as slaves. In the 19th century, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia killed nearly 1 million Russians. During World War II, the Russians suffered unimaginable loss at the hands of the Nazis, where 13 million soldiers and 20 million civilians perished. The United States has no experience with foreign invasion. The only attacks seared into Americans’ minds are Pearl Harbor and 9/11, both of which killed a couple thousand people and lasted less than three hours. Despite our deep feelings of loss attributed to these tragedies, they are nothing compared to the horrors the Russians have experienced.
With these atrocities in mind, the actions of the Russian government should not be surprising. An agreement two decades ago to reunify Germany was that NATO would not expand east, but by now the West has breached that agreement and is offering E.U. membership to Ukraine. With memories of perpetual violent invasions of former superpowers, the Russian perspective that the West could attack Russia is very real. Hillary Clinton related the actions of Putin to those of Hitler but that is a senseless accusation. Russia’s annexation of Crimea was justified and legal. It is hypocritical for America to criticize Russia when our country will stop at nothing to protect our national interests, legal or not.
It does not matter how valid Russian sentiment is. This is how propaganda works — all military intervention by the American government is good while all by the Russians is bad. Perhaps we should forget about our national interest to violently invade Grenada in 1983 to protect American students. At least the Russians were able to protect their interests without deadly force. Historically, military intervention to promote our geopolitical interests has always been an option. America beats Russia in toppling democracies and supporting and implementing oppressive regimes. Our track record of illegally dismantling and reorganizing governments includes Italy, Greece, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, Albania, Guyana, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Guatemala, Cambodia, Zaire, Brazil, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Haiti, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq. I might be forgetting a couple.
It is unacceptable that we permit propaganda that inaccurately boasts America to influence us so deeply. Americans are so egocentric that we blindly follow this nationalistic propaganda and those who speak out are labeled unpatriotic and anti-American. Despite some American claims being questionable and unverified, those who inquire about their validity are labeled conspiracy theorists. We are letting others mold our thoughts. Our over-stimulated minds are staring directly at this injustice, but we are too blind to see. We are surely a happy and naïve people.
“Power is in tearing the human mind into pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
– George Orwell, 1984
Brendan LeRoy is a junior majoring in linguistics.