Readers of this page may have in the past seen articles by Bob Thomas and me in which the two of us disagreed strongly about politics. Bob's conservative, I'm liberal.
Recently, the two of us had lunch and discovered how much we agreed on many things and how we disagreed about some others. The conversation from my point of view was fun, enlightening and educational.
Not that I'm about to switch sides, but that I'm delighted to be able to hear an articulate person speak on contrary beliefs. I don't know if Bob feels the same way, but we plan to continue our luncheons.
All this goes as a precede to an experience I had while walking my guest dog last Sunday. Annie the dog has a mind of her own and while always she answers voice commands she does like to cover ground. So we were wandering around the parking lot of my apartment complex when I came on a truck with two bumper stickers on it.
The one read: "If they take away my gun how will I be able to shoot liberals?" The other: "I'd rather be killing communists."
To me this is the kind of mindless advocacy of violence that is light years away from the kind of reasoned discussion that Bob and I enjoy. It is the ultimate in mindlessness.
I wonder. Does the owner of the truck know what the honorable and long-respected term "liberal" means? The dictionary defines the term thus: "One who advocates greater freedom of thought or action." The term has been used disparagingly by those who oppose freedom of thought, Adolf Hitler for one, Josef Stalin for another.
I suspect the truck owner never bothered to think for him/herself about what the term stands for. And the idea that the person seriously would like to shoot liberals suggests a psychopathic mind unwilling to make a reality check.
The other sticker about communists seems sadly outdated. We love communists nowadays. We delight in trading with the People's Republic of China. Admittedly, we don't love Fidel Castro and his communists, but we're not ready to go out and kill them simply because of their political beliefs. And we'd probably welcome Cuba back into the Americas if we could just quiet down those Cubans in Miami who want to return to the old Batista days.
Thanks to living in Asia and Europe for years, I have many acquaintances who are communists, some active, some sort of tired of the whole thing. I think of Popov (yes, there is a real Russian named Popov, not to be confused with the popular American vodka). He's an old friend, we've skied together all over Europe and Asia. He currently heads a polling organization in Russia, something unheard of in the bad old Cold War days when the Kremlin cared little for public opinion.
He's still a communist and I would truly hate to see some nut kill him. Popov is very intelligent, he knows European history from the first tsar on. He's read Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon" and is willing to argue the ways and means problem as fictionalized in the book. He has some good points.
Then there's Alexi of the old daily Isvestia. We got together and put out a newsletter about opportunities in Russia after the end of the Soviet Union. He now works for a news service in Vienna but he still regards commuism as a system that came too soon - before the computer, which he feeels would have made the system work.
Then there's Alexandria, also of Isvestia. I sat next to her at a ski party in Andorra before glasnost. She was wearing a slick French pants suit, spoke excellent English and was more interested about learning if there were good bike trials around Tahoe than about the death of capitalism. She said that, yes, she was a communist but she liked to visit the West. Her pants suit was proof of that. Boy, I'd hate to see someone shoot her!
But back to the bumper sticker.
I wonder if the pickup owner has any real idea of what communism was all about. Does he understand the dialectic theory of Hegal? The withering away of the state? From each according to his ability, to each according to his need? Has he/she ever ready "Das Kapital" and thus have an understanding of the theory?
I doubt it, or that person wouldn't be so anxious to kill communists.
I've got to share one anecdote on the subject before I have to seek cover.
I was in the Air Force as an ROTC second lieutenant based at a SAC base in Savannah, Ga. Among my many duties (as the only unmarried officer in the 375th Bomb Wing, I got all the extra jobs nobody wanted) was to present a lecture on the history of communism to B-47 air crews.
This was not a fun thing. It meant I had to speak to a couple of hundred pilots, navigators, gunners and the like at 10 a.m. in the base theater. And presenting a Defense Department lecture to bored airmen was a thankless chore.
At one point I was to remark, "Gentlemen, you must understand that Marx and Lenin were not heavily bearded men in frock coats running around carrying bombs. These were intelligent, dedicated men bent on political domination."
At this point a full-bird colonel in the audience rose and said, "Lieutenant, you don't mean to say that these men were sane, do you?"
To say I was frozen is an understatement. Somehow I continued after meekly not answering the colonel.
That incident to me demonstrates the same kind of mindlessness that the bumper stickers had to offer.
I'll go over this with Bob at our next luncheon and I suspect his reaction will be much like mine. Then we can argue over McCain and George W.
Sam Bauman is editor of the Nevada Appeal's Diversions magazine.