It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. For those in the West, we were indeed not only in a good time, but heading into a golden age in many respects. For those not in the West, particularly behind the Iron Curtain, the times truly sucked on a scale that few today can conceive. That so many now look back on the time with nostalgia says something about how fucked up things are today…
I noted yesterday that I have mixed emotions on the passing of Gorbachev. That is being polite. The man was the enemy, on more than one level. Yet, I have come to have respect for the man, for reasons and because Boss had respect for him.
It was that respect, along with understanding, that allowed Reagan to run the board. To use information from a number of sources, including Agent Farewell, to put Gorbachev into a position where he had no choice to but to bow to the inevitable. Make no mistake: the man fought long and hard to keep the CCCP going, and remained a Leninist, if not a Marxist, to his dying day. He was murderous, vicious, and more.
Yet, he did two things that indicated a moral clarity, or at least honesty, that I’m not sure to this day if any other Soviet/Russian leader has the capacity to do. One, well, rather than a certain former astronaut Gorbachev may be responsible for my first silver hairs, and the other is the fact that at the end, he realized that he and Soviet communism had lost and accepted it. Not easily, not well on some levels, but he had lost and he knew it. He then worked towards making it a soft landing, at least for some. That doing so helped others [see the (in) famous Pizza Hut commercial] may or may not have been an intended benefit.
I admit that now I wish I had taken the opportunity to hear him speak. Perhaps even in a small group setting, as it would have allowed a different, perhaps better, understanding of some of what is happening today. Thing is, Gorbachev was/is despised by most current Kremlin leadership (including Vladimir) because he was NOT a slavophile, but looked to the West. He felt very strongly that the best future for Russia lay with and through engagement with the West and adopting Western modes and thoughts. Word from various sources is that he was, er, not happy, with Vladimir for destroying “his legacy” of engagement with the West.
That said, I also admit that in many ways rather than sharing a cognac with Gorbachev I would much rather have had a beer or three with Lech Walesa, some time with Vaclav Havel, or the honor of a meeting with John Paul II. For all I would like to understand more of how the loss was handled, I feel that there is an even greater need — particularly now and not just with the Russia/Ukraine war — to understand all the ways that led to us winning. If the West and its legacy of thought is to be saved, we need look to these men (and Boss).
To steal from another classic, I come here today not to praise Gorbachev, but to bury him. Would that we could and were burying the murderous legacy of communism and socialism along with him. Sadly, we are not and even as we deal with the hopefully dying heads of the hydra that is the legacy of Marx and Lenin there are lessons to be learned from his life.
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