Neighbors turning in neighbors

Both sides of my wife's family were broken up during and right after World War II.  As a result, she has family in Poland and Croatia and has kept in close touch with both.  We've sent our teenage sons to the month-long Polish Scout Camp, where they teach the kids fieldcraft and basic survival skills.  It isn't basic training, but the kids build their own camps, prepare their own food, and get ready for another Russian or German invasion.  My son's welcome gift upon arrival was a Fiskars ax.

In the 1970s, when my wife visited Croatia as a teenager, the country was still clearly under communist control.  She happened to be there during the Christmas holidays, a celebration that the communist government forbade.

Despite this edict, Croatia has always been a predominantly Catholic country.  Therefore, many Croats, rather than abandoning Christmas, tended to celebrate the holiday quietly, out of the neighbors' sight, lest a non-Christian neighbor inform on them, subjecting them to a police visit and arrest.

When my then-teenage wife learned of this, she exclaimed that she could not believe people could get arrested for celebrating the birth of Christ!  Her Croatian family quickly closed the windows and pleadingly "shushed" her to prevent unscrupulous neighbors from hearing the incredulous teen and, perhaps, informing the police.

The Catholic Poles, on the other hand, collectively told their communist leaders to jump in a lake if they thought they could prevent Poles from going to church or celebrating religious holidays.  Make no mistake: there was government pressure to suppress religion, but too many Poles were willing to stand up, and the authorities were not quite as feared as Tito's secret police in Croatia.

In the past, these were things we Americans knew about communist oppression during the Cold War, and, like my future wife, we were outraged whenever we heard about them.  Even though various groups in the United States have been oppressed for their beliefs throughout our history, we have made steady progress toward becoming a more free society.

Ironically, in the mid-20th century, we oppressed people in this country who had ever considered being communist.  Many ended up "blacklisted" and could not get work and were cut off from association with coworkers and friends.  The U.S. has never been perfect, but it was always our general belief that we should try to be.

Nonetheless, today in America, we are seeing the return of another round of oppression.  Cancel culture is the most obvious, but now we are seeing neighbors and colleagues informing on each other.  After the Capitol Rush on January 6, the FBI made available on social media images of suspects in the hope that friends, family members, co-workers, and others would inform on them.

Recently, a Georgetown law school professor resigned under pressure simply because, during a Zoom call with another professor, he did not correct her for "racist" comments.  The other professor expressed her concerns that Black students generally had lower academic performance every semester.  That professor was fired by the dean of the Law School.

I am not privy to all the information, and there may be evidence that both professors are in fact racist.  On the other hand, perhaps neither one is racist, and they were simply discussing truthful information.  Since I do not believe that systemic racism and Critical Race Theory are the real problems faced by Black Americans today, I tend to think the latter, but I reserve the right to change my opinion with more evidence.

Still, the thought of one person losing a lifetime's career because he did not correct a fellow worker who was speaking in good conscience smacks of the behavior we saw in those communist countries I described.  I wonder how a third party even obtained that Zoom meeting to find out what was said.  This reminds me of the "telescreen" in Orwell's 1984 that the Party used to monitor everything anyone did that might be considered disloyal to "Big Brother."

Leftist Big Tech tells us what we should think and what we cannot say on social media.  The tech companies punish anyone who violates these norms, as in the case of Amazon shutting down Parler and Apple deleting content it deems white supremacist and Disney firing right-leaning actors.

Are we now being monitored by our neighbors and colleagues to see if we are loyal to the leftist agenda?  Are we now prepared to turn in our neighbors, friends, and even families?  As the left increases social and political power, will we be able to push back as the Poles did, or will we be terrorized like the Croats?

Image: Spying by Andrew Gustar.  CC BY-ND 2.0.

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