In her column last week (“You made a big mistake, America,” 11/7), Elizabeth Moore wrote that Barack Obama’s “main philosophies take active steps towards the very foundational principles that led to the death of millions during China’s cultural revolution and Russia’s Great Purges.”
I paused on reading this comparison. I read it again. Obama as a communist … not the first time I had seen that. A friend of mine has a pretty funny shirt that says “Obamunism” with a hammer and sickle integrated into the campaign logo.
But the Cultural Revolution reference deserves a closer look, since Moore equates Obama’s principles with those of a man who had no qualms about watching a country tear itself apart. Mao encouraged the snowballing purges of the late 1960s not simply out of a desire to promote leftist ideology, but primarily because dissent in the Communist Party threatened his political position. This was nothing new: In the late 1950s, Mao purged members of his inner circle who dared question the efficacy of the disastrous Great Leap Forward reforms.
Backed into a corner again nearly a decade later, Mao co-opted the resentment of Chinese youth and citizens seething over the empty promises of an increasingly corrupt and ineffective government. He established himself as above the party, a leader whose word could not be questioned. While Mao and others at the top of the party food chain maneuvered against one another, Red Guards attacked intellectuals and “rightists” with gusto as vicious infighting erupted across the country.
Defining Barack Obama’s philosophy as taking “active steps” towards “the foundational principles” of the Cultural Revolution is no small accusation. I hope our strong democratic tradition and ideals would stop any president of this country from taking such steps. Ironically, we are about to emerge from the administration that spat in the face of this hope.
Under George W. Bush’s, the president and his cabinet took every possible step to quash dissent, labeling those who disagreed with him as, at best, unpatriotic or delusional and, at worst, terrorist sympathizers. In Bush’s view, you were with him, or you were with the evildoers. Intellectuals came under constant attack for every disagreement with the party line. The result: an American public so badly misinformed that at the time of the 2004 elections, an majority still believed Saddam Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
To equate this with the Cultural Revolution would dishonor the memories of the Chinese who suffered through it. I shy from using a comparison as vitriolic and ill-founded as Moore’s. But in the spirit of the administration — splitting the world into poles of right and wrong, good and evil; vilifying intellectuals; attacking dissent at every turn — here, if anywhere, do I see shades of the Great Helmsman at work.
This spirit of divisiveness and intolerance remains infused in Moore’s column. She writes that Obama has “associations with domestic terrorists and dissenting radicals who make their careers out of defacing the United States and promoting its ruin.” Moore’s statement could have come straight out of Mao’s playbook. Replace “domestic terrorists” with “capitalist revisionists,” replace “radicals” with “rightists,” replace “United States” with “People’s Republic of China,” read and enjoy.
With President Obama, I hope for an administration that once again allows and even encourages dissent within the ranks, in our culture and in our country as a whole. I hope for an administration that does not brand the opposition as anti-American or unpatriotic.
I hope that as a result, dissent flourishes once again as a driving force in politics in this country. I hope that Republicans will act as an effective opposition party, checking Democrats when necessary, but also coming together to pass valuable legislation. I hope that together we will reach moderate solutions to the pressing issues we face.
I hold these hopes close to my heart because the Bush administration attacked dissenting voices in America with a vicious spirit much closer to that of Mao than to that of our Founding Fathers. Last week, in her small space in this paper, Moore did the same. Together, we must prove that we can be more tolerant.
Nicholas Pierson is a senior in Davenport College.