The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Of Walls, Iron Curtains and Other Lessons from the Cold War

The Cold War was still going strong when I was growing up. The nightly news would regularly feature stories about the Berlin Wall and the infamous "Iron Curtain" that tightly hid the USSR and its satellites from the western world.

My dad would always shake his head and say, "They don't realize that the reason America is great is because we don't have to do that." Instead of forcefully trying to control all of its citizens like the USSR, the USA found that it was much more stable and powerful by granting freedoms.

The USSR tightly controlled and monitored its citizens. It severely limited travel and only allowed it by permission of the state. By contrast, the citizens of the USA never needed to be kept in. The fact that we were free to go meant that we always wanted to come back. It's a paradox. Or just common sense.

Free speech. Free movement. Freedom to even protest. It all made us stronger, not weaker. That was the promise of America. We didn't have to deplete ourselves trying to control everybody. The USSR eventually imploded partly because this effort drained it of resources that could have been used elsewhere. In addition, this effort severely stunted growth of its industries, its experiences and its reach. So not only did it deplete resources to do this but it prevented the growth of new resources. Double whammy.

We were better than this. There is little strength when you are curled up in a fetal position with a clenched fist and your whole body continually tight. A perfect example: Experts tell us that you are more likely to be injured in a car accident if you tighten up your body during impact.

Real strength is relaxation and being loose. Real control only comes with letting go. This is the spiritual lesson. I thought we knew this in the USA. This was one of the most glaring faults of the Soviet experiment.

This analysis is steeped in American mythology, as we were never quite as benevolent as this makes us seem. Nevertheless, there is plenty of truth here.

Now, we are in a period where many Americans are justifying building our own versions of Iron Curtains and Berlin walls: Trump's wall with Mexico. The so-called Muslim travel ban. These are nothing but replications of history's failed experiments.

I'm just so shocked because I thought we already knew this.

Further, I believe the risk these populations bring (Muslim ban, Latin American immigrants) has been overstated if not completely fabricated. I think what may be happening is two things: First, Trump is currently working to bomb and starve places like Yemen into oblivion and doesn't want refugees appearing on our shores. Second, Trump's base is motivated with stage 1 spiritual thinking, which means they love black-and-white thinking and they need an enemy to rally against. Appeals to authoritarianism make them feel reassured at some instinctive, reptilian level where logic cannot reach.

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