This weekend, I spoke on panel to a group of kids in the Arsalyn program, which is a kind of honors seminar aimed at getting 16-22 year olds more involved in politics.
Reason's Nick Gillespie and I held the libertarian banner, NRO's Jonah Goldberg and two others spoke for the conservatives, and The New Republic's, Peter Beinhart took issue for the left, along with one other woman who works in the Georgia Statehosue whose name escapes me, and a guy running for the Illinois Statehouse from the Green Party.
The afternoon's drama came toward the end of the panel, with this skinny kid sitting in the front row, who happened to be donning a bright red t-shirt with the Soviet hammer and sickle. I wanted to call him out from the start. I just felt a little crass about it. But as the panel wore on, it continued to gnaw at me. It dawned on me that I or the lefists on the panel would have had no problem calling the kid out if he'd been wearing a t-shirt with neo-Nazi regalia. And he applauded vigorously when the lefties spoke, and sat on his hands when the rest of us spoke, meaning of course that he wasn't wearing the shirt with any sense of irony.
So when he finally raised his hand during the Q&A, I decided that --what the hell -- I might as well point out how silly he looks advertising a belief system rooted in slavery and murder. He asked an unrelated question, which I think the Green Party guy answered. I then chime din, recommending to the kid that he read Anne Applebaum's Gulag, the Pulitzer winning book which documents the horrors of the Soviet work camps. He didn't seem to get it.
So I added,"I know Soviet chic is hip right now, particularly on college campuses. But you really ought to think about the message you send by wearing that shirt. It has all the charm of a swastika."
With that, Hillsdale poly sci Professor David Bobb added,"you're associating yourself with the deaths of 100 million people..."
The kid then interrupted Bobb, with obvious agitation,"Yes, I know all about the history of the Soviet Union."
To which Bobb replied,"Oh, so you know that you're being insulting."
Boos and jeers flited up from the crowd. By the time we had dinner, the kid had thrown a sweater over the t-shirt.
Maybe it was boorish to call the kid out. But there's something really aggravating about these middle class kids born into the most privileged conditions in all of human history suddenly finding it trendy to carry water for a belief system that murdered hundreds of millions of people, and enslaved billions more.comments powered by Disqus
Pat Lynch - 8/30/2004
It's time the left was made to face up to what the Soviets did. It's time the cultural left was forced to stop ignoring the millions who were killed, and it's definitely time for folks like us to call people to the mat for it. I say well done.
Max Schwing - 8/30/2004
I know, but the youth always is ignorant about certain facts. It's in general (though not in this example, the boy certainly was stupid) not the term that they appreciate the Soviet regime, but rather they like to entertain a moral belief system that is more Western Europe-style (f.e. Germany, Sweden, France etc.).
The wear is just an expression of disagreement with the establishment, at least that is what I got as a feedback by some of those who wear "Che" T-Shirts...
Aeon J. Skoble - 8/30/2004
No, it wasn't boorish. It speaks volumes about (some on) the left that they don't or won't get the analogy to the swastika.