Better dead than Red?

fallout shelter sign
One of the nuclear fallout shelter signs I bought from a surplus store. Such signs were common decades ago.

I grew up during the Cold War when tensions between the United States and USSR were especially high. We practiced duck-and-cover drills in school although they would do little to shield us from a Soviet nuclear bomb blast, which we feared. Many fathers dug bomb shelters and parents stocked them with food and other provisions to give them a better chance of surviving a nuclear war. Today's students have more to fear from classmates who go postal, but in the 1960s, adults and children feared nuclear annihilation.

Now, what kind of people would instill such fear in helpless young children? Communists, or Commies as we called 'em. It is natural to hate enemies and disparage them any way possible. Russians were often thought of as evil monsters, while we figuratively had white hats. We're good; they're bad—it was that simple.

In my blog, I am slowly building a way (later to be integrated into a book) that can effectively immunize people against their susceptibility to war. Any adult who looks at the world with open eyes is bound to see how our leaders play us like a fiddle, filling our minds with propaganda that demonizes folks in other nations, making us think they're monsters and God is on our side in crushing them.

Of the many examples I could cite, the Cold War against the USSR is classic. When I grew up during the 1960s, American leaders made Russians seem like blood-thirsty barbarians. Had we rained nuclear bombs on them, I wouldn't have shed a tear, but instead thought “Better dead than Red” or something equivalent. Unfortunately, the propaganda I accepted as truth during my elementary school years was also believed by many adults, even educated ones on television and in print back in the days when media filters worked overtime to present only the best and brightest—or so we thought.

beautiful Russians

Decades later, when the Internet enabled me to cultivate friendships with people in other nations, I saw how they were just like us. They didn't wake up in the morning thinking of waging war; they instead thought of going to work, going home, eating tasty food, and having good times with their friends and family. They struck me as often even nicer than Americans, too many of whom seem overly fixated on stuff, not people. (That reminds me of the saying, “God gives us people to love and things to use, not things to love and people to use.”)

As a doctor, I've seen how people are often magnetically drawn to mentally ill leaders who seem to be The Man With Something Extra. National leaders are more likely to be sociopaths (learn to spot a sociopath) who exude charm that draws followers like flowers draw bees. Laymen and even many trained professionals are notoriously poor in spotting sociopaths, who can figuratively and often literally get away with murder. Even when Beloved Leader is a classic sociopath, rarely can his citizens spot his glaring mental illness.

If very intelligent aliens landed on Earth, they would likely laugh at our stupidity for letting mentally ill people run the world. Unfortunately, it is no laughing matter. They needlessly wasted trillions of dollars and killed hundreds of millions of people. They are bankrupting the world, yet people often cheer them on. Nuts.

The Cold War was one of the many wars in which the problem wasn't the people on the other side, but the leaders on both sides. As the people were busy working and playing, their leaders were busy kindling tensions, rarely extinguishing them. The problem is not the people in the world but its leaders, many of whom are not the best and brightest but the most ruthless, who think might makes right. When they reflect on how they achieved their success by playing dirty pool, it isn't difficult for them to think the ethical transgressions that served them so well at home might also benefit them when translated into belligerence abroad. Thus it isn't surprising to see pugnacious leaders continue to behave pugnaciously. Fighters fight, correct?

Yes, but thinkers think, and I am a thinker. Once I learned to think on my own, I realized that “Better dead than Red”—once a common phrase—wasn't true. However, at that time, you could call a Commie any name in the book, and whatever you said was fair game.

The same standard applies to German soldiers, who are still loathed for what they did as Nazis—a term that acquired a very negative connotation, for obvious reasons. (Need help jogging your memory? Think gas chambers.)

Interestingly, some but not all people now object to use of the word “Jap,” which still can be heard on television documentaries and even casually used in upscale liberal yuppie towns, as I discovered while listening to a salesman praise Japanese products. As I discussed in that article, what was even more telling than the salesman's usage of that word was how no one responded to it, thus proving that many people in the real world (as opposed to the PC police) still think of it simply as an abbreviation for “Japanese.” No one bothers to look up every word before every use of it, but I did take the time to read the dictionary when I was a teenager. Here's what it said:

“Jap” in 1974 dictionary

It was—and still is, according to many people—considered an acceptable abbreviation, not offensive slang. I don't know anyone who dislikes Japanese people, except for auto workers who despise them for what they think of as “stealing” their jobs. My brother was driving one day in the late 1970s when a couple of autoworkers followed him home and kicked his Japanese car. One likely UAW thug held him while the other punched him. These likely UAW ambassadors of hate didn't succeed in persuading him to buy American.

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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