My Impromptus today begins with Mike Gallagher, a young congressman (and war veteran) from Wisconsin. He is a blast from the past, I say: a congressman who sounds like a conservative Republican of yore. The column ends with a little music and a little Shakespeare.
Actually, it ends with some correspondence: letters in response to an essay of mine about Confederate monuments. Pretty much everything I have to say on the subject, I said in that essay. I will add here that we have seen an amazing twist of history: the Republican party as the principal defender of the Confederacy.
Party of Lincoln? Party of Lee? Can you have it both ways? I don’t think so, but many disagree.
The Civil War was reopened by, among others, John Kelly, who gave an interview to Fox News. His remarks on the war got a lot of attention. Getting less attention were his remarks on the Chinese dictatorship, i.e., the Chinese Communist Party. I address this in my Impromptus and will some more here.
Kelly said he would not “pass judgment” on the dictatorship. He further made this jaw-dropping and revolting statement: “They have a system of government that has apparently worked for the Chinese people.”
This is not a poli-sci professor at Oberlin, mind you: It’s the chief of staff to a Republican president.
China is a vicious police state, a one-party dictatorship with a gulag (called laogai). In China, people are routinely tortured to death: people who want to live freely, who want the same rights that we in the democracies enjoy.
Do you remember Liu Xiaobo, who died in July? He was the foremost democracy leader in China — also the foremost political prisoner. In 2010, he received the Nobel Peace Prize (in absentia, of course). Those few months ago, he finally succumbed to his torments, dying as he had lived for so long: surrounded by state agents.
As luck would have it, President Trump spoke about the boss of the CCP, Xi Jinping, that very day. Xi has been outstandingly cruel, rounding up human-rights lawyers and people who would build civil society. Many have been tortured to death or tortured into insanity. It’s hard to tell which is worse.
On the day of Liu’s death, Trump said of Xi, “He’s a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. We’ve gotten to know each other very well. A great leader. He’s a very talented man. I think he’s a very good man. He loves China, I can tell you. He loves China. He wants to do what’s right for China.”
Not at all. Liu Xiaobo was a very good man. He loved China. He wanted to do what is right for China. Xi Jinping wants the eternal and exclusive rule of the Communist party. He wants the eternal denial of rights that are given to man by God.
At least, that is what Americans, traditionally, have believed.
Obviously, democratic governments have to deal with dictatorships, in all sorts of circumstances. This is the way of the world. But I recall what Bukovsky said. He had basically this plea for democratic governments: As you conduct your foreign policy, doing what you have to do, please pause every once in a while to consider, “How will it look to the boys in the camps?”
They find out, you know. Political prisoners know who is with them and who is not. When the zeks in the Gulag found out that Reagan had called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” they rejoiced. The Leader of the Free World understood; he was on their side.
There is nothing a political prisoner wants more than to be remembered; there is nothing a dictatorship wants more than for him to be forgotten. Worst of all, from the prisoner’s point of view, and best of all, from the dictatorship’s point of view, is when the Free World sides with, or excuses, the dictatorship.
Chinese dissidents heard what Trump said about Xi Jinping. They will hear about what Kelly said about China. This is extremely demoralizing, for people risking their necks.
Once, a group of American dignitaries showed up at Sakharov’s building. He came down and, in the dark vestibule, said, “Kirkpatski, Kirkpatski, which of you is Kirkpatski?” The others gestured to Jeane. Sakharov said, “Your name is known in every cell in the Gulag.”
Why? Because she had named their names — named the names of political prisoners on the floor of the U.N.
I realize the GOP is “in a different place” now. (I seldom even think about the Democratic party.) It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Reaganism is out, America First is in. (Reaganism takes best account of American interests, however. At least that is how some of us see it.) Freedom, democracy, and human rights have a “globalist” smell, in many noses.
But maybe the GOP can remember anti-Communism, for old times’ sake? The way an elderly person may remember a song from his youth? Also, if you can’t side with the freedom fighters and political prisoners, at least refrain from heaping praise on, and making excuses for, their oppressors.
By the way, I’m glad Nikki Haley is at the U.N. She seems to have the old-time religion — and the country is better off for it.