A Quiet Walk to the Gulag

I recently started reading The Gulag Archipelago, and I’m hooked. I’ve always found the history of Stalinist Russia to be both terrifying and captivating, and Solzhenitsyn’s meticulous accounting of it should sound the alarm for all of us in earshot of its echoes.

For anyone who’s paying attention, it’s easy to apply Solzhenitsyn’s prophetic observations to our own era of politicized agencies, surveillance, leftist institutional control, and demonization of various categories of Americans. We, too, have intelligence tasked with monitoring speech and enforcing illiberal rules. New and invented accusations are levied to keep people in line. Are you transphobic? Are you a “white Christian nationalist”? Many innocuous things are now expressions of white supremacy. Maybe you are are a threat to democracy.

The Bolshevik reign of terror found early success because victims didn’t create a loud scene when they were led away to arrest. Solzhenitsyn describes the way even he walked along with the SMERSH agents who arrested him, without arguing, and even at times providing helpful directions for the shortest route to the prison. He hoped in vain that they’d recognize their mistake and release him sooner if he was easygoing and cooperative.

In that quietly stalking terror, so many were arrested in privacy, or in small settings—after showing up for a meeting, or in the course of a trip—that no general outcry occurred; even as the underground system claimed more prisoners, and murders claimed more victims, the masses moved along with life in ignorance or complicit silence.

As the campaign intensified, though, people learned that he wrong opinions, associations, past memberships, or even acts of kindness were now liabilities. In the eyes of the wicked Bolsheviks, all those not completely absorbed by their dogma were suspect—church members, managers, property owners, small farmers and the like, and anyone who’d been in their circle of friendly rapport.

It is just as it was within Stalinist Russia; those on the right and on the left are in the global left’s crosshairs. The hard left even finds enemies within its own faithful, cannibalizing those who fail to bow low enough, get radical enough, or use the approved lexicon of leftism. Still there are stubbornly hopeful on both sides who go along with this position and that proposal, thinking it buys them a bit of grace down the road. It doesn’t; it makes them into a useful idiots until a better tool comes along.

Pretend for a moment that we in America have now realized Solzhenitsyn’s wise prophecies, and that you are now suspected of being an enemy of the state. You are a threat to the government’s ugly project of turning every city into a third-world encampment, because you like safety and sanitation. You are privileged because you think you should reap the harvest you sowed in your labor. Your Christian beliefs are a threat to the humanistic fantasies of an omnipotent state run by politicized organs of artificial intelligence.

The list of possible offenses are many: you’re a member of a conservative church; you’ve “liked” social media posts critical of transgenderism; you follow The Babylon Bee; you donate to a conservative think tank; you live in a red state; you have more than three kids; you didn’t receive a Covid “vaccination”; you have an American flag flying in your yard; or maybe you download a lot of country music. Aren’t all of these things pleasures of those on the right?

These who hamper progress must be charged with various crimes, such as racism, transphobia, religious hate or even insurrection; your employer must therefore fire you or face troubles, and you must go through a lengthy (and doomed) court process. If you will just cooperate, though—perhaps say the right things, donate to the right causes, or stay silent in the face of insanity—your life doesn’t have to be so hellish; at least, not just yet.

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