Confronting the nostalgists for totalitarianism
So what sight greeted us as our family arrived in Wakefield, Quebec for the Canada day parade? This:
The Soviet flag was flying from the mast of a barge docked at the main intersection. It was the first thing visible as anyone entered town. I was aghast.
I'm normally a somewhat reserved person. I intensely dislike confrontation. But I knew I would be angry with myself if I didn't go to have words with the historically illiterate morons that raised this banner. I told my wife to wait, pushed the front of my hat down, and strode over to the dock.
There were three men in the boat. I asked when they were planning to take that flag. They said they weren't. I asked them why they were flying the flag of a regime that had killed millions of people. They replied lamely that the Soviets were our allies in World War Two. Though it was less visible, they also were flying a Cuban flag, suggesting that the USSR's aid in defeating Nazi Germany was not what they were celebrating. I started getting angry. I reminded them of the mass starvations in the Ukraine and the gulags, and asked how anyone could proudly display a symbol of an empire that engaged in that kind of inhuman repression. They shrugged and said I was the first person to complain.
And I most certainly was. I looked around and saw the bemused looks on the faces of the passersby. I was playing the role of the crazed right-winger, while they were the cool, beret-wearing hipsters. I replied that even though I was the only person willing to speak up, I was still right, and that they should be ashamed of themselves. And then I left.
What is amazing is that the three men on that barge own a local business, Kaffé 1870. They seem to have no problem with the fact that if they lived under the regimes they are so nostalgic for, they would have been shut down long ago.
But perhaps there is some hope for them. I noticed that within a half hour they had taken down the Soviet flag and replaced it with a vertical red banner. I'd like to think I made them feel a little bit of shame, even if just for a moment.