Every so often it's useful to travel back in time to when the Internet was decades from fruition, and unfree societies like the former Soviet Union were theoretically closed off to information. The good news is that information happily continued to flow. Even into countries going out of their way to banish truth.
For anecdotal evidence of this, please consider the very few Soviets lucky enough to get out of the prison-like country on occasion. As Hedrick Smith reported in his classic 1975 book The Russians, those able to travel to countries like the U.S. “were like coiled springs” when they arrived, “leaping at the department store cornucopias.” Translated for those who need it, the Soviet people knew. Much as their sadistic minders wanted to keep them blinded to how much better our living conditions were, much as the Soviet propaganda machine worked in overdrive to demonize the U.S. and the West, they knew. Which means that when they arrived, the prosperous reputation of the U.S. and other free nations was already well established. And many yearned for the better life they knew existed outside their “workers’ paradises.”
The above came to mind while reading an excerpt of a recent speech given by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Explaining why he thinks American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is the most dangerous person in the world, Pompeo explained that “If our kids don’t grow up understanding America is an exceptional nation, we’re done.” Pompeo joins the long list of alarmists of the dominant ideologies decreeing existential threats to the United States. His opinion insults the United States.
Randi Weingarten keeps him up at night? About the individual Pompeo claims to fear more than any other, she’s very unlikable. And she’s dismissive of parents eager to improve the quality of education. Good person Weingarten isn’t, but “the most dangerous person in the world”? This is hard to countenance. And it’s especially difficult to countenance given Pompeo’s view that Weingarten’s power is of the permanent destruction kind. That is so because if someone as empty as Weingarten can wreck the U.S., then it can’t be that great of a country in the first place. Except that it’s the world’s greatest country. By far. Which means Pompeo is incorrect.
Worse, what makes him incorrect insults the very American people he seems bent on protecting from doom. Pompeo seems to think that American kids are easily malleable, and that they can’t think for themselves. If they’re told the U.S. is bad, repressive, or whatever else fringe lefties believe, supposedly they’ll believe as the fringe lefties do. How demeaning. Really, what a statement about younger Americans, along with their parents. Apparently kids will believe anything, and their parents won’t stop to correct them. Does this reflect America as we know it? It’s hard to take seriously.
Better yet, such a negative view of the United States ignores the great lengths that non-Americans go to in order to get to the United States. Please think long and hard about this. And in thinking about it, does anyone seriously believe the schools of the world make it part of their lesson plans to elevate the United States? Does anyone think media in countries not the U.S. write in reverential fashion about the States? Hopefully these questions answer themselves.
What’s important is that education and propaganda around the world don’t much matter when the subject is the U.S. Whatever they’re teaching the kids and whatever the media are reporting, the people of the world still view the U.S. as the land of opportunity. Love or hate immigration, would-be Americans aren’t frequently risking their lives to get to the U.S. because teachers and newsreaders where they live talk endlessly of its wonders. Which is a reminder that the truth invariably outruns the falsehoods. The people know, which is why they want to get to the U.S. so badly.
All of this rates more serious thought as Pompeo seeks to turn the world’s greatest country into a potential victim of Weingarten. How dare he? Neither Weingarten nor some whom she leads possess the rhetoric or charisma or both to turn Americans off to the United States of America. But most of all, the U.S.’s enemies lack reality. Evidence supporting this comes from the people around the world who routinely risk everything (including their lives) to get here.
Pompeo surely knows better. The U.S. is made of much sterner stuff than to be so easily shrunk by someone as superciliously incorrect as Weingarten.