I visited the Soviet Union twice back in the eighties. Fascinating place. Loved the Russian orthodox churches and the gorgeous icons, the quaint dachas in Peredelkino where Boris Pasternak used to live. The caviar and blini was terrific too, washed down by endless shots of Russian Standard vodka. And, because I was on cultural exchanges, I met brilliant people like Yevgeny Yevtushenko and a dozen or so other well known Soviet writers and filmmakers.
Funnily enough, most of them would eventually take me aside and ask me if I could help them get out of there. I couldn’t, unfortunately, but I could well understand why they wanted to leave. At the end of both of my trips of about two weeks each, I desperately wanted to get the Hell out myself. I hated the place.
The Soviet Union was like one giant jail. You had no privacy. You had no life. KGB minders followed you everywhere — even, in my case, straight into the lobby men’s room of Moscow’s Cosmos Hotel to watch me tinkle. My Yalta hotel room was so obviously bugged that the painting bulged out at about a thirty degree angle to fit the microphone. (Yes, I peeked.) The Bulgarian mystery novelist in our entourage ran a whole roomful of reel-to-reel tape recorders on the fourth floor of that same hotel, smiling and blushing when I accidentally walked in on him with our Italian delegate. The young woman who interviewed me for Soviet Screen was also a spy, as was my interpreter, Oleg, who accompanied me everywhere. He kept close tabs on anything I was writing, taking notes and reporting back to his superiors.
Sound familiar? I’ve been thinking about it a lot these days because what with the IRS evidently watching our every move and the Associated Press and who knows who else under surveillance, I feel quite literally like I’m back in the USSR. And I haven’t even left home.
Making matters worse is they don’t need the cheesy microphones anymore and the reel-to-reel tape reorders. We’re all wired and bugged everywhere we go automatically through our high-tech toys. So we have come to depend on the moderation and judiciousness of our government.
What we have now discovered about Barack Obama and Eric Holder’s America, if we didn’t already know it, is that any belief in a benign and decent government in this country is absolute horseshit. Liberalism has been revealed as a fascist joke.
It’s every man for himself now. We are at war. Lennon and McCartney didn’t know how prescient they were when they wrote:
Been away so long I early knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSR
Honey, disconnect the phone indeed. Wise words. Maybe that’s all we can do now, but I hope not. Maybe, just maybe, we are reaching a turning point and enough people will wake up. If they don’t now, with everything that’s going on, it’s probably over.