Friday, July 01, 2005


As I was reading my wife's frustrated comments about the immigration paperwork (which should finally go out today - everything is in order and postage printed and all that), I went back to the one question on form I-485 to which I answered 'yes': "Have you ever been a member of, or in any way affiliated with the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party?"

That made me think about several things. First off, about how well organized the communist propaganda machine was and how early it all started. The 'pioneers' were the communist youth group. The members wore red scarves/ties with a red/yellow/blue border, representing the flag. It was, to relate this somewhat to psychology, a milestone in life: in second grade you became a pioneer. What was even more well-designed was the fact that children with especially bad grades or behavior were at times delayed in their entry to the group. So it became, in a way, a source of pride: if you were a member, it meant you were good enough.

From there, it is a slippery slope. One poem here, another there, some praises for the leaders of the party and before you know it, the indoctrination process is complete. Which brings me to my parents.

My parents took an immense risk, one that could very easily have backfired and landed them in jail or, perhaps, even worse. They were among the many who would often spend their evenings listening to Radio Free Europe or Voice of America. The difference that I believe was essential between them and most parents of that time was that they let me listen, too. In the apartment, although there were reasonable fears of it being bugged, they also spoke their minds. I had an idea from very early on about what was wrong with the country.

As I said, it was an immense risk - a seven or eight-year old will not always know when to speak and when to keep quiet. So, one day in school I said something about what was happening in the world. I don't remember what it was, but I do remember the teacher looking at me and saying: "How do you know that?" and me answering "I heard it on VoA." She called another teacher to the classroom who asked the same question. I think my parents got called to school - I never really found out what went on there - but things never changed: we all kept listening.

What does this have to do with responsibility? Well, I am very grateful to my parents for opening my eyes to see other points of view. I am grateful that not only did they take a chance, the continued along the same path even after I had made a mistake that could have gotten them into trouble. They were responsible for me and they made sure I grew up knowing how to think on my own, how to look for the truth, how to persevere towards the things in which I believed.

Of course, ours was an extreme set of circumstances: mid to late eighties communist Romania. The principle, however, remains universally true. It is especially true with regard to the Church in modern society: it is our responsibility, if we believe in the Truth that we have, to persevere in that Truth, to set an example for those around us, and, when the time comes, to teach our children how to look for the Truth even when it is hidden.


Blogger olympiada said...

Thank you for this post. My parents are educated people and they taught me to think for my self and educate my self. I had no idea I would end up in the Orthodox Church in America, but I am here now. My mom grew up as a Roman Catholic. Anyways I felt encouraged by your post because I am in a huge battle and need all the support I can get. May God bless your path to priesthood.
In Christ's Love
I talked to my Romanian friend last night who loves me. She told me about the breakdown of marriage in Romania. It is not just an American phenomena.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Lissa said...

What an incredible story that really speaks to the responsibility we have to our children and our moral values despite what our culture and society says is right. Sometimes it can be hard to stand up for what I believe and then be ridiculed by my "friends" but your story puts that "difficulty" into perspective. Certainly there are many situations in which doing the right thing is even harder, though no less important.

12:27 PM  

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