The demise of the useful idiots

Sometime after World War II, when I was coming of political age (about 11) my mother told me that there are people in the family who believe that Finland attacked Russia.  She never would tell me who, but she did tell me who on my father’s side called her mother ‘a lousy capitalist’.  This when she was a new widow raising a 15 year old and running a dry goods store in a small New Jersey town.

Lenin is said to have called such people ‘useful idiots’ but the evidence that he did is actually rather slim.

My first experience with them was at Harvard in ’60 – 62.  The best place to meet women was the International house. It had a piano, and a Polish guy who played Chopin better than I did. It had a ping pong table, and another Polish guy who beat me regularly. The zeitgeist at Harvard back then, was that America was rather crude (the Ugly American was quite popular), boorish and unappreciative of the arts, culture etc. etc.

One woman I met was going on and on about this, particularly the condition of the artist in America, and how much better things were in Europe. I brought up Solzhenitzen, and the imprisonment of dissidents over there. Without missing a beat, she replied that this just showed how important the Russian government thought writers and artists were.

In 1983 the left in Europe had mobilized against the placement of Pershing missiles in Europe by president Reagan, already known there as a crude and witless former actor, but, unfortunately possessed of nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands marched. He had even called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire that year. Leftists the world over were outraged. How unsophisticated to even admit the possibility of evil. Articles such as “Reagan’s image in Europe does not help Allies in deploying American missiles” appeared in the liberal press.  Here’s a sample —

Putin with his Ukraine invasion has managed to eliminate most Russian apologists, useful idiots and fellow travelers, something I would have thought impossible.

Closing the circle - — both Finland and Sweden are sending weapons to the Ukraine, and polls indicate that majority of citizens in both countries favor joining NATO.

On a more personal note, the talk of war and possible US involvement in the fighting has brought back unwanted memories of the horribly wounded and disabled soldiers, that somehow survived and made it to Fitzsimons Army Hospital where I helped take care of them ’68 – ’70.  I was never in combat but I can see how today’s news could trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in those who were.

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