The First Few Pages of “Stalin Giggled” (a novel)
These are the opening pages of my novel, “Stalin Giggled” – a “novel of political apocalypse as America moves forward.” It’s where I lay out the two titanic forces that are facing each other in this country – and assign to each of them a character who will run with that idea throughout the book. Enjoy. >>>
In the Beginning
In modern times, long after kings mostly were gone, men were born in times and places that did not predict their future. Then events overtook them and they were thrust forward into the public eye. How such men rose to the top was through ambition and work, to some degree. But also what happened in the society around them while they were rising to the top affected how far they would rise. That was Eric Robinson. There was also a whole cohort of these public figures who really didn’t want to rise to prominence, but were put there by forces beyond their control. Chris Tomas was such a man. There were, of course, hundreds of thousands, even millions of other people who were born about the same time into the social milieu known as Modern America who could have stepped into the positions these two men would step. They could have come from any of the different regions of the country, from different sorts of families, with different histories, with different outlooks. They were all part and parcel of the diversity of America. But on closer examination the country wasn’t nearly as diverse as many people pretended it was. For there was a uniformity of conformity that everyone agreed to disagree with.
Exactly when Modern Times began no one could say for sure. There were always convenient cutoff dates for those arguing a different viewpoint. There was the big idea of the Renaissance for sure. There was also the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Of course the French thought Versailles was a pretty good start to the Modern Era, or was it their Revolution? Both had its proponents. And many other times and periods, post war or pre-war, and which war it was didn’t matter. Though no one could be certain when they began, the dates being roughly from this year to that year, whichever was convenient. But one thing for certain was that man had entered the Modern Era. Things would be different because times were different, it was said. Each group living in those times and places thought surely they were in modern times. But so did the people who passed the first millennium in fervent hope that Jesus would finally come back among them. He did not and modern times had to be reconfigured with each new century.
Some people thought it was wars themselves that were the markers. The American Civil War, the First World War, World War II, the little wars of the post war era. Each group of people on earth could use their favorite war as the beginning of the modern era. The time when things would truly be different. It was because they won that they thought the world would now operate according to the benevolent ideas that they had to run the world. Who ‘they’ were was a bit confusing. To some it was the political leader of the nation, whether he be called prime minister or president, or still some as king and sultan. Still others took names like “Dear Leader,” and “Guiding Light of the Nation.” Still, they all behaved fairly much like kings of old, even if they did have to listen to a few more people. But while there was always the idea of absolute power in the hands of kings in fact they always ruled with advisers and councilors and opposing interests. About the only people who did not were the Americans, though this was not a popular theory at any time. To just let people do what they want without much interference by government was never a popular idea.
Which is why revolutions could serve as markers. There was the English Revolution, then the American and French Revolutions, and those of 1848 that raged across Europe. Each of these was considered the harbinger of modern times. They were to a degree, for they were rampages of violence. With some a bit more violent than others, but continuing mankind’s propensity to slaughter those who disagreed with them. The last great revolution was the Russian Revolution. Or was it the Chinese? It all depended on who was doing the reckoning. These were Communist Revolutions, so soon they began to be seen as the harbingers of the New World. Not the New World that Columbus discovered, but the new world of social harmony and peace and prosperity. Those were vague things. Some took it to mean that religious leaders would bring about the heaven on earth promised by all religions if only everyone would have complete faith, mostly in the leaders of those religions. Though other revolutions brought about other faiths that were just as strong. Such was the Chinese Revolution of 1949. Then there was the American idea of individual liberty. It worked well enough to be a magnet to all the world and led to the country being the most powerful on earth and an example to all. Though few would follow it.
The French revolution showed monarchs that the time of divine right was over. A bit lopsided towards violence in the application of the new principle of representative government, it served as a model for all other monarchs to begin to consider parliaments, constitutions and the trappings of democracy. Along came monarchs who were very reasonably disposed to stay quietly in their palaces and castles and accept the multi-million dollar civil lists which kept them in the lap of luxury. More than a few kings were very willing to give up the messiness of governance for the good life. And who could blame them? No one was plotting anymore to steal their throne. They gave up their divine right but not their privileges. These people were not stupid.
Other people used reason and philosophy as their markers for the beginning of the glory of the modern era. There were the first like Bacon and Occam, and the genius of Michaelangelo and Da Vinci. Then it was Locke and Hume, and Rousseau and others of the 1600s and 1700s. Some thought it was Adam Smith, who everyone said invented Capitalism, when he did no such thing. He never even used the word. He merely described the reality of England in a mercantile system of ever shifting royal decrees. He pointed out that the less rules and regulations there were the more likely the wealth of the nation would increase. Where the line between the proper amount of regulation and over regulation was he was not at all sure. Nor did he even begin to hazard a guess. Then Marx came along and really threw the world a bone. His social and economic theory was seen as revolutionary different.
It was not. What it was was boiled over Cromwellian puritanism coupled with royalist mercantilism and divine right of the state to rule. That it was divine could only be deduced if you thought that the inevitable condition of mankind was ordained by a higher power. This higher power for people of faith was God. For the Marxist it was History. That it comes with a heavy dose of religiously inspired peace and happiness if only everyone would think alike was inscrutable to nearly everyone. After all, it was “Scientific,” which was the antithesis of “Faith.” Yet Europe was bedeviled since the Dawn of the Modern Era with Christian Socialist parties in a variety of hues and with a variety of names. By 1900 every political party in Europe was on the Socialist to Communist spectrum, which dovetailed neatly with the Christian ethos of charity and living together and believing together. Individualism never got a stronghold in Europe. That all the individualists were leaving for America did not help the situation.
Still others thought that the great age of invention, starting with the steam engine, going through the steam boat, then the train, then electricity and then the computer was the bringer of modernity. Any number of inventions were said to have brought the modern era of peace and prosperity to mankind. Why, these ideas were said to be newer and better than sliced bread, though itself of recent vintage. There were partisans for any industrial thing. The assembly line and mass production worked well as harbingers. The light bulb was incandescent in its position in the pantheon of harbingers of the modern world. And too the automobile zoomed in as the harbinger of modern times. Drinkable water was a distant runner up. The petroleum era was the modern era, too. Yet, surely no major innovation could possibly compete with the computer as the start of the modern era. That it was merely a very fancy abacus was lost in the discussion.
Others looked at the religious Reformation as the font of modern ideas for the organization of society. Yet others thought that the Reformation that brought the world from the paganism of the Romans to the Catholicism of Rome as a ripe date for the modern era, and they had the calendar on their side. The Muslims thought Mohamed had brought in the modern era as was clearly said right there in the Koran. Each religion had a creation time when it became the start of the modern era. Even such rather small groups as the Pilgrims, the Quakers and the Shakers thought that they were the start of the modern era. They, like every other proponent of modernism, thought that if only everyone was on the same page then everything would work just fine. It was always said that those people who did not want to believe that the modern time was here were mucking things up. They were expendable to some degree. Either in mind, or if need be, in body, they could be eliminated. But what distinguished all these fond thinkers was that they had a theory. It was people who didn’t quite conform to it, and that had to change. The theory was paramount, the people secondary.
That’s what all the theorists of modernism have in common. The belief that if only everyone would act in concert then the modern era could really come into full swing. Until that happened, they could not bring peace and harmony and prosperity and good health and living through application of the theory. If they had to eliminate a few people, a few bad eggs as it were, along the way, then so be it. It was Lenin who famously coined the phrase “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.” In fact, another thing these believers in the faith of theory had in common was the idea that society was very malleable, controllable and directable. It was, to them, exactly just like making an omelet. Social engineering might not have been the term used by 12th century popes, but they had the idea that they could work miracles if only people would give up on the sin and heresy. Which, amazingly, was yet another thing that theorists had in common. To not believe in the faith that was promulgated as the modern thing was to be sinful and heretical. Even if the words used were “against the people,” and “certain criminal elements,” which didn’t sound too religious. Theorists always got bogged down in words. With new words they thought they had created new systems. But the system didn’t change, the words did, and who uttered them. What every believer in a given faith had was the certainty that they were the ideal leaders to bring the people into the modern world. Even if they, the people, didn’t want to go there. The leaders knew best, and providence, by whatever name, brought them to the forefront of their people. Finally things were going to be alright. But now, truly in modern times, since they were the times we lived in, there were so many beliefs that the world was a very mixed up place. At least it seemed so on the surface.
But underneath it was all astoundingly the same. What each believer in religious faith had in mind was to return to, or go forward to, that ideal time of peace and harmony. The problem was that they all had a different date in time as their reference point. Religionists looked back to the future. Somewhere back when people were innocent, before the excess of too much modernism crept in, was the modern world they wanted to take us to. Some thought it was the Garden of Eden, others the coming of Mohamed, or Christ, or some other Messiah. What they did know was that there was not enough adherence to the faith that was true and pure and exactly what God or the Goddesses wanted.
Scientifically minded people looked forward to the past. This group thought that whether it was the science of economics, or the science of political theory, or the science of social-enviro-peace living they would bring us to the same place that the religionists wanted to go. They didn’t think they did, though. Indeed, they could be quite adamant that they could return to Nature and live like so many Adams and Eves just like religionists wanted to return to the perfection of the first couple. Surely these are the same places, gotten to by different means? Each said the other was taking the wrong bus to the shining city on the hill. Each said the other was on the bus to hell. Each worked on the road of good intentions. In the way were the road blocks of anyone who didn’t think like them. Yes, astoundingly similar beliefs hidden in a blizzard of words, theories and ideas. Even worse were those who maintained that there was a teleological, etiological and dialectical analysis that could enlighten the unenlightened. Not that the not-so-bright would ever understand those words. It was a good thing, therefore, that the leaders all had vast shelves of texts backing up their central core scripture. Some scripture was more literal than others, but still they were mere words to be interpreted by the leaders of the faithful as they led us into the land of milk and honey. Make no mistake about it, every faith and theory had its scripture, no matter what they called it, or how much they likened it to anything other than the received words of a higher power.
In the midst of this froth of similarity bobbled the small ship of liberty. An idea that had been around for millenia, too. But it was a weak theory. For it could have no scripture. It could have no received texts for interpretation. It didn’t even want a leader. What liberty was was the absence of all that preceded it. There was no divine right, there was no order of belief. Nor was there anything like a plan or a theory. What there was was what everyone actually did. Liberty was simply the actions of men and women doing what they thought best at any given moment. Systems had power and a plan, a leader and a mission. Liberty was defined by the system as anything that did not conform to the system. Liberty was not about systems as a general whole. It was about how you could survive as comfortably as you could within the technological means at your disposal. Liberty was the ideal for some people, but far fewer than were needed to bring about such a true time of peace and happiness. For liberty always tended to create wealth, which allowed people to pursue their interests. Which kept them peaceful. Liberty had had a rough time in the five millenia of human history.
At least until the United States was born. Until then, not one country on earth, not one inch of the landmass of the planet, was ever set up on the basis of liberty. That the United States was not a perfect example of the ideal was a simple matter of history. The anti-liberty forces had come first. They left behind powerful vestiges of their system; things like slavery and excessive laws and religious institutions. But finally in one place and time there were enough people who were liberty minded and constrained by the limitations of technology to have to be for liberty. They had no choice, for they were in a literal wilderness. They had to cooperate within the dictates of liberty. They had to operate without a system, for there was no system present. So the country was born. For the next nearly 150 years the idea of liberty spread. The nation went through wrenching periods of bloodletting like the Civil War and civil protests, but liberty spread. Yet, the ideas of systems lurked underneath it all, for systems had 5000 years of human history on their side. Plus, typically, system planners lurked in the corners of society plotting their come back. For systems gave power, and power over other men was a powerful aphrodisiac.
Planners were helped along by the confusion of words. They were helped along by their own failed plans, which lead other self-proclaimed founders of the true faith to rise up to solve the problems of this world. Slowly the forces of the system reasserted itself. By the Second World War they were in control of the mechanisms of the press, the government and more importantly, the language. For their mush words began to be the received wisdom. Soon the language went further and further afield, to such things as the disappearance of the tax cut. Now it was a revenue expenditure. Actually letting people keep their own money was now considered more properly described as the government not taking it. And systems people always thought all the wealth belonged to society, as they had for five thousand years.
There were tens of thousands of other examples of the debasement of the language. There was even a word to describe it, Orwellian. As the post war years of the modern era rolled along, the incremental increase in the power of the state, of the system and the planners, continued. The belief that there was one and only one best way to do something came creeping back. It was an ancient idea, writ large in the pyramids of Egypt. It was insidious, and seemingly unstoppable. The world was caught up in it. To a degree, the United States caught the disease because of two infections. One was the influx of people who never completely lost their faith in systems. The other was our close involvement with the systems of Europe and Asia. The biggest problem, though, was that liberty has virtually no defenses against word confusion and planners. People with liberty were too busy doing whatever it was they thought they should be doing to pay attention to those who were seizing the power of the state.
That’s what everything really boiled down to. The power of the state was overwhelming. The majesty of a leader with men with weapons at their side is a nearly unstoppable force. People of liberty merely wanted to be left alone. And because they were alone it was them against the state. Organizing liberty minded people was like nailing jelly to a wall. The power of the state was what theorists wanted. It was what great and grand men, and women too, wanted. They knew what was best for the people. Their faith told them so. The faith was true, it was unquestionable. It was the received wisdom of the ages. All else had been tried and found wanting, said the new planners of our generation. “We have the way,” they said, “follow us.” They said it after each failed system brought about an angry mob to listen to the next promiser of a perfect world at peace and harmony. “Follow me, do what I say, and we shall arrive at the promised land,” they said, in one way or another. It didn’t make a difference what the actual words were, it was the sentiment that counted. As it had for millenia, it all sounded so believable. So these new leaders were followed, and those who did not want to follow were taken care of according to the precepts of the leaders. Some were nastier than others, true, but all had to practice and perfect oppression to create their Nirvana.
The forces of liberty, however, wanted to be left alone. Alas, they were hemmed in tighter with each passing year. As always, it came almost to the point that to argue for liberty of action and thought, deed and ideal, was suspected as being against the people. Our modern times were no different. That’s where we were in the early part of the second millennium reckoned by Christ, and the 5th reckoned by writing and the umpteenth reckoned by archeology. So said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. So said the security forces and the peace officers. Their line went something like “Liberty thinkers are dangerous to society for they are against togetherness.” It was nigh unto sin and heresy to think of liberty as a goal. “People of liberty did not have society in mind,” the powers that be said over and over again. Though never saying it as clearly, succinctly or as eloquently as that. Thus the people of liberty could be, and were, construed to be against society. It seemed obvious to the system promoters that society had the interests of the people at heart. What was their proof after so many examples of failure? The promoters of society clearly said it was true. They had a theory. What more did they need?
Now, here, in supposedly the most modern time in world history, and things were not so much different than they were when Hammurabi was writing the first code of law. It only seemed different because of the technology and the words used. The forces of planning according to theory were in power in even the most liberty minded place on earth, the United States. The cost of liberty is not eternal vigilance during times of war. It is eternal vigilance in times of peace that is more necessary. For it is in times of peace and prosperity that the demigods of planning could claim to know what to do with all the resources so that everyone got enough. The goal of every religion is for everyone to have an equal share and cooperate in getting it. The goal of every social engineer, socialist and communist, and fascist and authoritarian is for everyone to have an equal share and cooperate in getting it. Astoundingly alike goals that are presented as different because of the words used in their self-created and self-appointed jargon that proclaimed themselves different. Each purveyor of these vials of snake oil was like any other salesman. He had a better deal for you and don’t listen to the false claims of the other snake oil salesmen.
These were the times we were in when the final descent of the nation began. It was a long and tortuous process, but one that was clear to those who would see. The sounds of it were available to those with ears to hear. It was plain to those who watched the geometric crescendo of laws and plans and rules and regulations. Only the words had been changed to the American vernacular. So it confused the same purposes of the European religio-socialist powers that ruled there. And they were different than the communist words of the last dictatorships of the proletariat. The words could have been uttered by Eastern potentates at any point in history, too. But it was the same siren call of planning, working together for the common good, and fed with calls for “let’s all get on the same page in a non-partisan manner.” That was the mantra of the era. It was the post-World War II era and the need to all cooperate together was expressed in countless fashions. Not least of which was the United Nations, and the European Union, and the World Health Organization and the forces of Global Warming. Yes, we were all in it together. And we were heading for hell in a hand basket that we ourselves were carrying.
From among the people born in these times came the future leaders of the country. It was no different than another generation of America. It was Ronald Reagan who had pointed out to his Modern America the ever renewing nature of America. But even he too was part of the renewal, for as far long ago as De Tocqueville’s travels the constant renewal of America was obvious. As were the contradictions between the religiosity of so many and the secular nature of the government. Of course, this tension, so difficult to understand, was the very essence of what made Modern America the most important nation on earth. For it is the tension born of liberty that feeds the creative and productive juices of a people. Conversely, the more alike everyone is and the more alike what they are allowed to do, the more stultifying was the culture and the more poor the economy. It was obvious, but most people refused to look at the reality. They wanted the myths and the hopes, and the theory and the plan that would enable their dreams to become reality.
So too, when you thought about it, were all the generations that had come before this one. For from such tension and renewal came such men as all the presidents of the United States since Truman took office. Franklin Roosevelt was patrician enough that one could think he was groomed for the presidency since the day he was born. He was part of that peculiar institution called American Royalty. Many people thought it was a continuous group of families since before the Revolution. But that was not the case in America. People rose up from humble beginnings and took the public by storm. Then they would have children who were said to be the new generation of American Royalty. Then those children would fall flat and the family would disappear as the wealth of the first generation was dissipated by the profligacy of the second and third generations. So powerful people, and their families, came and went in the dynamic society that was America.
There were, however, large numbers of people who held the idea that there was some indeterminate number of rich families in America controlling the country since its inception. These families were said to be a constant fixture in America. Somehow, they were keeping everyone else down. It was bandied about that these families were in control and no matter what anyone else did they would never rise to the top of the heap. This was not the case, of course. But it sounded good. And in modern times just sounding good was enough. Logic and reason, facts and figures, reality and rational thought had long been tossed away. What was left was emotion. The residue was mere hormonal impulses. “Knee jerk response” was another phrase that was applicable. After all, how exactly anyone was kept down was a mystery, for more and more rich people came along. How anyone was prevented from climbing up the social ladder was never exactly defined. It was merely said to be happening. There was no evidence. But what was evidence anymore? Why bother with it, when emotions could be stirred? Still, with each generation or two a completely new cast of characters came along in the public and political scenes. No one could ever predict who would rise to the top of the stew. For America was not a deterministic society, it was a dynamic society. Not everyone liked that dynamism. Certainly less people truly understood it, and it is hard to explain. These people longed for a return to the stability and constancy of royalty and theology, and their modern counterparts, socialism, and determinism. For dynamism scared them.
“People can just do what they want?” That’s what the deterministic asked themselves, and everyone else they encountered, too. “That’s just too dangerous for me to contemplate,” was their response to their own question, for they were afraid. Just as kings of old were afraid when people did their own thing. “That’s dangerous to society, and we can’t have that.” Of course, the question was asked in a thousand different ways, and the answers were legion. But these sentiments summed it up: Freedom to do what you want? What? And be against society? And thus systems got their supporters. And supporters got their presidents. Though, few people actually referred anymore to those old words of royalty, theology and socialism and their theory of determinism. They were freighted with the baggage of the past. Instead, things were couched in new words. People were now commanding, and progressive, and socially responsible, and a host of even more innocuously seeming labels that hid the true philosophical underpinnings of their thoughts. And that underpinning was determinism as determined by a leader, as had been the case for millenia.
The fact that Chris Tomas was born in 1974 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was not that noticeable. Only later was it considered an event of note. That Eric Robinson was born in Baton Rouge ten years before Chris was another unimportant fact at the moment when it occurred. When Eric was a 10 year old boy running around in shorts on a summertime lawn it could not possibly be foreseen that he would have a major impact on the country. When Chris came along, he, too, was considered to be just another child born into the freest, richest, most complex dynamic society that the world had ever seen. And yet people said they were not part of American Royalty, so they could never rise to the top. The playing field was not level. Life was unfair, and perilous and filled with vagary. And it was said by more and more supporters of each succeeding president that this was not good for America.
The United States hummed along quite slowly, despite seeming to be a land of action and change. But in fact, the nation was two separate entities. One was the dynamic of the people. The society was rich and complex because of what people did and were not prevented from doing. It was the government that moved along at a snail’s pace. There was no rushing the machine that was the federal government. It was such a lumbering giant that all the people who called for change with each new president were sorely disappointed when they realized that it was impossible to ever really affect change as it is commonly understood. The country wasn’t revolutionary, it was evolutionary. Things that in the private world would take days and weeks, or at most months, in the public world of the nation took months and years, if not decades. Thus Eric and Chris grew up in a complacent society. No one expected real change, except of the most incremental sort. It was also apparent to anyone who bothered to look that the majority of the people in the nation didn’t want change. They wanted the stasis and security of the status quo. The few people who were always calling for radical change were always just humored, if not shunted aside, because they didn’t seem to grasp that the nation was a lumbering giant. It was not a quick moving beast at all. The nation did not move at the word of the president. It was sloth-like in its slowness and people just did what they wanted. This made some people clamor for more power for the president. “For real change,” they argued. “Change we can see and feel. Change for the better.” They were mantras, though for exactly what sort of change no one could say. Or worse, they would not say.
Change was a vague institution in America. Everyone wanted it, but no one could define it. Plus, each thing that could be subject to change had a lot of people behind it wanting to keep it exactly like it was. So any change clamored for had to be vetted and approved by people who simply did not want change. Thus there were far more sweeping proposals made while far fewer actual incremental tinkering with the laws and the rules and the programs occurred. This, too, made the people clamoring for change angry. They were, however, hopeless to affect the changes that they wanted. They lulled themselves into a stupor thinking that one day their man would become president and then things would really change. They were delusional, pretty much, for that hadn’t happened since the Civil War. The whole system was rigged to make sure there were no real big changes, which did not satisfy reformers of any stripe.
Young Eric grew up and got his influences from the church he belonged to and the evangelical milieu in which he traveled. It was a world that called for change. Radical change if necessary, to bring the country to the moral values which this group of people thought had been decaying for a century or more. This group of Christian Evangelicals thought that the country was on the road to ruin if major changes were not affected. They had supported Republican presidents for decades in the hope of change that they wanted. What they got was the incrementalism that was the hallmark of the American political system. They were always disappointed. Yet, the only thing they could do was rally behind the next Republican who said he would bring about the moral reawakening of the nation. Instead, the courts kept expanding rights and bringing more people into the fold of the American Republic and spreading liberty. And the people got richer. This was opposite to what the evangelists wanted.
It was the gay issue that really set the Evangelicals on edge. For with this issue they thought they had the clear word of God on their side. They thought that history had shown that empires always fell when gays achieved any rights or acceptance. They pointed knowingly to the Roman Empire. They were wrong, of course, for history showed no such thing. What history showed was that the Roman Empire rotted out from within because of ever increasing taxes and an ever more powerful central government that trampled people’s rights. While at the same time the Empire was beset by hordes of invaders that were simply far more numerous and dedicated to winning than the Romans were. Anything gay that went on in the Empire was pretty much hidden and non-existent. It was later historians who dwelt on this, especially since it was the early Catholic Church which wrote the history of the Roman Empire and laid her demise to decadence. They did this so that they could convince people to be Catholics. Especially when in fact the Empire fell not that much after it adopted Christianity. In a sense it could be said that Catholicism is what destroyed the Empire. It was perhaps even prim and proper rectitude that wrecked the dynamic society. In any event, it was very ancient history. So ancient that no one could really say for sure what happened. That was because there were no records, no documentation and no evidence beyond the later writings of people with a political ax to grind.
Chris, 10 years behind in everything, grew up with the free thinking anti-government ideas that his Eastern European heritage brought to the table. Eric was from the law and order side of listening to the rules set down by elders. Chris was from a far more libertine environment. One that revolved around the free ideals of individual rights. Thus these two men saw the world in different ways. There was little they would ever have agreed on if they ever had the chance to meet and discuss things. Except perhaps they could agree that the sky was blue and the grass was green. But they never met. Why would they? They were 10 years apart in age; they traveled in different social circles and they had completely different life experiences. In fact, Eric was from the sort of family that thought that immigration was not good for the country. They had long thought that. And Eric learned it from his grandfather and his father, and his uncles and other relatives and family friends. Chris grew up not only thinking that immigration was good, but knew it was because he was part of it. He was the direct product of his grandparents moving to America. In his family it was impossible to be anti-immigrant. Eric’s family were immigrants once, of course. As all American families were. But it was such a long time ago that it was impossible to know for sure when any member of his ancestry ever arrived. It was like the Robinson family had simply been created in the United States and there was no need for further discussion on the issue. This produced two very different men. Two men who would come to clash in a way that history would be made. A history that was not part of the usual America experience, and yet something which the nation seemed destined to get to even before either of them were born.
Chris’s family had been fighting theologists for centuries. The whole tradition of Central Europe was to fight the Catholic Church. The Reformation started in Prague, not Wittenburg. Chris was only dimly aware of the history of his heritage. He knew he had to explain his last name often enough, but that was the extent of it. He knew something of the teachings of Jan Hus if only because his grandparents had spoken of it. But there was no Hus Church in Baton Rouge, so the family fell back on the Freethinking religious traditions. They did not attend a physical church. Their church was where they were. Their deeds were more important than the protestations of faith that the Robinson family set forth each Sunday. While Chris was taught to help his fellow man, Eric was taught that the other people, however defined, were somehow inimical to the existence of the Republic and good God-fearing people. While Chris learned tolerance and a live and let live attitude, Eric was imbued in a sort of undercurrent of hatred. Hatred for those who were not Evangelical Christians to begin with, and hatred for the system that allowed such apostasy to reign across the nation. Eric and his family saw cities like San Francisco, Miami and New York as hotbeds of heathenism. Chris and his family saw the same cities as the font of much of the wonderful things that technology and the culture gave to the nation. These were two very different world views. They were bound to clash. If the two men would have have met each other perhaps it could have been avoided. Eric was a determinist who determined that change was needed. Chris was for liberty and didn’t really care what people did so long as they left him alone.
That two such different men, from two such different backgrounds could be born in the same city and know the same place was part of the American miracle. It was the envy of the world. Yet there were nefarious forces at work to destroy it. Both of these men would play their part in the sweep of history. Yet, then, as kids in the heat of summertime, they were unaware as to whether they would play a part in the process at all. They were just two kids growing up in a mid-sized American city. They were oblivious to nearly everything except what was going on around them. Yet, both showed that spark of intelligence and drive that was not part of so called normal kids. That set them on the paths they were to follow, and that would bring them to their monumental clash.
And that’s the opening pages of Stalin Giggled:
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