We have been looking at some of the highlights of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, Between Two Millstones: Book I: Sketches of Exile 1974-1978.
“To me it was clear that Communism could not last forever. It was decaying from within, chronically ill, but on the outside seemed immensely powerful, marching forward with great strides! And it was marching forward because the hearts of the affluent people of the West were timid, timid due to that very prosperity. But with Communism, as with thugs, you must show unrelenting toughness. In the face of toughness they will relent, toughness they respect.” (p. 183)
We can adapt those words to our own situation. We might say, “It is clear that the U.S. can not last forever. It is decaying from within, but still seems powerful. Our timid Christian hearts have refused to stand firmly for God’s truth. But with the Deep State thugs, we must show unrelenting toughness. If we show toughness, along with hearts willing to obey God in every particular, He will support us.”
S presciently foresaw the weakness and death of the Soviet Union. Perhaps we should begin to understand the weakness and approaching death of the U.S. It will be our job to replace Deep State thuggery with something better! Can it be done? Stay tuned; we may be about to find out in the next few decades.
“Silence and solitude: without them I cannot manage. It was a great task for me to turn away from my work and drag my soul into this fleeting and fast-flowing political battle, initially by forcing myself, and then at full speed. The most difficult thing is overcoming one’s inertia, changing directions; once one is in motion, heading in the direction one has chosen, much less effort is needed.” (p. 183)
In a long drive, a Russian emigre
“gave me a taste of the seething and bilious tangles and intrigues of Washington’s inner circles, which turned out to be more sinister and heartless than I had pictured. The country was not being run by responsive and humane men, but by cynical politicians.” (pp. 183-184) I would say that nothing has changed for the better since 1974 or 1975.
His wife Alya gave him practical advice on how to give his speeches. He followed her advice, “and immediately a great weight fell from my shoulders.” (pp. 184-185) Throughout the book it is clear that Alya was profoundly valuable to S in countless ways.
He gave two confident and challenging speeches in the U.S. and it was only with the passing of a few years that he looked back with surprise at his confidence then. By then he no longer saw America as a staunch ally in Russia’s quest for liberation. “Definitely not!” (p. 186)
Henry Kissinger was instrumental in steering President Ford away from meeting with S. (p. 187) However, eventually S was invited to the White House, but he declined the spur of the moment invitation. (p. 191)
In the two weeks which had passed since his speeches, the mainstream American press “missed no opportunity of tearing my speeches apart.” (p. 189) “The free American press is entirely deaf to whatever is not to its advantage, preferring to hear what it wants to hear.” (p. 189) That was about 45 years ago–more than a generation. Today Main Sleaze Media is even far worse. But it is important to remember that they were horrible even then.
Vice-president Nelson Rockefeller, whom S found “unprepossessing,” (p. 191) tried to persuade S to meet with Kissinger, but S had begun to become wary.
“And by now I was resolved that it would be best never to meet with people who seem to have an opaque agenda, which could lead to their later giving the meeting a false interpretation. This has become my general principle.” (p. 192)
S well understood that his writing was central to his being. He called half of his archive “half of my life.” (p. 193) His life was the writing, based of course largely on the archives he was able to collect and protect from destruction.
For S and Alya, “Our unrelenting predicament was how to raise our children abroad but as Russians.” (p. 194)
S briefly notes that in 1945 the Great Powers (which included the U.S., by the way), “in an act of cowardice, had delivered Russian soldiers and refugees to Stalin” (p. 194) This is 100% true. The Secret Betrayal by Nikolai Tolstoy is only one of a small handful of books which expose this perfidious behavior. I would guess that not one in ten thousand Americans has heard of this evil done by our fathers and grandfathers. A true history of this country will take at least one full generation to begin to recover–when we begin to have truth tellers willing to speak, and the rest of us are willing to listen and understand.
S, as a writer, was occasionally blessed with what he calls ‘”avalanche days.”‘ Ideas and deductions keep coming at a rapid pace.
“You must seize them all before they slip away, you must write them down, faster and faster, the first, second, third idea, you are fired up, you cannot stay at your desk, you keep pacing and pacing, and thoughts, images, scenes keep coming and coming–if only I were able to capture at least some of them with rough jottings, to get a few ideas on paper.” (p. 198)
S recounts three incidents in a brief period of time in which he was quoted in interview form–but the interviews had never taken place! And this was by supposed allies!
“This was piracy, a living person treated as if he were dead! So this was the freedom of the press! These people from the Right were as dangerous as those from the Left, ready to skin one alive.” (p. 198)
In passing we have to note how unprincipled is Mainstream Conservatism in our own day. They seem to be getting worse and worse. But S experienced their dishonesty more than a generation ago.
S was forced to go to court to protect one segment of his writing. Going into details would be mind-numbing for me and for you, but part of S’s response is clear and should remind us of the kind of world we are forcing ourselves to live in.
“This was perhaps the first time, but I was to notice it in the future too: in legal clashes there is a physical sensation of tension in the upper chest, the tensing of muscles one feels in hand-to-hand combat, in this case a pointless tensing of the muscles, since this is a combat of souls. It is not a combat for which souls are suited: it is too low for them, and therefore a degrading encounter. (And then there is a long-term effect, an emptiness in the chest.) Legal battles are a profanation of the soul, an ulceration. As the world has entered a legal era, gradually replacing man’s conscience with law, the spiritual level of the world has sunk.” (p. 202)
Even if you were completely innocent, would you like to have your fate be decided by the American court system? I didn’t think so. If we start to rebuild civilization, one of our goals will need to be that we defend truth and innocence in our courts. Note the word if.
If possible, I will continue with a sixth part next week.