Wednesday, October 10, 2012

KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND HOLD YOUR TONGUE


October 10, 2012

They’d come up to me and whisper: “We’re not all like that.”  Not merely the anti-Communists but also ordinary non-political folks who just wanted to be able to speak their mind freely. This was 1967 in East Germany, part of Big Soviet Brother’s iron empire.
Out in public you zipped your mouth: everyone did. In their own homes, citizens could be human again – to a degree; always guarded, because children were constantly encouraged to rat their parents out to the Party. You could never be sure of appearances: Politburo functionaries and their acolytes would pose as dissidents to trap you. When appropriate, you praised the glorious system that kept a few greedy folks up and everyone else down. So you rah-rah’d for Russian subjugation and hoped they believed you.
What a way to live!
Fast forward - whrrrrp! - to 2012 and the East Germans talk freely, discuss politics, espouse various points of view without fear of repercussion. They inhale a euphoric mixture of air and freedom and 22 years after the collapse of communism it’s still the same. I’ve just returned from revisiting Berlin.
But let’s look at Walton County.
A vibrant young lady I know gave me a nod the other day and mouthed the word certain individuals in this area call treason: “Democrat.” At two different stores right here the owners told me they were Democrats but quickly begged me not to tell anyone. These are frightened people.
Is this our America? No, but it is definitely Walton County – a place where folks dare not voice an opinion for fear of reprisal from those who claim to speak for all. The scared storekeepers said their businesses would take a hit if their personal political views became known.
What a way to live!
We see it regularly in the pages of this newspaper – the bullyboy demands to silence any voice that doesn’t echo the Party line. In this case the Tea Party.
There I go again? With unimaginative repetition, columnists like Roy Roberts and, most recently, Don Ashworth, parrot Ronald Reagan’s one-liner as though it had some profound meaning, which it doesn’t. In his September 23 column, he re-runs his January 2, 2011 demand that this newspaper gag me, so, Mr Ashworth, there YOU go again!
“Wehner’s not saying what I’m saying, so shut him up!”
But what is Mr Ashworth saying? Well, he continues to insist President Obama closed the GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin in 2009 and advises “a little research”. But not via trusted sources such as the Washington Post and ABC News, oh no. The kind of skimpy research he does leaves an ‘n’ off Michele Bachmann’s name and calls her a California Democrat instead of the Minnesota Republican that she is.
Not paying attention means you don’t get your facts straight. He preaches a little research? I prefer a lot. Anyone who cares to look at Obama’s February 8, 2008 speech will find he didn’t “promise” to keep Janesville open. Nor was he in office June 3 when, at a shareholders’ meeting, CEO Rick Wagoner announced the closure, triggering an immediate protest letter from local Republican Paul Ryan. Nor on December 23 when the last GM vehicle was rolled out (50 Isuzu workers then completed a light truck order). All this is a matter of record with supporting photographs.
Certain Waltonians may prefer to believe the false story put out by Mr Ashworth, a man trying his hardest to make Obama the scapegoat.
And Reagan the saint. With those four famous words “tear down this wall” he did call out Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin. But the Gorbmeister refused. It fell to Lech Walesa  two years later to start a freedom movement in Poland that then snowballed into a total rejection of Communism throughout the Kremlin’s oppressive empire. So while Reagan made the call on June 12, 1987 nothing happened for 2½ years until the people themselves brought down the wall.
In the extreme world of Donald Ashworth any fact-checking organization is “left wing”; any opinion that makes him uncomfortable is “garbage” and a full direct quote is “an interpretation.” His column, just like those of Mr Roberts, is full of distortions, suppositions and insults. Without knowing a thing about me, Mr Ashworth claims I “couldn’t make it” in England and keeps calling me an Englishman when I’m not. Since he’s the After-The-Fact Nostradamus perhaps he’d like to make up his own story about why I went  behind the Iron Curtain in 1967 as well.
That’s how accurate his “little checked” facts are. And that’s the trouble with zealots. They base their opinions on very meager information or none at all – and then they shout down any dissent. No other voice is tolerated for fear it might cause the open discussion they’re afraid of. Our destination is national prosperity but they refuse to consider alternative routes.
How insecure must you be to want to muzzle those whose ideas don’t mimic your own!
There are indeed closet Democrats throughout Walton County. Like garlic against vampires, some of them display Romney-Ryan lawn signs to fend off the bullies. At the voting machine next month they’ll let their fingers do the whispering.

ENDIT

© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.