25th Year Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall 11/18/2014
Free, and Not Free, in 2015 2/3/2015
Mao Zedong 11/27/2016
Fidel Castro, Cuba, and the United States 11/28/2016
25 Year Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
11/18/2014 On November 9th, 2014, 300,000 Germans and others gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the most important historical events of the last century. The fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the beginning of the end of the Soviet Communist dominance of European and Asian nations and the victory of the free, democratic, and capitalistic countries that were led by the United States. In the U.S.A., however, we have no major celebrations. Why is this? Germany after World War II After World War II, the winners of the war divided Europe into two spheres. The United States, Great Britain, and France were in charge of establishing order and helping the western nations rebuild. The Communist Soviet Union was in charge of the East. The victors promised that all Europeans would enjoy free elections and determine their future on their own. However, the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, lied and militarily forced the people of Central and Eastern Europe to become communist and follow the will of the Soviet Union. Western Germany was free and Eastern Germany was under the Communists. Berlin, the capital city of Germany, was located in Eastern Germany. Berlin was also divided into a Soviet sphere and a free sphere.
What is Communism? Communism is a political philosophy developed by 19th century German Karl Marx, but the ideas have existed for thousands of years. In a communist country, everyone is supposed to share everything. Nobody is allowed to own private property, and all people are supposed to have an equal amount of material things. In practice, communist countries are led by totalitarian regimes. Communist leaders treat their citizens like slaves, and make life miserable or kill those under their control. Communists control their citizens, don’t allow basic liberties, such as free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to vote. In the 1900s, communist countries also tortured and murdered over 100,000,000 people.
Communism in Eastern Europe under the Soviet Union A few years after the end of World War II, it was clear that the communist Soviet Union was not going to allow the Central and Eastern Europeans their freedom. Through propaganda, murder, and brutal oppression, the Soviets kept the Europeans under control. At varying times, individual countries tried to overthrow their rulers, but to no avail. In 1956 the Soviet militarily crushed the Hungarians, and in 1968, the communist countries crushed the Czechoslovakia push for freedom.
Berlin during Communist Control of Europe While Western Europe modernized and became a beautiful place to live after World War II, Eastern Europe suffered greatly under the Communists. In the east, there was a lack of food and lack of clothing. Everything looked gray and even the buildings fell in disrepair. In Berlin, where there was a free Berlin and a communist Berlin, it was easy to see where the better life was. Even though the Communists didn’t allow anyone to leave, tens of thousands of East Germans escaped to West Germany through Berlin. The Communists decided to put a stop to this, and had a wall built around West Berlin. This was was not only concrete, but included guard dogs, guards in watch towers with machine guns, and a large no man’s land where people could be shot.
The Communists of Europe Lose Many attempts were made by the Communists to control West Berlin and to defeat the free countries of the west, but they were never successful. The main reason for defeat of Communism in Europe was the United States of America. The U.S.A. helped rebuild the west through generous gifts of money, people, and leadership. It occupied West Germany with 300,000 soldiers to show the Soviets they could not invade. Americans undermined the Communists by broadcasting American music, news, and events by radio to the Communist countries. The more the Communists taught their people that America was the enemy, the more the people loved America.
In the 1980s, American President Ronald Reagan drastically changed the American approach to ending Communism in Europe. Before him, the American policy was containment. The idea was that if the Communists were left alone, they would eventually fall. Reagan, however, followed a more aggressive policy. He challenged the Communists through words by calling the Soviet Union the Evil Empire. He built up American forces which made the Soviet Union to try and outspend the U.S. in building weapons. Reagan also place intermediate range missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet threat. The Soviet Union could not keep up with this challenge and started to loosen its grip on Central and Eastern Europe. Eventually, the Berlin Wall was broken by East and West Berliners scaling the walls and tearing it down, piece by piece. The Communists of Europe lost, the Soviet Union disintegrated, and the free countries of the west, led by the United States, won.
Where is the Celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in the U.S.A? Unfortunately, there were no great celebrations in the U.S. of the fall of the Berlin Wall. How could this be? How could a complete American victory for freedom over a philosophy and regime not be celebrated by the very people who led it? In 2009, President Obama was invited but turned down the offer to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall. Why didn’t he go? One writer, Jennifer Dyer, notes in her blog, “Obama doesn’t go celebrate a victory for people’s freedom from government because he doesn’t believe in freedom from government.” Read more at http://libertyunyielding.com/2014/11/09/one-guitar-25-years-fall-berlin-wall/#Tg1FAsB0Guj4efbh.99 She further explains that because President Obama has unfailing respect for governmental power, he does not like the idea that the west, led by the United States, defeated a regime whose aim was to control every segment of society.
What happened after World War II in Europe?
Who are the Communists?
How many people did Communists murder in the last 100 years?
What happened in Berlin, from 1961 to 1989?
According to one author, why has there not been huge celebrations for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism?
Free, and Not Free, in 2015
2/3/2015 “But the one thing that I’m very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a belief — a universal belief in the freedom of expression, is something that can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few,” Obama said in the statement. President Obama made these remarks as a reaction to the Islamic terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. However, while most Americans believe that freedom of speech should be a universal right, it is not. According to a recent article in the OC Register, 35% of the world is not free and 25% is partly free. Individuals in the world who enjoy freedom of speech are in the minority. Freedom of the press is the right to print what you think is true and is enjoyed by only 15% of the world’s population. This right is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the First Amendment. However, the right to a free press is one that many leaders do not their citizens to have. The right to a free press means that a journalist can report news that makes the leader look bad. In Russia, it is against the law to publish news that is not approved by the government, and journalists who opposed the government have been murdered. In China and Cuba, all news media is owned by the government. One aspect of freedom of expression is the right to organize politically. In much of the world, citizens are not allowed to start political parties or support political parties that do not get governmental approval. In the year preceding the U.S.A. 2012 Presidential election, the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) did not approve nearly 400 non-profit organizations that wanted to promote conservative ideas. Some think this helped President Obama win the election. In over 60 countries of the world, citizens are not allowed to start a political party and must vote for governmentally approved political organizations. There are countries in which citizens find it dangerous, but not illegal, to practice freedom of expression. In France during the beginning of January, Muslim terrorists attacked journalists at a satirical magazine, killing 12. The journalists had offended Muslims by breaking an Islamic law against depicting Muhammad. Even though there is no law in France against this, the journalists were murdered. The American news corporation CNN and the New York Times, as well as other American news organizations, have censored themselves, as well, by not showing images that are offensive to Muslims. They claim they are doing this out of respect for religion. Some think these news organizations are censoring themselves for their own protection, as they continue to show images that are offensive to Christians and Jews. Most of the countries that are not free are located in Asia and Africa and are either predominantly Muslim or atheist. The world’s most heavily populated country, China, and the world’s largest country by territory, Russia, are not free. All of the countries on the peninsula Arabia, except one, are both Muslim and not free. The only free country in Arabia is the Jewish country of Israel. All of the world’s communist countries are not free, and only one, Cuba, is located in North America. While it is easy for Americans to imagine that people all over the world live and think the same as we do, the facts are very different. Americans are part of a minority of people in the world who believe in and practice freedom of expression. The majority of the world’s leaders do not want their people to have freedom of expression, and, a great many citizens in countries also do not want to have this freedom. For example, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, there have been widespread rallies throughout Asia supporting the Muslim terrorists. Opposite what President Obama declared recently, freedom of expression is not a universal belief and its practice is the exception to the rule.
Questions 1. What does President Obama believe is a universal belief, that is, a belief shared around the world? 2. About what percentage of the world enjoys freedom of the press? 3. What does it mean to organize politically? 4. What do the countries that are not free have in common? 5. Task: Find out what the first amendment states. Why do you think the American Founding Fathers included this in the Constitution?
11/27/2016 By John De Gree
Next month marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Mao Zedong. Mao lived from 1893-1976 and is the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. From the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 until Mao’s death in 1976, he ruled as the country’s autocrat, or dictator. Mao established communism in China, and is responsible for the murder of 48 – 78 million Chinese. Historians think that Mao is the greatest mass murderer in the history of the world, in terms of number of people killed. As China is the most populous country on Earth, and as Communists are against the ideals of the United States of America, it is important to understand the history of Mao. Mao grew up in one of the wealthiest families in rural China, was an avid reader, and was interested in politics. When Mao was a young man, Chinese rebels fought the emperor and attempted to change the government of China. China had been ruled by an emperor for centuries, and the rebels wanted to establish a republic. Mao joined the rebel army as a soldier. The leader of the rebels was SunYat-sen. Sun Yat-sen established the Republic of China in 1912. Unfortunately, the Republic of China had many problems and didn’t resemble the United States Republic. Mao Zedong spent the next few years studying philosophers and history and forming his political philosophy. Mao thought he was smarter than others, and that because of this he believed he didn’t have to follow a moral code. He thought that if his actions produced what he thought was good, it didn’t matter if his actions were bad. His father didn’t respect Mao’s intellectual pursuits and stopped paying for Mao’s schooling. After graduation, Mao moved to Beijing to work and continue studying under a professor he respected and became active in politics. Mao worked in the university library, and increasingly became interested in the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marx and Engels had written about communism. According to Communists, everyone should be the same amount of money, receive everything they need, and everyone should serve the state over their family. Communists hated religion, because religious people love God over the state. In 1917, the Communist Party took over in Russia, and Mao started to imagine the same thing happening in China. The Communists in Russia believed that they could do anything they wanted, even murder people, in order to get what they wanted. Russian Communists outlawed religion and murdered tens of millions of people. Mao Zedong became the leader of the Communist Party of China until his death in 1976. From the 1920s until about 1949, the Communists fought various groups in China for control. On October 1, 1949, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China. Throughout this time, Mao attempted to force China to become the country he imagined. The Communist Chinese outlawed religion, private property, freedom of speech, the right to vote, and other liberties. In order to change China into what he wanted, Mao was in involved in the murder of 48 million to 78 million Chinese. We are not exactly sure of the number he killed because of problems involved in record-keeping. During the Korean War (1950-1953), the Communist North Korea fought the free South Korea, a republic. The United States of America supported the south and China supported the North. At times, Americans were fighting Chinese in Korea. Mao Zedong attempted to establish Communism throughout Korea. In 1953, the war ended with North Korea remaining Communist, and South Korea remaining a free republic. Today, American soldiers still guard South Korea from invasion by North Korea. Today, over 1.357 billion people are Chinese, and China is still officially a Communist country. In 2016, Chinese enjoy more liberties than when Mao ruled. There are also not the mass murders that existed under Mao. Still, Communist Party in China has control over all elements of life, Chinese do not get to vote for their leaders, and they are not able to speak or write against the government. Next month marks the 40th year anniversary of the death of one of the most influential persons of the 20th century. Great Discussion Questions to Ask Your Kids
Who was Mao Zedong?
Why does the author of the article think it is important to know the history of Mao?
How many people is Mao Zedong responsible for murdering?
What do Communists believe?
Why did Mao think it was alright for him to murder so many people?
Fidel Castro, Cuba and the United States of America
2/3/2015 Fidel Castro, Cuba and the United States of America On November 25th, 2016, one of the world’s brutal dictators, Fidel Castro, died. Fidel Castro led Cuba as its Communist dictator since 1959. During his 57-year rule, Castro was responsible for the murder, torture, and imprisonment of tens of thousands. Castro’s regime did not allow basic civil rights in Cuba such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. In addition, Castro did not allow Cubans to travel outside of the island and ordered his navy to kill those trying to leave by boat. Under Castro, the Cuban navy sank ships and used fire hoses to drown Cubans in the Pacific Ocean trying to escape island by boat. Cuba, 1492 – 1895 In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for Spain, and Spain quickly colonized much of North and South America. For the next four hundred years, Spain ruled Cuba. As Spanish colonies in the New World revolted in the early 1800s and countries such as Mexico gained independence, Cuba remained loyal. In the mid to late 1800s, Cubans wanted independence from Spain and fought for many years. In the Ten Years’ War (1868-78) Cubans struggled to break away, but Spain kept control of the island.
The United States of America and Cuba, 1895-1959 During the Second War for Independence (1895-98) the United States entered the war on the side of the Cubans, fighting what Americans call the Spanish-American War. The United States defeated Spain, and at the Treaty of Paris it was decided that Spain would surrender Cuba, Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The Americans gave Cuba its independence in 1901, but the U.S. insisted on the right to have a permanent naval base on Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), and claimed the right to militarily intervene in Cuban affairs should there be unrest. Over the next 60 years, the U.S.A. militarily intervened in Cuba on numerous occasions.
Cubans suffered under military dictatorships, and at times, the United States supported Cuban leaders who were undemocratic. Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) seized power militarily in 1933, was elected Cuban President in 1940, and he made himself rich through his connections as the Cuban President. In 1944, he left office and lived in Florida. While Batista was in Florida, Cuba became unstable and corruption was rampant. The American government supported Batista’s return to power in 1952, and for the next seven years he led Cuba as dictator. Batista did not tolerate anyone going against him, controlled the media, and arrested, tortured and executed those who he believed were Communists. It is not known how many he killed, and the number historians give ranges from 1,000 to 20,000 Cubans. Cuba, 1959 – Present Day In 1959, Communist Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro overthrew Batista. The Castro government nationalized (took over) all foreign owned businesses, and eventually took over all businesses owned by Cubans, as well. Communists believe that only the government should own property, and they do not trust businesspeople. Communists are also against religion, and anyone wanting to pray to God in Cuba is punished. In the first few years of the Castro regime, the Cuban government terrorized those who did not obey. Tens of thousands of Cubans were tortured and executed because they did not want to follow the Castro regime. Che Guevara, Castro’s chief enforcer, in response to questions about Castro's firing squads, said, "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
For the next few years, the U.S.A. tried to get Cuba back into its sphere of influence, but failed. In 1961, President Kennedy approved of a plan to support a group of Cubans to invade Cuba and conquer Castro. Called “The Bay of Pigs Invasion”, it failed miserably. In 1962, America realized that the Soviet Union was building a network of nuclear missile launch sites on Cuba. After a U.S. naval blockade, the Soviet weapons were withdrawn, and the U.S. promised to never invade Cuba, again. From 1962 on, Cuba was allied with the Soviet Union, America’s enemy throughout most of the second half of the 1900s. The Soviet Union gave Cuba money, food, and a great amount of support. Cuba after the Fall of the Soviet Union In 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart and could no longer give Cuba subsidies. As a result, Cubans suffer greatly from a lack of food and basic necessities. After 50 years of Communist rule, Cuba has become a poor country run by a government that only cares about itself. The Castro brothers are much older now, but they remain rich, as the average Cuban suffer. Thousands of Cubans are jailed because they oppose the Castros and the Communists, and many are executed for their beliefs. Whoever tries to escape Cuba and is caught is killed by the police or government.
President Obama has changed the United States policy towards Cuba from starving the Castro government to recognizing it as legitimate. President Obama thinks that increased American tourism and business will open up Cuba. Other Americans, like Senator Marco Rubio, argue that doing business with Cuba means helping the Castros stay in power. All foreign money spent in Cuba goes straight to the Communist leaders, so more American business means a richer Communist regime. The death of Fidel Castro has been met with diverse reactions from leaders in North America. President Obama wrote, "Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him," in a White House statement. President-Elect Donald Trump wrote, "The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation."
It is unclear if the death of Fidel Castro will have a great impact on the lives of Cubans. His brother, 85 year old Raul Castro, is currently the Communist leader of Cuba, and he has so far followed his brother Fidel’s model of repressive leadership. Interesting Questions You Can Discuss With Your Students and Kids:
Who controlled Cuba, from 1492 to 1898?
Who fought over Cuba from 1895-1898?
Who was Batista?
What did Fidel Castro do?
What do you think of the words of Obama, Trump, and Trudeau regarding Fidel Castro?
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