Who Are They?
By: Guest Authors
By: Christine Biediger
I have been fascinated by communists for most of my life. I have no idea why, other than a nagging question — who are they? Like most people, I went through life assuming that communism was something that existed someplace else. Not here. Not in America. Then, several years ago, I stumbled upon the fact that for the past one hundred years, there have been American citizens who identify as communists, who wish to destroy the very fabric of what makes this country great. This effort has, of late, gained a remarkable foothold, largely within our young adult population. Again, I wonder — who are these people? Why can they only see the negative side effects of capitalism and never the overwhelming abundance of good that is enjoyed by all, when markets are driven by competition and demand? Why do they see this country as evil, in spite of the vast examples of blood and treasure that we have spent, helping others in this world?
Neither a historian, nor a psychologist, I am simply an observer. From everything I have read about Marxism and communism (which is vast), together with observations, there appear to be two categories of people who embrace Marxism:
1) The shepherds (Marxist intellectuals) — These people may or may not believe that socialism/communism could really be a viable, successful, sustainable economic structure. What they certainly understand clearly is that under communism, there will be an elite few at the top who have all the power, and the masses will be at the bottom with none. The power is wielded by those in control. These Marxist elite determine to herd the sheep to the slaughter (so to speak), in an effort to be on the power side of the equation.
2) The lambs — These people are seekers. They are people who have no self-identity, so they drift from fringe group to fringe group, recognizing and clinging to the other seekers that these groups comprise. They are generally lost souls, who would grasp at whatever lifeline is thrown at them. Fringe groups are numerous, and communism is just one type of group. But they prey upon the seekers because they are easy targets — hungry, lost sheep. The lifeline they throw to them is acceptance, and the illusion of an identity.
Sadly, looking at the videos, photos and stories of the OWS protests, these sheep are plentiful. They are mostly young adults. What caused them to become lost lambs?
I have worked with children and young adults, most of my life. I see them as puzzles. They start out with all the pieces separated out, turned face up, and scattered over a work surface. By the time they start school, their parents have put together the edge pieces. Ideally, all of the edge pieces are in place and form a perfect framework for the rest of the puzzle. Sadly, many times there are gaps, sometimes sections that have been incorrectly joined. Once in school, every encounter with an adult will result in either a new piece added, or one carelessly flipped off the table to be lost under furniture or seat cushions. By the time these children are young adults, the picture that results from the connection of all the pieces is either recognizable and distinct, or obscured from the pieces that were lost or misjoined.
Years ago, I was a music teacher in a prosperous, state capital city. A second grade student I’ll refer to as Katherine, was a child of two prominent attorneys. One parent was an appointed government official with tremendous responsibilities. Both parents were fine people who committed a great deal of time serving their careers, as well as their community. They raised this child in what most would consider a mansion, and provided her with the best of everything. She was a happy child.
But there was a piece of the puzzle that was out of place. Every time I saw her, she had on the best, most coordinated clothing money could buy. But, they were always rumpled, and her hair was a rat’s nest. Over time, I found out that her nanny would get her bathed and ready for bed at night, because both parents were still working late into the night. But Katherine was not put to bed in cozy pajamas. Instead, she was dressed for bed in the clothes that she was to wear to school the next day. This was done so that one of the parents could quickly wake her, get her in the car (where she ate her breakfast), and drop her at school, as efficiently as possible. Her hair looked as though she had slept on it wet, and maybe had a quick comb through in the morning (maybe).
I think about Katherine, often. By all accounts, she was very much loved by her parents. But even the simple morning routine of changing out of pajamas into a fresh outfit, and having her mother brush the tangles and crinkles from her hair, was a piece of her puzzle that was not put in place. How many other pieces were lost as her parents pursued their high-powered careers? How many pieces of my children’s puzzles were lost while my focus was on other things? How many of our children recognize the picture of their puzzle, once they become adults? Or are they now lost, seeking the picture — their identity? As far too many of my generation focused all of our time and efforts in the struggle up the corporate and career ladder, I fear that too many lost sheep were created. Is the anger they now direct at corporate America due to some true injustice they wish to change? Or is it really misdirected anger at what they subconsciously recognize corporate America to represent, for them? Namely, the pieces of their puzzle that were lost as their parents were striving to be at the top of that corporate America? Are they really just protesting their parents?
Everyone wants to find the hero that can swoop in to office and heal our broken land, with a quick solution. There are no quick solutions. That’s why we don’t have the perfect candidate. The solution involves each one of us realizing that children really are our future. We — and by that I mean all of us — are responsible for piecing together the puzzle of children. Obviously, with our own children, we must commit a dedicated workspace for the puzzle — one where pieces will not be carelessly brushed on the floor. We must work at the puzzle every day. We must build their self-esteem. Not through fake praise about each and every thing they do, but by connecting with our children in meaningful ways. Find time to chat with them without distraction. Take an interest in their friends, ideas and observations. Praise that which is praiseworthy, and encourage their failed attempts. Kids are smart — if you praise everything (including the failures), they will know your praise is untrustworthy. And they may end up drifting in mediocrity, as they won’t recognize true excellence.
For those children we encounter every day, who are not our own, we must all remember that we have a responsibility toward the completion of that picture, as well. Instead of walking past the Girl Scout cookie table, or slamming the door in the face of a child with a fundraiser, make a positive contact with them. Open the door, make eye contact, acknowledge them, and simply explain that you can’t afford to help them at this time. Sincerely wish them luck, and you will have added a piece to their puzzle. No human being likes rejection, whether direct or indirect, and for children it is amplified. Offer children and young people encouragement and a friendly smile. We all help the picture of their identity take shape, whether we want that responsibility, or not.
This is no quick fix. But it is a necessary fix. Look at these protestors. I have wondered if Katherine, now all grown up, is one of the up-and-coming Wall Street executives who walks past OWS in her business suit, carrying a sharp brief case and Mocha Latte on her way to work. Or, rather, is she one of the protestors, lost and searching for her identity, who just crawled out of a sleeping bag with some guy who didn’t even bother to ask her name? Does she hope to achieve the American Dream, or does she hold some crazy ideology that capitalism should be overthrown and money abolished? Does she walk by these people and wonder, “Who are they?” Or, does she sit among them with her pathetic little anti-American sign, and wonder, “Who am I?”