By Michael Carin
The spark that ignited Nicolae Ceausescu’s downfall is worth recalling at this juncture of American history.
Several months ago in Washington, an event occurred that speaks volumes about the profound illness that has overtaken our southern neighbour. At the height of the uproar over the policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexican border, the president of the United States spoke to a gathering of highly placed business people. When the man who has been indisputably documented to be a pathological liar defended his administration’s policy – the policy of taking toddlers from their mothers – half of the audience applauded. The other half sat motionless. No one spoke up. No one walked out.
Think about that. A large group of prominent Americans remained silent as they listened to a defence of the indefensible. Whether intentional or not, their reaction rendered them complicit. Ironically, the shameful timidity of those American business leaders brings to mind a very different kind of event that took place in Romania in 1989.
Nicolae Ceausescu had been the communist dictator of Romania for nearly a quarter century. He ruled with an iron fist. He permitted no hint of opposition. His tenure evolved into a cult of personality. In December of 1989, after communism had fallen in other Eastern European countries, Ceausescu called for a giant rally in Bucharest’s central square. He meant to demonstrate to the world that his regime remained indestructible.
Several minutes into Ceausescu’s speech however, the crowd began to heckle him. He was incredulous. He demanded a stop to the unprecedented disturbance, but the defiance continued. The booing spread. A jeering chant went up. Ceausescu and his wife soon had to retreat from the crowd. Eventually they fled the city as open revolt broke out.
This was the pivotal moment that decided the dictator’s fate. A cowed, beaten, impoverished people woke up to their own power. By making their voices heard, they could annul the oppression and naked deceit that had deformed their lives. Four days after the uprising in Bucharest, Ceausescu was arrested, given a summary trial, and executed. The world cheered.
Return now to 2018 and the spectacle of proud, strong, free Americans listening to their president as he recited ugly and fraudulent words off a teleprompter. Not a single individual in a roomful of wealthy business people rose to voice disgust at a policy that compelled the ripping of babies from the arms of their mothers. Did they all check their American DNA at the door? Did they forget their First Amendment right to yell “fire” when they see a pyromaniac in the Oval Office?
We should of course ask those questions, but I have a better one for our American friends as they tolerate a confirmed serial liar in the White House who appears intent on undermining the pillars of their country’s liberal democracy:
When are you going to begin, in a serious way, to hoot down your would-be authoritarian president from the hallowed pulpit he has defiled? The world is waiting to cheer.
Michael Carin’s novel of alternate history, Churchill At Munich, is available at The Senior Times for $9.95. Call 514-484-5033.