The last three years have been quite scary for me as I relived many things that I thought I left behind in communist Romania when I decided to immigrate to the United States in 1978.
I have deja vus every day. I wake up wondering what freedoms have I lost today completely, have been curtailed, or are in the process of being curtailed through laws that none of the Congressmen who voted for them have read. How much closer am I today to living in a totalitarian society?
I wondered to myself, "What happened to the separation of powers" and to the famous American "checks and balances?" What happened to the rule of law and equal under the law that Americans were so famous for? People shrug their shoulders, give me puzzled looks and cannot answer my questions. Everybody is putting their hopes on November's mid-term election and its outcome. What if the election does not turn the way we hope it will? What then? Are we going to be content to live under communism? International law? One world government?
These third world countries running the United Nations who desire and push for such one world government can barely run their own countries without a hefty handout and financial support from the United States. They are corrupt, fraught with civil and religious wars. Are we going to trust our future and fortune to a corrupt world government that hates America and everything that we stand for, who is biting the hand that feeds them and protects them from wars, harm and natural disasters?
I used to think Romanians were so fortunate to not know how unfortunately poor and miserable they were in their daily lives. Now I think how unfortunate it is that Americans don't know how fortunate they are to live in the world's best country. The question I ponder is, are we going to be able to sustain our superpower status? Are we going to be able to keep our freedoms?
I don't take my freedoms as a naturalized American citizen for granted. I thank God every day that he gave me the opportunity to immigrate to this heaven called U.S.A. where I could become what I wanted if I was only willing to work hard, learn, and seize the opportunity to become a better person every day, unencumbered by total government control. "Carpe diem," said the Romans, "seize the day," I could do so because America had freedoms.
I am still in awe that I can make an appointment in a timely manner with a wonderfully trained doctor who cares and is willing to listen to my aches and pains, is bound by the Hippocratic Oath and values human life.
I can go to an Emergency Room anywhere in the country and I am treated within a reasonable amount of time even though I may or may not have insurance. There is an ambulance that will come if needed, even a helicopter.
Ambulances were a joke under communism. They came with no staff, no emergency equipment of any kind, and arrived not just hours later but days. There were drivers who would stop on the way to the hospital to pick up hitchhikers in order to make extra money. If the patient had days to live from God, he/she would survive through the medical neglect and potholes on the way to the hospital. Often the ambulance drove straight to the morgue.
I don't take for granted the fact the I Can buy drugs that can ease my pain, cure my illness, or treat my symptoms. I still remember the pain as a teenager having root canal without anesthesia, blood spilling everywhere, screams of pain, while the dentist talked to his nurse and spat in my mouth. After five months of such torture, the tooth was pulled anyway. The root canal cost me nothing, but I got nothing but pain and torture.
Drugs were free, sort of, but the pharmacy shelves were always empty. I could bribe the pharmacist or buy them on the black market, if I had enough money. Black market prices for drugs were high if the low wages were considered. The communist elites decided how much each profession could earn. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, engineers made lower salaries than mechanics or miners. Farmers survived on next to nothing. Their lands had been confiscated and the communist co-operative decided how much grain they could get after they worked all year long, usually not very much.
Medical vaccinations in schools were done with the same three syringes and needles, boiled every morning in a rusty pan, not autoclaved. What saved me from Hepatitis and other blood born diseases what the fact that my last name started with A and therefore I was the first one to receive such injections.
Polyclinics and hospitals used the same boiling practices, washed and re-washed bandages, gauze, and cotton. Patients' families had to provide food, sheets, and nursing care to their sick ones while in the hospital. Doctors would send them on the black market to buy medicines in order to treat the patient as the hospital pharmacy had ran out of drugs and money to purchase them. Rationing was the way the communist government offered FREE care to everyone.
I have lost many family members to medical malpractice, lack of care, lack of drugs, gross medical negligence, and rationing of care based on age or lack of connections to the elites in power. People lingered for weeks in hospitals, ignored by medical staff, untreated, unfed, literally screaming in pain amidst wards of 30 beds lined up against the dirty walls, with no drugs available unless doctors and nurses were bribed.
We define civilization by our humanity. There was no humanity under communism. Life was worthless unless it was the life of those in power. A baby born with a slight handicap was left to die unattended and incinerated. Communists had no time or money for imperfect human beings, they were expendable. They also ignored and mistreated the elderly. It was a family's duty to care for the elderly.
Communism did not just fail socially and medically, they also failed economically. We always carried a shopping bag with us and lots of extra cash. There were no credit cards or checks. The one Central Bank did not allow checking accounts, only savings and withdrawals from savings. We had lots of cash on hand because we never knew when we might walk by a huge line, wrapping around for endless blocks, selling something. We never knew that the store was selling, but because the line was so huge, we knew, whatever it was, we needed it. There were chronic shortages of everything because planning was done centrally by the communist apparatchiks who pretended to know what economics was. Most of them were not educated at all, they were crass ideologues who carried the communist party line.
We were issued rationing coupons (looking like little stamps) for flour, cooking oil, sugar, butter, milk, and other staples. We could only eat vegetables and fruits in season. I will never forget my first trip to the American grocery store in January 1978! It was filled to the brim with every imaginable food that I had dreamed of when I was really hungry in Romania.
I remember being six years old and standing in line with my mom at 4 a.m. in frigid weather to buy one liter of milk, butter, and sour cream. Sometimes, when the store opened at 6 a.m., we were told that only 30 people in line would be lucky enough to buy that day because that is all the truck had brought in that morning. The rest of us had to go home empty-handed.
We did not buy milk to drink, we reserved it for babies, or for cooking. It was a luxury to have a hot cup of cocoa with milk. We could not even buy vitamins in order to supplement the lack of calcium in the diet. Vitamins were hard to find, only available if you got sick. Even then, the shelves were often empty.
The communist system failed us judicially. The justice system only favored the people in power, it was us, the proletariat, the unwashed masses, against the ruling communist elite. We had no due process, we were guilty until proven innocent. And the police was not there to protect us but to harass us.
The communist system did not allow us to pray to God, believe in God, own a Bible, or have Bible studies in the home. It was against the law! Only in marriage, baptism, and death were we allowed to go to church. Funeral homes did not exist so churches were the logical places for last rites.
Communists failed to recognize private ownership. Nobody was allowed to own anything in excess of what they made and people were encouraged to snitch on each other and even paid extra to do so. The population was tightly controlled economically. Freedom to move from job to job, from town to town was highly discouraged. Any citizen had to report within a week any move whether permanent or temporary. Foreign visitors were not allowed in a private home as they were considered potential spies and thus we would be collaborating with the enemy. Housing such foreigners would be punished by jail time.
Traveling was discouraged. If a visa was issued, few people could afford the travel expenses and the rest of the family was held hostage on the promise of jail time if their family member did not return from the trip. My dad was jailed and beaten up many times when my mom defected to the U.S. after a three month trip to visit me. He eventually succumbed to such a beating on May 12, 1989.
Communists confiscated our guns in the middle of the night under the guise of safety. They confiscated our land, paintings, furniture, cars, stores, money saved, gold, jewelry, anything of value under the guise of collectivization and fair distribution of wealth. People who had more accumulated wealth had to go to jail in addition to having their wealth confiscated because they were bourgeois. One of my uncles served 7 years in jail for having too many houses and a store. He survived the 7 years of hard labor but was very ill for many years afterwards from the lack of proper care and nutrition.
We had the right and obligation to vote but there was only one candidate on the ballot. They came and got us from home and watched over our shoulders while we filled the ballot. The voting records were always 100% for the communist party. Who wanted to go to jail?
Life was very hard, we had chronic shortages of electricity, water, and heat. Few people owned a TV or refrigerator. Our refrigerator was the window sill in winter time. Birds learned really fast and made frequent raids on our handy outdoor storage. If we needed 1 million pairs of black boots for winter, the centralized government, without any forethought, would deliver only 50,000 pairs of white boots and a battle and bribery would ensue over these boots. People were so demoralized, "they pretended to work and the government pretended to pay them."
That was the communist work ethic. A barter exchange of stolen goods from the work place developed as a tool of survival. A butcher shop worker would steal meat to trade for milk with the worker from the dairy.
I think I have made my point that communism is a disaster on every societal level and a failure in every country that has tried it. Even the few remaining communist countries are now beginning to move away from this failed model, yet the United States is charging full steam ahead in the direction of the proverbial iceberg that will sink the Titanic.
My question and challenge to you is, are we going to allow it to happen? Are we going to destroy our 235 year old republic, the most successful country on the planet on an empty promise from a didactic and ideological administration? What would our Founding Fathers say today? What would all the heroes say, who have sacrificed their lives so that we may live free? We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave the republic better than we have found it, not worse.