Wednesday, September 28, 2005


The Pen Briefly Mightier

In 1975, President Ford felt he was facing a dilemma when Alexander Solzhenitsyn was booted out of Soviet Russia for writing novels exposing the horrors of the Soviet prisons, which were primarily political prisons, which he had resided in for many years. The international community meant at least a little something in those days, and moreover Scoop Jackson, a democrat cold warrior (there used to be such people – remember Kennedy?) in Congress, had been championing Solzhenitsyn. But Ford somehow felt he had to kiss up to the commies, even though Nixon had gone to China, not Russia, and so Ford declined to meet with the exiled writer.

A media brouhaha followed. The American people wanted to see this man honored. There was a great outpouring of a freedom loving people to a man who had suffered greatly in freedom's cause. But Washington couldn't even arrange to have him address a joint session of Congress. Weirdly, the democrats were championing freedom (in a way they would never again do when governing, however) and the republicans were fulfilling their stereotype of stability uber alles.

My how things have changed, and a stark reminder of how they might change back without an avid electorate holding our officeholders' feet to the fire.

In the interest of recalling what all the fuss was about, let's look at an inspiring portion of the speech that Solzhenitsyn (and do you know how long it takes me to type that name each time?) gave upon receiving his Nobel Prize. Oh, and remember when the Nobel itself was not a discredited institution, when it wasn't given out to any fraudulent scribbler who hated the same things (usually freedom, quality writing and Jews) that the Nobel committee hated? Old times!

Anyway, here's Solzhenitsyn:

"We shall be told: what can literature possibly do against the ruthless onslaught of open violence? But let us not forget that violence does not live alone and is not capable of living alone: it is necessarily interwoven with falsehood. Between them lies the most intimate, the deepest of natural bonds. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his METHOD must inexorably choose falsehood as his PRINCIPLE. At its birth violence acts openly and even with pride.

But no sooner does it become strong, firmly established, than it senses the rarefaction of the air around it and it cannot continue to exist without descending into a fog of lies, clothing them in sweet talk. It does not always, not necessarily, openly throttle the throat, more often it demands from its subjects only an oath of allegiance to falsehood, only complicity in falsehood.And the simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood, not to support false actions! Let THAT enter the world, let it even reign in the world - but not with my help.

But writers and artists can achieve more: they can CONQUER FALSEHOOD! In the struggle with falsehood art always did win and it always does win! Openly, irrefutably for everyone! Falsehood can hold out against much in this world, but not against art.And no sooner will falsehood be dispersed than the nakedness of violence will be revealed in all its ugliness - and violence, decrepit, will fall."

The above is all the more inspiring if you substitute the "blog" or "internet" for the "literature." As an aside, I actually had the opportunity to teach his Nobel Prize speech to my students during my high school teaching stint. Thought I'd share it here too.


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