Three summers ago I witnessed the dancing eyes and exuberant smiles of fellow humans who were tasting freedom for the very first time. I was on a Florida barrier island when some three dozen very lucky Cubans escaped their captors, beat the odds in dangerous seas, and finally stepped into freedom on America's shore.
It seemed that they came from another time - almost like characters from an old black-and-white movie about war and oppression. As I processed what I was witnessing, I began to realize that they were flesh-and-blood representatives of millions like them who have suffered in the clutches of communist regimes. From the Soviet Gulags, to China's Tiananmen Square, to North Korea, to the tiny island of Cuba and other places in-between, 100 million men, women and children around the world have been victimized by communist thugs. Just 90 miles from our own border a third generation of Cuban people remains captive to the same brutal regime that terrorized their grandparents.
Americans are oblivious to the tragic reality that people in our own backyard and around the world still suffer and die under brutal communist oppression. The news media is all but silent about the bloody history while propagandists like Michael Moore get rich from extolling a radical socialist agenda and portraying the oppressive communist systems as benevolent.
Our children's textbooks are strangely void of even a mention of the 14 million political prisoners who either barely clung to life or died in inhumane Soviet Gulags. Meanwhile, every year thousands of Cubans are still imprisoned and severely punished in dank jails. Thousands of others leave their loved ones in the dark of night, slip into homemade rafts, and brave the deadly Florida Straits in search of freedom.
I will always remember how stunning it was to see the Berlin wall come tumbling down. But I am just as stunned when teenagers and young adults have no idea just how significant that day was - or just how wrong it is that twenty years later communism still has a stranglehold on many of our fellow humans.
Ignorance may be bliss, but it can also be deadly. If we do not pass on the truth about communism's bloody history, and if our culture continues to ignore the lingering infection and festering of communist ideology and brutality on mankind, we are in grave danger of falling victim to either it or one of its numerous insidiously evil ideological cousins.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is dedicated to preserving the stories of real people who suffered, and continue to suffer, under communism's fist. Dr. Lee Edwards, chairman of the foundation - and a powerful voice for the oppressed, a noted historian, and a perfect gentleman if ever there was one - seeks to save future generations from oppression by honoring those who have stood in the face of it.
Dr. Edward's latest effort to share the horrible truth about communism includes a display of deeply disturbing paintings of human misery by 14-year Gulag survivor, artist Nikolai Getman. The forlorn faces and eyes in these paintings are haunting and vacant - a stark contrast to the joyful eyes of those I met on the beach that day.
The Gulag Collection is on display through November 9 at The Heritage Foundation in Washington DC and is free and open to the public. For more information on how to view the collection visit www.Heritage.org. You and your children can learn about those who stood up to communism, how to pay tribute to them, and how to help those who continue to suffer by visiting www.VictimsOfCommunism.org and the Global Museum on Communism at www.GlobalMuseumOnCommunism.org
*This article published October 14, 2009.
Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. Visit her website at www.HowToSaveYourFamily.com. where you can sign up to receive her free e-newsletter containing the Culture Challenge of the Week and how to fight back. Hagelin is also senior communications fellow for The Heritage Foundation.