Our relative and friend, a middle school teacher invited us to meet with students in her Problem Solving Class and to speak with them about our lives, and our experience living in the former Soviet Union.
We were a little nervous, but soon relaxed and enjoyed the interaction with her 6th grade kids.
We talked to them about the repressive regime and times when people disappeared or were sent to Siberian concentration camps. I could see that it was hard for these kids to comprehend how it is possible to be accused and put away without a trial and without legal representation.
In a world with so much suffering and injustice, it was wonderful to meet these kids who grew up in a free society. It is hard for them to understand how it can be any other way. How fortunate these young people were to be born in a free country. And at the same time, how vulnerable these kids are.
They did not grow up in a dictatorship and logically take their freedom, their life in a free society as a given. They do not realize that democracy and freedom cannot be taken for granted. Our freedom was won by millions of people sacrificing their lives for this wonderful idea – Democracy and Freedom for All.
And the struggle continues. And we, The People, have to be vigilant because democracy by its nature is dynamic and always in flux. It is easy to get complacent and allow that democracy to slip away.
The word Freedom these days is overused. It is used as a slogan in mindless politics and in election campaigns. But this word “Freedom” has real meaning. It should and must not be minimized by the political hypocrisy and popular slogans.
I look at these students, free of fear, free to ask questions, free to doubt and free to disagree with the authorities. I am very happy for all these young people. But that joy has a tinge of bittersweet. I have a heaviness in my heart and I worry about their future, the future of this Democracy, a democracy threatened by reactionary forces in our country.
How I want to believe that this new generation, our kids and grandkids, are wiser, more tolerant and free of old dogmas. I want to believe that they are not as judgmental as we are, and are accepting of other cultures. I hope that our kids, our future, will not be arrogant and condescending toward other countries and peoples.
My wife and I, we think that our relative, the teacher, is doing what needs to be done to help assure that kids know and appreciate the meaning behind these wonderful words: Freedom and Democracy.
I want to believe that evolution is working and for humanity's sake our kids will succeed where we are failing.
I want to believe.