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The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

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The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on December 14, 2010 05:07 PM

I’m getting this new book, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, for my 7-year old for Christmas. What’s interesting is how we are approaching some of the horrid aspects of communist Czechoslovakia. From the Publisher’s Weekly review:

Starred Review. Born out of a question posed to Sís (Play, Mozart, Play!) by his children (Are you a settler, Dad?), the author pairs his remarkable artistry with journal entries, historical context and period photography to create a powerful account of his childhood in Cold War–era Prague. Dense, finely crosshatched black-and-white drawings of parades and red-flagged houses bear stark captions: Public displays of loyalty—compulsory.

Like the Pledge of Allegiance many kids are forced to recite. Like the oath of loyalty to the Constitution lawyers have to give to get admission to practice law. Like the obligation to put your hand over your heart at sporting events when they sing the Star Spangled Banner. Like the way the glassy-eyed brainwashed masses Proudly Stand Up! when the cloying, horrible Lee Greenwood song God Bless the USA is played on the 4th of July in the South.

Children are encouraged to report on their families and fellow students.

As now: environmentalism, terrorism, and so on.

Parents learn to keep their opinions to themselves.

As too many feel compelled to do now.

Text along the bottom margin reveals young Sís’s own experience: He didn’t question what he was being told.

Ever talk to a kid today about democracy, voting, welfare, public education, environmentalism, or global warming?

Then he found out there were things he wasn’t told.

Hello, WikiLeaks!

The secret police, with tidy suits and pig faces, intrude into every drawing, watching and listening.

Hello, PATRIOT Act!

As Sís grows to manhood, Eastern Europe discovers the Beatles, and the Prague Spring of 1968 promises liberation and freedom.

Like Bush’s promises of limited government! Like Obama’s promises of a new start!

Instead, Soviet tanks roll in,

Like Bush’s wars and medicare welfare increases; like Obama’s tax increases and Obamacare socialized medicine and continued and escalated Bush wars.

Returning the city to its previous restrictive climate.

We will jail you if you leak information, if you cheat on taxes, if you eat fatty foods, if you smoke marijuana, if you refuse to be groped by TSA goons, if you challenge us! If you protest. If you disagree.

Sís rebels when possible, and in the book’s final spreads, depicts himself in a bicycle, born aloft by wings made from his artwork, flying toward America and freedom, as the Berlin Wall crumbles below. Although some of Sís’s other books have their source in his family’s history, this one gives the adage write what you know biting significance. Younger readers have not yet had a graphic memoir with the power of Maus or Persepolis to call their own, but they do now. Ages 8–up. (Aug.)

The Soviet Union finally disintegrated and Czechoslovakia separated into smaller parts and liberalized. What is the direction of modern-day America?

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Steve R. December 21, 2010, 3:45 pm

    We seem to have been heading down the road to an Orwellian 1984 society. Since the election of Obama, there seems to an ever greater cognitive dissonance. Instead of a more open liberal society, we seem to have ever greater laws restricting personal freedom in the name of “security”. One even has to wonder if Obama is the personification of the Manchurian Candidate realized.

    Our financial system through the stimulus various packages seems to have taken on the specter of a USSR style planned economy. Instead of a bureaucrat defining production quotas we have “tax incentives” to encourage production of goods that may not even be needed in a free-market.

    The recent Wikileaks incident seems to have created a feeding frenzy of “security” activity. Will this be a reemergence of McCarthyism. Will we soon have a revived House Committee of Un-American Activities?

  • Chu-hua Zhu January 3, 2011, 7:17 pm

    Your observations are correct, Mr. Kinsella. The older, more asiatic left died out and what we have is liberal democracy. The liberals want to remake mankind through psycho-social engineering, rather than economics and are thus not inclined towards absolute nationalization (contrary to the ‘Obama is a Socialist’ types) but instead want to use the state to distort market and social outcomes and fill people up with the leftist gestalt like little beakers of human potential.

    Although not as domestically violent, the thought control and social engineering in social democracies is greater than in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.

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