Hating Your Mirror Image

“When we are looking at each other, we are not only looking at a hateful face, we are looking at a mirror. This is the tragedy of our era. isn’t it true that in us, you recognize yourselves, your own unshakable will? . . . I would like for you to understand very well: You think you hate us, but this is only a deception: in reality, in us, you hate yourselves. . . .”

The year is 1941. Mikhail Sidorovich Mostovskoy is an old bolshevik, one of Lenin’s personal associates in founding the Communist Party of Russia, a direct participant in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and a faithful believer in the Communist doctrine. By a peculiar turn of the circumstances, he is now in a Nazi concentration camp, planning a rebellion against the Germans. But one night he is dragged from his bed by an SS guard and led to the interrogation room. He knows he will be interrogated by no less a name than Sturmbannführer Liss, a personal aide and representative of Himmler himself. Liss is an ethnic German from Riga, Latvia, who fled to Germany before the Red Army invaded the tiny Baltic republic. He hates the Russians with a vengeance; and he hates Communists with even greater vengeance. Mostovskoy harbors no illusions about what he is going to get behind that door while he is being led to it. Brutal, senseless, ruthless beating is the best he can hope for. But in reality, knowing the interrogation methods of the Nazis, he expects much worse.

But he is not prepared for the unbearable torture he is going to get. Not even in his worst nightmare could he imagine what pain Liss has in store for him; a pain that will shatter Mostovskoy’s optimism and resolve, hardened in decades of struggles and activism.

When the heavy door of the room shuts behind him, Mostovskoy looks around the room to see the SS “workers” who will start pounding his face, and later his ribs and stomach, with their fists and boots. Or may be the elaborate tools for torture he knows the SS guards adopted from the medieval Inquisition to inflict the maximum pain for the minimum risk of death for the victim. He sees nothing of the sort. The room is almost empty, and the only person in it is Liss himself, in his SS uniform. And all Liss will do is talk. Words don’t break bones; but Liss’s words break the soul of the faithful bolshevik.

“When we are looking at each other, we are not only looking at a hateful face, we are looking at a mirror. This is the tragedy of our era. isn’t it true that in us, you recognize yourselves, your own unshakable will? . . . I would like for you to understand very well: You think you hate us, but this is only a deception: in reality, in us, you hate yourselves. . . .”

Liss continues by reminding Mostovskoy that everything he sees and hates in Nazism, is in fact an imitation of what the Nazis have seen in Lenin’s and Stalin’s Communism, and have applied to Germany.

“You personally knew Lenin. He created a new model party. He was the first to realize that the Party and its Leader express the will of the nation, and therefore he was the first to end the Constitutional Assembly. . . . Then Stalin taught us a lot.”

The more Liss entangles Mostovskoy in this cruel, impossible, unacceptable conversation, the more tormenting and unbearable it becomes for the old faithful Leninist. A thought crosses his mind, “I’d rather have them start the beating. . . .” And indeed, he’d be able to stand the beating much easier, for with every sentence, with every new example of the similarities between Nazism and Communism Liss is causing enormous suffering to his very soul, reminding him about the things he also himself thought at times, about the things he couldn’t not think about, even if he didn’t want to.

“We are your mortal enemies, yes, yes. But our victory is your victory, can’t you see this? And if you win, we will perish, and yet, we will live in your victory. A paradox, isn’t it: by losing the war, we win the war, we will develop in another form but the same essence. Today you are appalled at our hatred toward the Jews. But perhaps, tomorrow you will adopt our practice. And the day after tomorrow we will become tolerable in your eyes. . . . Your terror killed millions of your own people, and only we, Germans, of all nations, understand you: that’s how it is supposed to be.”

Mostovskoy is in agony. He is now forced to admit to himself that he has had those doubts for a long time, that he hated his own party, the camps, the trials, Lubyanka, Ezhov, Beriya. He is even tempted to think that these doubts which he rejected and hated were in fact a seed of the purest and most moral expression of truth, righteousness, and liberty. He tries to exercise his self-control of a hardened revolutionary veteran and force his mind to obey the Party and its ideology, but to no avail. A thought begins to emerge, that honesty requires that he condemns Stalin’s dictatorship, and, God forbid, even Lenin and his work!

But Sturmbannführer Liss continues his list of examples how Nazism and Communism are in fact the same principle and the same force. Worse than that, he points to the fact that each needs the other because without each other, they will have to face alone a world that hates them for their immorality, cruelty, and blood-thirst. Without Communism, Nazism can’t justify its existence, and without Nazism, Communism will have to invent it in order to keep its face. The two ideologies hate each other and yet are so hopelessly related and connected to each other, that the fall of one means the fall of the other, and the victory of one means that the other will continue to live.

By the end of the conversation the old revolutionary is broken. The psychological torture of being shown how his beloved party and ideology are in every respect the same as the party and the ideology of the hated mortal enemy, that in the enemy, as in a mirror, he hates himself and everything he believes in and has fought for, is too much for him. He gets out of the interrogation room physically alive and unharmed. But in reality, the soul that comes out of there is dead.

Mostovskoy and Liss are characters from Vasily Grossman’s novel of 1959, Life and Fate. “The greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century,” according to Le Monde, was identified by the Politburo’s ideology chief in 1962 as a greater threat to the Communist regime than even Doctor Zhivago, and therefore banned in the Soviet Union. The book wasn’t published until 1980, 16 years after Grossman’s death, after a microfilm copy was smuggled out to the West. Nothing is more destructive to a man or an ideology than the realization that he is in every respect the same as his enemy and what he hates in his enemy.

In the last of his appearances in the book, Mostovskoy is forced to accept a decision of the Party which goes against his moral convictions: the betrayal of the party organization against Major Ershov, a man of proven leadership ability, and organizer of the plot against the camp guards. He is not a party member, and therefore does not feel obligated to follow the Party directives. The Party members in the camp arrange for his sending to another camp, and therefore sure death, thus destroying their own chances to achieve their own goals, and save their own lives and the lives of many others. They would rather die, and make others die, than do anything that is not in absolute obedience to the Party. With a resigned voice, his head low between his shoulders, Mostovskoy utters the words, “I submit to this decision, and I accept it as a member of the Party. . . .”

But the story is not over.

* * * * *

“This is absolute nonsense! You must be an Obama supporter!”

This is usually the reply I get when I talk to Romney supporters and ask them what exactly the difference is between Romney and Obama.

Oh, yes, they can talk for hours about how bad Obama is. He is a Communist. He believes in high taxes and redistribution of wealth. He is paid by Wall Street. He will keep the Federal Reserve and will cause more inflation. He has a plan to destroy the United States by piling debt over debt until the US government is insolvent. He is pro-abortion, and he serves the interests of the sodomite community. He is for unconstitutional wars. He made his money from the government, not from business on the free market. He is a liar, a flip-flopper, he says one thing and does another, he says stupid things when he is not reading from a teleprompter, etc., etc. That’s why they are voting for Romney. They never mention any outstanding qualities in Romney. It is Obama who is to blame for their vote for Romney.

Then I ask the question: “What’s the difference?”

They get mad at me. Because they know, there is no difference. Romney is exactly the same on all accounts. The question is just as much a torture for them as were the words of Sturmbannführer Liss to Mostovskoy.

Looking at Obama, the GOP voters are looking at a mirror of their own party leadership. The same views, the same policy record, the same socialism, the same strings, the same immorality, the same greed for taxpayers’ money. When they hate Obama, they actually hate their own party. And, they hate themselves, as voters who keep supporting that party leadership which is the same as Obama.

That’s why any suggestion that Romney is the same as Obama is so repugnant to them. Because it tells them what they already know but refuse to admit. They are statists and socialists, no matter what delusions they have about themselves. They want the same big government as the Democrats want, just a different party to rule it. In the other’s face, they see their own face. And they hate it.

It’s even worse than that. The Republican voters hate Obama but they desperately need him. Without him, there will be no excuse for blindly following the party directives to vote for a man who is anti-Christian, anti-liberty, and anti-life. Obama provides the perfect excuse why principled voting should be avoided at any cost, and the party line should be toed. Just like the Nazis needed the Communists, and the Communists needed the Nazis to justify their immorality, today’s Republican voters need Obama as the reason why they don’t have to think clearly, and why they don’t have to be faithful to their professed conservative principles. If Obama didn’t exist, they would have invented him. While they all say how dangerous Obama is for America, none of them can explain why they vote for Romney without throwing the blame on Obama. Romney has no independent existence without Obama. And the GOP has no purpose unless it can use the Democrats as an excuse.

We can say, Obama serves an important political function for the neocon leadership of the GOP, and an important psychological function for the neocon voters.

That’s why it is so unbearable for them when they are asked the question about the difference between Romney and Obama. It brings them back to the reality of the mirror, and the face they hate in that mirror. Just like Mostovskoy is brought to that reality, and he couldn’t bear to face it. The two parties are the same party. The victory for one will be a victory for the other, and the defeated party continues to live in the rule of the victorious one. As Liss said to Mostovskoy, “A terrible nightmare, a kind of suicide in an unreal dream.”

But escaping the dream of the Republican-Democrat statism takes courage; courage as strong as the courage to quit a strong addiction. Most people don’t have that courage. That’s why, at the end of the day, knowing that the GOP establishment has imposed on them a candidate who is a bleeding heart liberal, and no different than Obama, they still can’t make the step to defy the leaders. And like Mostovskoy, they simply say, “I submit to this decision, and I accept it as a member of the Party. . . .”

And the nightmare of the hated face in the mirror continues.

Not for long.

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