As we view Putin’s assault on The Ukraine and take stock in where we are in the world today with countries possessing unspeakable arsons of nuclear warheads, DEWs and other psychopathic tools to kill, maim and torture men, women and children, it’s opportunity to turn back the page forty years ago when we watched two leaders pivot the course of nuclear doom.
Those leaders, of course, were Reagan and Gorbachev, for those of us who can remember. As children of that time we practiced drills at school in case of a Soviet invasion or nuclear war. We believed the USSR to be evil because we were told they were bad. And yet, there was a Russian president we can look back on today with absolute respect. His name was Mikhail Gorbachev, who was born a farmer and rose in the ranks of the communist party to ultimately lead the Soviet people, as well as the world, during a critical time, ultimately being awarded The Nobel Peace Prize.
As we review those years and speeches by Gorbachev, we can uncover a level of propaganda we were fed in The United States, as we can see today he was a man of peace and vision. Like President Jimmy Carter who created The Carter Center to build on ideas of democracy, health and other global issues important to us all, Gorbachev created The International Foundation For Socio-Economic and Political Studies (The Gorbachev Foundation). His words:
“The XXI century will be a сentury either of total all-embracing crisis or of moral and spiritual healing that will reinvigorate humankind. It is my conviction that all of us – all reasonable political leaders, all spiritual and ideological movements, all faiths – must help in this transition to a triumph of humanism and justice, in making the XXI century a century of a new human renaissance. – Mikhail Gorbachev
These are words of a true leader. And as we refocus our lens of 40 years ago, we can see that Gorbachev had the courage and the will to listen to “the people”, opening the doors for his people to choose who they want to be, instead of aggressive controlling, building more military or launching a nuclear arsenal in order to achieve domination. He was and remains a true leader for the people, by the people and of the people.
In Wernor Herzog’s film Meeting Gorbachev we get to pull back the proverbial curtain of 40 years of US political propaganda to actually learn about Gorbachev, as a man, and his dreams. During one interview he said “There are those who don’t understand the importance of cooperation. Such people don’t belong in politics.”
In the book Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future, there is an entry that described a flight that Gorbachev and his wife took with the Reagans across the United States. Reagan proudly looked down at the landscape of small homes and said “one day everyone will have a swimming pool,” as an example that no one will be poor. This idea is nothing less that a promotion of utter capitalism, an idea that big money and luxury leads to happiness, security and health. Apparently these words jolted Gorbachev’s wife. And in her eyes perhaps she saw the materialistic path the United States was paving by this president, ideals very counter to their approach to helping their own country simply be healthy with what they need – food, shelter and support.
I traveled through former Soviet Union in the year 2003, visiting Romania, Bulgaria and Albania, recognizing a lingering hunger as many struggled just to have food, health and a future. I stood on the concrete huts that the fear driven leader Enver Hoxca built to fight off Americans, littering their countryside into a wasteland. In Romania and Bulgaria and a few from Eastern Germany I learned of a different story than the one I was told. “We had what we needed,” I heard, as now many face other forms of corruption from a new oligarchy, as we do the same in The United States. After the fall of The Berlin Wall, the people lost everything that they had – medical care, dental care and other government support that are similar to the very services we are asking for in our country – The United States. And as we look around our own country, The US, today, we see the horror of poverty, lack of education and horrific health, including diabetes, obesity and more. We are The Soviet Union of the 1980s, ruled by elites, corrupt politicans and propaganda under the guise of capitalism instead of communism. And we don’t even have a wall locking us in these injustices. We choose to be locked into these injustices.
Five years ago, as I learned more about the failures of Reagan’s policies including his tax restructuring that have led to the power of the elites/American oligarchy and collapse of the middle class, knock down of President Jimmy Carter’s visionary environmental policies and knock down of labor (my family stood in the 1981 National Strike against Reagan, as I’ve written in my memoir documenting the journey of a working class family standing up to a president), I wanted Carter to be recognized for his leadership and visions instead of his failings, which too many people are quick to note without recognizing his speeches of “Crisis of Confidence,” which resonates boldly today, and his energy policies that could have thwarted not only our US economic and moral stability but could have mitigated the climate crisis today. So, as a teacher,
I reached out to my community to do what Carter said during the Bob Dylan award ceremony with Musicares: “Musicians have far greater power than any President of the United States.” In short, local musicians came together to simply play music on Carter’s birthday on October 1 and before long we were awarded Proclamations of support by two cities, Novato and Fairfax, along with the Supervisors of Marin County, all of which is documented here as part of The Jimmy Carter Jamboree.
I also reached out to Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, seeking his support, given he is a leader of peace. As a former farmer, too, his age and experience could offer a perspective on humanity and give us a glimmer of hope too, in his words, to “transition to a triumph of humanism and justice, in making the XXI century a century of a new human renaissance.” To my surprise, he responded and wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, in my care, to deliver it, which I did, with a frame and a California Resolution honoring Carter, the first of its kind, supported by State Senator Mike McGuire and State Assembly Member Marc Levine.
In my final note, why do I call Gorbachev “my friend”? It’s simple: He trusted me, a humble citizen and one of “the people”. I am not a fancy politician, business owner or tech guru. He supported me with a message and a project that had the intention of creating good will and peace. He never even met me other than to acknowledge my written words to his foundation with my request to support a celebration by the people to honor President Jimmy Carter. And this amazed me, when even my own government leaders rejected me and refused to support an intention “by the people”. Those politicans were Al Gore, Governor Jerry Brown and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi who had rejected while a Russian President stepped forward.
It taught me something about leadership – trust in “the people”.
Thank you President Mikhail Gorbachev. I do believe your inspiration will cultivate the will of a new renaissance by the people one day.