As we’ve mentioned now and then, our 10th-grade homeschooling textbook, World History and Cultures In Christian Perspective, is very much a product of the Reagan era; even though its most recent version was published in 2010, it maintains the aggrieved tone of the Moral Majority types who helped Reagan come to power. There are some changes; for instance, the longish section on Grenada we discussed last week is down to a short paragraph (which still insists that the island was definitely going to be used as a base for a Cuban invasion of South America). Mostly, though, the textbook still allows us to see the world through a Cold War lens — even when it talks about the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The textbook deals with the Iran-Contra scandal, which some people seem to think was kind of a big deal, by simply not mentioning it at all. Rather than try to explain how a heroic
Army Marine colonel helped his President subvert the will of a Congress which had foolishly banned aid to the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers, World History doesn’t even bother, although it does blandly mention that Reagan “armed the Contra freedom fighters of Nicaragua in their fight against the Sandinistas.” It also notes that Reagan “sent military advisers to El Salvador to prevent a Communist takeover there,” without any troublesome mention of dead nuns (who were both Papists and supporters of communistic “liberation theology” anyway).
We were slightly surprised to see that the 2010 edition actually made some major cuts in the section on the Soviet shootdown of KAL Flight 007; the 1997 version takes up a third of a page, and takes pains to name Georgia Rep. Larry McDonald as one of the dead, noting his anticommunist credentials without actually suggesting, as one conspiracy theory has it, that the 747 was shot down because he was on it. The newer edition shoehorns three sentences on KAL 007 into a section on “Communist Tragedies,” mostly about Chernobyl, and doesn’t even mention McDonald. It also, surprisingly, removes the previous version’s petulant line complaining that “the incident was treated by the world media as an ‘accident.'” This is probably a big letdown to some conservatives, considering that McDonald was a past president of the John Birch Society; the Conservapedia entry on McDonald memorializes him as “the only member of Congress killed by Communists during the Cold War.”*
Needless to say, we learn about Ronald Reagan’s bold vision for the Strategic Defense Initiative, regarding which the textbook approvingly quotes Margaret Thatcher’s memoir:
“President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, about which the Soviets and Mr. Gorbachev were already so alarmed, was to prove central to the West’s victory in the Cold War.”
Which is a pretty impressive achievement for a program that spent a few hundred billion dollars without ever deploying an actual weapons system. Liberals, the damn fools, “insisted that this defensive laser weaponry technology was unreliable…and criticized the expense, despite the growing nuclear threat from the Soviets and terrorists alike.” Of course, the lasers never even got beyond the conceptual stage (the very limited, unreliable missile defenses that grew out of SDI all used rockets) and terrorists are not noted for having ballistic missiles. Almost any threat is proof for missile defense — we recall that on 9/11, we heard some genius citing the attack as compelling evidence for the need to support President Bush’s proposal for more missile defense spending. And not a single dollar was wasted, because “Reagan had now equipped the American military with technological
marvels that the faltering Soviet economy could not match.” Yay, expensive imaginary weapons systems!
Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts to reform the Soviet system through glasnost and perestroika are presented as a cynical ploy to buy time for the failing Evil Empire so it could regroup and then destroy the west:
The Communists’ change in tactics showed their desperation; they were adopting Lenin’s advice: “It is necessary sometimes to take one step backward so we may take two steps forward.” …. However, the Communists had not yet conceded defeat, but rather, they realized their weakness and hoped to catch up and surpass the free world at a future date. As a result, the Communists loosened their control over Eastern Europe in order to get money and technology from the United States and Western Europe.
Sneaky! But then, of course, once Soviet control of Eastern Europe weakened, things snowballed; the book’s discussion of the end of communism is actually relatively straightforward. There are some weird omissions, like no mention at all of Vaclav Havel in the section on Czechoslovakia; perhaps he was simply not religious enough. And while the book notes that Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were executed by angry Romanians, the editors don’t even mention that while Ceausescu was a ruthless dictator, he also pursued a “pro family” agenda and even banned abortion and contraception. You’d think that would win him some points with these guys.
And so we have the end of the USSR, and Tienanmen Square, where the Chinese government finally behaves the way the editors expect: “thousands of people were killed or imprisoned. The world was once again reminded of the real face of Communism.” Oddly, beyond suggesting that Gorbachev was trying to lull the West into complacency, the editors have no explanation for why the crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators in Eastern Europe weren’t similarly crushed; apparently those nations’ leaders were not “true communists” after all. The section closes with a bit of celebration, but also with a warning, like those monster movies that put a question mark after “The End”:
The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was the greatest political event of the late 20th century. The political, economic, and moral failure of Communism was finally exposed to the world. But Communism was far from dead. Communists still ruled in China, the world’s most populous nation, and Communists still troubled many other countries in the world, including many of the former Soviet republics. Indeed, Christians in Russia reported that Communists still controlled events in Russia, and many conservatives noted that the beginnings of Glasnost and Perestroika were rooted in Lenin’s advice of “one step backward, two steps forward.”
And, considering that the book’s final chapter still warns of “the continuing threat of communism,” maybe the editors want to suggest that the whole “end of the USSR” is just one more sneaky trick by the commies, who are just waiting for the chance to come roaring back.
*Of course, according to Conservapedia, McDonald didn’t die in the crash of KAL 007. In their version, the stricken plane successfully crash-landed and most passengers, including McDonald, survived. They were then imprisoned and tortured by the USSR; any who didn’t die in prison are still being held by the Russians today. Because why would anything ever happen the way the Lamestream Media reports it?
Next Week: The End of History! New World Order! The UN still exists! Be afraid!