Saturday, May 5, 2012

Uncle Joe

Did all those deaths haunt you, Uncle Joe? Did their ghosts hover about your bed at night as you tried to grab a few hours of fitful sleep? Yeah, you rationalize, you’re not a serial killer, right? You didn’t personally put a gun to anyone’s temple, at least for some time, or draw the blade across anyone’s windpipe. Not you, not the Man of Steel. Was it arrogance or irony you chose that war name for yourself, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili? Stalin, man of steel.

Now I’ll give you this, you did have a steel will to rise from being a peasant, the fourth child born of a washer woman and a shoe cobbler. Your three siblings died in childhood and you were sickly too, but you survived. More, you seized opportunities when possible and at other times, well, hell, you just made yourself some opportunities, didn’t you? You made sure in your moving up the ladder in the Party to salt the ranks with allies and if someone raised a voice in protest, exile, a sentence of forced labor or a bullet took care of such critics.

How many millions died of starvation due to your ill-advised agricultural programs? Though you could argue that millions ate because of your programs of rapid industrialization. You knew too you were trying to make a deal with a bigger devil that yourself in your pact with Hitler. You tried to buy time, hoped small Germany wouldn’t dare attack on two fronts – Western Europe and Russia. But damned if that bastard didn’t, and damned if the Red Army had their backs against it but held in the Siege of Stalingrad, the city re-named for you. The city you defended in the previous civil war.

How many died to defeat the Nazis, Joe? Soldiers and civilians, old and young, men and women. Ten million? Twenty million? The cold, the starvation, the wholesale slaughter at the Front. Yet no doubt about it, Germany’s defeat at Stalingrad marked the beginning of the end of the fascist regime. But even after all those bodies and mass graves did it get to you, Uncle Joe? Did such monumental loss give you pause?

What was that saying of yours? Better to kill a thousand than one? A thousand is just a number, no faces, no names. One is an individual, a name, a life snuffed out. You are certainly a singularly chilling cold-blooded sonofabitch, Josef Stalin. Now let’s get this interview underway…


lil Gluckstern said...

Powerful painful stuff. Whew.

Gary Phillips said...

Okay, I meant to sound more satirical than this came out. Next time I go for the more comedic riff on "Life in a Stalinist Gulag" a la Hogan's Heroes.

Liz said...

The tragedy is the post-War body count, glossed over by so many adoring fans of The Man of Steel. Ignorance may have blinded some pre-War but those who participated after (and their families--thinking Philby's son here).

Liz said...

Addendum--was Lenin his victim too:

Howard Sherman said...

Thanks for setting the record straight on "Uncle Joe". History painted him with too many bright colors with hues of heroism.

He was a monster and a villain and unsettled the world for fifty years after World War II ended.

US General George S Patton had the right idea to roll his tanks against the Reds and push them all the way back to Red Square.

What did he get for being right? Demotion.

What did we get thanks to general Patton's demotion? An iron curtain, a cold war and decades of uncertainty.

Thanks Uncle Joe!