Last week, Catholic World Report ran an article by regular Chronicles contributor Jerry Salyer on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The piece is well worth reading.
Solzhenitsyn’s name will forever be linked to his rigorous denunciation of the evils of Communism. After Solzhenitsyn, no morally responsible person could ignore the tens of millions murdered by Communists, or pretend that Communism represented a basically sound system. But, as Salyer reminds us, Solzhenitsyn was also an unsparing critic of Western liberalism. And it is those criticisms that Salyer focuses on, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision purporting to redefine marriage.
I was struck in particular by this passage Salyer quotes from Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard address: “Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researches are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevents independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life.”
In 1978, political correctness did not yet have a name. Indeed, the phenomenon itself was virtually unknown. Since that time, the tyranny of fashionable thought has only grown, with the category of thoughts that may not be expressed growing each year. Indeed, today many people are afraid even to question a new definition of marriage that has never been accepted by any society before ours. To overcome the current crisis, we will need to find some of the courage Solzhenitsyn had, and find the strength to “live not by lies."
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.