Over a casual business lunch last week a friend shared some personal stories of his youth in Soviet Russia. He and his wife managed to leave the Soviet Union just as Communism was collapsing. As we listened to his mostly humorous stories over I asked, “When was the first time you read George Orwell’s book, 1984?” His tone changed and he explained.
It was the early ’80’s. His wife had a friend in medical school whose Finnish wife had smuggled a Russian-language copy of the book back into the country after a visit home. Possession of the book would not only compromise any hope of a promising career, but land them seven years in prison.
The man agreed to let them borrow his copy for only one night. Husband and wife stayed up all night reading, absorbed in the forbidden story. They weren’t able to get to the ending before morning came and she had to discretely return the book. He wouldn’t get an opportunity to read the ending for almost a decade.
Few of us know what it’s like to be so starved for access to ideas that we would stay up all night to read a book. Tonight I can read George Orwell ’till my eyes bleed. Or watch reruns of American Idol. Or sleep soundly in safety. We are free to choose how we will use our time and where our minds may wander thanks to the sacrifices of those who came before us, and those who remain on the ramparts.
May God grant peace to those who gave the ultimate price for us in war. And may we all, in the exercise of our great freedom, remain ever mindful of our debt to them and to this Republic.
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