Several years ago, I read one of Natan Sharansky’s books in which he described his life as a refusenik in the former Soviet Union. One of the points he made that struck me with incredible force was the way in which citizens in totalitarian regimes develop an internal life entirely separate from the external forces against them. For example, Soviet citizens were forced in public to accept that their economy was a miracle of Communist exceptionalism, even as their logical brains figured out that this propaganda bore no relationship to the truth. Their brains developed a binary quality, processing the “real” truth and the “state” truth, creating an exceptional level of intellectual and emotional stress.
I was rather brutally reminded of that yesterday, when my husband and I had the opportunity to listen to our children speak to third parties about the upcoming inauguration. Both of them, using almost precisely the same words, stated that they were very excited about the inauguration because Obama is the first African-American president, which makes him special.
Later, Mr. Bookworm said to the kids that it sounded a bit funny to him them saying the same thing, and asked if they really meant that. Both assured him that they did not. That is, they didn’t bear any hostility to Obama because of his race. They simply didn’t care. However, both earnestly explained that, if they didn’t say this rote line about Obama’s historica importance, they would be ostracized: “We have to say that if we want to hang with people.” Mr. Bookworm was shocked. He shouldn’t be, though. It is he who constantly reminds me not to tell anyone about my political views for fear of subjecting us to obliquy and ostracism.
As for the pressures the kids feel in the school environments, you might find this interesting.