TRUTH

As the truck topped a rise, there came into view a little less than a mile away, an enormous, flag-decked enclosure. The high walls were a framework of logs supporting huge straw mats. Dozens of red banners streamed in the wind from atop the upright poles. One archway of ample width for a two-lane road was visible. This, apparently, was the exit for trucks taking the repatriated communist soldiers back from the exchange point.

The usual evergreen boughs covered the structure of the arch- way, and at the top the red star was large enough to be clearly seen. Two flags, huge ones, flew on either side of the star. Those would be the gaudy, tassel-fringed banner of communist China and the hammer and sickle of communists everywhere. The pictures of Mao Tse Tung and "big brother" Malenkov were not in evidence. Perhaps the distance was too great, though more likely the pictures were on the other side of that arch, to give proper inspiration to the arriving communist repatriates.

Tsai, with a bright grin, pointed out the enclosure, calling it the "gateway to freedom." He hadnít actually been there himself, but he knew all about it. At least he knew what he was supposed to say. He talked enthusiastically, telling of many pleasantries there for returning prisoners, until Ghant broke his long silence toward the little chinaman with a question.

"If it is the Ďgateway to freedom,í why is there such a high fence around it?"

Tsai recovered from the thrust quickly, but not without visible effect. He began an extensive explanation that the fence was to give protection from wind and to contain the boisterousness of the happy repatriates. Then he saw that Ghant was silently laughing at him, and both his voice and his grin faded away.

The truck took a turn off the road which led to the huge structure. It appeared the returning Americans were being purposely routed within sight of it—but, purposely again, not too close.

Remembering the rot that had come out in the propaganda sheets following "Little Switch," Sergeant Wolfe didnít find it hard to imagine what was going on inside those walls. There would be demonstrations, carefully staged to appear spontaneous, for the benefit of the neutral nations observers and to be described in the stories being written, or already prepared in advance, by the ace perpetrators of communist "news," Burchette and Winnington. Even now, with all he had learned of communism and its "intelligentsia," the Sergeant found it difficult to fathom how educated and undeniably talented persons, as those two were who had known the freedom of other lands, could discard integrity for the base purposes of communist propaganda.

The two newsmen did not try to kid themselves that there was actual truth, worthy of mention, in what they wrote. On the contrary, they were quite frank about their occupation. Interviewing American prisoners who could recognize the falsity in the very theme of their writing, they made no great effort to conceal their purpose. Like one pseudo-intellectual element in America and other free nations, those two imagined it to be their destiny to guide the "ignorant masses." Following the communist doctrine that the end justifies the means, they found it quite all right for them to lie, cheat, misinform, and even kill "inferior beings" in order to fulfill that destiny.

At first glance some of the stories they wrote might appear so absurd as to be valueless even as propaganda. Who in America would believe, for example, Winningtonís story following "Little Switch" about the "Chinese Nurses Taken Prisoner and Raped by American Guards"? The layman might say, "No one," but heíd better think again. Even without believing it, there were some in America who would promote the lie. Some "white supremacist" down south might say, "Mosí likely a goddam nigger did it." A northern "do-gooder" might say, "What more can you expect from the slum-bums in our army now-a-days?" A society matron in Los Angeles, priding herself on her tolerance of Negroes might say, "One of those—ugh—Mexicans."

From them it would grow. It takes only a handful to promote a whisper to a shout. Few people seemed to realize the adeptness of the communist propagandist in using the shallow and narrow-minded of a free society to spread his foul lies.

Who could deny, honestly, that there might be someone in our forces who would do such a thing? There are degenerates and criminals in every society, on either side of the iron curtain. There are sadists, murderers, rapists; but they are as often the offspring of the "supremacist," or the "do-gooder," or the "matron" as one of those they might accuse. Thank God, competent military com- manders faced facts squarely, instead of trying to deny them, and took precautions to avoid such incidents.

The communist propagandistís job was often lightened by certain types of Americans. The Sergeant recalled an incident in the early days of the fighting. An enterprising UN correspondent- photographer took and had published a picture of communist women taken prisoner and stripped to the waist in the search for concealed weapons. The Kremlin must have danced with glee at the indignation of certain Americans over this "violation of woman- hood." It didnít seem to matter that without such search, those "violated" females would have used the weapons, so concealed, against American soldiers. The soldiers were realistic enough that they went farther in the search than the pictures revealed. Finding a hand grenade, or just searching for one, in the inner folds of a femaleís undergarments hardly aroused a manís passion for sex. But the communists screamed "Rape!" and there were "Americans" to echo the cry.

The communists called the formation of their propaganda "Making the Truth!" The supervisors of this "production" were properly called "shrewd." But the principle of manufacture was simple.

First tell your lie to someone who you know will repeat it. It doesnít matter initially, if the falsity is recognized; for after passing from one to another the story will find its way back. On hearing from another the lie he once told, the rumormonger comes to accept it as fact. Just as the fertile seed of suspicion planted at a bridge club blossoms into scandal over the gossipsí back fences, the preposterous lies of communism become, if not to the perpetrators, "truth" to those who make up the circle of development.

Part of the communist propaganda strategy was distortion of word-meaning. "Peace," "truth," "peoples," "democratic,"—high-sounding words—in communist literature became foul to the point of obscenity. Perhaps many words could never regain their proper meaning in the minds of men who had been under the pressure of communism. The distortion was of course deliberate—another "means toward the end."

Looking beyond such deliberate distortion by communists, you could find words whose meanings seemed to have changed in other societies. Perhaps, though, these changes came from degeneration, rather than distortion. Words like "pride," "hero," and "dignity."

You wondered, for example, what kind of "pride" caused Seakle to hire others to wash his clothes or take his turn at menial chores, but didnít prevent him from groveling in the dirt for the butt of cigarette discarded and stepped upon by a communist guard.

Merke was a modern type of American "hero," given to bragging about the "rough time" he gave the enemy interrogators and mak- ing up "war stories" about himself. There had been another fellow like that, captured much earlier. He talked big, too, when the peace talks first started and hopes were high for the war to end quickly. The fellow built up his "war story" considerably, in preparation for going home to a "heroís welcome." Then the peace talks had broken off. The bravado gave way to self-pity, and in the depths of despondency the "tough guy" decided "all were doomed." He starved himself to death deliberately. "Hero"?

Then there was the colonel at Pyongyang—killed by his "dignity," despite efforts of fellow-prisoners to help him. He refused the rice and seaweed soup because it was "beneath the dignity of an American."

"Here, Colonel, weíve mixed the broth with the rice. It will be easier for you to eat."

"Take it away. I wonít eat rice."

"You should eat," a Korean interrogator standing nearby told him. "You starve yourself if you donít eat."

"Then give me something fit to eat!" the colonel demanded.

"I am sorry," the Korean said, with a trace of pleasure, "but we have nothing else. Korea is poor country. Koreans are poor people. They are thankful when they have rice. It is good food."

"Maybe itís good for you—for Koreans; but Iím not a Korean, Iím an American. Americans donít eat such slop as this. Iíll be eat- ing steak and eggs when this is over, and you can have your damn rice. You can have it all. I donít want any. I wouldnít lower myself."

"As you wish," the Korean said, with distinct satisfaction.

Besides providing the enemy with solid grist for their propaganda mill, the colonel had been wrong—wrong about many things. Heíd been wrong about eating steak and eggs when it was over. Heíd died in that room, because it was beneath his "dignity" to eat rice. Was that kind of pride worthy to be called "American"? He may have been in some respects a good man and a good officer, but the two privates who "lowered" him into his grave near Pyongyang proved themselves better men. Now, because they didnít have the colonelís kind of "dignity," they were on their way to the States for steak and eggs.

While Seakleís "pride," Merkeís "heroism," and the dead colonels "dignity" seemed to do well enough in everyday American society, in the circumstance of a prisoner of war they didnít stand up at all. And by substantiating, to the degree they did, the communist propaganda that Americans were soft, cowardly weaklings, such false qualities added to the prestige of the communist "truth." Fortunately there were other Americans to uphold the true meanings of the terms.

The communists could implant their manufactured "facts" only in those derelict minds which have drifted from Real Truth. Where, then, was Reality—pondered the Sergeant—the Truth that could keep men free? Many scoffed at religion todayónot only the communists, but others like them who held "man is supreme, and truth is relative."

As evidence of religionís "unreality" these scoffers might point to men like Shiller, who practiced the rituals of his faith avidly, but made no effort to live up to its ideals. On the other hand, there were those who gave no particular indication of religious belief, yet proved themselves morally strong and dependable. That didnít mean that religion didnít matter. All it meant was that it was the inner qualities, rather than outward appearances that counted. It wasnít important if a manís professed religion were Protestant or Catholic, Buddhist, Mohammedan, Jewish, or any other; it mattered first that he possessed a sound code of moral conduct to govern his relations with fellow-man.

You didnít necessarily have to believe in Christ as a Saviour to follow His teachings, nor even to have heard of God to abide by His principles. The pagan or atheist could have a firm moral code. With such a code alone, man could be strong. But to be more than strong, to be invincible, man must have Faith.

But there are many "faiths." What kind did he need? A blind, fanatical faith? There was strength in such; but in fanaticism—for God, communism, or anything else—the strength was brittle, and brittle strength would break. The source of power for a man of fanatical faith was hatred—hatred for that which opposed him. Therefore, the fanatic could defy death, but could never conquer the fear of it. And because hate was a self-consuming emotion, such strength could not endure the test of time. Only from a reasoning Faith in a God who is just and good, could man receive the unconquerable strength of LOVE. And there was TRUTH.

Such Faith was neither inherited nor handed out by decree. It had to take root and grow within oneself. There was no other source for the seedling that produced this Power of Love than religion—honoring such a God, for and above all men.






© 2002, 2003 by Lynn Waterman; used by permission of the author, Duane Thorin.