Big Red

By GREG COOK  |  September 17, 2008

Posters from the ’60s and ’70s criticize American civil rights and Vietnam policy — and sting because they’re true. Viktor Koretsky’s 1968 lithograph “The Shame of America” portrays a black man sprawled on his side before New York skyline splashed with blood. His 1970 lithograph “American politics at home and abroad” shows the face of a green man with fangs. Reflected in his glasses are police attacking a civil rights activist and soldiers fiddling with the body of a Vietnamese man as a village burns in the background.

America shrugged off such criticism during the Cold War as enemy propaganda. Not that the Soviets, uh, took criticism well themselves. But since the crack-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, we still don’t often look back to reconsider us and them, warts and all.

Among people I’ve met from the old Soviet bloc, who were children before communism fell and adults afterward, there’s a nostalgia for the old system. They don’t crave the bad old days’ corruption and authoritarianism. But the unfettered crooked capitalism that came in its wake revolts them as well. Partly, they just miss the steadiness of the old regime now that they’ve lived through the tumult of the new world order. Many Americans are nostalgic for the Cold War too. The tumult of this terrorism stuff is so gray and confusing, they seem to say, give us the clarity of the old good versus “evil empire” any time. 

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