Discussion Question #2
Looking at how Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies changed the Soviet Union, would you consider him a patriot, or in a sense, a subversive?
It may seem that we all know what the terms “patriot” and “subversive” mean. There are dictionary meanings of these words and we all know what we mean when we use them to describe a person or their actions. What most of us forget, however, is that one person's patriot is another person's subversive. For example, in the US, Benedict Arnold is considered so much of a subversive and traitor that his name has become synonymous with those words. Yet, to the English he was a patriot. Also, speaking of Thomas Jefferson and the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, they are American patriots, but the English considered them subversives and, had Washington lost the war, these men would have been hung as traitors. Because of this, we can't deny that personal beliefs, history, and whether one is hurt or benefitted by a person's actions all subjectively determine who is a patriot and who is a subversive. Personally, as a person who strongly believes in democracy and the idea that protesting or changing government is the right of the people if there are discrepancies in how government treats people based on their politics, religions, or thoughts, Gorbachev is a patriot. He opened up the USSR press and for the first time in Russian/Soviet history allowed the masses of the country to express their opinions without fear of jail. He helped change the USSR from a country where unproven claims against a person could cause him or her to be arrested and "disappeared" by the authorities to one where persons had rights and duties to honor law and each other. While the traditional communists lost their absolute right over the people and consider him a subversive, that is only because they once held absolute power over the people, who made them people who had been "corrupted absolutely.”
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