Frank Thoms

Memory 1986

Jul 29, 2023 by Frank Thoms

I can’t speak for Margaret, but I’ll bet she would agree: Both of us were fascinated to learn about the Russian people, who were born of a heritage far removed from America. Russians lived more than four-hundred years under the rule of oppressive tsars followed by seventy years of Communism. With Gorbachev’s opening, many people we met were eager to connect to the larger world. They wanted to learn about Western ways but were not necessarily eager to emulate them. They listened to American music and hankered for jeans. But they had pride in who they were.

And they lived with a collective mindset, far removed from America’s rugged individualism. A collective mindset harking back to tsarist times where the collective had become a means for survival for most people. And it showed up in schools, where children supported one another in answering questions in class and in taking exams. Cheating happened on behalf of classmates, not for the self.

I liked that form of collectivism knowing its flaws. Think about that.