STOP CLAPPING

STOP CLAPPING

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post wrote a column “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding.” It dealt with the standing ovations for Joseph Stalin out of fear of stopping to applaud his speeches. She describes the consequences for being the first to stop applauding. She recounts this from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag  Archipelago” an illustration of this truth: 

"At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with “stormy applause, rising to an ovation.” For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the “stormy applause, rising to an ovation,” continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly Stalineven to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who’d been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on – six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly — but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter…Then after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel. That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them." 

In fact, that same night, the director of the paper factory who stopped clapping was arrested. He was charged and sent to prison for ten years on some pretext. But after his interrogation and conviction, his interrogator reminded him: “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!”

Author Doug Peterson has published more than 60 books, including four historical novels and more than 40 books for the popular VeggieTales series. He published a commentary about this same event which he entitled "The Men Who Wouldn’t Stop Clapping."  He explains that Stalin was a ruthless dictator who ruled the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952. Although no one knows the precise number of political prisoners he executed, estimates usually reach well over a million. He writes that historian Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev estimated that Stalin had about 1 million political prisoners executed during the Great Terror of 1937-38 alone. That doesn’t even count the 6 or 7 million who died in the famine that Stalin created through his policies, or the millions who had to do long, hard sentences in the Gulag labor camps. As Peterson observes in this commentary "The Men Who Wouldn't Stop Talking": 

"It takes courage to be the person who doesn’t give up. It takes courage to be the person who is willing to stop applauding evil, when everyone else in the room just keeps on going. There is often a price to pay for this kind of courage, but there’s also a reward beyond measure."

There are the sincere followers of Donald Trump who are entitled to their position. This is America and everyone is entitled to their political beliefs even if others think it is completely misplaced. But, the shame is that there are also spineless senators, like Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham and so many other leaders who endorse everything Donald Trump does like the Russians who were standing applauding a ruthless dictator. These Russians for the most part were doing it because they were afraid for their lives. But, the ;political leaders and the others are offering insincere,  phoney, blind endorsement for selfish self interest and because they have a cowardly fear of being attacked by the bully who is acting as the president of the United States. That's a lot less honorable reason to keep applauding. It's past time for them to stop clapping. 

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