On Christmas day 20 years ago, Nicolae Ceausescu – long time dictator of Romania – was, along with his wife Elena, executed by firing squad just days after fleeing Bucharest, while his tyrannical regime unraveled before the eyes of a watching world. His demise and the surrounding events are etched in the memory of those of us who watched it all unfold via various news reports.
The look on the once strong-man’s face as a massive crowd began to boo during a speech on December 21st, was one of the defining moments of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. The scene of his helicopter flying him out of the city and his preoccupation during the interim with looking at his watch (which had been equipped with a tracking device for his security people, the gadget – unbeknownst to him – having been disabled by his captors) – these events moved with breakneck speed two decades ago this week.
And while much of the world rekindled almost forgotten traditions of faith and family, due to fresh-found freedom that Christmas of 1989, many Americans celebrated with televisions left on (volume muted), so as not to miss a story that was so compelling.
The Cold War was, in fact, ending.
It was a fitting season of the year for yet another piece of compelling evidence that the schemes of Marx, Lenin, and so many others, were indeed bankrupt and bore the fruit not of promised utopia, but rather tyrannical horror. One reason for this calendar-driven appropriateness was the irony that so many important Cold War stories had Christmas season components.
The French, following a World War II exile from their imperial hegemony in Indochina, landed there once again just before Christmas in 1945. That didn’t work out so well for them in the long run. Come to think of it, it didn’t help us much either.