By Tony Hooker
Mao Zedong, known to his sycophants and followers as “The Great Helmsman”, was responsible for an estimated 60 million deaths during his rule from 1949-1976. Countless others starved under his misguided economic leadership.
Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of 40 million of his countrymen during his rule from 1929-1953. Some of his more infamous deeds include the deliberate starving of the entire population of the Ukraine, the forced servitude in the Gulags of the wealthiest Russian citizens, and the purging of his own political party due to his paranoid nature.
Third on our list of most monstrous dictators is of course Adolph Hitler. We know, or at least we should know, the numbers by now. 30 million dead, including approximately 6 million Jews and 5 million others in the most horrific act in the history of humankind, the holocaust.
Sliding in at number 4 is Belgium’s King Leopold, whose colonialism in the Congo resulted in the enslavement of 8 million Congolese citizens at the turn of the 19th century.
Finally, sitting at number five on this appalling list is Hideki Tojo, whose military dictatorship during World War II resulted in the deaths of over 5 million souls throughout Southeast Asia.
The history of the world is littered with despots and dictators who have done the unthinkable. In fact the list is so long (if undistinguished) that Saddam Hussein ranks a mere twelfth on the list, according to the London Daily Mail, with 600,000 deaths at his hand. How horrifying is it that over the course of human history, someone responsible for over a half a million deaths isn’t even in the top ten. People have a tremendous capacity for evil, friends.
Why the peek into this empty, vile past?
Because some are referring to our current leaders as dictators or worse, based on their policy making, and I wanted to give a little historical perspective. While we don’t have to agree with the decisions being made, to my way of thinking, it’s still a far cry from where we are to a dictatorship. There are those who say that it’s a slippery slope; that the erosion of freedom has already begun and that we should remain ever vigilant, and to a certain extent, I agree. I just don’t think we’re close to that precipice yet. Here we can go to certain stores, eat, carry out food, and go for a walk or jog. Parks are open now, and we can go fishing or boating under certain restrictions, which to be honest don’t make much sense to me.
I think for many, the disconnect lies in the disparity of cases. Well over 90 percent of reported cases and deaths are in the Chicago metropolitan area, and for those down here, we’re left to chafe under the rules imposed for the entirety of the state, and it doesn’t feel comfortable or fair. I get it.
In China, NPR reported that the government forbade the use of private automobiles. In fact, it was widely reported that citizens weren’t allowed to leave their residences without permission.
What we have currently isn’t perfect, but it isn’t that. As always, I will try to celebrate what I have rather than lament what I don’t. Go ahead and do the same. Or not. It’s a free country, after all.