Click. The lights have gone out in Poland. There are snow on the ground and troops in the street. Men come in the night to make arrests. People have been killed and dissidents are in jail and if you listen real hard you can hear a wail of agony coming from that country. If you listen even harder you can hear the response from the free world. It is the sound of silence.
In Europe, there have been some scattered demonstrations -- nothing much. Some people have taken to the streets in Paris and in London, but it is nothing compared to the antinuclear-cum-anti-American demonstrations of last fall. Two million Europeans marched then. In Amsterdam, 300,000 persons took to the streets. In London, the figure was 175,000, and in Rome it was 200,000. Where are they now? For the death of freedom in Poland, there has been almost no one.
It is the same in America. A few people have protested. There have been some demonstrations. Here in Washington, the Polish community withheld its traditional gift of a Christmas tree to the embassy. In Chicago, Polish-Americans marched. But for the most part, there are no crowds in the streets. Their vigils outside the embassies -- either the Polish embassy or the Soviet embassy -- have been modest. It is Christmas time and we are all very busy people. II n the Third World, so quick to blame I America for almost anything and to condemn Israel for merely existing, the silence is deafening. There is no protest. There is no condemnation. Those great moralists have been struck mute. The arbiters of human sin, when it comes to the West, see and hear nothing. Poland? Oh yes, Poland. That is an internal matter.
The pope's heart is broken. He makes his shortwave broadcasts, but no one pays much attention. He pleads for peace, for understanding, for the survival of freedom in Poland, but this, after all, is the job of the pope. Soon he will issue his Christmas message and ask for world peace. He does this every year, and every year the world disappoints him.
Why should we be surprised? The world has seen this before. Oh, Lech Walesa, you think you're so different? Oh, Lech Walesa, you're nothing but a Jew or a black or Armenian or Kulak or Gypsy or Cambodian or American Indian. You're on your own now, and Poland is as good a place as any for this. It is the country, after all, of Auschwitz and Treblinka, the Warsaw ghetto and the massacre of Polish army officers by their dear friends and allies, the Russians. The Poles, of all people, should know better than to think the cavalry will come to the rescue. This movie ends differently. TT he world has been caught off guard. T It knows how to react to invasion. It knows how to yell when the atrocity comes from across a border, when it has pictures of tanks rumbling across the frontier. It does not know how to react, however, when the instrument is blunter, when the deed is done from within, when things get confused with talk of internal difficulties and food lines and calls for referenda. We expected the Russians to do this. We were told the Russians would do what the Poles are doing to themselves.
Maybe this is why the victim is being blamed for his own troubles. Some people say Solidarity asked for too much. It had already challenged the Communist Party. The party had to share authority with a union. It dismantled censorship and it challenged the old repressive ways and, for a while, freedom bubbled in Poland. It was a dizzy time, but then Solidarity asked for a referendum. People said it went too far. Yes, that's it. What happened was its fault. This sort of thinking must make inaction a lot easier to swallow.
It has got to be dark in Poland. Dark and cold. One part of the country is cut off from another, and the country itself is cut off from the world. The news media has been largely silenced. There is no television to show us what is happening, no gripping scenes of youths hurling molotov cocktails, no interviews with brave and terrified people.
The Iron Curtain that Churchill said was anchored in the northern Polish city of Stettin has descended again. What the world cannot see, it will not protest. Poland has gone dark. The world has gone mute.