I wanted to share a story from the book “Right Turns“, written by Jewish conservative talk show host Michael Medved. In the story, he explains how his uncle got him to accept one of the most important lessons of life.
He tells the story of having a special dinner with his Uncle Moish in chapter 7:
He took special interest in me from the beginning because, he claimed, he saw a chance with me to redeem past mistakes and to do a better job in shaping a finished product than he had done in “raising” his kid brother, my father. I appreciated my uncle’s solicitous attention… Nevertheless, I was only eleven and found it difficult to ignore my other pressing priorities, most notably, my obsession with tacky science fiction movies. I began to pester Uncle Moish to take me to see a heavily advertised shocker called The Brain from Planet Arous.
To my surprise, Moish at least kept the door open to the idea that he would escort me to The Brain from Planet Arous. But first he insisted on taking me out to dinner at a “fancy restaurant” for a very important and very serious conversation.
I dressed up in my one suit for this solemn occasion and remember the discomfort of a too-tight tie and the too-snug shoulders during our steak dinner. Moish allowed me to order absolutely anything I wanted from the menu—in contrast to my unfailingly cost-conscious mother on those rare occasions when I went out to eat with my parents. Looking around that shiny, busy dining room, with all the well-dressed and prosperous adults, I remember feeling conscious of my status as the only kid in the place. After dinner, feeling very important and grown up, I ordered dessert before my uncle leaned his long, serious face conspiratorially across the table.
“Now is the time, Mike, for the talk we need to have. Maybe your parents think you’re too young, or they don’t want you to hear. But I think you’re ready. I think you need it. I think you are going to remember.”
[…]“First of all, let me ask you. Have you ever heard of the Scarlet Plague?”
“I know about the Black Death, Uncle Moish. That was the disease that killed all those people in the Middle Ages.”
‘That’s very good. but no, the Scarlet Plague is even worse. It’s not about the Middle Ages. It’s about right now, and fifty years ago. It kills more people, ruins more lives, than any other disease. And the worst part about it is the people who are most likely to get sick, and who are going to suffer the most, are the brightest minds, the biggest idealists, the natural leaders of this world. They are people just like you.”
I warmed to his compliment, and tried to smile away my fear and discomfort.
“The Scarlet Plague is Communism. It’s Scarlet because they call themselves Reds, and also that is the color of blood. And there’s blood everywhere with the Communists, of the people they kill, that they torture and they cripple. I know because I saw it myself—I saw it starting in Russia before we got out in 1924. But not only Russia, you know. It’s everywhere. It’s in America. It’s in Israel. Especially with intellectuals! If you’re not ready for it, you may get infected—so you have to understand.”
And he went on to lay out the most gripping, convincing, and altogether persuasive case against the Communists and their lies and their cruelty and they insatiable lust for power and destruction. More than a decade later, when I first read Solzhenitsyn’s epochal (and then brand new) Gulag Archipelago, I thought of my Uncle Moish making the same sort of case, with equal passion, in that ritzy restaurant in Philadelphia. l tried to remember all the names and dates and stories he told me, but the underlying message emerged more clearly than any details. I knew something about “The Cold War” and the threat from the Soviet Union, but Moish made the danger feel far more immediate, insidious, almost supernatural.
“And when you tell your father that we had this talk—and you should tell him—he’ll just laugh and make fun of me. He’d tell you not to worry. He thinks because the Reds never infected him that there’s nothing to worry about. He’s too relaxed about everything! Because he doesn’t know the way they’re going to go after you— I know they will!—and they’re going to go after millions and millions of other people in your generation. Your father doesn’t take it seriously but I need you to take it seriously. I need you to be prepared. You’re In the Boy Scouts, right? ‘Be prepared’ is the motto! Be ready to fight back against the Scarlet Plague!”
It all seemed impossibly heavy and melodramatic, as if Moish worried that my mostly Republican, middle-class San Diego world had already been infested with active cells of preteen Commie agents. Nevertheless, I promised to heed his lecture and to keep his pleas in mind in the years ahead.
And amazingly enough, I did. Less than six years after the diatribe, I was surrounded in college by honest-to-goodness leftist lunatics, and in trying to deal with the psychos from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), I thought repeatedly of my uncle’s warnings about the Scarlet Plague… I’d like to believe that I would have rejected extremist temptations even without my uncle’s warnings, but as I made progress in my political journey, his unforgettable harangue seemed more and more prescient, even profound.
I read the book about 15 years ago and the story stuck with me.
Michael Medved is a very successful talk show host. He reaches a wide audience, including a lot of religious and secular Jews with his conservative message. And he promotes scholars who work on intelligent design in science, like Dr. Stephen C. Meyer. What a huge difference his Uncle made. He knew the importance of winning a person using ALL the tools that you have available. You can’t rely on daycare, public schools, celebrities, athletes and artists to communicate important truths to young people. You must do it. And if you have something important to say, then spend your time and money and effort making sure you are heard.