I Missed the Revolution


New Orleans. -- The 1917 Russian revolution took ten days to shake the world. But the 1991 unrevolution took less than a week. It was this week of all weeks, that I went to the woods and I was without a phone, a radio, a newspaper or a TV. These woods were in the Adirondack mountains in the very place where Rip Van Winkle slept for a hundred years, during which time he missed only the industrial revolution.

When I woke up, the world was changed just as profoundly. New countries had all but appeared on the map. The bloody utopia that ruled a large chunk of the planet for three quarters of a century was ended in my sleep. And this may be the proper way for a nightmare to end, a nightmare that began in my native Romania the year I was born. I woke to this life as Soviet tanks gave us Communism. Now I'm awake again, and it's gone. It makes sense too that one hundred Rip van Winkle years are equal to seven Codrescu days: Time's been speeding up, and whatever happens now happens fast.

When nightmares end all the good dreams that couldn't be dreamt can be dreamt again. The end of communism may mean that socialism, for instance, can be dreamt of again and so can all the ideas of community that were obscured by the ism. Those new countries on the map can redefine their communities along any lines they choose. There is the danger, of course, inherent in any waking, of disorientation, crankiness and anger. The desire for revenge, the easy lure of nationalism, the urge to break things may all surge through the escapees of the nightmare.

My own urge, however, is to celebrate. During the last two years I have experienced violent, alternating states of hope and despair. The euphoria of the December 1989 revolution in Romania gave up to the bitterness of the stolen revolution of June 1990, the joy of finding my childhood followed by the grief of seeing it under the watch of the secret police, still. I am euphoric again, but I'm not innocent any more. The sleeper is groggy and the nightmare is stubborn. And maybe I'm not really awake, maybe it's that time between sleep and waking when the monsters still have meat on their bones.

Andrei Codrescu teaches English at Louisiana State University.

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