The recent decision by the parliament of Lithuania to ban both Soviet and Nazi symbols, as well as national anthems, is, in my mind, a mistake.
It is not a mistake of "blasphemous" proportions, as the policy shapers in the Kremlin will tell you. That they are so uncomfortable with unauthorized history telling is their own national pathology. I have chosen to put them on ignore.
But it is a mistake because I believe that the prohibition of these symbols only makes them more sexy; by turning them into contraband, you reinvigorate the desire for access. By banning something, you only make it more powerful.
And do not look West for inspiration, because we have not handled the legacy of the Second World War well either. For reasons unknown, we use it as some sort of moral compass. All political decisions can be fed through the Neville-Chamberlain-in-Munich-o-meter for the detection of various strains of appeasement. The words "Versailles" and "Sudetenland" may not mean anything to the average person, but they know the Austrian with the funny mustache when they see him.
If you take a few steps back, you can see that we are all really quite mad. We treat both of these regimes, Nazi and Soviet, as if they were not our own, as if we were not related to them, the same way that we may not wish to be related to a certain odious relative. But the fact is that we are related to that relative, and you can no more sever your genetic fabric than you can sever your connection to history. You can cut your relative out of photos, but that doesn't mean he wasn't there. You can ban symbols or music, but that doesn't mean that they don't exist.
And why do you ban music and symbols? Thanks to my exposure to these symbols and music, I have actually come to see the cultural legacy of both regimes as terrifically antiquated and reliant on outdated forms of media. I mean, the Soviet and Nazi cultural legacy comes down to bold poster art and creaking film strips of parades. There are some people who live vicariously through such art forms, but to most people, the only thing that could make them interesting is that you are not supposed to be looking at them; in the same way that a person views the wall that separates them from the X-rated section of a video store, a person can view the legal trip wire that might be set off should he drive around town in Vilnius blasting the Soviet national anthem.
But he probably wouldn't drive around town doing that, anyway. Why? Because he knows some big Lithuanian dudes nearby named Daumantis and Algirdas might decide to take the law into their own hands. And so social mores prevent our hypothetical Soviet propagandist from performing his musicology experiment. No laws are necessary.
Why do lawmakers consistently waste their time delving into this stuff? It's not just in the Baltic rim countries; all over the world parliaments churn out ceremonious gobbledygook that barely impacts the lives of average people. And it creates distance between the representatives and their constituents, because, believe me, the first thing on the people's agenda in Estonia, for instance, might be increasing worker productivity and lowering inflation. Banning symbols and music is something you might do after happy hour at Stenbock House.
Or maybe I am wrong and this is all ok with you. What do you think?