The photos of ill-equipped Ukrainian soldiers saying sad good-byes to their fleeing wives and children and going off to fight the invading armies of one of the world’s most powerful militaries conjure up a time in American history when something similar was happening here. Back in 1775, in Massachusetts, families were bidding sad good-byes to badly equipped volunteers, known as Minutemen, as they went off to battle a mammoth army with the latest armaments, controlled by a superpower that insisted the American colonies were its prized possession.
Those men fighting against overwhelming odds to repel foreign invaders, and defend the right of Ukrainians to speak and gather freely, and choose their leaders in free elections, have riven the world. We are witnessing a classic case of David fighting off Goliath, and while it may take some time for their struggle to succeed, it has come as far as it has over the last ten days because the Ukrainians are much more motivated to defend freedom than the invaders are to extend the glory of their dictator ruler Vladimir Putin. (Remember, America’s Revolutionary War dragged on for eight years, through many periods of seeming hopelessness and battle losses.)
Ironically, while Ukraine’s struggle has riven most of the world, in the U.S., the home of the citizen soldier fending off an invading colonial power, a significant number of people still can’t get over their infatuation with the tyrant Vladimir Putin. The previous American president, Donald Trump, continues bending over to kiss Putin’s rear end, calling his planned assault on Ukraine “genius.” I’ve seen claims on Facebook that Putin is really trying to destroy secret biological warfare labs in Ukraine, that the whole mess is some kind of conspiracy involving top American infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, and of course, that it’s all part of a Zionist conspiracy. These Americans refuse to let even the clearest examples of tyrannical excess deter them from their tightly held narrative, ignoring the reality that Russia is now not only likely committing war crimes in Ukraine, but blocking access to Facebook and other social media sites in Russia (and referring to them as purveyors of ‘fake news”); in other words, debates over war policy aren’t allowed in Russia.
It all recalls the days of the 2016, when the Trump campaign for president had as its campaign chairman an American who made his living (and a very nice one at that) helping the Putin-supported pols in Ukraine. After Trump was elected, and his own attorney general appointed a special prosecutor (Robert Muller) to investigate the campaign’s ties to the Russians, Trump’s supporters went crazy. What’s wrong with the Russians? Why, Putin is against genetically modified food, went some of the arguments on .
I recall those weird days not to say ‘I told you so,’ but rather to wonder whether the American infatuation with a maniacal tyrant means we wouldn’t have it within us today to do what the Ukrainians are doing. Would we, or would we let attachment to fairy tales about cuddly and manly Vladimir Putin color our judgment?
This isn’t idle questioning. Putin has made clear he wants to restore Russia to the days when it jockeyed with America as the world’s super power. Clearly, if his armies could run roughshod over Ukraine, he would seek new targets in Europe, and then eventually train his focus on the U.S., perhaps in concert with his allies in China. I don’t think it occurs to those Americans who think liberals and Democrats are the country’s most serious enemies that we could some day face Russia and China as potential conquerors, so deluded are these Americans that other Americans are conspiring against them.
Do we still have it in us as a nation to fight for the values that make America such a free and exciting nation? Could we do what the Ukrainians are doing now? It remains to be seen.