It’s just a gunshot.
It’s only a shot away.
— rolling stones
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the needless slaughter of thousands of soldiers and civilians that followed, now seems almost inevitable.
“So what do I care?” some of us may wonder. “It’s not our fight.”
I understand. Maybe you don’t follow foreign news or the machinations of world politics very much. You’re not alone. Most Americans don’t.
It’s not like we don’t have enough to worry about here at home – a deadly pandemic, accelerating inflation, an increase in hate crimes, the right-wing war on women, the existential threat of climate change and, not to mention, our daily struggle just to pay bills, raise our children and keep food on the table.
So why should we care if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders 150,000 troops to invade a much weaker neighbor who poses absolutely no threat to Russia or anyone else for that matter?
We should care because, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., an attack on democracy anywhere is an attack on democracy everywhere.
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Even if we don’t send American troops to fight and die in Ukraine – President Biden has promised he won’t – a fight to preserve Ukrainian democracy is also our fight.
Not that Ukraine is exactly a model for democracies around the world. The country has problems, such as the excessive power of its oligarchs and endemic corruption.
Then again, we don’t have much to brag about these days either. The fascist attack on Capitol Hill on January 6 and the continued pressure from Republicans to curb voting rights, at the very least, proved just how vulnerable our cherished system of government really is.
Consider that a third of Americans, without evidence, still believe that President Biden stole the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump. And tens of millions of the former president’s supporters probably wouldn’t complain much if he or one of his political clones broke a number of election laws to bring Republicans back to power.
Nonetheless, I remain convinced that a strong majority of Americans still value the basic freedoms that most of us enjoy and exercise, particularly since the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts more 50 years old.
You don’t have to be a Bill of Rights expert to recognize and appreciate our most basic freedoms, all of which have their roots in the First Amendment.
It is because of the First Amendment that we have the right to free speech and a free press; a right to practice our chosen religion or not to practice a religion at all; and the right to “peacefully assemble” and criticize our government leaders when we believe they are doing something wrong, such as violating our rights.
Putin, of course, hates democracy, and American democracy in particular, because he hates sharing power at home or anywhere on the planet for that matter. And he hates any claim to rights like freedom of speech or assembly or religion or the right to bear arms or equal justice, because they all challenge the absolute power of dictators – like Putin and his best partner in the anti-democratic crime, President Xi Jinping of China, who is busy these days crushing democracy in Hong Kong. But this is another story.
The fact is that invading Ukraine would not enrich Russia. It would not increase Russia’s military power. And that wouldn’t even come close to bringing Russia back to the supposed greatness of the communist-era Soviet Union.
So why bother to invade?
Never underestimate the capacity, whether for good or ill, of a single human being’s thirst for the kind of power that changes the course of history.
Putin is a morally bankrupt evil genius, and he can’t stand that Russia will never return to its glory days (certainly not in his lifetime), or that his legacy will pale in comparison to the true giants of history.
Ultimately, Putin is a vindictive little man, much like his favorite American puppet, Trump, who would love nothing more to return to his perch in the White House and rule, like Putin, unchallenged for the rest of his life. .
The irony is that even as Biden and our NATO allies threaten to trigger massive economic sanctions against Russia if Putin follows through on his unspoken but very real threat to crush Ukraine’s fledgling democracy, Trump loyalists are plotting to take control of ours.
Tellingly, but unsurprisingly, Trump said nothing at all about the looming threat that Putin could order his troops to invade Ukraine at any moment.
That’s the thing with puppets: they only speak when the puppeteer pulls their strings.
So what if Putin invades Ukraine?
The better question: what if we don’t?