Monday, April 21, 2014

We Are All Ukrainians

The more I read and hear, the more I believe that the crisis in Ukraine is of incalculable importance not only for Ukrainians, but for the entire world. This is so whether you are Christian or non-Christian, American or European, Liberal or Conservative.
First of all, the Ukrainian Revolution was an entirely remarkable event. Despite the lies of the Russian propagandists, I am not aware of any revolution that has been more peacefully conducted or more justifiably waged than this one. The people of Ukraine did not take to the streets out of spontaneous love for the EU or America; they did not get beaten by riot police and shot by snipers for any mere legal or social issue, however important. No, millions of ordinary Ukrainians from every walk of life and every political persuasion traveled across the country to the tents and fires of the Maidan, and stayed there through the coldest winter on record, simply to affirm the most basic rights and dignities of the human person.
They did not suffer for European social policy or American capitalism: they suffered to create a society where they would be free from the arbitrary abuse of those in power, where their basic right not to be stolen from, beaten, tortured, and wrongfully imprisoned would be respected. It is not for nothing that Patriarch Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has repeatedly called it a "Revolution of Dignity." These people suffered--and died--for the inviolable dignity of the human person, and the for basic human rights we all take for granted.
And that they succeeded--against a corrupt oligarchic regime awash in Russian money, against the propaganda of the Russian state media, against riot police, sniper fire, and sub-zero temperatures--is almost miraculous.
On the other side of the current conflict is that entity that for the last hundred years has most exemplified arbitrary, self-justifying abuse of power: the Russian state. The abuses of human rights and dignity that take place daily in Russia are too many to recount. There are judges in Russia who have never found anyone innocent; bribes are required even for the most everyday aspects of life; and the complicity of the state with organized crime, including sex trafficking, is immense. Russia today stands for a system of enforced, universal complicity and corrupt, autocratic abuse of power.
And Russia is trying, with all its might, to crush the Ukrainian revolution. It is trying to do this because it is afraid of this revolution--or, more precisely, because it fears what this revolution stands for. Vladmir Putin fears the Ukrainian revolution because what it stands for is diametrically opposed to what he and his country stand for. He thinks it is a threat to him, his allies, and his way of life; and he is right.
This conflict, then, is quite simply about the most basic ideas on which Western Civilization, and indeed all civilization, is founded.
We, as a people and as a civilization, claim to stand for liberty, for human dignity, for justice. This is what the Ukrainians today stand for; this is what they suffered and died for; and this is what they will soon be fighting for.
If we simply stand back and allow Russia to devour Ukraine, to crush its people into the dust and forcibly incorporate them into its system of abuse and corruption, then how can we ever claim to stand for these things again?
I am normally someone who finds slogans about liberty rather distasteful; but if this is not a conflict between liberty and tyranny, then what is?
I am normally someone who urges caution and complexity rather than judgment; but if this is not a conflict between good and evil, then what is?
I firmly believe, then, that it is our responsibility as human beings, whatever our political or religious affiliations, to do everything we can to support the Ukrainian people at this time. We must pray for them, we must stand with them, and we must be willing to suffer for them.
For now, in a very real sense, we are all Ukrainians.

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