We’re less than a week into the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Predictably, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is tireless in its effort to portray Ukraine as the violator of peace. Russia, they say, is a nation with its hands tied in its assault on its Slavic neighbors. National security forced their hand.
Of course, nothing could be more absurd. Only the most egregious grifters have echoed their claims (more than one American cable news pundit among them).
But even before the first Russian missile found its target, another harmful storyline emerged. Our social media feeds are flooded by what can be described only as pity on the Ukrainian people, complete with prayer hands emojis.
Enough. We need to drop the narrative that Ukraine is a helpless victim. Ukraine is a nation of warriors. I’m lucky enough to have broken bread and swapped stories with some of their finest. They will not simply roll over and bow to Putin and his henchmen.
Putin has chosen violence, and, now, he will have it.
Before retiring in 2019, I served for a dozen years with the California Army National Guard. For nearly 30 years, the Cal Guard has served as Ukraine’s foremost military training partner through the State Partnership Program. Like many Cal Guard officers, I traveled to Ukraine on several occasions. What I witnessed was a thirst for freedom so deep, I found it convicting – even foreign.
America suffers from a profound military-civilian divide. Our volunteer armies wage wars on soil and sand in places most of us couldn’t find on a map. And our deep pockets ensure we enjoy a decided edge in nearly every conflict. War, it seems, is rarely close to home. No such divide exists in Ukraine.
As I scroll my Twitter feed, I’m struck not only by Ukrainian mayors and council members taking up arms but by civilians patrolling the streets, armed with family rifles and Molotov cocktails. I find courage as I watch a pharmaceutical sales rep fill his office with firearms and body armor, refusing to abandon Kyiv to its oppressors. I’m in awe of the defiance of 13 border guards, uttering a final and fatal “Go f*** yourself!” rather than surrender their island to a Russian gunship. Glory to Ukraine, indeed.
No, this isn’t a nation that desires our pity. This is a people that demands our admiration. As the world watches, they demonstrate what genuine resistance looks like.
One needs to return to the American Revolution to observe something similar here in the states. Outgunned by an empire, colonial militias doggedly clung to the hope of lasting freedom as tightly as they did their rifles. Farmers and shopkeepers fought alongside trained soldiers. It was enough to turn back an invading king.
Putin is no king, but his aspirations of building a kingdom seem clear. This isn’t so much about Russia vs. Ukraine, as it is a despot dreading the democracy at his doorstep. But Goliath has charged after David only to learn he is more warrior than the shepherd of sheep.
I don’t want to downplay the gravity of Ukraine’s suffering or the uncertainty of their future. They are in a fight, to be sure. And there is more at stake than the independence of the Ukrainian people; this conflict might prove a watershed for the future of European freedom.
But Ukraine doesn’t need our hashtags or pleas for mercy. It requires concrete, global support. It will take a coalition to quiet this tyrant. This conflict is a test of our democratic resolve. Let those of us who claim a love for freedom not be found wanting.Read comments