Pundits sometimes opine that Ukraine is actually two nations. The eastern Ukraine is largely of Russian ethnicity. It is largely Orthodox Christian, either Russian Orthodox or the similar but separate Ukrainian Orthodox. Its people mainly look eastward toward Russia. The western Ukraine is largely of Ukrainian ethnicity, with some Polish admixture. Its people are divided between Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Greek Catholic, loyal to Rome. The people of the western Ukraine mainly look westward toward Europe
And then we have the Holodomor, meaning “extermination by hunger.” When Soviet tyrant Stalin collectivized all farms, Ukrainians resisted. Stalin retaliated by seizing crops and shipping them north to Russia. As a result, at least 4 million people starved to death. The world has forgotten this atrocity, but Ukrainians remember.
Still, if Ukraine were left alone, it might solve its problems. But with Russia sitting on Ukraine to the north, with Vladimir Putin sitting in the Kremlin, and with Barack Obama sitting in the White House, what was the chance that Ukraine would be left alone? Absolutely none.
What Ukrainians and we in the West see as a problem, Putin sees as an opportunity. Many (most?) Ukrainians want closer relations with the European Union. But the pro-Russian president, bowing to pressure from Putin, instead chose closer relations with Russia. Rioters filled the streets, and the president fled – to Russia. Putin sent Russian troops to occupy the Crimea, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based, and massed other troops on the Ukrainian border.
In response, Secretary of State Kerry bleated ineffectually, and President Obama grumbled feebly. But at least Obama did not draw another “red line,” as he did in Syria. That meaningless line failed to deter Assad from using force against his own people, but it did encourage Putin to use force against the Ukrainian people.
Tyrants are quick to take advantage of a power vacuum. One need not be a student of history to understand this. One has only to observe how bullies flourish when the biggest kid in the schoolyard shows weakness. America is the biggest kid in the schoolyard. When our leader shows weakness, what, exactly, do we expect?
President Obama said to Dmitry Medvedev, “Tell Vladimir [Putin] that after my election, I’ll have more flexibility.” Obama should have foreseen that Putin would inevitably hear the message as, “After my election, you can be more aggressive.” And that is exactly what Putin is doing.
Ukraine is bedeviled by ethnic and religious fissures. The split occurs between east and west, with the Russian bear eager to ingest the eastern portion, at least as an appetizer. But how, you ask, can this possibly be relevant to the situation in America? Clearly, we are not in danger of an east-west split, and our neighbor to the north is not a ferocious, hungry bear but a peaceful, vegetarian moose. But does this mean that America is not in danger of fracturing?
Both east and west coasts are liberal, while the center of the country from Montana and the Dakotas to Texas is conservative. A Ukraine-like split in two would be impossible. An even worse fragmentation is unlikely – but not impossible.
There is no next-door neighbor abetting the fracture. But there are many enemies who favor our disintegration. These include hostile Russia and China, hostile Muslim extremists, and hostile leftists – including those in our own country.
Houston, we have a problem.
● We are split between those who want to elect fellow citizens to carry out their wishes, and people who want to elect elitists to rule us ignorant “common” people − because we just can’t appreciate their brilliant ideas.
● We are split between those who want innovators like Steve Jobs to prosper by their own efforts, and those who want cronies of officials to prosper from government handouts.
● We are split between those who want to create wealth, and those who want to redistribute the wealth others create.
● We are split between contributors and takers.
● We are split between those who believe there are permanent ethical principles based on Judeo-Christian values, and those who don’t.
● We are split between those who believe the Constitution means what it says, and those who believe it is a “living document” that means whatever the president or judges say it means.
● We are split between those who honor patriots, and those who are so afraid of super-patriots that they try to produce no patriots at all.
● We are split between those who honor the Minutemen as defenders of freedom, and those who replaced a Minuteman mascot as “too violent.”
● We are split between those who truly support our troops, and those who say the words but in fact hold them in contempt and despise what they do.
● We are split between those who want to reassure our friends and worry our enemies, and those who want to do the opposite.
● We are split between those who teach young people to view their country with pride and their flag with respect, and those who teach the opposite.
● We are split between those who honor victims’ rights above criminals’ rights, and those who do the opposite.
● We are split between those who believe in American exceptionalism, and those who also believe in it – but want to end it.
● We are split between those who consider what is right, and those who consider what is legal.
● We are split between those who respect “E Pluribus Unum,” and those who respect “multiculturalism” – meaning to honor all cultures except our own.
● We are split between those who respect all human life, and those who view the million babies aborted each year as “blobs of jelly.”
● We are split between those who try to save a little money to leave to their children, and those who see nothing wrong with the government running up a gigantic debt for their children and grandchildren to repay – if they can.
● We are split between those who see themselves as independent adults, responsible for themselves and their loved ones, and those who see themselves as teenagers, using their earnings as they please, then running home for Mom to take care of them when they get sick, and for Dad to bail them out when they overspend – with the government playing the role of parent.
● We are split between those who see government handouts as addicting, and those who want to be addicts – or pushers.
● We are split between those who understand that the federal government has only the powers that the Constitution gives it, and those who believe its powers are unlimited, including the power to control our health care − and even tell us what talk radio to listen to, and what light bulbs and toilets to use.
● We are split between those who believe in free enterprise, and those who agree with global capitalists and global socialists (is there any difference?) in their lust to increase their power by reducing our freedoms.
● We are split between those who know that all officials serve under the Constitution, and those who saw nothing wrong when then-Speaker Pelosi was asked whether nationalized health care is constitutional, and she replied, “Are you serious?” − while giggling. The Constitution survived the Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, and 9/11. But can it survive the contempt of our highest officials?
No, we are not in as severe danger of splitting apart as is Ukraine, at least not yet. But our task is to do all we can to repair the fissures before they become chasms. As a first step, we must recognize that the fissures exist, and that they are growing wider. Otherwise, the result will be too bitter to contemplate.
Columbia, do you copy? Columbia?
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