Great powers can fall but only human vagary can kill democracy. Some in every democracy however strong will grow greedy beyond measure. They succeed only if the majority is unable to resist as the mighty US was about to prove when Ukraine awakened it
In the 20th century, Russia ran an inhuman experment in ruling the world. After it helped the western democracies defeat a national demagogue in Europe, the democracies repaid Russia for its help by giving it half of Europe to control. The Soviet Union behind an Iron Curtain became Russia’s lab.
As with North Korea today, the world knew little of the septics thriving in the dark behind the Curtain. The Communist Party was the State & the cental Party State of the Siviet Union installed leaders in each of the Soviet satellites. The Party State in each of those controlled every aspect of individual life from birth to death. Education, work path and even social life was assigned in line with the Soviet central plan. National plan were reinforced with the heavy hand of purges, imprisonment & disappearances. Food shortages kept populations hungry and party pets eager to move up into fatter pastures. If populations became overly restive, Soviet central sent armored tanks to help keep an order beneficial to black markets and Soviet central syphoning of every nation’s natural resources. Corruption was endemic by the time the experiment crashed 40 years after it started.
Satellite nations had not been passive victims during those 40 Soviet years. Despite purges and slaughter, people massed to rise up in protest against oppression. Hungarians rose up in 1956, the Czechs in 1968 and the Polish Solidarity movement of the 1980’s all led to the downing of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain in 1989. Two years later the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving a very ambitious hot-shot future leader smoldering with bitterness like a live ember in a doused campfire.
Vladimir Putin plotted as he fumed, his eye on a brash ustler who had started sniffing around when the constellation of satellites began wobbling. By instinct and KGB training, Putin recognized in Donald Trump the promise of a grand new anchor for the futue..
Putin gave Trump a few test runs and found him easily malleable. Even more propitious was the cavalier Trump ease with the soft American public.
Americans were bleeding hearts who’d never survive a Siberian winter, Putin had already deduced. The common-knowledge stereotype proved out during the eight years that America flirted with democratic equality under Obama. Racial utrages like the birther movement barely made a ripple in the American population at large. As the next election neared, Putin set the stage for Trump by invading Ukraine.
The rest has been a dream come true for Putin rebuilding an empire greater than the Soviet Union had ever been. Reported setbacks were triumphs from the perspective of true greatness, he made sure to convey in public. Heavy the head that wears the crown, he let the world know with a steely gaze when criticized for vanquishing opponents. He found affirmation in Trump, who had only to entertain his public to get their adulation. But when America proved more resilient than expected by defeating Trump in the next election, Putin had a moment of doubt.
No worry, Putin determined as supporters rallied to Trump’s aid. Americans really are suckers, he declared by playing cat and mouse about invading Ukraine. Then as the absurdity played out with Americans douting noy only election results but the actual fact of a coup attempted in plain sight, Putin took the next step of an all-out attack on Ukraine.
True enough, the Ukraine campaign proved more taxing than expected. Seemed even in America popularity carried less weight than the powers of the Office. But no matter, time was on his sade, Putin declared with nuclear threats & news leaks about trade deals undercutting western sanctions. All told, he was holding his own against a growing enemy alliance he finally declared with a no-holds-barred attack on the Ukrainian civilian population.
Ukraine was the fly in the ointment, Putin told the pressas he saw a parallel scenario playing out in the US a year into the campaign, Ukraine was holding its own by virtue of a multi-prong approach more potent than the Putin and Trump tactics combined. Nearly all of Russia believed the Putin version of facts. In the US, the number of the Trump faithful had not swelled an inch. Ukraine was to blame.
In the modern world, Ukraine was doing everything right. Its leader was an entertainer like the American Trump. Being European, he was more earnest and nuanced. He inspired his people to rise for the occasion in a direct and full-hearted aplomb The image of that ardor in action on the battlefield was kindled to life routinely in the world’s eye by cell phone and TV screens. The message was a drumbeat to a common human consciousness worldwide.
“Russia is a lawless brute. Russia insults us all.”
That reminder of America’s own birth was a bonding agent in the modern world. It brought together the old world and the new. It bridged the gap between the European West and the East still on the fence about a future direction. Most vexing of all, the valiant fight against oppression had opened a chink in the armor of the world’s great melting pot.
By all news accounts, it seemed the west was worried that American democracy would fail. Would that it were so, Putin proclaimed and summoned China to speed the process. And still concern redoubled as the American justice system gained traction and became reflected in the greater world until reality was undeniable.
Ukraine had touched the sweet spot in the world’s great melting pot squeezed into a pressure cooker under Trump. America then exploded beyond its container walls to help Ukraine. It became a global presence to the little people of the world wanting to share in the prosperity of their rulers. Like Ukraine and the American blacks responsible for Trump’s defeat, the world’s little people no longer knew their place.
The realization gave paude to Putin until the Biden Democracy Summit opened and the usual procession of eggheads reassured him. Lip service. They could sermonize about the virtues of democracy but it was obvious people wanted security with a strong leader like Trump. The courage of feckless Ukraine stirred American nostalgia about its early days but that didn’t unite those living there now. Except, Putin noted as Trump ranted on the TV.
Trump was right again, Putin seemed to say as he summoned aids for a briefing. Many of the prosecutors going after Trump were American blacks.
Courage, Putin scoffed as aids reminded him of the high price America had paid to free the black American basketball giant. After that, the path ahead was clear.
Ukraine reminded the affluent America of a courage grown flacid. By now, America and its western allies didn’t even know what democracy was or what its values were. But global heirarchy was firm and not soon to be changed.
American blacks were at the botom of the totem pole there, as were Africans in the global totem chain. Impatient with the fate history had handed them, they would reject the democracy that had done them wrong. They wouldn’t understand that without democracy they’d still be nowhere in the world. Thus, in a mix of angry little people, democracy would self-destruct but only if Ukraine was stopped from inspiring the west.
Such thinking may have been the impetus for the ferocity of Putin’s attack on Ukraine, which by all modern standards is senseless. Hs rage may also have been fueled by frustration. How could the western democracies be so great if they shrank back at every slight threat he made about a nuclear option?
Of course Ukraine was brave, Putin admitted when he declared Ukraine was part of Rusiia. He may even have thought of Ukraine as part of Russia in the way that American blacks were part of the US. But that thinking would have a fatal flaw.
Ukraine is an autonomous country. It has a national identity and secure borders defined according to international law. American blacks are part of the American fabric, inseparable from the rest and reaffirmed in that status through time-tested struggle
What Ukraine and American blacks have in common is the democratic value of courage. They stand up for their God-given dignity. They assert the rights they deserve and they fight for them. That inspires all the world’s little people to strive upward for their countries.
Fogarassy is the author most recently of America Votes Obama to Biden Past Trump, a kaleidoscopic view of the Trump phenomenon. Her real-life novel about Hungary under Soviet Communism Light of a Destiny Dark was reissued last year.
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