Real People Live in Ukraine and Want to be Free
Why is that so hard for Fox News and the American Right to understand?
In the 1980s, when I was still active in the vibrant writer’s community in and around Detroit, one of my close friends was a Ukrainian poet/activist who spent a good part of her time smuggling out and translating into English the works of dissident Ukrainian poets living under Soviet rule.
Ukraine was still a Soviet satellite and censorship was in full force, but their artists, their creative voices, held strong. Much of the work my friend translated and helped to publish spoke of the cruelties of life under the Russians, of the daily deprivations and humiliations, of their longing for freedom. They were eloquent and beautiful and heartbreaking. She cried as she edited their works; she cried as she read them aloud to us. And we cried with her.
Then, in 1991, as the Soviet Union was falling, Ukraine officially and without bloodshed declared their independence, with 90 percent of the people approving. They’ve had their share of tumult and turmoil since then, but their art, their architecture, their literature, their churches, their tourism industry—all thriving. Full of life.
And now it’s about to end. Again.
Most of us here in the United States know little about Ukraine, but we know enough about Russia to be able to side with the Ukrainians without question. Putin is a vicious brute intent on reclaiming Ukraine, no matter what hurdles the world might put in his way. He tells us it’s for Ukraine’s own good. He tells us Russia held that country once and they deserve to hold it again. He warns us to back off.
President Biden, NATO, and the rest of the civilized nations don’t agree. Our hearts are in our throats as we watch the stand-off. War is at hand in Ukraine and we as a nation recognize Russia as the aggressor. Will sanctions and diplomacy work, or will the Russians call our bluff and force the NATO nations into an all-out war? Nobody knows yet, but the threats are real and our involvement in some way is inevitable.
But over at Fox News the strangest thing is happening. They’re siding with Russia. The entire news network is on Russia’s side in this. How do we know? Because they tell us. At one point, Tucker Carlson put it into words: “I’m siding with Russia.’
In a recent bizarre segment, Tucker asked a bunch of questions that to even the most casual observer would seem totally off the wall. (Remember that Tucker Carlson holds the top primetime anchor slot and rarely loses the ratings battle. He has millions of viewers every night clinging to his every foul word. That’s why this is important.)
(NOTE: link above gets you behind WaPo’s paywall)
“It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much?” [Tucker] said on his Tuesday night show. “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”
Carlson, who has been accused of being “one of the biggest cheerleaders for Russia” during the conflict, asked viewers on his top-rated Fox News show a series of questions about whether Putin had promoted “racial discrimination” in schools, made fentanyl, attempted “to snuff out Christianity” or eaten dogs.
“These are fair questions, and the answer to all of them is ‘no.’ Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that,” he said. “So, why does permanent Washington hate him so much?”
Now, we know Tucker isn’t dumb. We know for a fact that he’s a childish, churlish propagandist of the worst kind. We know for a fact that he was born with a dry, withered heart; one that’s incapable of bleeding a single drop for anyone. So there’s no point in asking how he or any other Fox News member got that way. No need to ask about their motives. No need to remind him or any of the Fox pundits that they’re guilty of the worst kind of hypocrisy when they preach ‘freedom’ from vaccines or masks or a government of laws and regulations but won’t acknowledge that a sovereign country seeking freedom from tyranny is the one we should be backing.
We don’t have to waste time wondering where those cockamamie ideas come from. The origins of their ridiculous claims don’t matter. What matters is that they’re out there, center stage, and they use their influence for evil. Pure evil.
If we haven’t figured out by now that the enemy is Fox News, Donald Trump, the growing right wing of the Republican Party, and all of the others who spout their un-American anti-government propaganda in our own country, we’re in trouble. We can’t fight against an enemy we refuse to acknowledge.
We’ve never been Russia’s allies, and we never will be. The right wing propagandists will never convince us to accept Putin’s scheming, murderous practices. We’ve fought too hard against those regimes to ever see any value in them.
Yet the right wing propagandists do. They do see value in working with the Russians rather than against them, and, again, it doesn’t matter why. It only matters that we recognize the need to fight against their power and their influence. Our democracy is at stake, and nobody would cheer louder than Vladimir Putin if it should fall.
We’ll have to accept this simple truth: There are factions in this country looking more and more like America’s enemies. You don’t want to hear that, and you’ll stop just short of admitting it, but all of the signs are there. They’re turning this country upside down, deliberately causing chaos and division, ending voting rights, women’s rights, civil rights, and every citizen’s right to health, happiness, safety, security, and freedom.
Their twisted views are all too normal for vast numbers of our population. They’re building their army and they’re among us. They travel in trucks, waving their guns and their flags, spouting their scripted lies. They’ll turn on us when they can, and they’re learning how to do that by watching the Russians.
If Russia takes Ukraine without much pushback, it’ll send signals to their cohorts in the U.S that it’s possible here, too. If we enter the war to save Ukraine from Russia, those most vocal in the right wing will have been conditioned to believe the Russians are right to take over a sovereign country by force. Any interference by the Americans will be seen as going against Trump and their right wing ‘heroes’.
Either way, the divide widens, and that’s just what the right wants to see. A divided country is ripe for a takeover. That’s the goal.
Before Donald Trump rose to power, with Putin’s help, I never knew a single American who admitted to siding with the Russians. Not even a Republican. We were all on the same page: Putin and the Russians were not to be trusted. We could never be allies.
The thought of it seemed ludicrous. Yet the first official visitors to ‘President’ Trump’s Oval office were select members of Putin’s regime. Trump allowed no cameras in the room, no reporters, and at the end, demanded the translator turn over her notes. He did the same with his meetings with Putin.
Trump played footsie with the Russians, sent love letters to the leader of Communist North Korea, sat at the feet of Vladimir Putin, and to half the country he appeared strong. Yes, strong.
That’s what we’re up against. Steve Bannon is on the air praising Putin for being ‘anti-woke’ and against LGBTQ, and we’re reporting it as if it’s news and not total bonkers propaganda from a convicted criminal.
But there is a note of hope, a slim shaft of light: Mitch McConnell broke from the Trump ranks and formally condemned Russia’s actions against Ukraine. It seems insane to have to cling to that one small thing, that condemnation that should come from every American, no matter who they are or where they are on the political scale, but that’s where we are now.
This coming year may well be our turning point. There are forces working against us right here at home. We know who they are and what they’re up to, because they tell us. They warn us, they taunt us, they egg us on. And they’re gaining power.
If they were outsiders coming at us from another country, we would have organized and stopped them long ago. Because they’re our own countrymen, they have the advantage. We don’t want to believe any American would work with the Russians, even when they make it crystal clear that’s exactly what they’re doing.
And while we’re shaking our heads, trying to make sense of it, they’re organizing, building their ranks, undermining our freedoms by taking away voting rights, by installing right wing enforcers in every branch of government, including the courts, by turning Americans against Americans.
This is our year to get back to sanity. We may never have another chance. We’ll have to fight against aggression at home, possibly at the same time as we fight it overseas. But first we have to admit it’s as bad as it looks.
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