At first, it was difficult to brush aside the carnage.
We see the horror of war and empathize with those engulfed by it.
We get angry at the senselessness of it.
We get agitated that one man’s evil ambition can wreak havoc on millions of innocent people who just want to live their lives.
But as the war drags on, we’ll grow to accept it as part of the global landscape.
For Ukrainians, outrage and anger fuel their fight and their will to survive.
For Ukrainians, outrage is ammunition. Outrage is necessary.
But for us watching the war from a safe distance, in 3-minute segments on flat-screen TVs, maintaining the same level of outrage we felt initially is not sustainable. Not because we’re callous or ambivalent, but because that level of outrage interferes with our daily routine and our need to get on with our lives.
Humans are not wired to maintain a constant state of outrage when their environment does not merit it, or when their survival does not depend on it.
For those not directly impacted by war, extended outrage is an impediment. To move on with our lives, outrage gives way to a begrudging (and guilt-laden) acceptance of other people’s suffering.
In a way, turning off our outrage becomes a survival mechanism.
Putin understands this.
Putin is betting that the world will get tired of feeling outrage.
Putin knows that outrage has a short shelf-life and all he has to do for victory is wait us out.
We need sustainable outrage to stand up against the enemies of freedom and democracy.
On daddy’s dime, he ran business after business into the ground.
He shorted his contractors, defrauded and extorted his way to the top of the New York real estate market.
He cheated on his taxes almost as much as he cheated on his wives.
He sexually assaulted women and bragged about it.
He publicly mocked a handicapped reporter.
When a woman reporter held his feet to the fire with tough questions, he insinuated that her tough questions were related to her menstrual cycle.
He endlessly equated a women’s worth with her appearance.
He sexualized his own daughter publicly.
He denied housing to people based solely on the color of their skin.
He used a charity as a front for illegal activities and was forced to shut it down.
He created a fake university to take money from suckers, truckers, and dumb motherfuckers all across America.
He pandered to Americans’ fears, employing a nationalistic propaganda campaign emblematic of the Nazis in Pre-World War II Europe. And as a result of that campaign, he ascended to the highest office in the land.
And for four years, we bore witness to a fundamental truth; like sewage in a leeching field, a man’s lack of character seeps into every decision he makes.
At the pinnacle of power and public service, instead of leading and uniting a nation, Trump put all his energy into pitting Americans against one another. He understood that a divided America was his best and only chance at hanging on to power.
As president, he promoted and pushed tax policies that helped the rich and powerful.
He implemented a punitive immigration policy that separated children from parents and caged them, all while using nationalistic propaganda and xenophobic tropes to justify his cruelty.
He tried to shake down a foreign leader by holding-up military funding for dirt on his political opponent.
He minimized the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic and pushed false cures and the notion that COVID-19 would not last, despite knowing his words were lies.
He cheered the efforts of nationalist militias to overthrow state governments.
He regularly praised and flirted with authoritarians while simultaneously trashing alliances.
And when the American people finally said enough is enough, he used lies and misinformation about a stolen election to whip his supporters into a frenzy. Then, he gathered his supporters in Washington for the express purpose of subverting American Democracy, urging them to storm the capital to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Blood was spilled, people died, but Democracy prevailed.
Since then, members of his administration have said that Trump was, and is, unfit to lead. Yet members of the Republican party serving in congress refuse to refute the fat orange brute.
A few weeks ago, Russia invaded the free and sovereign nation of Ukraine and Trump refused to refute the brute who initiated the attack. In fact, he praised Putin’s tactics as “Genius” and “Savvy.”
When asked by a reporter, “what message would you like to give Vladimir Putin today?” Trump did not denounce Putin’s aggression. Instead, the former leader of the free world said, “I have no message.”
And yet Trump – this menace to American Democracy and democracies around the world – this selfish, shallow, vile human being devoid of character and morality is still the most powerful man in the Republican party.
Republicans in congress grub for his support., similar to the scared immigrant families of generations ago who cowered to the local mafia thug strutting in their streets.
Unfortunately for America, Trump is that Mafia thug. Instead of threatening physical violence, he threatens the congressional community to withhold his support. And to the dismay of many, Republican congressmen bend a knee and kiss the ring of this despicable human being.
The lack of courage in the face of Trump’s moral and ethical turpitude stunned and deflated Americans and weakened our standing around the globe. Our allies wondered aloud if America could still be trusted. How can we expect America to stand up for Democracy when their own president does not?
Trump spent four years weakening alliances with western democracies across Europe. He joyfully cozied up to authoritarian leaders and countries around the globe. He softened the ground for autocratic regimes in their march against western democratic ideals, which lead inevitably to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Like Trump, Putin is a bully and a thug.
Like Trump, Putin understands Democracy is the iron in the blood of free men and women.
And when Democracy takes hold in a country previously constricted by authoritarianism, it unlocks the desire for freedom that exists naturally in all human beings. Our natural human desire for freedom is contagious and spreads quickly, especially in countries where freedom has been denied.
Freedom, and the courage to fight for it, is the kryptonite of autocrats, dictators, and bullies.
Freedom was flourishing in Ukraine. And though Ukraine was no threat militarily to Russia, the freedom of its people was a threat to Putin himself.
What happens if Russians get infected with freedom? How long would Putin last?
And so, we have bombs raining down on cities across Ukraine. We have a free and sovereign nation under attack by a menacing bully.
Like Putin, Trump understood that his rule was also threatened by freedom.
The freedom for people to march in protest.
The freedom of the press to report truthfully.
The freedom of citizens to question and challenge authority.
All of these freedoms ended Trump’s presidency and saved (for now anyway) our Democracy.
We must do all that we can to help Ukraine fight for freedom. As free people, it’s our responsibility to help Ukrainians in their fight to remain free. They’re standing up to the bully, putting their lives on the line to remain a sovereign nation of free people. If they lose their fight, it’s a victory for the enemies of freedom everywhere. A victory for Putin opens the door to further aggression and the spread of autocracy’s dark shadow around the globe.
In a recent interview, a reporter asked Ukraine President Zelenskyy if he understood America’s view that imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would worsen the situation. Worsen it for who? was his reply.
By refusing to close the sky over Ukraine, we’re permitting the slaughter of Ukrainians.
When you’re an ocean away from bombs raining down from the skies, you can afford to be pragmatic; when bombs are raining down on you, pragmatism goes out the window.
Ukrainians don’t have the luxury of being pragmatic or assessing their situation from a geopolitical perspective. Instead, they’re asking America and the world to give them a chance at survival. Refusing to close the sky over Ukraine diminishes their chances significantly.
Either we stand up to the bully and close the skies and risk escalating the war to other countries, or we permit the slaughter of innocent civilians.
Put more simply, either we do what is right or what is safe. We stand up to the menacing bully with all of our strength and courage, or we do not.
I’ve been watching gut-wrenching footage of the Ukrainian refugee crisis.
Images of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing their homes. Pictures of desperate and panicked mobs on train station platforms looking for safe passage to Poland or Hungary. The same pained expression on every face. An expression that comes from leaving all you’ve ever known behind with the devastating understanding you’ll likely never return.
I think the world is still reeling from how quickly events leading to the crisis unfolded. The transformation from Ukrainian citizen to Ukrainian refugee seemed instantaneous.
Ukrainians went from sipping coffee at sidewalk cafés to walking for miles with everything they own stuffed in a duffle bag. We watch them stagger down the middle of streets, surrounded by block after city block of blackened and bombed-out buildings. We wince in discomfort at the hundreds of children in winter coats clinging to stuffed animals while holding on to their stunned parent’s hands. We imagine the feeling of having our own security ripped away and our lives forever changed because of one man’s delusions of grandeur and unbridled lust for power.
What’s happening in Ukraine is so unsettling because we see with our own eyes the fragility of life and how tenuous the connection between safety and total chaos is.
As I watch the crisis unfold from the comfort of my surroundings, a sense of hopelessness settles in. The hopelessness is chased by an anxiety-fueled realization that everything which anchors me to my own sense of belonging might disappear in a wisp and whim.
Simple things, like walking through the front door into the arms of a loved one, relaxing in a favorite chair, falling asleep to the warm and familiar nuances of home. The almost unconscious absorption of sights and sounds that comprise life; the sound of my dog walking across the kitchen floor, a ticking clock in the den, the electric hum of a refrigerator at night, or the relaxed, carefree expression of my children sitting around the kitchen table.
It’s unbearable knowing that everything that grounds us and keeps us whole can disappear when one man decides to go to war.
But that’s what happens in an autocracy.
Most importantly, we shouldn’t get lulled into thinking this can’t happen in America. We have a vicious and ugly streak of “might-is-right” believers in our country and government.
And let’s keep in our collective consciousness that Donald Trump is one of Vladimir Putin’s biggest admirers, and that Donald Trump still controls the Republican Party.
Redirecting our democracy to an autocracy might be one election cycle away.
When Donald Trump was President, he openly mused about shooting protesters in the legs. Donald Trump ordered military police to use tear gas to disperse peaceful protestors. Donald Trump despises a free press and openly talks about “investigating” and targeting journalists. And like every true authoritarian, Donald Trump understands the biggest threat to autocratic rule is truth and freedom. After all, it was truth and freedom that ended his presidency, despite all his attempts to suppress both.
I’ve no doubt that Trump is fine with Putin clamping down on protestors. And I’m sure that Trump sees nothing wrong with Putin keeping the truth from Russian citizens by cracking down on journalists. Trump himself longed for that type of power and control.
Imagine if Trump were President today. Do you honestly think he would condemn Putin and work with our NATO alliance? How much worse would the Ukrainian people be under a Trump Presidency?
We are all Ukrainians today – their fight is our fight, because they fight for freedom and democracy.
One of the easiest things we can do as Americans to help the Ukraine is to stand up to the autocratic forces in our own country. Call out Trump and his sycophants at every turn and be sure to vote for candidates that support democracy and freedom.
Ja Morant dunk highlights and Ukrainians struggling for their lives.
NFL Draft teasers and Russian Cruise Missiles blasting into apartment buildings.
Safe in my power recliner, sipping hot coffee, my snoring dog at my feet.
Just a few weeks ago, like me, Ukrainians lived their lives peacefully.
I imagine my Ukrainian counterpart sitting in his apartment, watching TV, petting his cat, enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
Life can turn on a dime, especially after 4 years of an American president heaping praise on autocratic dictators – softening the ground for anti-democratic movements around the globe, lauding dictators for their “strength” while bashing long-standing alliances.
If you think what is happening in Ukraine today can’t happen in America tomorrow, you’re kidding yourself.
There are anti-democratic forces in congress, and the de facto leader of the Republican party continues to praise and refuses to denounce a murderous thug’s invasion of Ukraine.
Keep this in mind when heading to the ballot box in 2022 and 2024.
Ukrainians are fighting for their lives and their freedom.
Their country is under attack, and their sovereignty is threatened by a thuggish dictator, drunk on nostalgia and looking to impose authoritarianism on a country that poses no threat to him or his country.
And rather than condemn the actions and motives of the Russian President, Mike Pompeo and Former President Trump praise him for his tactics, lending aid and comfort to a true enemy of democracy.
This is utterly unsurprising, as Trump’s 4-year presidency is littered with examples of praise for authoritarian rulers and governments. And don’t hold your breath for Republican leadership to condemn Trump or Pompeo, as today’s Republican party is infested with anti-democratic seditionists who are beholden to Trump and foreign influencers.
The threat to western democracy in Europe is genuine. Another Trump presidency would act as a linchpin and accelerant for anti-democratic forces abroad and in America.
We should all keep that in mind when we head to the ballot box in 2022 and 2024.
A lot of people mistake criticism of America by citizens as hate towards their country. I would argue the opposite is true – that criticism is love when it comes to democracy.
American democracy is an ongoing experiment, one that remains in pursuit of a more perfect union. And so, America consistently tries to live up to the ideals on which she was founded. And when the government that represents us does not live up to those ideals or starts to stray away from democratic principles, we must correct America’s course, through constructive criticism, through dissent and protest, and through the vote.
In America, the citizens are not static witnesses to democracy – we don’t sit idly by when our representatives behave in ways that contradict American ideals. We don’t sit on our hands or keep our mouths shut when we see systemic racism and an unfair justice system. We don’t just go along with a president who inspires and praises a violent insurrection against our country. Instead, we speak up loudly and condemn lies and the deplorable actions that spring from those lies, and we do so because we love America, not because we hate America.
As citizens, we are not parented by our government. We are not obliged to remain silent in deference to government officials when they go afoul of democratic principles and American ideals.
In a democracy, the citizens are the parents or the controlling authority, and when you see your child behaving poorly, you don’t ignore the behavior because you love them. Instead, you criticize the behavior, demand that they change the behavior. . . . because you love them.
Somehow, our understanding of the relationship between the government and its citizens has gotten totally twisted. So many of us view our President or government as infallible parental figures that should be obeyed and respected at all times. We think that speaking out against either means you don’t love or respect America.
In a democracy, criticism is love. In a democracy, criticism is our responsibility, especially when we see America straying from the principles on which she was founded.
I hear this from people all the time — people I thought I knew.
I’ve come to realize we don’t really “know” anyone except our family and closest friends.
I’m done assuming that the people I “know” and associate with on social media are decent-minded — as if “decent-mindedness” was an inherent human trait. It’s not. Decency is taught, learned, and practiced — it is fed, nurtured, and supported by those closest to us, but only if those people themselves have been taught or shown what it means to be “decent.”
What I’ve learned over the last 4 years, in an eye-opening-perspective-changing-punch-in-the-face, is a fuck-load of my “friends” are not decent-minded at all.
Despite the never-ending shit-show of the last four years, many of them are unwilling to call a liar a liar, a criminal a criminal, a traitor a traitor, and a demagogue a demagogue – even when the President (through actions and words) demonstrates he is all those things.
I wrongly assumed that if I just pointed out the obvious, people with a modicum of intelligence and a smidgen of integrity would be able to connect the dots — especially when those dots reside on a fairly straight line — that the President of the United States is a habitual liar, a criminal, a traitor, a narcissistic demagogue and, in the words of his own sister, has “no principles and cannot be trusted“.
The President’s desperate attempt to cling to power, which is inextricably tied to his fear of criminal prosecution, come at the expense of our national security, the safety of our troops, the health of our citizens, our national unity, and the principals of western democracy on which our country was built.
I wrongly assumed that the continuous four-year flow of misinformation and lies that fall from the President’s mouth, like garbage from the back of a sanitation vehicle, would be evidence enough to convince all Americans that the President of the United States is a threat to the country.
Instead, what’ I’ve learned over the last 4-years is that none of the President’s behavior matters to the millions of sheep in MAGA hats, who are so full of fear and drunk on conspiracy theories, that they follow this President like bewitched cultists, bludgeoning our democracy with their bibles and strangling our freedoms with the American flag.
I left Facebook because every time I logged in, I was reminded that America suffers from a malignancy of dimwitted nationalists and hateful bigots — and unfortunately, my Friends-list was littered with them.
America will collapse under another 4 years of this President unless decent-minded citizens show up en masse on November 3rd 2020.
Menacing phrases that we’d expect from a mobster, a gangster, a thug – not the President of the United States.
When a president wants to replace an ambassador, a simple letter asking for their resignation and thanking them for their service is the norm.
Instead, we get:
“She’s gonna go through some things.”
“Take her out.”
“Get rid of her.”
Instead, we get presidential tweets and ginned-up articles from right-wing propaganda machines that sully and degrade the reputation of a career diplomat with an impeccable record of service and sacrifice.
Instead, we listen and watch as the most powerful man in the world publicly drags a distinguished member of our foreign service through the mud.
And for what?
Because her high ethical standards served as a barrier to the President’s craven lust for power and political advantage.
“She’s gonna go through some things”
“Take her out”
“Get rid of her”
Trump’s threat to Ambassador Yovanovitch and the smear he initiated during her testimony (via a fucking Tweet) were despicable and beneath contempt, and ANOTHER example of the character (or lack thereof) of our President.
How much more evidence do people need that the President is a thug, driven by self-interest?
What is the moral tipping point for those who use low unemployment numbers and a high stock market as rationale for turning a blind-eye to presidential thuggery and crimes?
By the way, we can have a decent and moral president – AND a strong economy – Just look at our last president.