Closing the Sky on Bullies and Despots

© Chris McGrath/Getty Images Then-US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

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.