In January, 1992 I attended a concert in Kharkov, Ukraine. It was two weeks before the Hammer & Sickle was pulled down all over the USSR, and there was much talk of freedom in the air. I was lucky to be there to witness it.
The concert was held at an old Orthodox cathedral that had been converted into a music hall. The headliner was a baritone of some national renown, and he was accompanied by a cellist and violin. Maybe one hundred people attended, including, I noticed, a couple of young soldiers in uniform. There was a program, and I could make out Ionesco, Schubert, along with Soviet and (I assume) Ukrainian composers. It was a sparse affair, with three straight-back chairs on a naked stage, the man would sit while the two instrumentalists would play, then stand and sing while they accompanied him.
It was nice. The last piece was Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” one of my favorites, well done, and he sang it in Ukrainian. My interpreter, a young girl of 20, and who invited me to this event, turned to me, tears running down her face, and whispered, “This is the first time this song has been permitted to be sung in Ukraine in seventy years.”
There you have it.
How can anyone hear such a thing and not be changed?
With events in Ukraine this week – mark the date, February, 2014, the United States has officially bailed out on human freedom in the world.
And the whole world will know it. In fact, it already knows it. For 200 years, by our very existence, the United States, and by extension, the people of the United States, have extended a hand of friendship, compassion, and encouragement to all the peoples of the world, by-passing their governments entirely. The watchword was always “freedom.”
Harry Truman was the last Democrat to participate in this sacrament, his party’s successors thinking more in terms of government-to-government, not people-to-people handshakes. Still, much lip-service has been paid to the original ideal, until now. Now that the American people are also besieged, we can no longer extend our hand, and the official hand has been removed entirely.
This is a fait accompli for a new type of tyranny, which I fear will spread quickly.
A new Cold War between super-powers has descended, but for how long I can’t say. With the naked theft of Ukraine, Stalin is back. And trust me, Poland, the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Balkans and Baltics all know it. They now know how tentative their alliance with the feckless West Europeans really is. And they have no trust in America, or sadder, Americans, anymore.
This collapse of freedom in Ukraine was easy to prevent, for while we glorify Russians as chess-master strategists, the average checker player could have foretold Putin’s moves months ago. Instead, whether by indifference, incompetence, or even simpatico, as one dictator doffs his cap to another, a new Stalin has been allowed to arise from the ashes in Russia, only there is no Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, or even Nixon to counter him, stop him, or stall him. All we have to confront this rising scourge is one limp-wristed narcissist with delusions of grandeur.
So we must do the cold war all over again, for while we might be able to save America, as Sen Rand Paul suggests, with a wave election and a serious about-face in government, it will require a full generation of strong leaders and national resolve to reconnect with the down-trodden of the world, and restore the American brand and extend its hand.
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