Opinion — We stand with Ukraine

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 3, 2022

“What would you risk dying for—and for whom—is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves. The majority of people in modern society pass their whole lives without ever having to answer that question, which is both an enormous blessing and a significant loss.” – Sebastion Junger, Tribe

Ukraine is answering that question. While some grow complacent in our country’s affluence and bicker out of boredom or for profit, Ukrainians fight for freedom. Their bravery reminds us that action is more symbolic and inspiring than decadent bravado spouted from empty souls. This Putin aggression reminds us that the world is full of greater adversaries than the tired political tropes we tromp through online and in media punditry. We are reminded that there are far greater threats than the latest cable news produced outrage.

Putin felt confident invading Ukraine, and some portion had to do with the divisive discord that his cyber warfare has sowed in the U.S. and abroad. We’ve been weakened by the hateful political combat that’s prevented us from agreeing upon foreign adversaries, or even recognizing them above the din of our own infighting. That’s how effective the cyber campaign has been.

But I believe the heroics of Ukraine, the pain and the awe, may just have awoken many. I see it in prayers for and in the admiration for the Ukrainian people. In our hearts, in the very genetic underpinnings of our nation sits the beating hearts of those who fought for America’s freedom from English tyranny, the beating hearts of the enslaved who fought for their freedom from oppression, and the beating hearts of so many immigrants who’ve fought for a better life while making this a better republic. We are all Americans. We know the yearning for freedom and independence that we see in the bravery of Ukraine. It’s evident in the liberals among us who worry about brazen politicians overreaching with policies seeking to stymie free and fair elections. It feels like authoritarianism to them. It’s evident in the conservatives among us who worry about brazen politicians overreaching with policies about the defense weaponry one keeps in their home. It feels like authoritarianism to them. We’re all pushing to maintain freedom. But those conversations need not be so vitriolic as to position one another as enemies. The invasion of Ukraine reminds us that democracy has real enemies. The growth of populist authoritarianism is dangerous. It seeks to extinguish the light of freedom and democracy. Should those forces come to physically knock down our doors, would we respond like Ukraine? I believe we would. I know we would. It is in our blood. It’s in the example our military live everyday. We would stand shoulder to shoulder, without an ounce of care for partisan politics, ready to repel any invader. Just as we see Ukraine doing now.

We are Americans. We recognize bravery, and the virtuous fight for freedom and independence. We can love those virtues everyday. We can take that sentiment, and embody it in even the smallest way. We can fight the authoritarian trend by recognizing that our democracy gives us the freedom to love one another because of our differences. We can and will disagree, but we can love each other. Indeed, it is that kind of love that Ukrainians risk dying for today. Let us honor them and the reminder they have given that democracy and freedom are worth every last measure. Let’s live with that reminder in our hearts and treat one another with the respect that comes from knowing we stand together with Ukraine and that we’d stand together as Americans for that same great cause.

Tonight I will peacefully kiss my girls goodnight and hug my wife, knowing there are mothers and fathers of Ukraine who will not get to do that. They are fighting.

Prayers for them.

BRIAN VINCENT is a member of the Farmville Town Council. He can be reached at bvincent@farmvilleva.com.