By now, I imagine you’ve eaten your turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, and I hope you've enjoyed your hearty Thanksgiving celebration.
I was thinking about some wise, courageous, determined, and strong people in another part of the world today.
My heart goes out to the reformists of Ukraine.
They’ve filled Independence Square in Kiev for the past four nights in a row. They believe that their election has been hijacked by pro-Kremlin forces. They are threatening a nationwide strike, which will effectively stop the flow of transportation as well as closing schools and factories.
Watching them and watching their candidate Viktor Yuschenko standing on principle and truth, I keep thinking, “Way to go, people. Way to go!”
The Ukrainian reformists won’t allow the friends of the Kremlin to steal the runoff election without a fight. Their protests are loud and deliberate. They seek justice, although their firm pleas and action surrounding those actions are already being labeled as ‘illegal’.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who had endorsed GW Bush in the days preceding the last election (and we’re supposed to be impressed?) , now revels in the knowledge that Viktor Yanukovych has achieved his shadowy pro-Kremlin victory.
In the last few days, we have seen Colin Powell speak about the Ukraine runoff election. He states that the United States “cannot accept” the result of Ukraine’s election fiasco. Western observers are crying “fraud” for suspected ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, and other irregularities.
As in the United States, at least half the people of Ukraine understand the full value of freedom and democracy.
Like the United States, the population of Ukraine is deeply divided.
There are differences, however.
The people of Ukraine who demand a healthy and fair democracy are heard and supported by the West – especially the United States government.
We, who long for healthy democracy at home, are called ‘tin-foil hat wearers’ for the slightest suggestion that our own election was rigged by machines we could never begin to disprove, regardless of how hard we may try. Our voters were challenged and intimidated at many polls by members of the GOP, for myriad reasons. Registrations were thrown away, officials allowed to call them legally invalid for the least material of reasons.
Afraid of being called paranoid, we sulked away in the name of national unity after Bush took the questionable election by a small comparable margin of the vote. I suppose I could blame the people who voted for Kerry for being complacent, lazy, or afraid in the wake of all that uncertainty. I think, however, the losing Democratic leadership was not strong or supportive on November 3, when they conceded the election and told us to unite…simply unite.
In the following days we saw that there was no desire on the part of the stronger, more powerful GOP, to prove they would fulfill the conditions of the Democratic election surrender. The President appeared at a press conference and vowed to spend his political capital; national unity be damned.
It was then I realized Democratic voters had been hung out on a line.
Tonight we learned that Ukraine’s Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the victory of Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich. I think back to our Supreme Court’s interference with Florida in Election 2000 and wonder when the United States became such a backward-looking nation in the light of justice and freedom.
As troubled as the Ukraine is today, I am here to say I’m proud of the confidence and hope behind their reform movement and I hope freedom will always win over oppression.
I wish I could speak with confidence and hope for our own nation. Watching Powell this week, I wondered how it is that he could speak so supportively of democracy in another land while seeing it dying in his own and saying nary a word. .
It’s almost as if American Democrats take a back seat in credibility and importance to reform Ukrainians in the eyes of today’s Republican party. It’s as if the American electoral system has been permanently made to be easily manipulated, and no one will ever again be able to question it.
My heart goes out to the reformists of the Ukraine. May they see a fulfillment of the promise of freedom and democracy in their own land. At least they have the support of the United States government, as well as the firm and powerful voice of their own party and candidate. I’d like to think we did.
Sitting here this Thanksgiving, I truly wish I could say that I believe the American promise has been fulfilled for all of its own people. Until it is, may we never rest.