Point of View Columns

There’s Ukraine and Then There is the Rest of the World

On many occasions the truth is an uncomfortable item – perhaps that is why it called the truth. Nevertheless, there are times when something just has to be said, no matter how obvious the subject, no matter how apparent that truth might be.

Take for example the case of Ukraine versus the rest of the world. This is not meant to suggest an adversarial relationship between Ukraine and the rest of the world, far from it. However, there is a clear and present difference in how the wealthy nations of the West view Ukraine versus the rest of the world.

Ever since the unprovoked and irrational invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the wealthy nations of the world have done so much, and much more, to assist the people of Ukraine and its military, virtually without question and certainly without cause. Billions of dollars in military aid flow into Ukraine on a daily basis, rapidly making Ukraine one of the most well-armed small countries in the world.

Humanitarian aid has also flowed into Ukraine to shield its people from the worst effects of the war. And, of course, millions of refugees from Ukraine have been welcomed with open arms throughout the world, including the normally anti-immigration United States of America.

Meanwhile immigrants from Haiti were whipped and stampeded by the Border Patrol horsemen when they tried to enter America in order to escape the dysfunction of their country, dysfunction for which the United States has less than clean hands over the past century.

Immigrants from Mexico and from all over South America are hunted down in the deserts of Arizona and Texas, most who make it across the border are herded into facilities that have a real correctional feel about them. Not much talk about welcoming the “tired and poor and huddled masses”.

Meanwhile Ukrainian refugees have found few bureaucratic obstacles to immigration or long-term visits to the United States. Certainly, the millions of Ukrainian refugees are comfortably housed and assisted with compassion in European countries that routinely turn refugees from Mali, Burkina Faso and other parts of Africa back into the Mediterranean to die beneath the waves of that ancient sea and lie in the remains of the sunken ships from Carthage, Rome, Greece and Egypt.

Meanwhile, it what has to be a cruel irony, even in these ironic times, Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize, has engineered an attack on the Tigray region of his country that has put over six million people in danger of starvation and death within the very near future. Into this looming charnel house of epic disaster very little foreign aid – for food and medicine, not military weapons – has not been available for the people of Tigray.

So, the question has to be asked, does being blond and Christian instead being black or brown or non-Christian make a difference in whether people are deserving of humanitarian aid and assistance?

Sadly, it appears that the answer is all too apparent. The question now is whether the United States and Western countries are finally prepared to accept the humanity of all who may be suffering through no fault of their own.

We can be sure that history and posterity will record the response.

Point of View Columns

Time Travel into The Future

On many occasions hope has been expressed on these pages that there will even be historians one hundred years from now. Indeed, if this planet is fortunate enough to have the wherewithal to afford the luxury of people who will not have to forage to survive, then hopefully some historical perspective will be possible.

To provide some perspective, 1922 was one hundred years ago, and the changes that have taken place – atomic energy, world war, the dissolution of empires and colonization along with television, radio, jet travel and the assertion of human rights in all of its various iterations – have all been important hallmarks of the past century. We have also seen this planet dance with the twin disasters of climate change and nuclear war and as you read these words literally no one knows how all of this is going to turn out.

So we are left with hope.

Meanwhile, if there is even something called the United States of America that resembles the current nation, it will only be through some combination of the grace of God and dumb luck, with the emphasis on dumb. In real time we have watched forces at work that would, if left unchecked, tear this country into regional, hyper partisan republics that will be the forerunner of something even worse,

And if this seems like a particularly apocalyptic vision, consider the fact that a decade ago it would have been unthinkable that:

  1. A sitting President of the United States would not participate in the peaceful transfer of power at the end of the term of office;
  2. An armed revolt and attack on the Capitol to overturn an election would not be possible because…. well because nothing like had taken place since the Civil War in 1861;
  3. A former President of the United States would not roam through the nation decrying the legitimacy of his successor and have the support of over 60 million well-armed Americans;
  4. While climate change and environmental disaster are painfully apparent, millions of Americans steadfastly cling to the notion that climate change and environmental disaster are a fantasy;
  5. Candidates for national and statewide offices throughout the country would have as their central platform the belief in the illegitimacy of the current national government; and
  6. A hyper partisan Supreme Court would ignore legal protocols and shared concepts of constitutional law to rule in favor of the establishment of a truly authoritarian religious state.

All of these items are part of the current American narrative, and only the most rose-colored belief in the goodness of humanity can sustain a realistic expectation that all of this is going to end well.

That having been said, human history is replete with instances where the right woman or man, the right view of the present and the future, can make inevitable results not so inevitable. And since we know that it is true, it is clearly up to each of us to endeavor to be that right woman or man and avoid the imminent change that is all to near and establish a new reality that will be a wonder to those historians a century from now.

Point of View Columns

Brittney Griner and Justice in Russia v. Justice in America

The case of Brittney Griner and Russia is difficult and troubling from any perspective. We can begin with the fact that would seem that there is no system of real justice in Russia if a person – Russian or not – should be sentenced to nine years in a penal colony for mere possession of a miniscule amount of a controlled substance. And all of this must be seen within the context of the global dueling taking place between Russia and the United States and the fact that she is now a pawn in a very real and deadly Game of Thrones.

American news coverage of the Brittney Griner story has been nonstop since February -as it should be. The fact that she is a celebrated athlete has focused more attention on her situation as opposed to the cases of other detained Americans. Nevertheless, no one can honestly criticize the press coverage of the Griner Case.

But there is a lot to be said about the one-sided and myopic commentary from the press and politicians alike with respect to the harsh and unfair Russian criminal justice system as if the American criminal justice system is fair and free from vengeance. Consider a few facts:

  1. It has been noted that 99% of Russian criminal cases end up with a conviction. In the United States 72% of all criminal cases end up with a conviction.
  2. The United States has 4% of the world’s population and 21% of the world’s prison population
  3. The United States has an incarceration rate of 716/100,000 – in Russia, the rate of 476/100,000
  4. And of course, the list goes on and on.

The point is that the America press is acting as if it is shocked by the harshness of the Russian criminal justice system, while by any useful criteria, it is the United States that hold the current world record for harshest criminal justice system.

Perhaps the press can direct some of its dismay and outrage directed at Russia to the daily injustices that take place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And while it cannot be expected that every case in every city in every state can be covered as closely as the Brittney Griner case, if not the press who is going to focus attention on the daily injustice embedded and residing in the American system of justice.

So, as we all watch with dismay as the case of Britney Griner goes forward, when it comes to criticizing the justice systems in Russia and around the world, it would be wise to remember America/Americans criticizing the Russian criminal just it is truly a case of the American pot calling the Russian pot black.

We can hope that justice for Britney Griner means a return to the United States. We can agree that the Russian laws and justice system are draconian and unfair.

And we should keep in mind that what Ms. Griner is enduring is what thousands of Black and Latino men, women, boys and girls endure every day. The racial disparity in the American criminal justice system is an institutional disgrace that has its roots in the 1600’s and its most bitter fruit is harvested still in 2022.

Hopefully the hypocrisy of criticizing the Russian criminal justice system while ignoring the fact that the American criminal justice system is actually, by any objective criteria, worse, will end.

Hopefully we can finally see “justice” in the American criminal justice system.


Point of View Columns

Pelosi and Taiwan and Poking the Bear and a History Lesson

If there are any historians around 500 years from now, an academic specializing in Ancient American History will be tackling a never solved question – why, in August of 2022, did United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi decide that it was a good idea? All writings from the time will yield nothing that seems like a satisfactory answer because it would seem self-evident, viewed through a 500-year lens, that there would seem to be no possible good that could have come from that trip.

Of course, we are in the here and now, and the rationale for the Pelosi in Wonderland Tour has ranged from the Speaker of the House can travel anywhere in the world, whenever she wants to it is critically important that on August2, 2022 the highest ranking American official to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997 just had to be in Taipei.

No matter that the China of 1997 is not the China of 2022.

No matter that Xi Jin Ping has become the very clear leader of a China that is on a path to global importance that has not been seen in centuries.

No matter that the very existence of an independent Taiwan, buttressed by support from Americans and Europeans is a constant reminder of the humiliation visited upon China by Americans and Europeans for several centuries. (more on that in a moment)

What is clear is that somehow, in the middle of a continuing global pandemic, a war in Ukraine that is a few missteps from engulfing a good part of the planet and a global economy that is spinning madly to who knows where, the Pelosi Braintrust (now there is an oxymoron) thought it was a good idea for her to visit Taiwan. And we should keep in mind that the Taiwanese leadership has not stayed in control in Taiwan, less than 80 miles from China by poking the bear unnecessarily. In other words, this visit was engineered by Nancy Pelosi herself and so-called “hawks” in America (“hawks” who never seem to find their way to a battlefield) who thought that it was important to poke the Bear Called China in order to prove American strength and superiority and not the government of Taiwan.

The best way to explain the peril of this particular strategy is for Americans to suspend their knowledge of history and imagine that a few hundred years ago the Chinese Empire, with superior weapons and technology, took over major parts of America. Subjugating Americans, degrading American culture and religion and treating this country (along with the Japanese Empire) imposed a colonial structure on Americans.

Imagine that American churches and cultural buildings were defiled and destroyed. Imagine that American women were treated as whores or servants and that American men were considered to be disposable labor that could be shipped to China to work in mines or infrastructure projects until they died. And imagine that at some point the Chinese left but considered California to be a colonial possession because of its gold and agriculture.

Imagine that after the Civil War the defeated Confederates fled to what is now Florida and declared it an independent state and that China recognized the Republic of Florida as an independent state although the American government had never agreed to such an arrangement.

Now imagine that over a century later America has gained new strength and power. Now America reclaims California because it had always been a part of America until the Chinese came along. Now America resents the Republic of Florida as an insult to its sovereignty and does not accept the Republic as a permanent arrangement, especially since the Chinese continue to assert the independence of the Republic of Florida as a nation worth defending with Chinese blood and treasure.

If you can imagine this historical arrangement and change the time and place and players you can begin to understand that China’s concerns regarding the West are not imaginary. The Chinese suffered degradation and humiliation at the hands of the West for centuries even though the West acts like the past – particularly the uncomfortable truth about the past – is no relevant.

But sometimes it is good to look at the world through the eyes of the person on the other side of the table.

Clearly Speaker Pelosi and her enablers have failed to do that and the world is less safe today because of her thoughtless actions.