Sunday, January 26, 2014

Positive and negative currents: The contradictory form of events in a revolutionary Ukraine

Things have been deteriorating and improving here in Ukraine. Protesters have begun to lose their lives. One activist from Lviv was tortured and left in the woods to freeze to death. Others have died from police sniper fire in Kyiv. On the bright side, protesters have taken over 11 oblast (provincial) government buildings and some are banning the pro Presidential Party of Regions and Communist Party from being a part of what will become the new government of Ukraine.

A lot has been going on lately, and, to be honest, Yulia and I haven't been writing much because we are trying to balance working on serious renovations to our house while staying updated on news of the revolution that is sweeping Ukraine. We have been experiencing the full range of emotions one would expect in the midst of such events, and we have to additionally manage being physically exhausted from the work we are doing on our house (More on the work we are doing on our house later. We will be very excited to post some updates once we finish the work we are doing.).

Yulia and I have tried to stay positive, and we do think things are generally moving in a positive direction. We have tried to promote such positive thinking in our blog as well. We believe that this is very important at the moment.

We find that comedy helps us in this respect, but we were left with more or less ambivalent feelings after watching the TV show, "The Colbert Report," on January 23rd. On the one hand we felt encouraged that, unlike other news media in America, this comedy show has the events in Ukraine on its radar. During the show Colbert donned a colander to show his support for the Ukrainian people.

However, our positive impressions pretty much end there. He did not mention why wearing a colander is an act of defiance to the Ukrainian government. He just saw that a protester was photographed wearing one and thought it was silly. For those of you who are not aware, the Ukrainian government illegally passed several laws (more contradictions, I know) on January 16th that banned the wearing of helmets during public protests. Many people responded by coming out to the streets wearing bicycle helmets, pots, and colanders on their heads to mock the new laws. It would have been helpful if Colbert explained this after making the tired, cliche joke about those backward, vodka chugging Ukrainians, wherever that backwater is located on the map.

He also framed the unfolding revolution as riots. Even though this is a comedy show, Colbert does satirize the news. I hope he isn't getting the impression that these are mere riots from the news media. When the Red Sox won the World series ten years ago, there were riots in Boston. When the Patriots won the Super Bowl there were riots too. This is a revolution that hopes to overthrow the government and create a new political and legal system for a whole country.

If Americans and other Westerners really do think that these are just riots happening in Ukraine, then it explains their bemusing remarks over the past several weeks. To be clear, people like John McCain and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt do get what is going on here and have been vocal about it. But other people of prominence have begun to sound like a broken record. For example, many politicians have been calling for peace on both sides. Yulia and I agree with this statement, but the reality is that Ukrainians have been peacefully protesting in the streets for two months only to be not listened to and met with beatings from the other side. At some point it is stupid and dangerous to recommend that people just peacefully protest as police beat them with impunity.

Last night Spanish politician Javier Solana tweeted,
"the elections were fair and recognized as such by EU and CoE. A solution has to be found within the Constitution."
 I believe very strongly in democracy, but this is absurd. I understand that President Victor Yanukovych was democratically elected, but that does not give him the mandate to do whatever he pleases. His government has been torturing and murdering people for disagreeing with them. This is anything but democratic.

I'm sorry for posting the above video. I understand it is disturbing, but it shows the kind of sadistic people we are dealing with here in Ukraine (The man who was tortured has now been released. He is well and is back on the streets serving on the Euromaidan security team.).

This is a real revolutionary situation, and I see the West making big mistakes. I believe that what is happening now will serve as an example of what not to do for diplomats of the future. The Ukrainian people are beginning to see that the West is not here to help them--that they have abandoned the Ukrainian people. The time to act is now, and politicians and diplomats are still repeating the same things they have been saying for several months now. This is lazy and irresponsible. People in Ukraine want things to be nonviolent, and repeating by rote that both sides need to be peaceful without actually doing anything will actually cause more violence in the end.

There you have it. This is the contradictory form of events here in a revolutionary Ukraine.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo. Well said. Thank you.

    Good luck on your renovations. Gets the stress out. :)