OP-ED: The Outsiders Keeping Liberty Alive | Op-Ed


“The fight is here; I need ammo, not a ride to safety.

Last weekend, we took a break from Netflix and watched John Wayne’s 1960 version of “The Alamo.” It happened to be the anniversary of this important historical event (February-March 1836).

The more than three-hour production tells the well-known story of a small group of Tennessee volunteers teaming up with local Texans to take on a large Mexican army before being killed in battle. The fact that two larger-than-life American heroes, Davy Crockett and James Bowie, fought and died in the conflict added to the appeal. However, the Alamo is best remembered for the actions of a brave few to keep the ideal of Texas independence alive in the face of overwhelming odds.

History is replete with similar examples of the oppressed facing off against a superior adversary to preserve a way of life free from oppression. The Old Testament gives us David versus Goliath, where David accepts the Philistine challenge of single combat. Taking only his staff, his sling, and five smooth stones from a stream, David defeats the giant Goliath. In modern usage, the phrase “David and Goliath” has taken on a universal meaning, denoting an underdog situation, a contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces a much larger, stronger opponent.

Jewish history also gives us the battle of Masada in 73 CE. According to historian Josephus, the siege of this rocky desert plateau by Roman troops ended the First Jewish Roman War with the mass suicide of 960 Jewish rebels who refused to surrender. Today in Israel, many Jewish soldiers who complete their basic training take their oath atop Masada.

In the classical Greek world, the Battle of Thermopylae between Spartan Greeks and Persian invaders took place in 480 BCE. Seven thousand Greeks were able to hold off 200,000 Persians on the narrow mountain path until they were betrayed by one of their own. The Spartan king, Leonidas, refused to retreat and along with 300 of his men died in battle. Today, Thermopylae are celebrated as an example of heroic perseverance against seemingly impossible odds.

Many nations and cultures have similar legendary myths and verified historical events to help strengthen national cohesion when threatened by superior outside forces. Our own American Revolution pitted 13 small, unruly colonies against the world’s greatest empire of the 18th century. Few expected the one-sided conflict to end in colonial victory.

Under the horrified eyes of the world, in real time on live media 24/7, the nation of Ukraine now has its own unifying event. The unprovoked Russian attack on its homeland will serve as a cornerstone of Ukrainian nationalism for years to come.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stance, “that there is no historic Ukrainian nation worthy of current sovereignty,” is just the latest insult in a long history of Russian bullying. In fact, Ukraine was not created in any real sense by the former Soviet Union as Putin claimed. It was already there, and it already had an extremely long and complex history.

For decades, the Soviet Union treated Ukrainians as second-class citizens, or worse. First, one of the greatest political atrocities in 20th century Europe took place in Ukraine when Stalin imposed a famine that killed an estimated 3.9 million people. Second, after Germany invaded Ukraine during World War II, Soviet officials treated Ukrainians as Nazi collaborators, and many were persecuted. Third, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred on Ukrainian soil, and the Soviet leadership did not disclose the spread of radioactive materials to the Ukrainian people.

Undoubtedly, Russians and Ukrainians share many similar historical values ​​and events. Citizens along the common border speak both languages ​​and often hold dual passports. However, since the popular referendum on independence in 1991, Ukraine has become a democratic state and has sought closer ties with Western Europe, including EU membership. Putin is now seeking to reverse that trend by bringing a pro-Russian regime to power through naked aggression.

As I write this comment, Ukraine stands up to one of the largest and best-trained armies in the world. If Russia persists, Ukraine is unlikely to achieve a military victory. However, in the end, the Ukrainian people will gain a sense of national identity, a commitment to independence, and the support and gratitude of the world beyond measure. Such is the power of an outsider who is willing to fight and die to preserve his freedom.

The brave Ukrainian underdogs have sent a valuable wake-up call to all of us. When a million mothers and children are forced from their homes and teachers fight in the streets to disable tanks, the least we can do for our fellow Americans is understand that others don’t always think like we. Disagreement does not mean they are bad people.

The world is a complex and dangerous place, and we need each other. We must develop a set of civic values ​​that apply to every American. We must encourage and help the outsiders among us who seek their own freedom and the right to disagree. We must be willing to sacrifice some of our own material lifestyle and financial well-being to achieve this. Otherwise, we allow the Putins of this world to take over.

Gary Stout is a Washington attorney.


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