The Ukrainian people’s courageous defense of their homeland has inspired the world. President Zelenskyy’s recent speech to the US Congress brought a thunderous standing ovation from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. You will hear the Ukrainian national anthem at sports arenas and concert halls around the world. Landmarks are lit up in Ukrainian blue and gold. Except for those who support Putin’s brutal invasion (or profit from his oligarchs), you will find few in the West who don’t want to see the Ukrainian David bring down the Russian Goliath.
Now, consider how different things would have been if Donald Trump won reelection in 2020 or managed to overturn the outcome of the vote.
Remember when President Trump asked President Zelenskyy to “do us a favor” in that “perfect” phone call. Or when he caused friction within NATO. Or took President Putin’s word over our own intelligence agencies. If Russia had invaded Ukraine during a Trump presidency, Ukraine would have still fought valiantly (and Russia clumsily). But there would be no strict sanctions. No humanitarian and military aid. No unified front. There might not even been any support for Eastern European NATO allies. We would leave Europe to Putin. And we would allow totalitarianism to take root here.
Because Putin’s far-right extremism and Trump’s far-right extremism are the same thing.
Both are rooted in the same hateful ideas: Might makes right. The rich can do what they please, and the poor suffer what they must. It’s a corporate feudalism based on corruption, the dehumanization and exploitation of others, gluttonous consumption of natural resources, violation of laws without consequence, censorship of anything they dislike, and the suppression or extermination of those they find distasteful—whether they are religious and ethnic minorities, the elderly, children, the differently abled, neurodivergent, or the LGBTQ+ community. To make the populace compliant, they keep them overfed, uneducated, unhealthy, heavily in debt, and dependent on jobs that barely pay enough to survive. They brainwash their subjects with propaganda, celebrity gossip, conspiracy theories, and tawdry entertainment. They use a perverted form of Christianity to give their cesspool of cruelty the veneer of morality and force obedience with the threat of hell.
The Ukrainian people see through this. They are fighting to defend their independence against those who would strip it from them. They’re fighting to live in a free society where they can live the life they want, express themselves without fear, and create opportunities for themselves and their community. They’re fighting for a better world for their children. They’re fighting to protect their dignity and humanity. So should we.
We should not sit quietly as legislators rob us of our civil rights. Far-right extremists aren’t content to go after voting, abortion, books, and being a transgender person anymore. Now, they want to go after birth control and interracial marriage. They compel public school students to go to an evangelical revival meeting. That Niemoller poem should warn us. Civil rights get stripped away bit by bit until one day, we find our country as repressive, isolated, and brutal as Putin’s Russia.
If we want to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom, we must also fight for freedom here. We need to stand up against legislators who want to take away people’s rights. We need to insist on consequences for everyone who attacked Congress and our Constitution on January 6 and continue to peddle the Big Lie. We must work to deplatform those who use conventional and social media to spread hate and disinformation. More importantly, we need to offer a vision of a better world—a compassionate hope that is better than the grim and cynical cruelty peddled by our egotistical oligarchs.
Ukraine’s fight is our fight. We are fighting for the same values and against the same enemies. We are fortunate that we can stop our adversaries now at the ballot box and public forums before we have to fight them in the streets. It’s a battle we must win, or humanity will perish.