I have been sated by news reports and political punditry surrounding the latest in Trump administration shenanigans. Endless loops on public radio, cable news channels and network television focus repeatedly on charges and counter-charges in the run-up to impeachment of Donald Trump. The whistle blower incident was the proverbial final straw in the debate over if and when to impeach the President, and while Nancy Pelosi had been moving slowly and deliberately toward a decision, the events of the day (and head-counting within her caucus) have finally overtaken her propensity for caution.
Some argue that the case is straightforward. President Trump pressured the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden—a leader in the Democratic challenge to the President’s re-election in 2020. The President, of course, argues that there was nothing wrong in his conversations with the newly elected Ukrainian leader.
In endless discussions of strategy, tactics, posturing and jockeying for position, it is easy to lose sight of why this is important and worthy of the extreme step of impeaching the President over his apparent quid pro quo before delivering Congressionally authorized military assistance to Ukraine in its war against Russian-supported separatists.
Slicing through the media noise to get to the truth can be a frustrating endeavor as commentators prognosticate from elaborate television studios and politicians bloviate from marble halls and wood-paneled hearing rooms. It is easy to lose sight of the stakes at play. Keeping track of partisan bickering or digesting various viewpoints as expressed through editorial lenses adds to the confusion. You just want to throw up your hands in exasperation.
But then, I was (surprisingly) caught off guard by a news report first broadcast in February from the front lines of the Ukrainian/Russian conflict. (You can see this two minute video here; I encourage you to watch.)
The segment was straightforward without a lot of hype or added production value, but I found two things about it quite compelling. First, Ukrainian soldiers were literally fighting against Russian-backed separatists in trenches, reminiscent of World War I. That war, fought one hundred years ago, was to be the “war to end war.” How did that work out? The video clip reminded me, yet again, how little things have changed despite the unprecedented advances in science and technology over the past century.
Even more compelling was the weathered Ukrainian soldier defending his service to Ukraine as he picked up a handful of dirt and said simply, “It’s my country. It’s my earth. It’s mine. I was born in this place.” Somehow, for me, these simple words spoke volumes against the din of political posturing, as to why the stakes are so high. This man felt a tie to the land where he was born, raised and now earned his livelihood. All this is endangered by Russian aggression. And the US, long-defenders of those who struggle for human dignity, has been silent, even complicit, in Putin’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
And now—as the whistle blower complaint articulates—President Trump has callously turned this struggle for survival into a quid pro quo, saying that the US has been “very, very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal,” and then adding, “I would like you to do us a favor…” to dig up political dirt on Joe Biden.
I had been overwhelmed to the point of numbness over the wrangling about Trump’s impeachment. But this poignant statement by a wizened Ukrainian soldier shook me out of my complacency, reminding me of the important principles here and how our current leadership, yet again, misses the big picture for petty personal gain.