In a day of rapidly cascading headlines—the midterms, Twitter drama, the face-to-face meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping—two contrasting images are particularly memorable and speak volumes of our human condition in both its absurdity and its valor.
The first story lies in the “official” announcement on Tuesday by Donald Trump that he plans to run for President. If this weren’t so laughable (and yet, ironically, so scary at the same time), it would be simply…sad. The idea that we will again be treated to endless accounts of Trumpian buffoonery is more than dispiriting. It would all serve as a serious case study in the seductive nature of power and influence in American politics if it weren’t so heavily laced with his own brand of narcissistic craziness.
In his rambling, hour-long announcement, his penchant for focusing on grievances and perceived victimhood was once again front and center in his message. His habit of promoting inaccuracies and exaggeration continued unabated, prompting journalists to fact check him in real time. He had clearly lost his appeal. Even Fox News cut away from his speech. ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported that some who were present tried to leave mid-way through the former President’s speech but were barred from the exits by security guards so as not to show the room emptying while Trump was still speaking.
Even after the Republicans’ feeble showing in the mid-term elections and the startling failure among those candidates supported by the former President, the idea that Donald Trump would announce a third run for the White House at this moment reveals an unfathomable level of both petulance and hubris. It continues to be inconceivable that someone who once actually served as President could be so self-absorbed, so needy, as to run for President at such a time as this. And yet…so he has.
The second story, by contrast, is found half a world away where we witnessed scenes from the embattled Ukrainian city of Kherson. As occupying Russian forces withdrew, the Ukrainian counteroffensive was greeted by jubilant crowds who cheered and hugged their liberators, danced in the streets and sparked wild celebrations across a country still reeling from Russian missile attacks, rolling blackouts, shortages of food, water and electrical power.
The lead up to these celebratory moments is rooted in the indefatiguable courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people who have refused to cede their country’s territorial sovereignty to Russian marauders who have inflicted horrific terror and cruelty on the citizenry. The contrast in Ukrainian resolve with Trump’s deluded bloviating is astounding and serves as a stark reminder of where we should focus our attention.
Nick Kristof, writing in the New York Times, reminds us of the stakes in this conflict and of the unyielding bravery among Ukrainians from every walk of life. “Stymied on the battlefield, Russia is trying an alternative strategy: firing missiles to terrorize civilians and destroy the power grid and water supply. This targeting of civilians, a war crime, aims to inflict such brutal suffering on ordinary Ukrainians that they will want to cut a deal with Putin. It isn’t working.”
This is where we should focus our time and attention. Ukrainian citizens, not American politicians, are the role models for our children and our children’s children. The contrast between the same old tired words coming out of Mar-a-Lago and the exuberance of the grateful crowds in Kherson could not be more stark. It is important that we concentrate on the stories of courage and resilience from Ukraine and not on yet another run for the White House from the almost comical former President. The third time is definitely not a charm.