The criminal invasion of Ukraine by Russia has captivated, saddened, and disgusted me all week. How could something like this happen in 2022? But, sometimes, I think people—especially those of us living in the West—believe we have achieved some state of human enlightenment in which the Putins, Assads, and other dictators of the world (and their police states) are merely relics of backward times.
But the decade-long interventions by Vladimir Putin in Georgia, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and other countries; a move away from democracy across the world; and the storming of the U.S. Capitol last year on January 6 by Trump-inspired rioters in response to the false claim that the 2020 election had been stolen—despite no evidence proving this had occurred—show that the rule of law is being challenged around the world. Sheer ugly manifestations of power are often more powerful than democratic values—especially if these values aren’t backed up by firm actions. Ukraine is just another example of the worldwide trend that pits democracy against authoritarianism in all its troubling forms. It is a very tragic situation for the brave Ukrainians, but also a symbol of a larger problem worldwide. We need to stay vigilant against authoritarian movements in both our own country and throughout the world. Our world has come a long way since World War II, but we are not as enlightened as we imagine.
I was disheartened to learn that only 26 percent of Americans surveyed this week by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research say the U.S. should have a major role in the conflict in Ukraine. Fifty-two percent of Americans say the U.S. should play a minor role and 20 percent say the U.S. should play no role. I was also extremely disappointed—but not surprised, by former President Trump’s comments about the Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it “pretty smart…He’s taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions…Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. So, Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’” These words and the words of support for Russia from some other Republicans demonstrate the imminent danger we are in if we support leaders who embrace authoritarianism over the rule of law.
I hope that you care about the criminal acts that Russia is committing in Ukraine. If not, I hope that you try to learn about the history of these two distinct countries and cultures and why Russia’s actions are so wrong and also moored in a teetering foundation of disinformation and lies about Ukraine, its people, and its history. Because you should care. We should care about any human beings who are facing the loss of liberty and life. And because, among many other reasons, Ukraine is a democracy (albeit an imperfect one like the current state of our own democracy) in a world that is increasingly becoming less democratic. In 2021, freedom around the world declined for the 16th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House, which “works to defend human rights and promote democratic change, with a focus on political rights and civil liberties.” It reports that 38 percent of the world population lives in countries that are “not free,” the highest percentage since 1997. Twenty percent of people live in “free” countries, and 42 percent reside in “partly free” countries. Click here to read the report.
When news broke of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, my wife and I decided to buy a Ukraine flag and fly it above our house where we normally fly our American flag. It was a small act of solidarity with the Ukrainian people in Ukraine and in Chicagoland. Unfortunately, we couldn’t obtain a flag quickly (it’s shipping sometime next week). So I decided to paint a picture of Ukraine’s flag to show our support for the people of Ukraine and display it in our window. My flag looks like a Mark Rothko color-field painting that went awry, and the Art Institute won’t be calling anytime soon. But my heart is in the right place. I encourage you to paint a Ukraine flag, draw a flag, or purchase a real flag and display it in solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who are under attack. Read about the issues. If you are already aware of them, educate others about the importance of supporting the people of Ukraine and the role of democracy around the world. Pray for the people of Ukraine.
Here are some more tangible ways to provide financial support to aid organizations that will help Ukrainian refugees during their dire time of need. Many of these organizations are already on the ground in Ukraine, so your donations can almost immediately make a difference.
It’s easy to feel hopeless in an increasing authoritarian world, but everything you do—from learning about the issues and educating others, to donating money to nonprofit organizations that help refugees, provide reportage on injustice, etc.; to never voting for authoritarian political candidates—can make a small difference in changing the world. If enough people do these things, we have a fighting chance to make the world a just and peaceful place.
Copyright (text, except quoted material) Andrew Morkes
Copyright (photo) Andrew Morkes
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ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.