In increasingly deep blue Northern Virginia, the outlandish virtue-signaling of support for Ukraine has reached a fever pitch. There are pro-Ukraine bumper stickers, pro-Ukraine lanyards and ribbons, and pro-Ukraine lawn flags.
One guy in my neighborhood has installed a ribbon of blue and yellow lights around his garage. Yet however silly the tokenism by managerial elites with no real stake in war, one must admit the reality of a Ukrainian patriotism that has coalesced since Russia invaded on 24 February.
Ukrainian civilians by the thousands have taken up arms to fight Russian soldiers. Citizens have helped destroy Russian supply lines, fuel, food, and ammunition. Hundreds of Ukrainians across the world have returned to fight for their country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offers nightly addresses to the Ukrainian people that have bolstered morale and a shared sense of national identity.
Now of course some of this is Ukrainian propaganda. The soldiers on Snake Island who cursed their Russian attackers didn’t actually die, but were captured. The “Ghost of Kyiv” was likely a myth. And, concernedly, some of the fighters defending the besieged city of Mariupol appear to be members of the Azov Battalion, which uses Neo-Nazi symbols (ironic, given that Zelensky is Jewish and so are perhaps more than 100,000 Ukrainians).
Nevertheless, one cannot deny the reality of a shared Ukrainian patriotism and its effect not only on the people of Ukraine but the world. It’s even inspired some enough to say that perhaps not all nationalism is bad.
This, despite the fact that Ukraine took a “patriarchal” and “anti-female” stance on conscription, banning nearly all men ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country. Ukrainian men have in fact overwhelmingly been the leaders during this crisis. (This is something, bizarrely, Western feminists have decried as perpetuating unjust “gender systems”).
Much of what makes the Ukrainians’ defense of their homeland inspiring is that it is theirs as a unique people. Pace Vladimir Putin’s comments that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people,” the Ukrainians have a unique culture, which, though it often overlaps with that of their Russian neighbors, is decidedly their own.
Ukranians speak their own language, possess their own customs and cuisine, and are members of their own church. Although their history is intimately tied to that of Russia, it is also their own, with its own heroes and tragedies. Also, as Ukrainians well know, Soviet Russia is to blame for much Ukrainian suffering, such as the 1930s government-caused famine during Communist Joseph Stalin’s regime that killed almost 4 million Ukrainians.
Celebrate American Patriotism as Much As Ukranian Patriotism
Might there perhaps be a lesson for the United States in Ukraine’s resurgent patriotism? I would say yes. The war in Ukraine should crystallize what’s at stake in our own nation’s recent fights over our national identity. For the very things that have united Ukrainians against an external aggressor are what our nation’s ruling class institutions seem most eager to dismantle.
Perhaps most egregious is the proliferation of a revisionist history of America as a systemically racist, unjust society that oppresses “persons of color.” (We might note that this theme is one the Soviets also sought to push with their propaganda throughout the Cold War.)
The popular 1619 Project has claimed that our nation’s true founding can be traced not to the Plymouth Bay Colony in Massachusetts, but the purchase of slaves at Point Comfort, Virginia. It further fallaciously claims that the American Revolution was not a battle to preserve colonists’ natural rights and institute a republic built on eternal truths about man, but to perpetuate the institution of chattel slavery.
Likewise the proliferation of critical race theory across our education institutions, corporations, and government bureaucracies, teaching that all human interactions must be interpreted primarily through the lens of race and racism to reverse historical injustices.
That is not all. Activists from Black Lives Matter to many pundits aim to undermine the nuclear family and parental rights. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” said former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year — and many on the left came to his defense.
The recent dustup over anti-grooming bills further exposes how entrenched liberal institutions are in their desire to influence the next generation with aggressive, abnormal sexual ideology that can leave permanent scars. Much the same can be said for the left’s catechesis of “global citizenship,” which vitiates responsibility for republican government, or its legal and cultural attacks against conservative religious institutions, which aim to undermine what influence they retain over some parts of the country.
Another Warning, From France
France just had its presidential election and once more chose liberal Emmanuel Macron. That is instructive here, for the French are farther along in the self-imposed destruction of a national identity.
French writer Alexandre Goodarzy speaks to this in his recent book “Kidnapped in Iraq,” which is not only the story of his harrowing experiences in the Middle East, but an indictment of milquetoast French culture. “We no longer believed in anything, especially not in ourselves,” he writes. He continues:
There was not a day without repentance: public and widespread apologies for being who and what we were, and for the so-called crimes of the generations of our people who had come before us. This included repentance for being French, for being white, for having colonized countries…. We all had to lower our heads and castigate ourselves.
Goodarzy ends his tale — which included 10 weeks of captivity by Islamic militants in Iraq — by warning that France has become soft, its people no longer proud enough to do the “manual labor, garbage-collecting, building, cleaning, and sweeping that kept our country running.” He warns that the French secular republic is not strong enough to “face aggressive Islamism,” that it lacks a foundation with enough meaning and purpose to defend itself. (More than 10 percent of France is Muslim, and many embrace radical strands of Islam.)
In other words, America’s self-hatred and radical social engineering are not far behind France’s. Goodarzy is worried about his people, who suffer increasingly violent attacks at the hands of native-born Muslim extremists. They seem incapable, and perhaps unwilling, to address what’s really at stake: a nation collapsing in on itself because of a lack of identity and sense of purpose.
If America wants to avoid the fate that awaits the French — a threat from both within and without — we need to start thinking more like the Ukrainian patriots who know what their country means and are willing to fight and die for it. And that doesn’t mean putting up pro-Ukraine bumper stickers or blue-and-yellow ribbons.