I, too, have been following the situation in Ukraine — my roomate has been there for a week as an election observer — and I briefly flirted with the idea of writing something snarky and facetious about the developing situation. But I realize now this may be the wrong tack. After all, there may be a few Ukrainians who read AFOE, and whatever heartfelt words we might offer could theoretically make a tiny difference in this drama’s outcome. So here goes.
If you’re Ukrainian, and you live in Ukraine, and you’re reading this blog, I basically have one thing to say: Please stop.
I mean it! Stop surfing the web! Stop reading blogs and checking your email! Make haste, bundle up, go outside and stand in the freezing cold of the main square of whatever town or city you’re living in, all night and all the next day if need be, and let it be known firmly and clearly: We are not going to put up with this bullshit.
Indeed, I’d say the only reason you should be online is if you’re sending emails to your friends telling them to meet you at the demonstration.
If you’re still reading, just take a quick look at this: A recently declassified report of conversations overhead on Prague’s Wenceslas Square in November 1989.
This is highly readable stuff, dealing as it does with the daily lives of ordinary citizens living through extraordinary times. And despite the carping of the middle aged folks (“No wonder the young people don’t know anything…”) it’s plain that the Velvet Revolution happened because parents could not idly stand by while their (supposedly ignorant) children took the heat for doing what they themselves they had failed to do for so many years: Speak truth to power. Remember, it was teenagers — who’d never experienced anything other than totalitarianism — who stayed out all night in the bitter cold to bring down the Czechoslovak Communist regime.
Democracy, to be sure, is a messy business. Democracies sometimes make dreadful mistakes, as the U.S. recently did. But while I believe the choice of the American electorate will have dire consequences for my country, I do not (unlike quite a few others) doubt that Americans actually made that choice. This election, on the other hand, stinks to high heaven.
I’m no expert on Ukrainian politics. And maybe Viktor Yushchenko if far from your ideal president. That’s not the point; it’s no longer about who would make a better president. It’s whether you believe in the right of the people to make such decisions.
So if you’re young and Ukrainian, don’t end up like those middle-aged parents in Prague 15 years ago. Don’t leave it to your future children to fix your mistakes. And if this sounds patronizing, sorry, but I told you to stop reading a long time ago!