When I was in high school, I had my first introduction to the Ukraine as more than a spot on the atlas. Three of my freshman classmates at Xavier in 1957 were all from there.
One fellow Ihor Kotlarchuk replaced me as the class Beadle (read errand boy) after my early grades were dismal. The second guy was Jerry Karpinsky, who played in the school’s military marching band. I don’t remember the third boy at all. (See comments for corrections)
I wish I had the foresight to have asked them questions about their former homeland because I find it a very fascinating place.
My massage therapist, whom I have often mentioned is from there as is her husband. They arrived in St. Louis with only seven dollars in their pockets in 1991, the year that Soviet Russia’s economic and social empire imploded on itself.
She and I often talk about her former country, now know as simply Ukraine. I had never questioned its past nomenclature or even thought about it. I still find myself starting to include the word the. It made me wonder why anyone used the in the first place.
When I asked her that she really didn’t have any definitive answer. After all no one says the India or the Japan, so why the prior the?
But on the other hand we do say the United States, and the West Indies, primarily because we are speaking in the plural number. When I was in high school, the Ukraine was just one of several Soviet Republics.
She also corrected me when I called her hometown, the current capital, Kiev (Key-ef), which is the Russian pronunciation. I now say Kiev or Keeve which is the way the Ukrainians say it.
That means that every one of the news commentators on radio and TV have been mispronouncing the capital for all these months.
One small thing I do for her and her husband is clip any relevant article on Russia, Ukraine or anything even close to them.
You might say I have been very busy clipping a lot of articles lately because of Ukraine’s inner turmoil. Her mother, a retired medical doctor, lives on the edge of the capital, and several of her family members worked for the former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanakovich.
She recently told me three of her cousins were called up to the military. And of even greater concern is the fact that her Godmother now lives in Crimea and has not been heard from since the Russian invasion weeks ago.
All this saddens her very much. She is 100% American now but still has deep concern for her family in Ukraine. It pains me to see the fear and tension in her eyes as it bleeds past the stoicism in her soul.
Before clipping the articles I read some of them. You can say all you like about the politics of the New York Times, but they do have some of the best news writers and journalists in the world.
All their articles are , not only well-written but contain a broad spectrum of the issues, including background, profiles and many items of fascinating minutiae.
Our only Catholic newspaper, the St. Louis Review recently featured a marvelous story on its cover about Ukraine Catholics and their local Orthodox church as they prayed for their fellow Catholics in Ukraine.
All this, especially Ukraine’s geopolitical strategic location makes me think of the travail that Poland, another country with a long Catholic presence has undergone, primarily for its location.
Then Poland was the gateway to the East. Now it seems to be Ukraine.
This issue dates back to 2003 when Ukraine had its Orange Revolution. Since then the politics has , like those in the former Soviet Union vacillated between robber barons and oligarchic billionaires on the make as well as corrupt government officials..
No matter who has been in charge the common people always seemed to suffer in poverty and need.
In mid-March things started to really heat up as Putin sent 20,000 paratroopers to ensure the referendum in Crimea, a peninsula on Ukraine’s southern border would vote to secede from Ukraine. The country and the world has been on the brink ever since.
America’s feckless leader, Barack Obama has again shown his detachment from the grave issues of his presidency. His vacillation and lack of any evidence that he has a spine and other male essentials has done little to quell the simmering tensions.
More than likely Obama’s insouciance has not only encouraged Putin’s lust for reuniting the former satellites of the defunct Soviet Union but prompted his aggressive actions in Crimea.
During a recent trip to Chicago, where I gave an address on Liberation Theology at the 33rd Annual Mindszenty Conference, an organization I spent 11 years writing for, in the Q&A a woman asked me:
besides praying and fasting for the people of Ukraine what can we do to help these people?
I started by trying to explain the discordant realities of the situation.
Like Poland of the past Ukraine is important geopolitically for both West and East. Putin needs it as a buffer to allied intrusion in his plans for Russian expansion while the West looks more to the socio-economic advantages of having Ukraine as a full trading partner and maybe even a part of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Bush administration had also recognized Ukraine potential military value.
According to Secretary of State John Kerry, Putin’s thinking was out of touch with the spirit of our times. Both he and President Obama accused Putin of living in the 19th century when might made right.
They reiterated that it was the 21st century where there would be no wars between democracies and all disputes would be settled like gentlemen.
No wonder the Russians are laughing at us. It is Kerry and Obama who are living in some sort of fantasy land.
Putin still believes in power politics and has the ability to drive home his point through the muzzle of a rifle or the hot warhead of a missile.
Unlike Hitler’s march through Central Europe in the 1930s when any sort of allied unity might have exposed the weakness of his forces, Putin has nuclear weapons and Ukraine doesn’t. Or should I say not any more!
The sad truth is that the West, led by Britain the United States convinced Ukraine to give up its sizable nuclear weaponry in 1994 in exchange for a promise of protection from the United States and its NATO allies.
At that time Ukraine had 1800 nuclear missiles, which made it then the third largest nuclear power in the world ahead of China, Britain and France.
Against the advice of its intelligence advisers Ukraine signed this dangerous document that has left it without any leverage 20 years later.
This is what happens when gun control is applied, not just locally but globally: the strong always have the guns and those foolish enough to disarm lose their freedom.
The Western powers and Ukraine say Russia has broken the agreement by invading Crimea. The Budapest Memorandum committed all parties to refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But the agreement was not a treaty and didn’t require any of the signatories to do anything in the event of violations.
To make matters worse the U.S. has recently refused to send any sort of military aid to arm the Ukraine reserves who have just been called to duty. But they did send healthy and sugar free snacks for its military.
So in a showdown between a weakened West with a struggling economic and a vulnerable but aggressive power like Russia, whose leaders have nothing but contempt for America’s leaders, the odds seem to favor Russia in both the long and short run of things.
It is Putin’s game to win or lose. Will his economy hold up under this aggressive foray deeper into Ukrainian territory or will the economic weight topple him as it did his predecessors in 1991?
Whatever happens one thing is for certain: the winds of war are again blowing strongly in Ukraine.
With Barack Obama at our helm prayer and fasting are likely to be ours and Ukraine’s best and only hope.
Just who is Michael Sam and why is everyone, including the Pope and Cardinal Richard Dolan talking about him?
For the uninformed he is a football player, who is an excellent defensive player who had a breakout year for the University of Missouri this past fall.
In anticipation of signing a professional contract with the National Football League Sam chose a prime moment to announce that he was a homosexual.
Many in the media have waiting for an anointed one to come along and break the sexual preference barrier, which to them, was just another human rights obstacle. Lost in their fifght is the fact that most detest football, as not only Neanderthal, barbaric but seriously homophobic. Sam stands to be their agent to make America the first Rainbow Nation.
Was he recruited for this role?
Of course the Catholic Church with its long and controversial history of opposing homosexuality was drawn into the fray.
The new pope, Francis who in one short year has shown an enormous capacity for being misunderstood and taken out of context probably had more clarifications than the last four popes combined.
In a broader context, the pope when asked about homosexuality in the priesthood said: If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? He told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word gay.
Of course that might not apply to Sam who has been known to frequent Columbia, Missouri’s gay bars.
According to news reports the pope’s words could not have been more different from those of Benedict XVI, who in 2005 wrote that homosexuality was ‘a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil, and an objective disorder.’ The church document said men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not become priests.
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera last week published an interview with the pope in which Francis reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman while acknowledging that governments want to adopt civil unions for gay couples and others to allow for economic and health benefits, for example.
It was the first time a pope had ever held out the possibility of the church accepting some legal arrangement for same-sex couples, and the remarks prompted a wave of stories, some indicating that the pope had endorsed civil unions or was even signaling an acceptance of gay marriage.
Vatican quickly clarified that Francis was speaking in general terms and that people should not try to read more into the pope’s words than what has been stated.
But the Pope wanted senior Church leaders to look into the issue and to scrutinize the reasons why many countries have legalized same-sex marriages.
Former Missourian, Cardinal Timothy Dolan also was asked about Sam and his gay debut. Questions like these are often designed to evoke controversial or embarrassing remarks, given the Church’s recent history sex abuse by homosexual or pederastic priests.
Virtually echoing the sentiments of the pope, Dolan said. Good for him, Dolan replied. I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya.
He also added I don’t think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us, well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, ‘Bravo.’
I thought the teaching was love the sinner…hate the sin. A Bravo for an active gay man does not seem much like pastoral advice to me.
The discussion also dug deeply into America’s contentious racial past.
Liberals were able to dust off the nearly forgotten memory of true pioneer Jackie Robinson and even the often-misunderstood story of Rosa Parks to bolster Sam bid for a larger payday.
Michael Sam has the opportunity to be the Jackie Robinson of the NFL, said professor Orin Starn, chairman of Duke University’s cultural anthropology department.
This is balderdash!
Viciously taunted, and sometimes threatened by players, fans and others, Robinson faced enormous pressure to not only play well, but to do so while restraining the desire to fight back.
Not only had some of his teammates submitted a petition in Florida, saying they would not play with him but during the season pitches under his chin or in his ribs, racial taunts–black cats on the field and the unmerciful heckling of managers, such as Philadelphia’s Ben Chapman made his maiden season a living hell on earth.
Not everyone thought this was an honest comparison.
Black columnist Larry Elder wrote: the attention and pressure on Robinson makes Sam’s future career look like a coronation. Robinson’s was a pre-television, pre-Internet, Jim Crow America, where sports fans really paid keen attention to only three sports – boxing, horse racing and America’s pastime, baseball. Most everybody was watching, many hoping and expecting him to fail.
In my opinion the only thing that Sam has in common with Robinson is the color of his skin. Homosexuality is an accidental, such as religion and hair styles, not something unchangeable such as race, DNA and eye color.
Sam has not and will not suffer even a modicum of the harassment and opprobrium that Robinson endured. He has a 100% support of the gay community and the weight of a godless secular society behind him.
And whoever might have the temerity to oppose or even criticize him and maybe even his abilities on the field will quickly become and outlier and even a pariah to the game they play.
I could not help but note how many of the commentators, especially the black ones, cowered before the question when asked for their opinion.
It has been my understanding from my days as a talk show host on radio that most of my black callers were offended by the notion that anyone of their race could be a homosexual.
Such an accusation might have easily unleashed the dread R-word in any conversation. Personally I think that such a comparison is an insult to what Jackie Robinson did for his race, America’s social morality and the game of baseball.
So I have no Bravo for Michael Sam.
From what I have read he might not have enough talent to be an everyday player. He is caught in the realistic squeeze of being too small for his college position on the defensive line and too slow for a linebacker in the NFL.
Will his coming hide these facts from his judges? I don’t know.
I do wish him well and wish that the mainstream media judge him only by his abilities on the gridiron and nothing else.
Of course I doubt that because as Al Gore has so profoundly told us a zebra cannot change its spots.