Solidarity With Our Fellow Man, and the Plight of the Ukrainians
by Alexander Krohannon
- "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.
- Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
- Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
- Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me."
- A quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1946, Germany
While it is nearly a modern cliché and hyperbole to compare whatever event is going on to the horrors of the Holocaust, fortunately that’s not the purpose of this quote. Rather, one should look deeper into the underlying message: empathy and compassion towards the plight of our fellow man is a safeguard against tyranny.
By uniting the marginalized black communities in the southern United States, under the yoke of Jim Crow, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were able to move a nation to end segregation and to return the right to vote to Black people.
By building a robust coalition of women and men, Carrie Chapman Catt and the other leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement were able to obtain the right to vote.
Using the principles of collective bargaining, countless unions (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Auto Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, United Steelworkers) were able to obtain robust compensation packages and higher quality working conditions. And through a combination of mutual defense and trade treaties, the European continent has seen an unprecedented period of peace.
For innumerable reasons (both adversarial and chance), these gains and the momentum from them has been significantly stifled. Though technology has provided humanity with more information and ability to reach more people than ever before, paradoxically, we have never felt more alone.
Countless studies have shown that most Americans, especially men, say that they don’t have any more than a few friends. Club and organization membership and activity are at historic lows. And on top of that, fate has provided us covid-19, a disease the likes of which the U.S. hasn’t had to reckon with since Polio. More than any time in recent memory, Americans are in desperate need of a renewal of the ties of community, empathy, and compassion.
And so are the people of Ukraine.
Ukraine (for a variety of reasons, largely political) is not a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), but nonetheless has a series of mutual defense treaties with many European countries and the United States. Now some may this as a contractual obligation to help protect the people of Ukraine from being invaded by a foreign power. The obligation of people to protect their allies is a pivotal pillar to our global community, in the same way that when we sign an employment contract we expect our employer to pay us.
The Ukrainian people didn’t pick a fight with Russia. Vladimir Putin struck first. The people in Kiev, Kharkiv, Mariupol and countless other places, who were killed earlier this week, were just trying to live peaceful lives. Despite this, Putin has deemed that the a free and autonomous Ukraine goes against his goals.
So, Putin is coming for the Ukrainians, like he came for the Crimeans (also part of Ukraine) and Georgians before them; which begs the question, if he succeeds in Ukraine, who will he or whoever comes after him, come for next? He wasn’t satisfied with annexing Crimea. He wasn’t satisfied with Georgia. And he may not be satisfied with Ukraine.
If we are to take the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage Movement, and every other social movement to heart, then we have to recognize that the only thing that has ever seen people through disaster is community. We have to recognize that a threat to free people anywhere is a threat to free people everywhere. We must shake the chains of apathy, overcome the voices of division, and join in the most beautiful of human traditions and stand in solidarity with our fellow man.