Bold lies tear fragile social fabric
By Chris Honoré
What Russia is perpetrating in Ukraine defies understanding, and all but requires a suspension of disbelief: the unprovoked military invasion of a sovereign country. Who among us has not been deeply moved by the remarkable courage, the grim tenacity and the extraordinary resistance of the Ukrainian people in the name of democracy and freedom?
We have watched the images on screens large and small. And thus we bear witness to the appalling destruction and death as more than two million desperate Ukrainians, many with small children in arms, with meager possessions in hand, risk their lives to leave by any means possible in search of refuge. Not since World War II have we seen such an exodus, and we can only imagine the wrenching grief for all who are left behind.
We have listened to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refuse to yield in the face of unimaginable loss. How many civilians, including children, have been wounded or killed by Russian air strikes and shelling is unknown, but chillingly we hear of the existence of mass grave sites filled with bodies wrapped in plastic and cloth.
Recently, President Zelenskyy addressed the British Parliament in a restrained yet emotional voice, reminiscent of Winston Churchill in 1940, saying, “We will not surrender, we will not lose, we will go to the end. We will fight at sea, we will fight in the air, we will protect our land, we will fight everywhere … and we will not surrender. We will continue fighting in the forests, in the fields, on shores, in the streets.”
Of course, as he spoke, he was fully aware that there were those in the audience who had seen the familiar face of totalitarianism before. There were those listening to his words who remembered bombs dropping on London, of countless civilians killed, of the German Wehrmacht invading sovereign European countries, leaving in their wake a similar destruction. They have seen the face of evil and stared into the abyss of war before.
It is my hope that this moment will give all Americans pause, as Ukrainians, not unlike the Brits, make evident the price they are willing to pay for their freedom and their democracy.
We have, of late, after four years of authoritarian leadership, after the Jan. 6 insurrection, after the “Big Lie” echo, been told that our own democracy is at risk. According to a recent Schoen-Cooperman Research survey, we hear voters are losing faith in our elections, our institutions and, most of all, in the ability of our democracy to survive. Is it possible that a plurality of Americans believe that the elections of 2022 and 2024 will be tainted, and a majority of Republicans believe President Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election?
We know that the freedom to vote is fundamental to our democratic system of government, and yet, inexplicably, as of January 2022, 27 states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 250 bills with voting restrictions, many impacting voters of color. Mail-in voting is being curtailed while the ability to challenge ballot signatures would be made easier; stricter ID requirements (i.e. proof of citizenship) are required for in-person voting; partisan actors can remove election officials from office; same-day voter registration would be eliminated; ballot drop boxes would be reduced in number or eliminated altogether.
All of the above is justified by the myth of widespread voter fraud and stolen elections, collectively intended to undermine our faith in the election process as one party seeks power at whatever cost.
Democracy, for all of its resilience, is also fragile, and so must be guarded if it is to prevail. I’m reminded of a quote found in the journal of James McHenry (1753-1816), a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He wrote: “At the end of the Convention, a lady asked Dr. Franklin, ‘Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?’ Franklin responded, saying, ‘A republic, madam, if you can keep it.’” Indeed.
Email Ashland resident Chris Honoré at firstname.lastname@example.org.