War on two fronts, Ukraine and U.S.

Right now, we are watching two wars on TV: the top 3/4 is about the new war, the advent of WWIII, which is where we’re headed with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; the bottom 1/4, on the crawl, is the old war, the war against democracy that was unofficially begun under Reagan, but ramped up beyond reckoning during the Trump presidency.

The two are linked, of course. Both are waged on peace and equality by people who believe–and often have reason to believe–that they profit more from war and hate. Any lie can be told, any murder committed, any beating administered, on the slightest pretext, and the war-makers walk away unscathed. Just like the world is currently “standing with Ukraine” by sitting back and doing nothing as Russia invades a sovereign state. As Garry Kasparov puts it

This is already World War III. Putin started it long ago & Ukraine is only the current front. He will escalate anyway, and it’s even more likely if he succeeds in destroying Ukraine because you have again convinced him you won’t stop him even though you could.

We are witnessing, literally watching live, Putin commit genocide on an industrial scale in Ukraine while the most powerful military alliance in history stands aside…

There is no waiting this out. This isn’t chess; there’s no draw, no stalemate. Either Putin destroys Ukraine and eventually hits NATO with an even greater catastrophe, or Putin falls in Russia. He cannot be stopped with weakness.

Unfortunately, doing nothing or responding to violence with weakness is well-ingrained in too many Americans by now. The million-front war on our democracy is hard to track and easy to ignore in its more invisible phase, and by the time our next elections are held, it will be too late for the realization that so many gerrymandering, voter suppression, and vote-overturning laws are now in place in the majority of U.S. states that they are unlikely to be authentic.

The war of attrition is over in Europe and in the U.S. Outright war on the ground is happening in Europe, and war through state legislatures and the judicial system is happening in the U.S. If ever there were a time to actually stand, and act, for democracy here and abroad, it’s now.

It takes courage and it will bring hardship. Fighting for democracy costs money, jobs, and lives. It always has. But there is no alternative. Brave people everywhere in this country are risking everything because they know that in the big picture, there’s really nothing to lose. The links between fascism in Europe and the attack on democracy in America are too clear, as Indiana state senator Scott Baldwin made clear during the testimony of K-12 history teacher Matt Bockenfeld during a Senate Education Committee hearing on pending anti-CRT legislation:

During the hearing, Indiana history teacher Matt Bockenfeld testified regarding a requirement in the bill that teachers “remain impartial in teaching curricular materials.” Bockenfeld said he was teaching “the rise of Nazism right now” and “we’re not neutral on Nazism. We take a stand in the classroom against it, and it matters that we do.”

State Senator Scott Baldwin (R), the author of the bill, replied that he believed Bockenfeld and other teachers had an obligation to be “impartial” when discussing Nazism. “I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those isms… We need to be impartial,” Baldwin said.

Bockenfeld told the Indianapolis Star that he was “shocked” by Baldwin’s comment and he will “oppose Nazism until they fire me.” Baldwin, facing an avalanche of criticism, partially backtracked, saying he “failed to adequately articulate” his point. The Senate Education Committee, however, decided not to move forward with its plan for a vote later that week.

Let’s add to that avalanche of criticism. Let’s not tell ourselves that Baldwin misspoke, or is a nutty outlier or anomaly. Let’s not assume that Bockenfeld hasn’t received an avalanche of hate mail and death threats. And let’s not tell ourselves that the war is over because of one successful battle. Let’s actually stand up and fight in the courts and the classrooms, and the school board meetings and the legislatures, and march in the streets for the democracy that is under such sustained attack in this long and brutal war on what can make America great.