Ukrainians remind us what Memorial Day means

Thoughts after Memorial Day: An estimated 700,000 American men and women gave the infinite gift of their lives to our democracy in the dozen wars and conflicts since the Revolutionary War. That’s such a big number that is hard to deal with, but each individual death was personal, emotional and unforgettable to their families. It is so right that we take one day each year to honor each individual life.

Another 620,000 Americans died in our bloodiest war, the Civil War. It was not aimed at foreign enemies, but defined who we are as a nation.

Our Memorial Day comes in the context of the brutal war raging between Russia and Ukraine. Estimates of the deaths from various sources put Ukraine’s military losses at 20,000 fighters who stood up for democracy, not just in Ukraine, but across the world. That compares to up to an estimated 58,000 Russian attackers who have died in battle. Further, since the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion, as many as many as 42,000 innocent civilians have died from Russian attacks and bombings. (All estimates are unreliable.)

Since the Ukrainians are in great dimension fighting for free people everywhere, there will have to be some kind of international memorial some day for those unbelievably heroic Ukrainians.

Other observations on that godawful war:

How is it that one man, Vladimir Putin, can lead what could be a great country so far astray? In search of his messianic vision of empire, Putin has become a pariah internationally. He and the Russians will have to account some day for the torture, rape, abductions of children, starvation and enormous damage to the global economy. His trial should start soonest, in absentia, before the war comes to an end.

  • It is also notable that while one powerful evil man can initiate a war, one good and heroic leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, can overshadow a monster.
  • Putin’s strategy of bombing of cities across Ukraine, when there is no major military purpose, intended to push the Ukrainian people into submission and surrender. As with most of his assumptions about this war, the exact opposite has happened. The will of the Ukrainian people has hardened deeply and eternally against his Russia.
  • Another of Putin’s stated goals was to demilitarize Ukraine. Again, exactly the opposite occurred. NATO allies have poured several hundred billion dollars of armaments into the defense of the Ukrainian nation. Ukraine now has a formidable military, and more defensive help is on the way in the form of F-16 warplanes.
  • A surprising solidarity has resulted from Russia’s barbarism. NATO is far more united than ever before, and will become a more powerful adversary of Russia with the addition of Finland and Sweden. If successful in its defense, Ukraine will surely join NATO as well.
  • Even in the fractious U.S. Congress, where partisanship is at an historical high, there has quietly been a closing of the ranks by both parties in favor of massive support for Ukraine. Even the dovish, isolationist extremes of the two parties have gone silent in 2023 as Ukraine demonstrates the possibility of winning the war it didn’t start. Is it a new day in Congress when the Republicans and Democrats can agree on a compromise of debt limits and spending constraints, the major domestic issue of the day, and on containing Russia, the major foreign policy issue of the day? It is a form of national healing and unity that almost all Americans can agree to fight for democracy and against Putin’s attacks on the world order.
  • Putin is no longer unassailable from the inside. His former ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group that won the pyrrhic victory in Bakhmut, has been caustic in his criticisms of Putin’s conduct of the war and of his generals. To rally Russians and stay in power, Putin will spin his invasion as a defense against NATO and America. Clearly, Putin is losing his absolute grip on power.

Back to our Memorial Day: It is a comforting thought that the better angels of the human race can prevail over the bullies of the world, even if it means giving up their mortal existence to do so. The grand successes of the good guys is why we give them unending thanks on Memorial Day.

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