Editor: When I was growing up, the public schools were serious about teaching patriotism. For example, we were told about Nathan Hale who served as a spy for the Revolutionary Army. He was caught and hanged by the British, but before he died his captors asked him if he had any last words. “My only regret,” he said, “is that I have only one life to give for my country.”
I heard a distant echo of that proud sentiment when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, knowing the dictator Putin had sworn to kill him, was offered safe haven by the U.S.: “I need ammunition,” he said, “not a ride.”
The American people are caught up in the great drama unfolding in Ukraine in large measure because we see ourselves in the Ukrainians—or at least we see the way we used to think of ourselves. The Ukrainians are fighting for democracy, the right to live as free people and elect their own government. We’ve been fighting for those very same values for 247 years, and counting.
There were no public opinion polls back in 1776, but historians generally conclude that about a third of our ancestors supported the revolution, another third remained loyal to Great Britain and the rest were ambivalent. I think a poll in Ukraine today would show a much more lopsided support for resisting the Russian invasion. These people, former citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, have finally tasted freedom and are determined to keep it, come what may. The people of Ukraine are our soul mates in our long-time defense of freedom.
The Ukrainians are reminding us—and we do need occasional reminding—of why we cherish our heritage of democracy and freedom. These are not abstract concepts. They are fundamental values that define our character and hopes for the future —for ourselves and for the world. The Ukrainians know they are values worth dying for and they are proving it every day.
In this time of a deep schism in our country when it seems we are sharply divided between red and blue, and some of us are so bitterly divided we automatically reject any views other than our own. We need to recall the wisdom of another Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry who memorably said: “I disagree with what you say, but will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.”
The Ukrainians have no interest in our petty political spats about this and that. This is the basic question before us today: Where do we stand on fundamental human rights? It fills my heart to see us putting petty quarrels aside and coming together on what really matters. Long live Ukraine!
David W. Walker, Lovettsville