Radio Free NH: truth and freedom go hand in hand

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By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire

The war in Ukraine continues. Russia wants to take a bite out of the eastern flank of this country and is hammering those provinces first. The French president has suggested that Ukraine allow its enemy a graceful exit, with the unspoken assumption that this includes Ukraine losing at least a fifth of its remaining landmass. Ukraine suggested that France go to hell.

Strategic considerations aside, the French attempt at realpolitik exudes a certain Gallic charm. What about the Ukrainians, according to this argument, if their natural stream of corruption empties into a Russian pocket instead of a Ukrainian pocket. There is an unspoken assumption that both countries are equally rotten, so it is irrational to care.

And before condemning the blatant amorality of this argument, let’s first admire its political sophistication. Europe is like America in this respect, after all. We in the West are cleanly corrupt and we like to look down on those with dirtier graft.

Our politicians follow certain rules. They earn their money first, then get a position (often using their money to do so), then leave the position and use their new relationships (gained at the position) to earn even more money. They also allow their children to benefit, both before, during and after their own service (that’s the Hunter Biden story in a nutshell). But they themselves are scrupulous not to earn that extra money while they actually serve (except Donald Trump, who was not so scrupulous).

Whereas in Russia and Ukraine government officials make their money by actually being in power: our Slavic friends prefer their transparent corruption, so to speak (again, like Donald Trump).

So, one of the many things happening right now in Ukraine. Either Ukrainians really care who their businessmen should bribe, or Ukrainians crave our western style of corruption, or maybe they even think they can avoid corruption to begin with. Either way, they care enough to die for it.

Compare that to what Americans are dying for lately: whether people should wear masks and get Covid shots, and whether teenagers should be allowed to buy military-style assault weapons with which they can butcher their comrades. We are certainly spoiled, having our state-of-the-art political corruption: fully trained, efficient and the envy of all.

Father’s Day is coming soon, anyway, and anyone who is a father or has had a father knows it: it’s a day when dads are ignored, or at best mocked in a tolerant and hokey way. Moms get the best press and they deserve it. Historian Paul Fussell researched this and found that soldiers die in battle calling for their mothers. No one cries and asks for their father.

It starts when you’re little and you get your first vaccine (the kind people don’t really care about, for measles, or rubella, or whatever was killing us when people still loved science). Your mother kisses you and does better. Your father tells you “it doesn’t hurt too much”.

Then, as you get older, your father continues to be the source of not only the little white lie, but also the medium-sized white lie, and finally the big white lie: all those feelings that are simultaneously blindingly obvious, impossible to believe when you first hear them and only really appreciate them as you get older.

Your father is the one who tells you that playing the game is more important than winning it. Your dad is the one who tells you that the prettiest girl in class really only cares about a sense of humor and kindness, and if it turns out she doesn’t want those things, then you’re better off without it. Your father is the one who tells you that a day of hard work is the best cure for sadness. And ultimately your dad is the one who gives up on teaching you anything, because you’re basically a block of stone, and it ends up as an object lesson: work hard, walk the dog, and not cry when he gets a sting.

There are a lot of fathers in Ukraine who are dying now and sending their sons to die, and they are doing it for another white lie: that no matter what France says, people should care who governs them, because the truth and freedom go hand in hand. I hope that we American fathers can both remember this and teach it to our children. Because I’m sick of Americans dying for so much less.

He is the author of Gate City, Split Thirty and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and publicity which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project, The Book of Order, and his most recent, The Hunter of Talyashevka. They are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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