As I watch TV footage of Russian tanks rolling down Ukrainian streets, I am stunned by how two nations that are closely intertwined can reach a point where soldiers take up arms and invade without provocation.
Ukraine and Russia have a shared culture and a shared history. They speak a similar language. They celebrate with similar music, dance, food and drink. They mourn with invocations to related faiths. Their long and tragic histories are bound together under czarist and communist oppressors as well as Central Asian and European invaders. The two nations certainly share more in common than they differ. Without a border sign, a traveler would have a hard time pinpointing where Ukraine ends and Russia begins.
But here we are — explosions on a dark horizons and innocent families fleeing for safety. I ponder how this could happen in a post-Cold War world, and what lessons if any could be learned thousands of miles away.
Certainly one lesson is the fragility of democratic institutions when confronted by demagogues and politicians whose interests lie in fomenting division rather than promoting cooperation. Putin and leaders before him exploited economic and social instability to create a fear and distrust of the West. Closer to home, we've seen how divisive politics over such things as vaccinations have harmed many, created political opportunity for a few, and did lasting damage to the cultural fabric that interweaves our nation.
Yesterday, I walked with hundreds of Ukrainians and friends as they rallied downtown to call for peace in our ancestral homeland. It was a bitter cold day, but we were warmed by cheers and the car honking of passersby. The struggle against oppression, the desire for peace and safety, and the celebration of liberty are universal. Whether you live in Portland or Ukraine, people want our governments to provide a safe environment so that our children can play in the streets without fear of harm, security and assistance for our most needy, and good schools and economic vision so that we and future generations can prosper. Yet seeing how politicians can upend these aspirations both abroad and closer to home, we must be vigilant that our elected officials unify and reflect the best in us rather than exploiting their elevated platform to divide and conquer.
My campaign is built on the foundation of inclusiveness, an openness to hearing and understanding all viewpoints, and the bedrock principle of building upon the commonality and goodness that unite us. These principles are more powerful than those that seek to divide us, whether from our distant relatives abroad or our brothers and sisters at home.
On his website, Vadim Mozyrsky identifies himself as a Jewish refugee from Kyiv, Ukraine, who fled anti-Semitism in 1979. He is a candidate for Portland City Council Position No. 3, currently held by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.
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