Societies and individual lives run on narrative. Narratives decide what stories we are allowed to tell, what characters we populate those stories with, what plots and what endings we invest in. Brain surgeon and politician Ben Carson was born black in 1951, when Jim Crow was still in force. His mother married at age 13. Her husband left her. She attempted suicide and was hospitalized for mental health issues. She became a domestic worker. Carson attended an inadequate two-classroom school that retarded his academic development. Many have leveraged such a life story as prelude to a further narrative, one of criminality, addiction, resentment, and despair. Sonya Carson would not allow that. She insisted to her son that he could and would overcome and succeed. To reinforce that narrative, she required young Ben to avoid TV and read and write reports on two library books per week. The narrative of the Carson household differed from that of many black neighbors in Detroit, and Carson’s life trajectory differed as well.
Countries right next door to each other tell different stories. Compared to other Soviet Bloc nations, Poland played an outsize role in defeating the Soviet Empire. A dominant Polish narrative depicts Poland as a land of history-making fighters for freedom who resist impossible odds and are glorified even if they die trying. In Poland in 1989, I encountered many images of Jozef Pilsudski, a warrior who defeated the Red Army in the 1920 “Miracle at the Vistula.” In Czechoslovakia, I encountered many images of Good Soldier Svejk, no square-jawed warrior, but a plump drunk, a fictional “wise fool” who appears to accommodate oppressive occupying powers but undermines them through his good-natured ineptitude.
Under Soviet domination, Czechs enjoyed greater access to consumer goods. The Soviet Empire punished rebellious Poles by restricting their access to consumer goods. The old joke: Two dogs meet at the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia. They are trying to enter each others’ countries. The Czech dog asks the Polish dog, “Why are you trying to enter Czechoslovakia?” The Polish dog says, “I want to taste meat.” The Polish dog asks the Czech dog the same question. Why try to enter Poland? The Czech dog says, “I want to bark.” Two countries, sharing a border, two different stories, different main characters, different plots, different outcomes.
I grew up in a small town. Our narrative was that American soldiers were heroes who saved the world during WWII. We all had stories about police harassment and even beatings, but we respected and obeyed police, and all authority figures, because they did a difficult but necessary job. It was rare for anyone to talk about his or her feelings, even at a funeral. If something bothered you, you didn’t go to a therapist. You beat someone up, or you got drunk. The stories we told ourselves shaped our lives.
Traveling from my hometown to a college campus, I immediately noticed that academia supported a very different narrative, with very different plots and main characters, than the narrative in my small town. Women were supposed to be angry at men, and resent it and object when a man held a door open. In my town, a man who held the door open for a woman was a gentleman. On campus, such a man was a “male chauvinist pig.” Soldiers were foolish dupes or dangerous lunatics; films like “Coming Home” reinforced the negative image of soldiers. Police were scum. America was a hypocritical oppressor. All white people were privileged. All black people were glow-in-the-dark sacred. “War is over if you want it.” War was just a silly mistake humans made, a mistake they could avoid by being tolerant and diverse.
In the Ivory League narrative, the Soviet Union, which still existed, was largely benevolent. One could not wear a t-shirt emblazoned with a swastika or Hitler’s face. One could wear a t-shirt featuring a red star, or Stalin’s or Mao’s face. Any American who objected to communism was a McCarthyite fanatic. Grover Furr, a professor at New Jersey’s Montclair University, said that the Holodomor was a hoax, that the Soviets did not commit the Katyn massacre, nor did they invade Poland in 1939. Movies like “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming” depicted Americans concerned about Russia as paranoid buffoons. The Sting song “The Russians Love Their Children, Too,” argued that “In Europe and America there’s a growing feeling of hysteria. There is no monopoly on common sense on either side of the political fence. We share the same biology, regardless of ideology … There’s no such thing as a winnable war.” And of course there was John Lennon’s “Imagine.” On campus, the consensus was that the word “evil” should be removed from the dictionary. Evil is something we created by thinking that someone unlike ourselves was evil. So just stop saying “evil” and evil would cease to exist.
In recent years, the Ivory Tower narrative has metastasized like Godzilla after nuclear radiation. It is no longer limited to the Ivory Tower; it has taken over our culture. My first recognition of how far things had gone occurred several years ago. “Dirk” was a Facebook friend and also a real life friend. We had slow danced together and flirted. Suddenly Dirk was on fire over an issue it had never occurred to me would ever arise. He shouted, as one shouts in a social media post, that America was a human rights hellscape because men could not use women’s bathrooms and changing rooms.
I had supported gay rights for years. But blanket permissions for men to enter women’s intimate spaces, I recognized, had nothing to do with human rights. I said so. Dirk denounced me as a virtual Hitler. He accused me of being responsible for an “epidemic” of murders and suicides of trans people. Our decades-old friendship ended.
Men are women. No black person can ever be questioned. Black people own suffering. No white can talk about having suffered because all whites have “privilege and “fragility” and their “white tears” need to be denounced. Slavery is the one-word excuse for any crime any black person commits. Islam is a religion of peace and America is the worst oppressor in history. Christianity is an embarrassment. The Ivory Tower narrative is suddenly a giant, radioactive T-Rex stomping the city into matchsticks. It dominates American life. The word “white” is suddenly the punchline of jokes. Notice how audiences laugh, like trained seals, when the “diverse” “comics” on the NPR show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” punctuate yet another unfunny attempt at wit with the word “white.” Police officers are immediately suspect. One must not ever publicly discuss crime statistics and demographics, or even the role of fathers in families. “I have black friends” or even “I am a lawyer / a doctor / a teacher who has done pro bono work for black people” is immediately translated into “I am so racist I don’t even realize it.” Before, there were bad men. They were called “male chauvinist pigs.” Now all men were bad, and suffered from “toxic masculinity” and “rape culture.” And yet differences between men and women are, like evil, something we merely imagine. A man can be a woman and a woman can be a man, just by saying so.
The Woke narrative envelopes us like the transparent walls of a plastic bag fitted loosely over our heads There is a limited amount of oxygen in that bag and if we say the wrong word, the bag will be tightened and we will be eliminated from public discourse.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. On social media, the edifice of Woke trembled like a Jell-O tower in a roomful of Irish step dancers. Over night, the world was gripped by a new narrative, a new plot, new dialogue and a new cast of characters.
“Being transgender is the bravest thing you can do,” said Zoey Tur in 2015. A few minutes after saying that, Tur, a tall, broad-shouldered man who chooses to live as a woman, threatened to beat the shorter conservative commentator Ben Shapiro so badly that Shapiro would need an ambulance. Woke applauds its heroes, trans people, as “brave,” “courageous,” “heroic,” for no other reason than declaring that they are the sex opposite to their own.
A Russian warship ordered Ukrainian troops on Snake Island to surrender. “This is it,” a Ukrainian service member says. “Just in case,” another says, as she turns up the volume on their device. “Go f— yourself,” the Ukrainian replies to the Russian warship, which threatens to rain death down on the island.
“This is one of the most formidable videos seen in recent times,” says a Times of India broadcaster, about a Twitter video of a Russian woman, dressed in winter coat and fuzzy hat, telling a Russian soldier to put sunflower seeds in his pocket, so that, after Ukrainians kill him, the Ukrainian national flower can grow from his corpse.
A Ukrainian jumped on a tank, fell off the tank, tried to push the tank back with his bare hands, and then knelt in front of the tank. Nor was he alone. Another Ukrainian man walked and then stood in front of military vehicles.
A Ukrainian woman in Konotop, a town traditionally associated, in folklore, with witchcraft, threatened Russians manning a tank. “You are in Konotop. Every second woman here is a witch. Tomorrow your dick will be limp.”
Vitaly Volodymyrovych Skakun, a Ukrainian Marine, blew up a bridge to halt the advance of the invader, knowing that he would not have enough time to escape the impact of his own explosives. He died.
A gray-haired Ukrainian man who, while driving his car, was run over by an armored vehicle, says, from his hospital bed, that he will join Ukraine’s defense forces as soon as he can walk again.
And then there is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He’s a short Jewish comic, who’s been suddenly thrust into history, and is now inspiring the world. Putin has dispatched assassins to eliminate Zelensky, just as Putin murdered countless of his opponents, often with poison, “the weapon of cowards,” and of sadists. The current joke: Zelensky cannot evacuate Ukraine because his balls are too big to fit through the door. Another joke: a graph showing “the heaviest objects in the universe.” These objects, listed by weight, from lightest to heaviest, are the sun, a neutron star, black holes, and Ukrainians’ balls.
Nor has heroism been a monopoly of the Ukrainian side. Putin has declared that any protest of his war, or even independent reporting, will be punished with up to fifteen years in prison. OVD-Info, a monitoring group, reports that more than 13,000 Russians have been arrested for protesting the war. Indeed, even using the word “war” on social media is a crime. Rather, Putin’s war must be described as a “special military operation.” Some have responded by circulating, on social media, the cover of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with a new cover: “Special Military Operations and Peace.”
On March 2, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Yelena Osipova, 76-years-old, was one of thousands of Russians arrested for protesting against the Ukraine war.
In one of the most remarkable videos I have ever seen, a captured Russian officer speaks with remarkable frankness about the war. Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Mikhailovich Astrokhov strips the Russian invasion bare. He then acknowledges, with eyes of infinite sorrow and a face of desolate resignation, that he knows he can probably never return to his homeland.
The crew of Russia’s relatively free TV station Rain (Dozhd) shut down and walked off the air, to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, because Putin would not allow them to tell the truth about the war. They closed with the words “No Pasaran,” from the Spanish Civil War, and “Net Voyny,” “No war.”
Russian mothers in Siberia’s Kemerovo region confronted their governor. Our sons were lied to, the mothers said. They were not told they were going to war, the mothers said. Putin is using our sons as cannon fodder, they said. The officials could only respond by saying that one is not allowed to talk about this.
Suddenly, the vox populi, that is those voicing their reaction to world events on social media, decided that that chick attending the Upper East Side’s Brearley School who announced on Twitter that she is non-binary is not the bravest person on the planet. A meme depicted a Russian tank looking formidable, and a US tank painted pink and purple with a trans flag in front and a sign reading “They/Them.” The meme’s point: while America was undergoing mass hysteria over pronoun usage, the rest of the world continued to be a complicated and at times dangerous place. America was ill-prepared to address real world threats. Another meme stated this issue more starkly: “Maybe it’s time we start worrying about real issues instead of our pronouns?” The contrast between Woke’s obsession with pronouns and Ukraine’s attempt to survive an assault by a more powerful, aggressive nuclear-armed neighbor inspired multiple op-eds from the right and the left.
Suddenly, we have new heroes: Ukrainian men engaging in the most ancient of manly activities: fighting and killing. Suddenly, we are in a world of stark contrasts where relativism doesn’t work. Primitive words like “good” and “bad” must be used. The good men are Ukrainians defending their homes, their wives and children, their dignity and their freedom. The bad man is Putin, sending duped conscripts as “cannon fodder” into a senseless war. Male warriors are suddenly admirable heroes, heroes we on social media cry over, as we read about the Marine and the defenders of Snake Island. These Ukrainian warrior heroes are praised as “BAMF,” an internet initialism for an unprintable compliment. Social media users are falling in love with, praising, inventing memes for, very masculine men doing very masculine things.
The word “evil” must be used for Putin. Putin’s past as a KGB agent dredges up the Soviet Union, which suddenly looks very sinister. No amount of yoga or chanting will defeat Putin. If he is to be defeated, he will be defeated by warriors engaging in combat.
Ukrainian women and children, on the other hand, are evacuating the war zone in their millions. Men are doing one thing – fighting to defend their homeland, while women and children are doing another – evacuating to maintain the biological stock of the nation in a temporary refuge. Suddenly, we live, again, in a world where men and women are different, and where men can’t be women and women can’t be men.
“I wish Americans loved their country the way Ukrainians love theirs,” a social media user posted. He, a citizen lost in a country where the best and the brightest flagellate themselves with the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory, was astounded to see one Ukrainian after another vow to defend his homeland to the death. “This is our land,” the Ukrainians say. “We love our country.” “We want to be free.” “We don’t want to be anyone’s slave.” Social media users weep. They want to live somewhere where patriotism and self-sacrifice are values, not jokes.
Woke recognizes Ukraine as a threat to Woke narrative. Woke is pouncing back with counter narrative. Some of the Woke backlash against Ukraine coverage is merely petulant. On “The View,” Joy Behar griped that the Russia’s attack on Ukraine interferes with her desire to vacation in Europe.
Woke knows that its most deadly weapon in its arsenal is to accuse its enemies of racism. A secondary weapon is to accuse its enemies of transphobia. Woke deployed both weapons almost immediately. CBS news broadcast “A War within a War,” a segment in which a man who identifies as a woman described life as a trans person in Ukraine as “bleak.” The speaker regretted that he can’t escape because his passport identifies him as a man, not as a woman, and men must stay to defend the nation.
The New York Times alleged that Poland was being compassionate to Ukrainian refugees for no other reason than that those refugees are white. Poland was mean to refugees from non-white countries, the Times alleged.
Accusations that Ukraine is racist were combined with the accusation that anyone who cares about Ukraine is racist. Seventy-six thousand foreign students study in Ukraine to be health care professionals, that is, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, etc. Numerous outlets alleged that Ukraine and Poland mistreat Africans and Asians attempting to escape the war. MSNBC featured an interview with an African student who reported that he and other Africans were not allowed on trains. On the other hand, Sixty Minutes broadcast material extravagantly praising Poland for its response to the refugee crisis. Their report included footage of a non-white student also praising Poles for their generosity and compassion. See here and here.
Of course any racism directed against evacuating students is wrong. Given the chaos, terror, and overwhelming number of evacuees escaping, it is impossible at this point to tabulate racism incidents. Having lived and worked in Africa, I can say that were the country I lived in to be bombed by an overwhelming power, I would certainly find it difficult to acquire transport out, and part of that difficulty would be because I am white. That is, human beings do favor their own ethnicity in life or death situations; that’s as true in Africa as in Europe. But there’s more going on here than ethnocentrism in a desperate war.
Europe recently was overrun with African, Asian, and Middle Eastern migrants. Crime, social unrest, and attacks on European values followed. For example, after Muslim migrants committed mass rapes during 2016 New Year celebrations, European women were told that they brought the rapes on themselves by wearing perfume and revealing clothing. Poland declined to accept large numbers of Muslim migrants. This caused a rift in Europe, a rift that Belarussian strongman and Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko exploited. Lukashenko purposely funneled migrants to Poland’s border.
This tactic is old. It was used after World War II when the Soviets took over Eastern Europe. There were anti-Semitic murders in Poland after the war, including the notorious Kielce Pogrom. The pogrom was of course vile and wrong. But the use of the pogrom to discredit all Poles and to justify Soviet domination was itself vile and wrong. Just so, even genuine incidents of racism at the Ukraine border are wrong. But exploitation of any such incidents to demonize Ukrainians in the eyes of the West, and to generate acceptance of, or indifference to Russia’s war crimes are themselves vile and criminal.
In The Spectator, editor Freddy Gray wrote, “Reporters seem to be desperately seeking ‘racism’ stories, since that is increasingly the only news which the English-speaking media seems able to process. The heart-warming scenes of Ukrainian women and children being given shelter isn’t the story. Because those refugees are white.” The Woke emphasis on race to the exclusion of all else is Putin’s propaganda tool, Gray theorizes. “The Putin-Lukashenko axis spies in Ukraine a chance to further sow division in the west by channeling millions more migrants into Europe’s arms.” Gray mentions “The 22-year-old student Adam Krasinski who … ‘took a family of refugees, including four Moroccan students and an Afghan to Warsaw.’ … Poland is behaving like a humanitarian superpower – yet large parts of the British media would rather just cry racism.”
In addition to accusing Poles and Ukrainians of being racist, transphobic and anti-Semitic, the Woke have accused anyone who cares about Ukraine. You only care about Ukraine because Ukrainians are white, these Woke voices allege. On Saturday Night Live, black cast member Michael Che said that no one had ever seen a “white country” suffer, reinforcing the Woke doctrine that suffering is the exclusive monopoly of black people. Woke goddess Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said “Syrians, Haitians, Mexicans, Central & South Americans, Somalis, Afghans, Palestinians” should receive the “empathy and energy we show for Ukrainian refugees … We can do better.” “Do better” is a mantra for Critical Race Theory believers. All whites are racist all the time. They cannot stop being racist; they can only “do better.”
Of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is both ignorant and a liar. Black Christians in Africa are prey for jihadis. There have been massive crimes in Nigeria, Kenya, and the Central African Republic, as well as Egypt and Iraq. Thousands of black and brown Christians have been kidnapped, lynched, murdered, decapitated on camera, and driven from their homes. The Woke are silent; the Woke are blind. They can’t “do better.”
Rashawn Ray, a college professor and writer focused on racism published an article for the Brookings Institution. Ray repeated anecdotes of Africans facing racism in their attempts to escape Putin’s war. “There is relevant history that people may not know,” Ray wrote. Ukrainians’ alleged mistreatment of African students is “the legacy of African colonization.” My response to Ray begins as a choking sensation in my throat and a crushing feeling in my chest. I don’t know how to respond without going back hundreds of years.
Back in the 1980s I attended an event at Black Oak books on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California. The presenters were representatives of a major aide organization; I forget which. They were trying to explain the world to their Berkeley audience of do-gooders, movers, and shakers. They had a huge map and they highlighted one area of the map after another. The first world. The Third World. The Muslim World. Etc. In each area, they highlighted a need, and then a way that their agency, or their audience, might fill that need. At the end of their presentation, I raised my hand. “You said nothing about Eastern Europe.” Their goal was to cover the entire globe in their talk, and they, simply, left out the strip between Estonia in the north and Albania in the south. At another talk, this one at Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, there was an event arguing for communism. The audience vibrated with joyous fervor. The speakers were slick and articulate. I was no match for their command of historical fact; each fact seemed to support the value of communism. I raised my hand and all I could blurt out was, “What about the Poles?” In a scene from a screwball comedy, each presenter suddenly took on the dour expression of clinical depression. Their earnest, energized faces collapsed into saggy frowns. The key speaker was a man whose name I don’t remember, but I can say he was a sort of Berkeley communist version of Gregory Peck. He was handsome, suave, glamorous, authoritative. He could sell communism to a Gulag internee. After I said, “What about the Poles?” he threw up his hands and shouted, “THE POLES!” There was a murmured grumble in the audience. Somehow a consensus was reached. The Poles were difficult and we don’t have to talk about them because after all Catholicism blah blah blah.
Eastern Europe is a really hard morsel for the American Left to swallow; thus, they must demonize, silence, or erase Eastern Europeans. There are good historical reasons why. The most obvious historical reason is communism. It killed tens of millions. Those corpses complicate the image of the Soviet Union as a benevolent experiment. Poles and other “beneficiaries” of communism fought against it decade after decade. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The Prague Spring, during which Jan Palach set himself on fire to protest Soviet domination. Solidarity. All these historical realities are unmentionable episodes in the narrative. Better just to ignore them.
But there are many more reasons why leftists prefer to erase and lie about Eastern Europe, the land that renders their narrative a big lie. Eastern Europe, compared to Western Europe, has long been poor. And “enlightened” Europeans, at least since the Enlightenment, have looked down on Eastern Europeans no less than they have looked down on Africans and Asians. See here. The reason why Eastern Europe has been poorer is taboo to discuss in leftist circles, because it defies leftist nostrums. Eastern Europeans have been repeatedly subject to attack, massacre, enslavement and colonization by non-white, non-Western invaders, including Muslims, who raided Eastern Europe for slaves for centuries, including child slaves, sex slaves, slave soldiers, and castrated male slaves – the very Arabic word for which, “saqaliba,” comes from the word “Slav.” Also devastating to Eastern Europe were attacks from the Mongols, originating in East Asia.
Back in 1929, the Encyclopedia Britannica published truths one dare not speak today:
“It is to the Slav colonization of the Russian plains and to the long Slav struggle with nomadic invasions from Asia that Western Europe owes her comparative freedom to develop a certain cultural unity. The role of buffer state was not voluntary, but the debt is nonetheless great, and the heroic struggle of the Slav races against repeated invasions, in hard climactic conditions, should command the respect and admiration of the world.”
Rashawn Ray’s implication that Ukraine had colonies in Africa is so ahistorical as to be laughable. But Ray must publish this lie to conform to Woke dogma: whites oppress non-whites. Always. Non-whites never victimize whites. The Woke may choose to live in a fantasyland where only whites are victimizers and only non-whites are victims. Many in Eastern Europe don’t live in that fantasyland.
Michael Che asserted another Woke dogma. Suffering belongs to non-whites. White people are not allowed to suffer. Nothing bad had ever happened to Ukrainians before Putin’s war. I was trying to explain to friends on social media why Che’s Woke dogma was so hideously false. Words often don’t speak on social media as loudly as pictures. I found archival photos of Russians peasants, many of them serfs or descendants of serfs. I posted the photos online. You can see some of them here. There are images of serfs being stripped to the waist and whipped, serfs kneeling and kissing their masters’ hands, serfs being bought and sold. Obviously dirty, hungry, barefoot, desperate and joyless peasants. Most Eastern Europeans, since the Middle Ages, have been peasants, and tens of millions were serfs. The Russian Empire did not begin to end serfdom until the 1860s. The end of serfdom was no paradise. Serfs were given the poorest land, or driven off land. They had no concept of capitalism or how to handle cash. Booker T. Washington, who was born an American slave, saw his own people in the Polish peasants he visited in his search for “The Man Farthest Down.”
Contrary to Michael Che’s assertion, Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans of peasant descent are all too familiar with suffering. Perhaps Che, like probably most Americans, has never heard of the Holodomor, the Communist forced famine that took the lives of millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s.
I mention these harsh realities for a specific reason. You really can’t understand Eastern Europe, both its strengths and its atrocities, without understanding that for most of its history, since the Middle Ages, most of the population were relatively powerless peasants, being used and stepped on by powerful others, often colonizers of the Russian, Prussian, or Austro-Hungarian empires. Perhaps, with that understanding, you can understand this: Poles helping Ukrainians is dismissed by the Woke as just “whites helping whites.” Because, as Whoopi Goldberg made clear, whites are undifferentiated to the Woke. “The Holocaust is not about race … This is white people doing it to white people so y’all go fight amongst yourselves.”
No. Poles and Ukrainians are not just undifferentiated white people. No. Poles helping Ukrainians is not white people just helping other white people. Poles helping Ukrainians is a miracle.
In my book Bieganski, I mention Polish American poet John Guzlowski. His “Polish Catholic grandmother, aunt, and cousin were murdered by Nazis and Ukrainians. They raped John’s Aunt Sophie and broke her teeth; they stomped his cousin to death. With his bayonet, a Nazi sexually mutilated John’s Aunt Genia.”
John’s family was not unique. Between fifty and one hundred thousand Poles were massacred by Ukrainians just eight short decades ago. There are people alive today who survived the torture, the dismemberment, the literal crucifixions of Poles by Ukrainians. Stepan Bandera, implicated in these massacres, is still honored. Recently, President Zelensky awarded Ukrainian soldiers with a medal named after Bogdan Chmielnicki, who lead an uprising that resulted in the deaths of thousands more. Ukrainians have also committed massacres of Jews, with death tolls in the tens of thousands.
Why did Ukrainians massacre Jews and Poles? It’s complicated, but one answer is that Ukrainians were powerless peasants economically exploited by Polish nobility and managed by the nobility’s Jewish estate managers. Nathan Hanover wrote that Poles and Jews “ruled in every part of [Ukraine] a condition which aroused the jealousy of the peasants and resulted in the massacres.” Ukrainians “were looked upon as lowly and inferior beings and became the slaves and handmaids of the Polish people and the Jews.” “The Ukrainians were a wretched and enslaved lot, servants of the dukes and the nobles. The nobles levied heavy taxes upon them and some even resorted to cruelty and torture.” Nothing justifies Ukrainian massacres of Poles and Jews. Most Jews were not estate managers. Most Poles were not noble lords, but were, like Ukrainians themselves, disempowered peasants. But to talk about Poles helping Ukrainians and to insist that this is just white people helping white people and to pretend that there is no history there is to, again, decide that Eastern Europe defies Woke narratives so much that one must simply erase Eastern Europe and replace it with something that fits Woke narrative.
Jews, like Poles, have been heroic and spectacularly generous in their support of Ukrainians. Jews know their history and they know that Ukrainians massacred Jews in pogroms. Jews are not focused on those massacres now. The Jews helping Ukraine knock me to my knees and draw tears from my eyes. I know how much agony Jews have suffered in Ukraine. I know how sharply that history hurts Jews today. And yet Poles and Jews are second to none in their aid to Ukraine during Putin’s war. Again, Eastern Europe defies Woke narratives. Woke insists that peoples wronged in the past must never forgive. Whites, all whites, even recent immigrants to the US, are guilty for slavery. Poles and Jews are not holding Ukrainians responsible for wrongs committed, not 157 years ago, but within the memory of people alive today. They are simply doing the right thing, and letting evil history be damned, where it belongs, in Hell, not in decisions about humanitarian aid.
The Woke lie. They lie about the West’s concern for black and brown people. Billions of dollars and centuries of human effort have gone into aid to black and brown people domestically and abroad. I worked in Africa and Asia and in the most remote villages, cut off from any road, I encountered USAID rice and doctors, nurses, and teachers, from the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. That white people don’t care about black and brown people is a lie so monstrous as to be criminal.
The woke lie about their own so-called compassion. I want to be notified when Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Michael Che, Nikole Hannah Jones or Rashawn Ray do anything to help the black Christians of the Central African Republic fighting against Muslim attackers.
The Woke lie when they say that the West cares about Ukrainians because they are white. In fact the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for publishing Walter Duranty who denied the Holodomor. Again and again, the West turned its back on “white” Eastern Europeans, at Munich in 1938, in September, 1939, when both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany attacked Poland, at Yalta, when Roosevelt okayed Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. At least one black man, Paul Robeson, was part of this Western betrayal of Eastern Europeans. He praised Stalin and denounced the Hungarians fighting for their own freedom in 1956.
I don’t know why the West suddenly cares about Ukrainians, people Westerners previously found it so easy to erase. I think social media plays a role. Thank God for that.
The Eastern European narrative is complicated and it confounds every other power narrative. If nothing else, we Eastern Europeans provide this service to humanity. We confuse, we challenge, and we educate. We tell a different story. Hegemonic totalitarians demand control of all narrative. Our very story defies oppressors’ demands. Of that, I am very proud.
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery