GUEST COLUMN: Let’s learn from the recent past to ensure our future

Left: A woman brandishes a Ukrainian flag atop a destroyed Russian  tank in Kyiv recently (AP); Right: Today's columnist, Roger Hull
Left: A woman brandishes a Ukrainian flag atop a destroyed Russian tank in Kyiv recently (AP); Right: Today's columnist, Roger Hull

By Dr. Roger H. Hull
For The Daily Gazette

George Santayana famously said, “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Events during the past months are proof-positive of the validity of his words.

From Washington to Moscow, from Buffalo and Uvalde to Kyiv, this year has given us repeated examples of history repeating itself.

Each example is, of course, separable, but the examples are clearly not separate.

Accusations have emerged of a sitting member of Congress conducting tours of the Capitol for insurrectionists to conduct reconnaissance the day before the January 6 assault on Congress.

If accurate (the accuracy to date is unconfirmed), it would constitute a seditious conspiracy to overturn the results of an election.

Of course, the danger is less what took place on January 6, as horrendous as the events of that day were.

The real danger is how the assault provides a blueprint for future attempts at insurrection.

Democracy is under attack and, again this fall, on the ballot.

If our democracy is to continue, Democrats need to learn to fight—not among themselves (which they do very well), but with those who, while accepting election results for themselves, claim races in which others were on the same ballot were somehow “stolen.”

So much for logic.

Logic has also been jettisoned in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin, emboldened by the West failing to confront him for his invasion of Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, or, in 2014, Ukraine, attacked Ukraine again.

To justify his actions, Putin flippantly claimed Ukrainians were Nazis, and he had to confront them.

Instead, it was Putin’s actions that were Hitleresque.

From the cocoon in which Putin wrapped himself for the past two years (like Hitler did during the final years of World War II) to his taking captured Ukrainians to camps in Russia to his leveling of cities in Ukraine, Putin proved to be Hitler redux and, once again, an international terrorist.

We do not need to look abroad to find terrorists, though.

In Buffalo and Uvalde (among dozens of other cities), we have them.

Despite the FBI asserting domestic terrorists are this nation’s biggest threat, Republicans, long united against terrorists internationally, have, paradoxically, been equally opposed to labeling domestic terrorists what they really are.

Republicans, too, have been united against legislation that could address domestic terrorist attacks.

While arguments can be made against some gun proposals since Newtown and Parkland, how can any reasonable person find background checks, red flag laws and assault weapons’ bans objectionable?

No other nation in the world has had even a tiny fraction of our mass murders, and, following terrorist attacks, those nations have changed their laws.

Why not the United States?

Yet it is Ukraine, a country raped by Nazi Germany and attacked by Putin in his best imitation of Hitler, where Santayana’s words most clearly resonate.

Having seen what the Russian Nazi did in 2014, and having originally been skeptical of US intelligence reports that warned of a Russian invasion, Ukraine finally awoke and, to date, has blunted the invasion.

Led by a young president who has risen to the challenge of leadership, Ukraine has, with tremendous financial, humanitarian, and military support from the United States, Europe, and most of the democratic world, shown the world how to fight to preserve its democracy.

Will we in the United States summon the intestinal fortitude to defend our democracy?

And will Democrats conclude, despite incredibly important issues on which they could focus in 2022 and 2024 (gun-safety, voting rights, and women’s rights, among others), nothing is more crucial than protecting our democracy?

After all, if democracy fails, these issues will never see the light of day.

The jury is clearly still out.

Dr. Roger H. Hull of Schenectady is president emeritus of Union College and president of the Help Yourself Win Foundation.

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