November 24, 2016

Post-election thoughts


Here we are just over three weeks after a U.S. election marked by controversy, contention and combativeness whose result was described by one TV news anchor as a “seismic shift.” Many questions remain about the direction of this country, as the new administration is a work in progress. At the same time, the anger throughout the land remains palpable after a very long and very hard-fought campaign that revealed, and caused, much divisiveness. And, we dare say, in many ways the 2016 election seemed to be even more difficult for our Ukrainian American community. This newspaper published disparate letters that supported Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – there was no unanimity on who would be best for the United States, and Ukraine, and the world. Social media were (and are) filled with nastiness and downright hostility.

Delivering his acceptance address, Mr. Trump stated: “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; [we] have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. …I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.” We can only hope that his words will ring true.

Speaking the day after the election, Mrs. Clinton stated: “We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America – and I always will. And if you do, too, then we must accept this result – and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” Similarly, President Barack Obama told the country that day, “…we are now all rooting for his [the president-elect’s] success in uniting and leading the country.” He reminded the public: “We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country.” Unfortunately, many have not heeded their call.

There still are questions also about the future of Ukraine, or more precisely about U.S. support for our ancestral homeland when the new administration takes office. The reaction from Ukraine was one of downright fear about losing the support of its strongest ally. Many in Ukraine voiced concern that a Trump administration will abandon Ukraine, recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and allow Russia to re-establish its sphere of interest in the former Soviet space.

Thankfully, there is strong support for Ukraine in the U.S. Congress – and that support is bilateral. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) have stated that they will push back against Mr. Trump on U.S. policy toward Russia. The two will lead a congressional delegation to Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia to reassure them and other European allies of the U.S. commitment to their security, and they will hold hearings on Russia’s aggressive behavior and threats around the globe. The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, minced no words in an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which he argued that the U.S. needs to hold Russia accountable for its “domestic tyranny and international belligerence.” He wrote: “I …ask Trump to take seriously the assessments from our intelligence community and security professionals regarding Russia’s actions. I implore the Trump administration to see Russia for what it is – a global bully and adversary. And I encourage the incoming national security leadership to understand who our real friends and true allies are, and that they count on us to provide leadership against Moscow’s aggression.”

Meanwhile, groups like the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Estonian American National Council are reaching out to President-elect Trump. “As Americans, we believe that a democratic and independent Ukraine is in the national security interests of the United States,” the UCCA noted and urged him “to fortify relations with Ukraine, while reinforcing international principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The EANC noted: “Strong U.S. leadership in NATO remains the foundation of European – and therefore Estonian – security and stability.” Citing the uncertainly about Mr. Trump’s national security policy, the EANC pledged that it “will make it a top priority to educate on and advocate for the importance of maintaining strong trans-Atlantic relationships.”

And that, dear readers, is something we all should be doing. Instead of fighting among ourselves, we should be rolling up our sleeves and contacting our elected officials to voice our opinions. Furthermore, not only is it time for the country to come together, it is time for Ukrainian Americans who found themselves on different sides of the campaign to come together and work together for the benefit of all.

We pray for America, and we pray for its newly elected president. At the same time, we pray for our ancestral homeland, Ukraine.

May God bless America. May God save Ukraine.