Reflections on the week it was – intimidation and bigotry abound

Looking back at a few occurrences over the course of the week, I observed Vladimir Putin is quite good at influencing outcomes and bad behaviors. Even ministers are not immune from his lessons of bigotry. This is a key reason he is unlike other Soviet leaders (word intentionally used) as he is a very skilled, scary and corrupt politician.

Crimea election shows 96% plus favor joining Russia

History has shown when you intimidate voters, the election results will favor your cause. A few weeks before, North Korea voted to continue with Kim Jong Un with 100% of the vote. Something about killing your own Uncle for not bowing low enough or clapping hard enough has a tendency to sway voters. Saddam Hussein used to win elections with 98% of the votes as well. Hussein was not too tolerant of dissent, but was smart enough to allow 2% vote against him to show the world he is fair. I would not want to be in the 2% in Iraq back then or 4% in Crimea this week, as you might not be around much longer..

In Crimea, the native Tartars and pro-Ukrainian voters decided to stay home, since there was evidence of dissenters disappearing and having big “X’s” marked on your door can make you feel unwelcome. Yet, I found an interesting statistic. One district had 124% turnout. That is a turnout any Tammany Hall politician would love. It appears, if you had a Russian passport, you could vote. So, people who are not even citizens of Crimea voted to join Russia. You could have sensed something was amiss when reporters were having their cameras thrown to the ground and independent election officials were not allowed in to verify results.

Two final comments. First, if Crimeans want to join Russia, I understand that, but at least have a fair, democratic, and constitutionally (Ukraine’s not Russia’s) supported vote and not one that looks and smells like it was rigged as this one was. Second, as I said in an earlier post, I would not put it past Putin to send in his own thugs to stir up trouble in a community and then send in troops to provide security. This is an old school strong-arm tactic and I believe it was used in Crimea and is being used in other parts of Ukraine. PBS Newshour corroborated this with their belief last night when they spoke of a seemingly orchestrated set of eleven demonstrations in an Eastern Ukrainian city at the same time. It is too much a part of Putin’s nature to believe he did not puppeteer this outcome in the manner I described.

Franklin Graham applauds Putin for denigrating the LGBT community 

Reverend Graham published an article that said he admired Putin’s stripping away the rights of the LGBT community in Russia. He did not support other things Putin has done, but he took a shot at our President and Attorney General for supporting non-discrimination of gays and lesbians and heralded Putin for discrimination. From the bible I was taught, Jesus was inclusive. In fact we used to sing a bible song, “Red and yellow, black and white, Jesus thinks we are out of sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I have searched my memory banks, but cannot recall an exception on whether they were gays or lesbians in the song or in Jesus’ Golden Rule.

I have a very low tolerance for bigotry from the pulpit and have written several posts about my distaste for when ministers misuse the faith the congregation has placed upon them. Per the song from the movie “South Pacific,” you have to very carefully taught to be a bigot. My mantra has been when religion is inclusive it is at its best and when it is exclusive it is at its worst. Let me go one step further. When religion is bigoted, it is wielded as a weapon to divide. I have known many ministers in my day and they are by and large the most wonderful people and give much of themselves. But, just because someone is a minister does not mean they are immune to biases and mistakes. They are imperfect just like everyone else.

What disappoints me about the younger Graham is his father was so admirable in cutting a path of inclusion for all. Using an old phrase, he was a “Big Tent” preacher who wanted everyone to come and hear the word of God. That is the way it should be. Franklin would ask you to complete a survey and if you checked the wrong boxes, you would not  be allowed to enter the tent. He needs to spend some more time with his father and ask for guidance on how to be inclusive.

I will reiterate what I said before. Vladimir Putin is a thug, but a skilled one who uses people’s biases to divide and achieve his purpose. Franklin Graham took the bait and tried to appeal to a base of bigotry that is being cultivated in our country. I am hopeful many will see Putin’s true colors through this process and will not tolerate bigotry from anyone, but especially a religious leader.

We are so similar and need each other

Our friend Raye, who paints so well with words and pictures at http://jotsfromasmallapt.wordpress.com/, commented to me earlier this week, through all of her travels, she has noticed how similar we are. Of course, we are a diverse group of people of different races, religions, ethnic groups and cultures, but when you get beneath the surface, she is accurate in her conclusion. We want to have fulfilling lives and raise our families in a safe, secure and productive environment. We want to laugh with our friends and provide the needed armfuls of hugs, shoulders to cry on, hands to help with, legs to walk with and ears to listen.

Like me, Raye looks through a very human lens of imperfection and cares for the disenfranchised and the ones who do not have a voice at the table. She anguishes when the school yard bully from Russia takes the lunch money of everyday Ukrainian people. These are the folks that want to live, feed their families and have opportunity like everyone else. They should be able to decide this for themselves. I would encourage you to read the insightful comment by susan@quirkywomeninbooks in my post this weekend https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/as-the-rest-of-the-world-decides-on-putin/ where she speaks of her time in the Ukraine.

Like me, we anguish over those who had leaders that ruled them unjustly and lived the high life in the “Animal Farm” house while the everyday folks toiled outside working the fields. Whether it was Egypt, Libya or Ukraine, people saw how their leaders lived and realized they have little to show for it. These real life “Boxers” did not want to end up like the hard-working equine hero in George Orwell’s novel, so they rebelled and said why are we looking to align ourselves only with an entity that squelches freedoms and free markets through corruption?

We need to speak up for the pawns in these political games that are played around the world, whether they are in America, Venezuela, China, Middle East, India, Russia or Ukraine. In capitalistic economies, the power is in the industry leaders and if left unfettered by governance, they can become robber barons. The United States had robber barons six score years ago and is closer to it again today with a limited few owning an astounding percentage of American wealth. In socialistic economies, the power resides in the government oligarchy which is more easily corruptible. And, in totalitarian countries, it resides in the limited few who rule and embody corruption.

Right now, other similarities exist for the pawns around the world. We have a poverty issue.  We have a hunger issue. We have a water issue. We have a human rights issue. My friend George Dowdell lives and breathes helping others and his work and advocacy can be found at http://georgedowdell.org/2014/03/03/first-impressions-justice-conference/. He notes that the issue of climate change effects the “least of us” in the world the most. They are the ones whose food crops suffer due to lack of water. They are ones whose islands get consumed by the sea. They are the ones where industry steps all over their land rights. Yet, we have too much discussion around the politics of influence and ownership. The loud voices over who gets to rule or influence the rulers, drown out the faint echo of those whose voice cannot be heard and whose needs are the greatest.

On a blog I follow which shows various acts of kindness at http://kindnessblog.com/, it showed a picture of the young daughter of Ukrainian soldier visiting with her daddy who was on duty behind an iron bar fence. To me, it reverberated Raye’s comments that we are so similar. Here was a daughter that missed her daddy. And, from one daddy to another thousands of miles away, I can assure you he misses her, too. Let’s make sure he has the opportunity to watch her grow and live a fulfilling life. Let’s make sure other daughters and sons can do the same no matter where they live. Let’s speak up for the disenfranchised. If we don’t do it, the bullies of the world will continue to steal their lunch money. Sometimes they will use a tank and sometimes they will use a pen.

As the rest of the world decides on Putin

This is a tough situation in Ukraine. You have a large part of the country who wants to be part of Europe and dictate their own course and you have another part which is pro-Russia, yet I am not quite certain they know that the Russia in Putin’s mind is a dressed up version of the Soviet Union. You also have a country in need. I am glad we are talking with our allies, as some definitive action will be needed and needed very quickly.

This part is for certain. Vladimir Putin is a hood. For those who don’t know the vernacular, he is a crime boss. HIs country is known for corruption and bribery and doing business in Russia is an exercise in mistrust. There was a “60 Minutes” piece a few weeks back with a businessman who knows Russia well and he calls it a criminal environment. The owner of the New England Patriots football team has even accused Putin of stealing his Super Bowl ring after asking to hold it. Putin is also a narcissist and fancies himself with a much greater image than people in the know do. He also squelches disagreement and adversaries.

This will be a hard thing for me to say, but he is the kind of individual that will only react to power. It is good we are discussing sanctions and boycotts and we should. We should also send bailout money with troops support to Ukraine. Putin is seizing the whole country if you have not figured it out, and I have not put it past him, to seed the violence with people who are pretending to be Ukrainian like Hitler did with Poland. We are in this predicament as he bribed Viktor Yanukovych with money to stay aligned with Russia back when an agreement was on the table to be part of Europe. Putin could not stand for that, so he will take matters into his own hands.

I am peaceful person, but sometimes you have to be direct with people like Putin. You cannot threaten to tell mom. I recognize fully the risks that this takes, but the west is being invited in to help the temporary Ukrainian government. So, the west better not wait as it will be too late. By the way, George W. Bush thought he had a kindred spirit in Putin. He was wrong. Putin played him like a fiddle. Obama needs to change instruments and get a larger band, but act with more force on this. Please remember this thought, Putin does not care about sanctions. He can tell whatever story he wants to his fellow Russians. He is also a hood. He is backing that murderer in Syria, so that tells you all you need to know.