American liberals effusively praise the courage and perseverance of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion. Ironically, however, the entire thrust of the progressive left’s agenda in the United States has increasingly debilitated this country from behaving as Ukraine now is.
The strength of Ukraine’s resistance results not from military power rivaling that of Russia’s power. Nor does the Ukrainian resistance stem from a powerful central government able to tax and spend its way to victory over Russia.
Nor does the resistance come from a rights-focused political system ensuring that every conceivable minority within Ukraine has access to judicial vindication at the most or social condemnation of the majority at the least.
The Ukrainian resistance triumphs because of the strength and cohesion of Ukraine’s civil society. While the military fights an often guerilla-type warfare on the battlefront, civilians wage a constant campaign of support behind the lines.
Businesses have retooled their operations to provide essential food, medical and military supplies, often without compensation. Volunteers staff food banks and shelters giving aid to those displaced from their homes by the invasion. Everyone from children to the elderly gather in bombed-out or abandoned buildings to collect supplies for the Ukrainian troops. Makeshift hospitals, staffed by concerned neighbors, appear overnight to care for all the wounded.
This is what gives strength to the Ukrainian resistance. This is what energizes and empowers the armed resistance carried on by the Ukrainian military.
But would any of this occur if the United States were similarly confronted with such a national crisis? Well, if it did it would certainly contradict all that the progressive left has tried to do to American society over the past decades.
In its campaign to transform America, a campaign begun during the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the progressive left has tried to weaken every pillar of civil society.
Religious values and institutions once served to unify America around a generally accepted set of civic virtues and charitable works; but for the past half-century, progressives have waged a constant assault on those values and institutions.
Families and neighborhoods once provided the glue to American society; but progressives have attacked them as being intolerant, oppressive, and exclusionary.
Business owners were once hailed as the economic foundation of communities; but progressives have cast them as greedy vipers feeding off a helpless and vulnerable public.
Of course, progressives could never imagine American business owners doing what businesses in Ukraine are doing — voluntarily providing necessary services and supplies without compensation — because progressives not only see business as a socially destructive enterprise that only government can reform, but also see the very activity of work as something that degrades human beings.
Indeed, better for individuals to be supported by the government than for them to have to work for their livelihood.
A vibrant patriotism once unified Americans. But now, under progressive encouragement, athletic teams will not even come out of the locker room for the playing of the national anthem. It is a vibrant patriotism that inspires the brave Ukrainians to sacrifice all for the survival of their beloved country.
But in America, under progressive pressure, patriotism has been equated with racism, ugliness, oppression, and national sin. If a country cannot even tolerate the presence of a flag or the playing of the national anthem, much less showing some sign of respect for that flag or anthem, how could it possibly endure bombs and missiles to fight for that country?
The progressive left for decades has preached the evils of America. It teaches a history of the United States that focuses only on the wrongs and mistakes committed by the nation. As Michelle Obama said, the election of her husband as president marked the first time she was proud of her country. How could such a mindset ever wage the courageous fight Ukraine is now waging?
Progressives deride the age-old notion of American assimilation, which held that immigrants from across the world adopted a certain “American” identity when they arrived in this nation. Instead, to progressives, all that really matters is what separates individuals. America is not made up of Americans, but of a competing collection of gender, racial and ethnic groups.
But as these competing groups continually vie for power vis a vis the larger society, how is America ever to gain the kind of unity currently on display in Ukraine? If progressives cannot even define “woman,” how are they to define America? And if they cannot define America, they certainly will not fight for it.
Patrick M. Garry is a professor of law with a Ph.D. in constitutional history at the University of South Dakota Law School. He is also senior fellow at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy.