Thursday, February 6, 2014

Maidan, "Butterfly Circus" or The Crusades?

There is a sense in which I would like people outside of Ukraine to have a better appreciation for a people I have come to respect deeply, yes, to love in what will soon be two and a half years of my life in Kyiv and environs. Your average foreign correspondent, posted even long years to some neighboring capital city, doesn't understand: Ukrainians are unique and so is this country. Add to this the run-of-the-mill journalists who can't be bothered to look attentively, to listen and reflect before writing their sensational articles, and you have a recipe for disinformation about people here. It is not a hopeless scenario. By way of note, I can confidently say that of late, more and more Poles are coming to understand that the general strikes, which served their country's process of liberation so well, don't fit here, but Maidan does and bears fruit.

In an attempt to explain to outsiders, especially from the West, the phenomenon Maidan here in Ukraine, I'm torn between falling back on a lovely short film "Butterfly Circus" for interpretive keys to explain Maidan's whys and hows or go with risking it all and declaring for my part that Maidan from one point of view is the biggest thing to hit Europe since the Crusades (read: exercise in hyperbole?). Important in either or any case is recognizing the complexity of it all, which indeed reflects life as we find it and denies the serious historian or honest commentator his stripes before he ever begins to spin his tale. Facile dismissals are unconscionable in the face of the earnest which Maidan stands for!

Let it be said, that the circus scenario is easier for everyone involved, less judgmental, and it headlines fairly well: "Millions of Ukrainians leave the "side show" to join the Butterfly Circus". The bottom line being that folks have made the not easy but monumental choice in favor of personal integrity lived out in a civil society worthy of their personal investment. How do you argue the verity of this choice so described? You don't. You simply go for a stroll through Maidan like so many from all over the world have and you come up with a positive witness like this one from a real Muscovite, entitled in English translation "Ukraine Is Indeed Divided – into Lumpen and People with a Sense of Dignity" by Andrey Okara, political analyst, here. Andrey is very high on what he has seen and heard; he proposes Maidan as a model social contract for the 21st Century.

Easy as it is, the running off to join the circus image plays out badly, especially if in the next days, weeks or months the "bad guys" tear the "Butterfly Circus" limb from limb, cancelling it physically from the face of the earth. Opting for the "Butterfly Circus" is more than wishing a happy ending, but still you cannot stretch it from a short to a feature film and Maidan is not a short subject; it is big screen! In the "Butterfly Circus" the components are missing for the tragic denouement, which cannot be excluded from the script of Maidan. Even so, I'd recommend this vision and a walk through Maidan; I know from people of various ages and walks of life that the experience is consoling, inspiring and for many life changing. Maidan is gift; Maidan is a challenge to be accepted as grace or rejected to your own peril.

The next best thing to the Crusades? Really? Being a Catholic boy from the upper Midwest of the States, I did not imbibe from the cradle that rancor which comes welling up if you hale from the Byzantine heritage not only Christian, but Jewish and Muslim as well. You were taught from early on that the Crusades were a barbarian invasion, claiming countless lives and dispersing people brutally, undermining your cities and once great cultures. Say "Ukraine" and on a different scale you can rake up similar emotions of rancor from peoples taught by their elders to disdain neighbors judged forever condemned for the "sins" of ingratitude and treachery committed by their parents and grandparents. Say "Ukraine" or say "Crusades", for either there is a world which still rages against the thought.

 How do you judge from outside the worth of Maidan? How do you judge the Crusades? Peter the Hermit's ragtag procession across Europe is to be seen as a manifestation of popular sentiment, not among the oligarchs of the day but among the folk of town and country. Personally, I find the enduring treatment of the saints of the Crusades most telling. Three of them are bigger than life: St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Louis, King of France, and St. Francis of Assisi. Despite all he gave the Church in terms of teaching, that part of the world I have classified as loosely Byzantine condemns him for having preached the Crusades at the Popes' behest: his unforgivable sin, if you will. Explain for me if you will the logic of granting St. Louis a "home free card" even though he assumed the Crusader's cross and took up his sword to fight and kill, or at least direct the killing in battle. What except divine favor and protection distinguishes ragtag St. Francis in the sultan's camp from Peter the Hermit's unfortunate companions, massacred despite their fervent zeal to renew all in Christ?

Ukraine and Maidan fall under similar and harsh judgments from some outside. These so-called experts or analysts will never convince me that their whims about praising or condemning go beyond "history's" caprice in closing an eye to the sword in St. Louis' hand or trying to write off St. Bernard as an oddball.

As in the case of the Crusades, I guess I want to say that for many round about sitting on the fence and half observing events here in Ukraine, well, one man's victory will be judged by them in their journals another's tragedy. For all their reporting, they will have come no closer to knowing Ukraine or, in cases where it applies, setting aside prejudices come to them second or third hand from an older generation's rancor or refusal to let this people live.

On second thought, perhaps the "Butterfly Circus" is indeed the interpretive key for granting the Crusades their proper read. Perhaps the proverbial stroll through Maidan is the best policy. I would make only one request of the outside world: please, pray for peace in Ukraine and a people's right to self-determination!

1 comment:

  1. Read this one:


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