200 days later

Once again, it’s September 11th, and the sky is that rich blue defined in its depth by the ecliptic’s changing tilt. This week there are students starting their freshman year in college who were born four years after the terrorist attack of 2001, if you can believe it. My freshman year of college was nearly 30 years ago; I’m very glad to be alive on a beautiful day like this.

I’m also glad to be living in the future, where I can listen in on Dr. Timothy Snyder’s class lectures on “The Making of Modern Ukraine.” It’s never been more convenient to be an autodidact! My Duolingo Ukrainian streak is 144 days strong, speaking of convenience learning, and the current war in Ukraine is 200 days old today.

Since I last checked in at the 100-day mark, lots has happened, but some things have stayed the same. The usual suspects have continued their blandishments about the West prolonging Ukraine’s Inevitable Defeat by giving them weapons they won’t be able to use to effect. Zelenskyy had a trenchant answer for that on August 10:

(I notice that when he’s including the rest of us in his addresses to the nation, his Ukrainian gets slower and more distinct; I know this because I can actually follow it, which is not always the case when he’s talking to the folks at home.)

And then the Armed Forces of Ukraine backed him up with the royalest of royal ass-kickings in Kharkiv Oblast this week. I’ll let journalist John Sweeney sum it up:

As I mentioned in my Friday morning dispatch to the Morning Light crowd, an épée fencer can really appreciate a feint-8-take-6 attack, which is what I take the Kherson buildup to be: and the best feint attack is the one in which the feint is not just a misdirection but a composite part of the attack itself. The AFU are not exactly twiddling their thumbs down in Kherson! Every military analyst on Twitter who was pulling for Ukraine has got hearts shooting out of their eyes right now.

But even they are not as ecstatic as the towns being liberated by the Ukrainian army. Video after video of townspeople weeping, waving, hugging soldiers is sweeping social media. In nearly every one of them, someone offers the soldiers food. “We made you a hot breakfast!” someone says as they hand a soldier a garden bouquet. “There’s leftover pancakes!” says one of the women in the first link above. “Have a watermelon. Have three!”

“Slava Ukraini!” everyone says. And, “Все буде Україна” — “Everything will be Ukraine.”

Russia’s response to this rout, naturally, is to aim very expensive missiles at power plants so that Kharkiv Oblast will have to sit in the dark for a couple of hours. Petulant, criminal, and useless. A translation of Zelenskyy’s response tonight:

Even through the impenetrable darkness, Ukraine and the civilized world clearly see these terrorist acts.

Deliberate and cynical missile strikes on civilian critical infrastructure. No military facilities. Kharkiv and Donetsk regions were cut off. In Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Sumy there are partial problems with power supply.

Do you still think that we are “one people”?

Do you still think that you can scare us, break us, force us to make concessions?

Do you really not get it? Don’t you understand who we are? What we stand for? What we are all about?

Read my lips:

Without gas or without you? Without you.

Without light or without you? Without you.

Without water or without you? Without you.

Without food or without you? Without you.

Cold, hunger, darkness, and thirst are not as frightening and deadly for us as your “friendship and brotherhood.”

But history will put everything in its place. And we will be with gas, light, water, and food…and WITHOUT you!

All of this is illustrating — far better than the post I had been brewing — what it means to actually fight fascism. At the heart of the fascist is a terror of a changing world, and the fascist’s response is to tell other people who they are: to insist by force if necessary. That’s why trans people have been the canaries in the coal mine, both in 1930s Germany and today: they are the ultimate example of people getting to say who they are, and this is terrifying to the fascist. To non-fascists it is simply a discomfort which they can get over by getting to know individuals and love them. But fascists insist on telling people what their gender is, and thus what their place is, and what their nation is, and what the status of their soul is, and if that doesn’t stop people from evilly refusing to be told who they are, then the fascist will throw away politics and even war to inflict maximum damage and torture on civilians: to cast their souls to the dirt and stamp on them. It is nothing more than criminal malice in search of an ideology. And this is why I am keeping record of Ukraine’s fight on the world’s behalf.

Please do watch the Timothy Snyder video, because it is about exactly this. And watch the second one, which is about the stories that create nations. For all they are lectures to Yale students, they are remarkably jargon-free.

The proof of the pudding, for me, is that Zelenskyy published his declaration to Russia above in Ukrainian. Not Russian, which is Zelenskyy’s own first language and the language which he often used to address Russians in his speeches before. If you’re going to insist on taking people’s courtesy for weakness, you soon won’t even get that.

Like Zelenskyy himself, Ukraine is small but bold.

Couldn’t say it better myself.

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