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The West Wing & Ukraine

Why is a Ukrainian life worth less than an American life?

As usual, it comes back to “The West Wing” because Aaron Sorkin has a politic point of view that always seems to show up years later as reality. Don’t get me started on the story lines of “The Newsroom.”

In season four of “The West Wing,” we take a look at the fictitious Equatorial Kundu, and the slaughter taking place there. We decide not to intervene for reasons mirroring those that prevent us from fighting alongside our fellow human beings in Ukraine. Watch this clip from episode 14:

“Foreign policy has become a statement of what we won’t do,” says President Bartlet.

He reads from a statement being drafted for him about the U.S. policy in Kundu: “... A new doctrine for a new century, based not just on our interests, but on our values across the world ...”

He then asks a question deeply relevant to this moment in history: “Why is a Kundunese life worth less to me than an American life?”

“I don’t know, sir, but it is,” replies Will Bailey.

Why is a Ukrainian life worth less than an American life? I don’t know, but it is.

Here’s the thing: Some people around me, some whom I love and value, keep saying that we can’t step in with the might of moral outrage to protect these innocent people from being slaughtered by a man and his team that have taunted us for decades.

Why can’t we step in, you ask? We can’t because Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and we will only bring about WWIII if he attacks NATO citizens. So if he invades Poland next, we’ll be there, fighting in the skies and on land and by sea. Because Poland was allowed to become a member of NATO, the country’s citizens would receive our assistance, even though they are no different than the Ukrainians.

Why isn’t Ukraine a member of NATO, you ask? Well, Putin didn’t want that to happen. Yes, Ukraine met the criteria for membership, but we didn’t want to anger Putin, so we stalled. We had Ukraine give up their nukes, which they did after we signed a contract from us promising we would protect them if anyone ever attacked and they were left vulnerable as a result. If ever is here.

Whenever I say that, my friends begin listing the dangers of WWIII.

So what we are saying, is that a Polish life receives our support, but not a Ukrainian life.

Maybe there should be no NATO. Maybe it shouldn’t be about the deals cut by men I no longer trust or want to follow, but rather, our common values should dictate our actions. When a crisis arises in my life, it takes me less than a minute to decide whether or not I will show up to assist someone. It’s not a difficult decision.

There is a time in every person’s life when you must stand up for something, no matter the risk. This is one of those times. I am ashamed of my country’s lack of courage and self-serving excuses.

--Christine Merser, Managing Partner, Blue Shoe Content


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