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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "The Square People, Part 2": The Idiot Columnist, Part 2

You don't have half a clue about what is happening in the Ukraine? Not to worry: Thomas Friedman, who also doesn't have half a clue, is happy to explain it to you.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Square People, Part 2" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-square-people-part-2.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Friedman is again telling us about his "Square People," i.e. "all those newly connected and aspiring middle classes who have gathered in the squares from Cairo to Kiev, Istanbul to Tehran, and Tunis to Moscow to demand a greater voice in their future and better governance." Specifically regarding the Ukraine, Friedman writes:

"Putin was minding his own corrupt business, living in a two-party relationship with his neighbor Ukraine, which was being led by the even more corrupt, pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. Suddenly, spontaneously from below, an emergent, connected, aspiring middle class of Ukrainians — fed up both with regime corruption and how far they’d fallen behind their neighbors in the European Union — demanded that Yanukovych forge closer cooperation and trade ties with the European Union. They also demanded something now common to every square: the right to be treated as 'citizens' with rights and responsibilities, not as the playthings of oligarchs or outside powers."

Yup, it's that simple. Or is it?

As noted in a Washington Post article entitled "Russia supporters in eastern Ukraine pose challenges to pro-Western government" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russia-supporters-in-eastern-ukraine-pose-challenges-to-pro-western-government/2014/03/14/be21eeec-ab77-11e3-b8ca-197ef3568958_story.html) by Anthony Faiola:

"KHARKIV, Ukraine — Not far from this city in eastern Ukraine, Russian tanks are conducting border maneuvers. Yet for the pro-Moscow activists who gather around the statue of Vladimir Lenin in the city’s main square, that is still not close enough.

Such sentiments pose a serious challenge to Ukraine’s new pro-Western government. The pro-Moscow forces in the industrialized east are staging increasingly violent ­clashes with those loyal to the Ukrainian government — leading Russia on Friday to threaten more starkly than ever that it reserves the right to 'protect' ethnic Russians.

'We are hoping that the Russians will come and protect us, just like they did in Crimea,' said Victoria, a 29-year-old ethnic Russian in this heavily Russian-speaking city, where she and other Kremlin supporters insist that they have become the victims of a harassment campaign."

You see, seemingly unbeknownst to Friedman, there's this thing called "nationalism" that still comes into play and involves, inter alia, language. Speaking in very general terms (no pun intended), Russian is spoken in eastern Ukraine, while Ukrainian is spoken in western Ukraine, and although the two languages are similar, they are not the same (see: http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/03/15/the-long-war-over-ukrainian-language/HXlLbK9wVnhwGShNVPKIUP/story.html). And yes, differences in language can cause friction.

Friedman's conclusion:

"I’m encouraged by the many government-monitoring civil society groups that have emerged in Ukraine to make sure that the will of its Square People will not be stolen. Whether Ukraine’s Square People can also develop the inclusive politics — to respect the views of the more pro-Russia population in the East — remains to be seen."

Can Ukraine’s Square People "develop the inclusive politics — to respect the views of the more pro-Russia population in the East"? Nice to know that Friedman acknowledges the existence of pro-Russian Ukrainians, who do not qualify as "Square People."

I pray that President Obama is not reading or influenced by any of Friedman's rubbish.



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