A recent Quinnipiac poll asked Americans, “What would you do if you were in the same position as Ukrainians are now? Stay and fight or leave the country?” Disturbingly, only 55 percent said they would stay and fight. Overall, 38 percent of Americans said they would flee.
Many Americans are rooting for the Ukrainians in their battle against the Russian invasion. And this, to my mind, seems right. We should not miss, however, the challenge that the Ukrainian situation poses to several of our most cherished presuppositions about the nature and purposes of the state….
When Ukrainians living in freedom in the West leave it to return to their country to fight, they show that their concern is not merely for their own freedom to do what they want, but for their country.
Would fewer people die if the Ukrainians simply gave up and allowed themselves to be ruled by Russia? Perhaps. Would they still have food, theaters, cars, houses, and vacations? Probably. Would their puppet government be so much more dysfunctional than their current one? Maybe not. But what they would not have anymore is their country.
And by this, we don’t just mean an ethnic enclave for non-Russians. People like Hitler and Putin have been encouraged to think of nations in terms of racial, ethnic, or linguistic identity because that was a tradition bequeathed to the world in the aftermath of the First World War. Why do Putin and other Russians think Ukraine is part of the “Russian world”? Because there are people who speak Russian living there who share a common history and culture.
All true. But none of that leads to the conclusion that Ukraine is not its own country, with its own proper political order and its own sovereign territory. A state is not an entity based on ethnicity or race or something that happened centuries ago. On the Catholic view, it is a distinct political order present now with institutions ordered to the common good.
Ukrainians are willing to fight for their country because they believe the country is something worth fighting and sacrificing for. They would not do that if they believed that their country’s only value was in the individual benefits it could provide for them….
The above comes from a March 23 story in The Catholic Thing.