Earlier this summer, a US Congressman called me a traitor.
Now, he didn’t say it in as many words, but US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA - 48) got his point across. Via Twitter, Rohrabacher was explaining to me his stance on secession. He’d support the breakup of the United States “as long as everybody, including blacks, voted, then states had the right to secede.”
And then, questioning my loyalties, Rohrabacher added, “I guess you sympathized with the Tories during the American Revolution.”
(Quotes have been cleaned up due to Twitter’s brevity, but here’s the original link.)
Firstly, I had to explain to the congressman that, contrary to what he may assume, I’m not actually 250 years old. Secondly, I reminded him of the context of our conversation.
Rohrabacher – who has been called a "Putin-Loving Congressman," among worse – had recently lent his voice to those calling for a referendum for independence in eastern Ukraine. Following on the heels of the massacre of nearly 300 innocent lives in MH17, guilty solely of flying over Ukrainian airspace, Rohrabacher thought it an appropriate time to call for supporting the goal Russian President Vladimir Putin has maintained since fighting first broke out.
The congressman wants to give these separatists reason and opportunity to fracture a sovereign European nation. He’s willing to support Putin’s plan for potential statehood for separatists in eastern Ukraine. And he’s willing to imply that those opposing his plan are traitorous.
His call is as foolhardy as it was reckless. Eastern Ukraine remains an active warzone, where holding a vote of any validity stands far from possible. There’s a reason no legitimate international organizations, and only a few of the world’s tin-pot despots, recognized the Crimean “vote” earlier this year. When your only election monitors consist of Hungarian fascists and French anti-Semites, the election results are going to convince only the most authoritarian of the bunch.
But it’s not just the impossibility of conducting a legitimate election in the current maelstrom. Rather, it is the entire nature of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which remains a fabrication and a falsification of a purported historic wrong.
Now, there are a wealth of worthy secessionist movements scattered internationally. From Catalonia to Scotland, from Kurdistan to Venice, there are numerous regions that can lay legitimate claim to carrying on secessionist discussions.
But eastern Ukraine is not Scotland, inching toward an independence all can acknowledge. Eastern Ukraine is not Catalonia, with linguistic and cultural discrepancies unknown anywhere else.
No, eastern Ukraine is something different entirely. This secessionist push is not an organic, bottom-up reach for autonomy long denied. This is a push, and a war, led by an external benefactor, and caught firmly in the vise of a neo-imperialism that Russia has suddenly determined a worthy cause.
From the figures who have coursed through the leadership of the “rebels” – like Russian citizens from Igor Strelkov to Vladimir Antyufeyev – to Chechen-led brigades and Central Asian mercenaries, those fighting against Kyiv’s forces, pushing for the statehood of Novorossiya, have scant claim to the separatist movement Rohrabacher would welcome with a vote. And it was when I pointed this out to Rohrabacher that he raised his hackles, and asked whether my loyalty lay with king or country.
Trying to make him understand the errors within his judgment, I noted that by his logic, Rohrabacher would support Mexican drug lords streaming across the border, commandeering Texan resources, and staking that they represented the people of Texas. Rohrabacher would then demand a vote when these Mexican-led divisions formalized their call for independence.
And if those drug lords began recruiting battalions from Guatemala and Honduras, and if they held routine coordination meetings with Mexico City, and if they began hauling Mexican materiel across the Rio Grande to fight American forces – well, for Rohrabacher, all the better.
This is the world and the movement that those calling for statehood in eastern Ukraine believe deserves a vote. Instead of attempting to maintain territorial and demographic integrity, those like Rohrabacher – and Putin, for that matter – would rather allow those foreign nationals, those invaders, to help lead a vote to coopt an independence movement, and cleave region from country. And if it could be done after the foreign government almost certainly helped down a commercial airliner, and continued tossing all forms of military hardware toward their proxies, the vote suddenly becomes that much more necessary.
This is the method Rohrabacher supports. These are the thugs he’s willing to offer an opportunity for victory. This is a world he would, apparently, be fine importing to his own state.
And I’m the one who’s the traitor.