The verb “juxtapose,” meaning to place closely together for comparison, can prompt intriguing questions and thoughts about the matters in juxtaposition. The front page of a recent edition of The New York Times carried two items that, thousands of miles apart geographically, invited musing about their common narratives.
The first, a bit higher from the second (though below the fold), discoursed on one of Vladimir Putin’s criticisms against Ukraine:
In Conjuring ‘Nazis’ in Ukraine, Putin Stokes Russian Memories
The second item spoke to a contemporary topic in the US of A:
G.O.P. Targets Voter Crime, No Matter if It Exists
Both articles discuss perceptions about the headline issues. The first hints that the concern of Putin relates to painful memories from World War II where it must be recalled that Stalin and Hitler signed a mutual nonaggression pact in 1939, only to witness Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union two years later. That betrayal supported reasonable suspicion about Germany for decades.
While Ukraine has experienced some organized anti-Semitic nationalism, Russian propaganda characterizes that country’s Nazism as encouraged by the West to promote an anti-Russian outlook. Jewish groups in Ukraine refer to such supporters as Nazikis (“little Nazis”). When this bit of propaganda is added to the fact that, on the whole, Ukrainians are not ethnically Russian, ethnic identity tends to dissolve.
Further reinforcing the paucity of reality in Putin’s propaganda is the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the son of Holocaust survivors. While Ukrainian history involves some association with Nazism, the strength of Putin’s “denazification” message will rest in the main with the depth of its acceptance by the Russian people and continued support of the nation’s perennial president.
The American GOP, for its part, has amped up its efforts to foster “election integrity” through state legislation tightening electoral processes and procedures. Punctuating the seriousness of their intent, Florida’s governor and legislature created a unit dubbed the “election police” to investigate and prosecute election crimes that, as The Times article reported, involved “0.000677 per cent of voters suspected of committing fraud.” Georgia and Texas have likewise beefed-up law enforcement participation in the electoral realm.
Few, including Democrats, deny that election fraud occurs. However, an even smaller group alleges that the fraud, especially that in 2020, was widespread or highly organized. The Times article cited a Monmouth University poll from January that found “62 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats believed voter fraud was a major problem.” (Ironically, where it exists, one might say it is often committed by Republicans. Et tu, Mark Meadows?)
The potential effect of these measures will be closely examined by the two political parties in November, both regarding voter turnout and performance.
In Russia and in Ukraine, leadership is wrestling with historic memories and contemporary dynamics decades after the end of WW II. As Russia asserts a desperate need, enveloped in destiny and resonant of Hitlerian fear, to annex western territory to create a buffer from Western culture and economies, Ukraine’s plea is far simpler and comprehensible, consistent with national independence and self-determination.
The determination of one political party in several states to address an electoral myth promoted by the losing candidate from 2020 matches the paranoia of Russia’s Nazi-phobia. Both assertions are the product of interests that seek to sustain themselves in office, in power. In both Russia and the United States, the true victims of the alleged criminality are the respective populations.
By comparison, the determination of one US political party in several states to address an electoral myth promoted by the losing candidate from 2020 matches the paranoia of Russia’s Nazi-phobia. Both assertions are the product of interests that seek to sustain themselves in office, in power. In both Russia and the United States, the true victims of the alleged criminality are the respective populations.
Perhaps the juxtaposition by the Gray Lady on its front page was intentional, perhaps not. Nonetheless, the two articles are instructive and informative. Geographical distance was overcome in this instance, as the comparison functioned as a teachable moment.