It was, in the sweeping arc of U.S. history, one of our finest moments.

Sixty years ago this June, President John F. Kennedy looked out over the walled-off city of West Berlin and proclaimed to hundreds of thousands of cheering Germans, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” I am a Berliner.

It was Kennedy’s way of telling West Berliners, 22 long months after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev encircled them with a concrete wall bristling with barbed wire and deadly armaments, that America stood with them. And that this “offense not only against history but … against humanity,” as Kennedy so aptly called it, would someday pass.

JFK’s words echoed in my head as I read about a resolution passed, 87-54, Tuesday by the Maine House of Representatives. It declares that Mainers “share democratic values with the people of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they fight for their sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy.”

Easy to get behind? One would think so.

But more than three quarters of the House’s 67 Republicans, led by Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor and Rep. John Andrews of Paris, voted no. The Maine Senate, meanwhile, approved the resolution Thursday, 27-4.


Faulkingham called the resolution “dangerously close to war propaganda.” Andrews called Ukraine, which has spent the last year literally fighting for its life, “one of the most corrupt nations on the planet.”

“One-sided and inflammatory resolutions like these are irresponsible and should be voted down,” Andrews said. “With all of this virtue-signaling that is dangerously close to warmongering, I must ask, Madam Speaker, what happened to the anti-war left? Where have they gone?”

You’ve got to hand it to these guys. They huff alike, they puff alike, and, as they trot in lockstep behind the clown car that is Fox News, they blow democracy down.

That day in Berlin, Kennedy knew the power of his words. It was written on the faces of all those people who yearned only to be free, to come and go as they pleased, to live outside the shadow of an authoritarian regime bent on cutting them off from the rest of the free world.

Today in Ukraine, life is far worse. Where Khrushchev was a cold warrior, Russian President Vladimir Putin is fast becoming a madman. As the House resolution noted, “Russia is waging a barbarous war that includes systematic violations of international law, inhumane attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure, torture, sexual violence and forced deportation, kidnappings and illegal adoption of children.”

To wit: Eight thousand Ukrainian civilian deaths, including 400 children. Thirteen thousand civilians wounded. Cities and towns pulverized into dust. Millions displaced from their homes. And still it goes on.


How anyone can view the Ukrainians as anything less than heroic is beyond me. They just passed the one-year mark for a resistance that was supposed to collapse within days. While we complain about the latest snowstorm or an hours-long power outage, they light candles to see at night and burn whatever wood they can find to stay warm.

Cheer them on? Of course we should.

Help them defend themselves? It’s the right thing to do – morally and strategically.

Send a message, however symbolic, that Maine supports Ukraine’s patriots? In their present struggle for freedom, we glimpse our past.

What makes the faux outrage spewing from Faulkingham, Andrews and their ilk so pathetic is its utter detachment from what were once bedrock Republican principles – the right to self-determination, our shared obligation to foster and defend democracy here and abroad, the all-too-true mantra that “freedom isn’t free.”

Instead, we now have Republican talking points – rooted in the delusions of Donald Trump or the duplicity of Tucker Carlson – that begin and end with one underlying premise: President Biden and the Democrats are bad! And Vladimir Putin, for a little guy, is one hell of an autocrat!


Take Trump and the Fox follies out of this mix and I’ll bet this manufactured outrage would evaporate faster than gasoline on hot pavement. I can see Faulkingham, left to his own devices, marching with a massive American flag into the water off Winter Harbor bellowing “Hang on, Ukrainian brothers! Billy Bob’s coming!”

As for Andrews, I was struck by his invocation of the “anti-war left.” Perhaps their relative silence in the face of Russia’s assault on Ukraine reflects what sensible Americans already know: In the face of Putin’s unbridled aggression, Ukrainians are compelled to defend themselves. And in the name of all America stands for, we are compelled to help them.

Almost a quarter-century after Kennedy electrified West Berlin, President Ronald Reagan demanded of his Soviet counterpart, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And down it finally came, followed quickly by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Thanks in no small part to two American presidents – one a Democrat, the other a Republican – the free world prevailed. Now, knee-jerk naysayers notwithstanding, democracy once again demands our time, our resolve, and yes, our treasure.

We are all Ukrainians.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.