Things that have shocked me in the past two months

I might be exposing how naive I am but I really don’t care. I was raised in an amazing environment, one I appreciate more and more with each passing day, and the fact that I am shocked about these things only goes to show how great things can be and how horrible somethings really are.

I grew up in the nation’s capital and was surrounded by strong, purpose driven adults. My friend’s parents and my own were self-made successes. The majority of them were immigrants, and I believe that adds a certain distinction. People worked hard and honestly and, for the most part, were justly rewarded.

In school, we were taught to deplore racism, oppression, and corruption. Values of honesty, integrity, and compassion were ideals that received a lot of focus in the classroom. We were ingrained with a love for freedom, democracy, and America.

Someone was trying to explain to me what’s so amazing about the Ukrainian revolution. I thought it was amazing to see people from all walks of life gathering for a common cause, and he said it was more amazing that many of these people are educated working professionals. The significance of that was lost on me at first.

I did not understand because all my peers back home are activists and protesters in one way or another. Washington, DC has an endless supply of organizations and causes you can support and fight for. Youth in the surrounding area are taught to fundraise and promote causes from the moment we can hold a sign or donation jar. We hold demonstrations, walks, and charity events every other day.

The most amazing thing is it works. We raise thousands of dollars for Make A Wish Foundation, hundreds of feet of hair are donated to Locks for Love, gay marriage laws are changed, abortion laws are changed, and new clean energy programs are enacted. We voice our opinions and are heard with, largely, no negative repercussions to our way of life. This is something I have taken for granted.

Billions of people elsewhere in the world cannot do this. To protest means to risk everything and the more you have the more you have to lose. You could lose your job, be beaten, and thrown in jail. People who worked hard for what they achieved and the security they provide for their families could be demolished due to a corrupt system.

All the things I have mentioned are things we hear and know but are not things we truly understand and appreciate unless we see the alternative. We appreciate light more when we walk in the dark.

So, here are the things that have made my jaw drop in the last two months:

1. The President has bat-shit-cray amounts of power. I don’t believe the system of checks and balances exists here. Maybe it’s written in some constitution, but it’s a dud.

2. Bribery is RAMPANT.You don’t want to pay a bribe? Be prepared for a long and arduous bureaucratic process. Also, officials are more than ready to suggest you pay a bribe. An official at the airport, whose English was  limited at best, spent 15 minutes explaining to me the “not correct” way of paying for a penalty…

3. The Berkut, a special unit of the Ukrainian police force, attacked a Red Cross infirmary. A RED CROSS INFIRMARY. It violates a law of war, and even though it has only gone into print in modern times, even people from hundreds of years ago understood this principle.

4. Police cooperate with hired thugs to intimidate protesters. #dafuq

5. Journalists are attacked. I don’t know if this is written anywhere but I’m fairly certain it is a modern rule of war not to attack the press. You know who attacks journalists? People who need to hide their deeds… such as drug cartels, terrorists, and dictators…

6. Laws repressing civil rights are passed and then the government and anti-maidan/pro-government supporters call protesters facists.

7. The bursts of antisemitic comments being thrown around. I’ve only heard it from the more extreme ends of the camps, but still, stick a cork in it.

8. Water cannons being used in subzero weather.

9. Riot police targeting eyes. The riot police use rubber bullets which are not fatal but it can still cause a lot of damage. There were reports of police flashing a light on protester’s faces to spotlight them while another policeman took the shot.

10. So what happens when you lose an eye? That’s not a wound you can treat at home. You have to go to the hospital. Too bad it’s a TRAP. One of the protesters who died after being tortured and left in the forest was kidnapped from a hospital.

11. Kidnappings. Over 30 protestors have gone missing. The police deny arresting them.

12. Let’s go back to hired thugs, also known as titushky. These are paid men who travel in packs and beat up protesters. Please do not confuse the word protesters with the word radicals. These are not the same. The titushky beat up PEACEFUL protesters.

13. Being charged in absentia. You can get charged for a crime even if you are not in court and even if you are unaware of the charges brought against you.

14. Holding protesters as hostages. The Ukrainian government just passed an amnesty bill that will only grant amnesty to arrested protesters if the other protesters leave occupied buildings within the next 15 days. Many of those arrested were arrested under dubious charges.

15. How awesome Euromaidan is. I live right around the block and it is the most impressive man-made structure I have ever seen. An entire functioning tent city went up in the span of a few days. It stretches over 3 huge city blocks and has barricades several meters high. Everything is organized and tents are set up for donations. People are calm and polite. Many of these people hold multiple degrees and speak multiple languages. There has been no looting and many of the stores are open and operating successfully. Western media only likes to show the exciting bits so it looks like Ukraine is a medieval battlefield, but that’s only a small area. You can read more about what the protests actually look like here Anatomy of Maidan.

And that’s my rant for the day.

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Update Feb. 3, 2014: Today, my friend and I got lost in tent city while we were going to the bank, and one of the older gentleman promptly noticed our lost faces, asked us where we needed to go, and gave us excellent directions. Kind, organized, and thoughtful. By the way, this does not happen anywhere else in Kyiv.

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