I am ashamed

I am ashamed. Ashamed of America. Ashamed of her allies. Last night, President Biden, whom I like and voted for, stood before assembled Democrats and Republicans bedecked in the blue and gold of the Ukrainian flag, and before Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, and before televised audiences from around the world, and in a speech jubilantly detailing the sanctions he has levied against Russia, added that US forces “are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.”

The air hissed right out of his brave speech. And the sight of his wife, Jill, hugging the stony-faced Ukrainian ambassador, felt sickening. And the ringing applause of the Ukrainian flag-bedecked American Congress rang hollow, like hard rain on a homeless man’s tent. It brought to mind when I stood in Israel’s Knesset, as Prime Minister Menachem Begin proudly announced that Israeli pilots had downed seven Syrian Russian-made MIGs (piloted, no doubt, by Russians).

The fearless Begin could care less of what Russia thought. In effect, his stance was: any air force dumb enough to fly against ours will pay a heavy price. Begin had the sort of unapologetic courage that Volodymyr Zelensky has shown against Russian’s onslaught: a willingness to fight to the death rather than succumb to bullying. It’s the sort of toughness that Churchill had; the kind of character for which we remember the greatest leaders.

It’s the kind of guts that I had truly hoped Biden would finally show when the chips are down, for right now, the chips are as down as chips will ever get: fate delivered to him the kind of once-in-a lifetime chance to mount the stage of World History, do what is right, that allows one to join the immortals. But Biden blew his shot. So, too, for that matter, have the rest of the world. Europe, even Israel have hedged on sending troops.

Instead, they send medics, ambulances, emojis, while the United States, like a raging Mom who can’t control her kid, is snatching up oligarchical toys like Yachts and private jets. None of that will matter to the Spartan macho Judo-belted Putin whose sole, obsessive dream is to lord, shirtless and bareback-riding, over an empire as vast as that of the former Soviet Union.

On the same day as Biden’s celebratory televised betrayal of Ukraine, Putin’s invading troops fired on Babi Yar, site of one of the worst massacres committed in the Holocaust. At Babi Yar, 33,000 Jewish men, women and children were murdered, and buried in an immense mass grave. Putin’s shells and missiles exploded in the mass grave—desecrated this site to which Jews voyage from around the world to mourn, to weep, and to say Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer for the dead.

Today, I am saying Kaddish over Babi Yar, and over the lost honor, courage and dignity of America, and over her allies. As Allen Ginsberg wrote in a poem: “America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.”

About the Author
Alan Kaufman is an American-Israeli novelist and memoirist. His latest novel, The Berlin Woman, has just been published by Mandel Vilar Press. His other books include the novels Matches (Little Brown) the memoirs Jew Boy (Cornell University Press) and Drunken Angel (Viva Editions).
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