The Wolf That You Feed Will Follow You Home
The Wolf That You Feed Will Follow You Home
This fall my great aunt is celebrating her ninety fifth year on the planet by gathering her family members in Atlanta, Georgia. I don’t see her very much now that I am grown, but I have always heard stories about how our family immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. My father’s side of the family is mostly Lithuanian, a tight knit group of Jewish refugees that escaped the pogroms of Russia before the October Revolution. One of these individuals was my Great Uncle Don who married my Great Aunt Mary. Mary was German/Austrian and she escaped Europe right before the Third Reich manifested fully, though I am not sure of the exact timeline. Mary doesn’t talk very much about life in Europe. Therefore I am unsure about a lot of things she experienced… aside from the fact that she is a Holocaust survivor.
I grew up a conservative Jew in the southeast United States. My congregation was adamant about Jews having a safe place to live, vehemently supporting pro-US and pro-Israeli rhetoric. We were taught the history of Judaism as well as all of its various exiles and diasporas: The Assyrian exile, The Babylonian exile, the resulting diasporas of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, or Mizrahi, and of course the Holocaust.
The United States was heralded in our lessons as a bastion of security and safety, a stoic and powerful force against nazism and xenophobia. A nation whose open arms would accept those fleeing oppression and fight for the rights of those oppressed. As I have grown older I have found this notion to be notoriously false.
I hate that I have to write this. I hate to think that this image of the US is false, a perverted veil that obscures the true face of fascism and anti-semitism. But I am compelled to. I want to tell you a story that I have followed for four years, a story that has mutated into a dense collection of disturbing events and heartache. I am writing this in the vain hope that it is a catalyst for more prudent action and empowerment to fight racism no matter who it is directed toward. Above all else I am writing this so that we all may know exactly what we are up against.
In 2014 I had been running several political accounts on twitter. I used them to not only teach others but to learn about the world on my own. It was amazing to see real-time content from Syrians, Argentinians, Israelis, Russians, Grecians, and Spaniards all in the same place. Not only this, but I could see what average people thought about their political climate, it wasn’t just limited to political pundits. Of course this also came with the expected propaganda trolls. I found that in order to verify information it had to come from multiple sources, often from outlets with opposing viewpoints.
I remember late one night I was watching tweets in real time from Mariinsky Park in Kiev, Ukraine. Protesters were amassing to petition their government in favor of an economic alignment with the European Union rather than the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian government had traditionally been well vetted with the Russian Federation but younger constituents were interested in becoming more open with Western Europe, creating political backlash against their government.
It was weird. At first I saw regular people with signs and banners, standard protestors that you would likely see at any activistic event. There were families, women and children, men who still had their work clothes on. Then, as if on some sort of command, the streets lit up with intense conflict. Soldiers burst onto the scene with firearms, molotov cocktails, and homemade mortars. They weren’t dressed like the Ukrainian army though… they wore all black, black cargo pants, black shirts, black vests, black ski masks and helmets. Their attacks were not aimed at the protesters, but at government buildings and personnel.
I watched this from thousands of miles away at around three o'clock in the morning. I cross-checked several sources and found them all to be legitimate, though I had little idea as to the motives for such an escalation of force.
Days went by. Weeks went by. Months went by. The protest I had seen had given way to an all out Civil War in the Ukraine, with the established government subject to a coup. The White House, State Department, Congress, and Pentagon were all supportive of a new pro-EU regime in Ukraine; providing the insurgents with a 1 billion dollar sovereign loan, a $118 million subsidy for weapons/training, and aid from US-based private militias such as Academi (formerly Blackwater).
Being the political addict that I am, it became a source of curiosity to find out who were were supporting exactly. I found two primary entities that had staged the coup, the right-leaning Svoboda Nationalists and the Azov Battalion of Mariupol. Much to my dismay I also found that these two groups were white nationalists, neo-nazis, and fascists. The Azov Battalion itself flies a stylized Waffen SS logo, often accompanied by the Reichsadler (the eagle of the Third Reich). Ukrainian protesters that simply wanted a different economic policy had been usurped by white nationalists, who in turn were unapologetically being supported by the United States.
These groups were supported so much so that Joe Biden and John McCain both made appearances to welcome the new government once their coup had been completed. Joe Biden’s son Hunter became a higher up executive for Burisma, the leading natural gas provider in Ukraine. McCain apparently had a close and personal relationship with Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the Svoboda party. Finally, Barack Obama gave his endorsement to Petro Poroshenko, the president elect for the new Ukraine. Congress supported the new regime almost unanimously, citing various Russian scares to justify the support of literal nazis. I came to find that the ‘land grab’ on the Crimean peninsula largely referenced a Russian naval base that had been there since 1850, and that western news outlets had been intentionally inflating Russophobic rhetoric.
Once again years went by. The Obama presidency came to an end and ushered in Donald Trump as his predecessor. It’s hard to deny Trump is an inflammatory individual. His ideologies on immigration, race relations, foreign policy, and what constitutes racism are completely detached from reality. Even if some do not agree with the previous statement, Trump supporters would still likely concede that the president is gregarious and opinionated. This quality can be very motivational for those who hang on his every word, even those who have racist or nationalist biases.
It is at this juncture that racially and religiously motivated crimes began to rise. Actually, it has been since 2015 that hate crimes have risen, averaging around 15% up until 2017 where they jumped to a 30% increase according to the FBI and ACLU. People of color, the LGBTQ community, and Jews have been targeted more and more. In the minds of many this occurrence coincides with the Trump presidency.
Sadly this is far from accurate. Organized hate and its surrounding political action require infrastructure, and said infrastructure has been uncovered in the Ukraine.
The Azov Battalion and Svoboda experienced such success in their coup that they attracted the attention of zealots worldwide. It would not be long before fighters came to the Ukraine from Syria, Chechnya, and the United States. In late 2017 the FBI arrested four men from a white nationalist group who had plans to incite violent riots throughout the country. The Rise Above Movement (RAM) is but one of many white nationalist groups who have openly admitted to receiving combat training in the Ukraine. This ideological and physical empowerment of nazism has no doubt assisted in creating a stronghold in western policy for violent right-wing action.
Even more to the point, it has been both the Obama and Trump administrations that have empowered these groups. And why? Well, the same reason the USA created Operation Gladio during the Cold War. In both scenarios the US funds and trains hardline right wing zealots to stave off any Russian advancement. In fact the crazier and more violent the better- as a US proxy army is meant to serve in place of ‘actual’ US involvement. But at what cost?
Right-wing organizations in the United States are not ashamed of their training overseas. In fact they publicize it. Many Europeans do as well, as the push toward right wing politics in Europe is goaded on by antiqued rhetoric on immigration and trade reforms. In a final blow to the gut, the Israeli government has apparently been assisting in the weapons acquisitions to Ukraine’s right wing as well. Due to a closer trade relationship with the EU than to Russia, Israel has deemed it appropriate to empower violent fascists. The terrifying irony of this is that the people being armed by the US and Israel are helping to train American citizens that, for all intents and purposes, are responsible for events like the 2018 Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. I realize this statement comes with some conjecture, but truthfully not that much.
I have always believed that what we do overseas comes back to us. I believe that the bombing of innocent people radicalizes them and creates more terrorists than it destroys. I believe that if the government creates nazis halfway across the world, those nazis will end up at our front door.
I suppose my only point in writing this is to hopefully help us all fight back. If you condemn fascism and racism, you MUST condemn all of it. Even if done by politicians you thought you liked. Otherwise your words and actions are wasted, your motives superseded, and your loyalties misguided.
I wish Mary a happy 95th, I hope we all live as long as she has. Even though she won’t speak of what happened all those years ago, our family can feel it. And that is precisely why I am issuing this warning.