Nuclear power plants usually mean clean energy. Unless there’s an accident like Chernobyl. Or an attack on a power plant by a madman like we saw last night in Ukraine. Russia has turned a peaceful energy source into a de facto nuclear weapon.
And that’s where we are with Russia’s war on Ukraine.
So now it’s time for us to ask: What would you do for freedom and democracy in the world? What would you do in the name of our nation? Would you pay five bucks or more for gas at the pump for peace?
The average price in the nation is closing in on four dollars a gallon.
I just paid five bucks a gallon in California. I would gladly pay more. A lot more, especially if it meant supporting the people of Ukraine.
That would be the consequence of tougher sanctions on Russian oil and gas imports—essentially, a ban on all purchases until Putin cries Uncle Vanya.
So far, Putin hasn’t been deterred by anything the U.S. has done. But hitting him where it hurts—on his oil and gas sales? Now you’re talking.
California, home of the highest gas prices in the U.S., buys more than 70 percent of its oil from Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, according to the California Energy Commission. There are other sources of oil. We don’t have to buy Russian.
Yet, our leaders look to gas prices as if they were political polls. They see them as a barometer on inflation and their own job security. So they choose not to act lest they upset voters.
But oil and gas is the only language Putin understands.
We are at the point where Americans must decide to act. We have seen what the people of Ukraine are willing to do for freedom and democracy.
Sadly, we are also seeing what Putin’s Russia is willing to do to counter that. It’s escalated the attack on innocent civilians in an unprovoked war against the sovereign nation.
The latest and most terrifying act is Russia’s attack on an active nuclear power plant, unheard of even in war, a sheer act of evil that should be considered a war crime.
So what are we willing to do? The Ukrainians are taking up arms in the fight for their country, and blood has been spilled. A week into the war, and thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives have been lost.
I am reminded of the Gulf War phrase, “blood for oil.”
In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world has a new equation as we discuss sanctions. Would you support sanctions on Russian oil imports even it if means paying more for gas?
In the name of peace in Ukraine, I can and would gladly pay more for oil if it meant stopping the bloodshed.
In a second, I would pump for peace to stop the senseless violence of a Russian tyrant. Wouldn’t you?
In our country, we’ve known how Ukrainians feel, when people feel compelled to stand up for democracy.
57 years ago on Sunday, people were called from all over the nation to come to Selma, Alabama to march for the very essence of democracy, voting rights.
And Asian Americans answered the call.
Vincent Wu was a 23-year old in grad school in Illinois when he saw the scenes on TV news where peaceful activists like John Lewis gathered to march at Selma.
But then they were beaten up by state troopers. Images on the news of that violence at Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” could not be ignored.
“We answered the call of Dr. Martin Luther King to come down to Selma to bear witness and to stand with the people who were oppressed,” Wu told me in 2015, the year of the 50th anniversary, when he returned to Selma. “My motivation was for my love of American ideals. It was a moral as much as a political stand for me. I believe in the value of non-violence and respect for every human being.”
And then he added. “I was there not as an Asian American student, but predominantly as an American citizen.”
Wu joined the protest in Selma and was part of the subsequent marches that came after “Bloody Sunday.” He was a volunteer member of the perimeter security team, never more than 10 or 20 feet away from Dr. King on the march to the Alabama capitol.
“We were jubilant because this was a triumphant event,” Wu said. “We were finally reaching our objective, our goal.”
But the goal went beyond Montgomery, Alabama.
“Bloody Sunday” gave moral leverage to President Lyndon Baines Johnson to begin the real legislative fight. More than a week later the president addressed a joint session of Congress advocating for voting rights.
“I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy,” Johnson said in that 1965 speech. “At times, history and fate meet at a single time. In a single place, to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. What happened in Selma is part of a larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”
In the CNN documentary, “LBJ: Triumph and Tragedy,” that was the speech King saw from a black and white television in the Selma home that served as the headquarters for all the marches. While watching that speech, Dr. King wept.
That’s how hard it was to get voting rights on the agenda and passed.
And now 57 years later, King would be crying today if he could see how hard it was to restore what has been gutted in the Voting Rights Act over the years.
Vice President Kamala Harris will remember “Bloody Sunday” this weekend in Selma. As the nation has become more diverse, the violence of the past is a continuing metaphor for efforts to restrict voting rights for all people of color.
The Freedom to Vote Act would make voting a federal holiday and make voting easier, not harder. It would also make sure the redistricting process would be fair and uniform and reflect population gains. Asian Americans and other people of color wouldn’t be left out by gerrymandering. The activism of AALDEF and other communities of color to draw up the Unity Map in New York is a direct response to the inequality of gerrymandering. There should be a law, right? This Freedom to Vote Act gets us closer to justice.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the congressman who as a young activist was brutally savaged at Selma, simply restores the teeth of federal oversight to make sure states don’t pass harmful election laws that cut minorities out of the process. We’re trying to get back to the ideals of the original law.
The effort to pass both failed earlier this year.
But now history past and present reminds us of the importance to get these voting rights measures approved now.
Compared to tougher sanctions on Russia, it’s pretty easy. Especially now when we can all see on the news real threats to democracy.
NOTE: I’ll talk about the speech on the next “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my web talk show, M-F, @2p Pacific livestreamed on YouTube, on Facebook, and on Twitter See recordings on www.amok.com