Forward and backward

Soccer hosts show stark contrast in human freedom

A few days ago we wrote about the stark, real-life differences between capitalism and communism. For the people of Poland and Ukraine, it’s not an academic exercise.

In an article headlined “A Tale of Two Soccer Hosts,” The Wall Street Journal this week noted that the two host countries of the European Football Championship – they apparently don’t know it’s actually “soccer” – have been on decidedly different tracks since the fall of Soviet communism.

“The Poles, who carried out painful economic and political reforms after the Berlin Wall fell, are a European standout,” writes the newspaper. “A mature democracy, the country has had the fastest growth rate of any OECD country during the past four years. It was the only (European Union) economy to avoid recession.

“Economic strength has also brought (Poland) regional leadership in Central Europe and influence inside the EU. Alongside Germany, Austria, the Nordic and Baltic countries, Poland helps anchor a new northern (bloc) in Europe of stable, stronger economies.”

In contrast, in Ukraine, when the Russia-friendly government machine tried to install its own president in 2004, the people rebelled in what’s known as the Orange Revolution – orange having been the campaign color for the populist candidate Viktor Yushchenko. After the uprising caused a re-vote, Yushchenko did indeed become president – but only until the next election in 2010.

Along the way, he was poisoned – ironically enough with a toxin that helps make up Agent Orange.

Since taking office, President Viktor Yanukovych – the favored candidate of the government machine – has apparently ruled with an iron fist. The Wall Street Journal calls Yanukovych “a political bruiser from the country’s industrial east.

“He jailed his principal opponent and hero of the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, on trumped-up charges. In a report this week, Freedom House found that press and political freedom are in steep decline (in Ukraine), with corruption and cronyism on the rise. Ukrainians are today about a third as well off as Poles.”

It breaks our hearts to see the regression in Ukraine. After showing such unmitigated courage in standing up to a corrupt electoral system, they now find themselves trapped once more.

It shows, yet again, the never-ending struggle for human freedom – and the devastation that results from oppression.

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