Ukrainians In Mourning For Deceased Orange Revolution

KIEV, Ukraine -- On the second anniversary of the Orange Revolution (Nov. 22), it can now be said categorically: Viktor Yushchenko betrayed the Revolution. He never planned to do this. However, his deliberate, self-promoting actions as president over the past two years have dealt it a fatal blow.

Viktor Yushchenko betrayed the Orange Revolution

Today the millions of citizens, who stood bravely and vigilantly on city squares across Ukraine to protest a very fraudulent presidential election, are its walking wounded.

Anyone who still believes that Yushchenko is not to blame, that he is a victim of political intrigues rather than the victimizer of once ardent followers, needs only to recall these pointers of betrayal.

He capitulated needlessly to President Kuchma in December 2004, paving the way for today’s weak presidential system which he greatly regrets; he repeatedly compromised core Orange principles (notably, opposition to corruption, deception, and blame-game politics) and broke his solemn promise to send political “bandits to prison” by embracing a blatant enemy of the Revolution, Viktor Yanukovych; in 2005, he stalled unnecessarily and selfishly for months in forming an Orange coalition until it was too late and it crumbled; and he masked his conspicuous abandonment of Maidan (Independence Square) ideals with sweet-sounding but unconvincing rhetoric about the need to unify the country by joining forces with former arch rival, Yanukovych.

He also refused to accept any responsibility for his many policy failures and strategic miscalculations, and instead unswervingly promoted the myth that a weak presidency was to blame. In fact, Yushchenko accomplished preciously little on the domestic scene even when he had full presidential powers.

Curiously, the betrayal of the Orange Revolution has received only scant critical attention from political observers here and abroad, despite its obvious importance for Ukraine’s political and social evolution. Even more disturbing is the fact that no attention whatsoever has been paid to how millions of Ukrainians – former fervent supporters of the Revolution – will ever recover from this deep wound.

How can we better understand the profound impact this betrayal has had on an enormous segment of a nation in transition? And what can be done to lead Ukraine’s walking wounded to recovery?

The relevant theoretical and practical literature on betrayal offers several important insights into these burning existential questions.

To begin with, there are some axioms of betrayal that are inadequately appreciated and can inform our analysis; namely: It is difficult to find any adult who has not personally experienced betrayal; some betrayals are more hurtful and have a greater impact than others; few individuals like to speak openly about betrayal, most prefer to suffer in silence; feelings of betrayal last a very long time, often a lifetime, and lead people to have serious problems trusting others; often victims are unsure and even doubtful that a betrayal has occurred because the victimizers are generally very deceitful and manipulative; the first step in recovering from any betrayal is acknowledging that it has occurred and was a deliberate and calculated violation of trust; and, lastly, a victimizer is often motivated by a lust for power and control.

Viewed in this context, several conclusions about the betrayal of the Orange Revolution are inescapable. With few exceptions, political observers have gravely underestimated the impact President Yushchenko’s betrayal of the Orange Revolution has had upon his once loyal supporters.

Typically, they describe them simply as disappointed and disillusioned and assume these feelings will soon pass. Time heals, they say. However, this facile assumption does not withstand close scrutiny.

Betrayal, as the relevant literature makes poignantly clear, is much more than disappointment and disillusionment. It is a deeply traumatic experience ,which shatters its victims to the core.

In the case of Ukraine’s walking wounded, it is doubly traumatic because Yushchenko was once a beloved icon who had the unconditional support of millions of citizens but deliberately chose to betray their trust.

This betrayal is especially hurtful because citizens not only gave their votes for Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential election, they also risked their lives. They stood bravely and vigilantly on freezing streets across the country for days, and even weeks, in a very precarious political situation because they wanted a better world for their children and grandchildren.

A year later, when it became painfully apparent that the president was compromising Maidan principles, millions of his supporters defected and voted for Yulia Tymoshenko, leading her to victory in last March’s parliamentary election – a determined public effort to renew the faltering Revolution.

However, adding insult to injury, Yushchenko tellingly refused to accept the will of his own people. He suppressed their voices by stubbornly stalling the formation of an Orange coalition until it was too late. Once again, he placed personal political ambition above the public interest and, once again, with disastrous results for the Orange Revolution.

His selfish act also left countless Ukrainians feeling politically powerless. Moreover, this national betrayal is compounded further by the historic memory that Ukraine’s tragic past is replete with cases where rulers have repeatedly betrayed their very own citizens.

It has to be said that Yushchenko never aggressively defended Maidan ideals once he became president. He rode into office trumpeting them but later, deliberately and frequently, abandoned them. During his two years in office, he has steadily drifted away from his loyal followers and today is separated from them by a growing sea of indifference and arrogance.

Much of his time has been spent atop his own private Mount Olympus gazing endlessly and wantonly upon an often uninterested Europe, while demonstrating uncommon lack of attention to matters at home.

It needs to be stressed that this deep wound of betrayal, contrary to conventional wisdom, will not heal on its own. Left alone, it will fester and breed deep public cynicism about future politicians who, in particular, proclaim democratic ideals and European standards and practices.

And it is also likely to retard the emergence of a new democratic political culture. Furthermore, the road to recovery will be singular and lonely. No thunderous Maidan will rise up to relieve this deep wound. No spirited, heroic political leader can deliver victory in this struggle.

Where do we begin the healing process?

In a culture where homegrown litanies and chants have for ages helped troubled Ukrainians cope with their personal and national tragedies, embracing and repeating the following words on this special anniversary, and often hereafter, may offer the country’s walking wounded a measure of comfort and lead them to the road to recovery:

We grieve for Viktor Yushchenko, our tortured and once beloved icon, who solemnly promised to lead a crusade against corruption and lies, but who lacked courage and political will and quickly fell by the wayside. We grieve for our president, who, driven by a lust for power and control, frequently compromised our core principles with Orange enemies, despite his many Maidan promises.

And we grieve for a man who, amazingly, repeatedly turned his back on his closest Maidan ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, an indomitable spirit who never betrayed Orange ideals and never embraced enemies of the Orange Revolution. We remember that she sustained the Revolution during its darkest hours in 2004 when a severely poisoned and disfigured Yushchenko lay at death’s door because of his injudicious wining and dining with loyal servants of corrupt President Kuchma’s security services – an indiscretion which, no doubt, will haunt him interminably.

But we also rejoice for the Orange Revolution on this seemingly grave and funereal occasion. We never embraced its enemies. We never turned our backs on its faithful allies. And we rejoice because we – not Viktor Yushchenko – gave birth to a civil society on the Maidan, a budding society which struggles daily to survive, and we also keep the Orange dream alive for our children and grandchildren.

And so, on this second anniversary of the Orange Revolution, we grieve and we rejoice, and we hold our heads high, for we never betrayed the Maidan and never will.

Source: Kyiv Post