Monday, December 27



It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE UKRAINIAN ELECTION.

1. Well, this is a surprise. When the Red Sox ended their 86 year old World Series drought, Jose was certain, CERTAIN, that it would be the most shocking, dramatic end to a streak in the entire world this year. But he was wrong. Sure the Red Sox world championship was spectacular and dramatic and ended a streak of excruciating length. Indeed, it made Jose happier than anything else in this world, but it just wasn’t the longest or most shocking end to a streak in 2004. More shocking still is the fact for the first time since the founding of Kyiv in 482 A.D. the people of Ukraine have freely and fairly elected their government. That means the end to a 1522 year drought – a long freaking time.

It was so long, in fact, that many Ukrainians had started to think they were – get this – cursed. Jose knows that it sounds ridiculous to us as sophisticated Westerners, but many Ukrainians had bought into the idea that there was a “Curse of Volodymyr the Great.” The theory, put forth by a pseudo historian/newspaper columnist named Bohdan Shaughnischenko, held that Volodymyr the Great, the king who made Kyivan Rus (the Kingdom from which modern Ukraine sprung) a major power in eastern Europe, put a curse on Ukraine after his sons Sviatopolk I of Turiv and Yaroslav the Wise of Novgorod challenged his rule near the end of his life.

Over the course of centuries, Ukraine would come close to having a decent and democratic government, but something would always go wrong. After World War I, Ukraine was independent briefly, but then the Soviets rolled in; so close but yet so far. It must have been the curse. Then in 1991, Ukraine became an independent country and held elections, but they were neither free, nor fair. Somehow the curse stuffed the ballot box and intimidated voters.

This year looked like it was going to be more of the same. The opposition ran a serious and credible candidate who looked like he could win, but just when the exit polls showed him with a 10 percent lead, the official results shoed him losing by 3 percent. All over the land of the black earth, Ukrainians couldn’t believe that they’d been sucked in again, only to have the curse break their hearts. But then a funny thing, happened. The proponents of democracy started to rally, the Ukrainian Supreme Court reversed key decisions (Note: Sound familiar Sox fans?) and all of a sudden democracy had a second chance. Proponents of dictatorship got nervous. Their newspapers ran pictures of Volodymyr with headlines like “Put Me on the Ballot,” and they dragged out Lenin’s carcass to give a speech at one of their political rallies. But it was too late. As soon as the forces of democracy believed they could win, they had won. On December 26, 2004 democracy in Ukraine completed the come back. It came back from 3-0 down to its ancient rival, dictatorship, and won in spectacular fashion. Today, no one can quite believe it, but everyone is happy. Today is different from yesterday.

Obviously, the bit above was fictional, but in a real way the people of Ukraine were cursed: Cursed, by centuries of cruel and/or incompetent government, cursed with a nearly indefensible geography and cursed with exploitation by imperial masters one after another. But today, Ukraine has given itself a blessing – a government chosen by the people and accountable to the people.

2. Jose will admit that he was surprised last week when the Miami Dolphins wore orange uniforms for only the second time in their history. That said Jose greatly appreciates their show of solidarity with Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.” (Note: What was the reason for them to wear orange uniforms the first time? A protestant rejection of the Good Friday Accords? Support for Orange County during its bankruptcy crisis? Advocacy for the ascent of William of Orange to the British crown in the Glorious Revolution?) It’s good to see football teams taking an interest in the world.

Jose is also happy to see the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs showing their support for European Social Democratic parties with their red jerseys. (Note: Since the U.S. has been divided into red and blue America, how is it that the conservatives are represented by red? Everywhere else in the world, red is the color of the left. The significance of blue seems to vary, but in Austria it is the color of the far right, xenophobic Freedom Party.) Jose was less happy to see the Jets, Packers and Eagles showing their support for the Green Party. Jose leans to the left, but those people are just plain nutty.

3. This final KEY doesn’t really have much to do with the current situation in Ukraine, but it’s a Soviet themed KEY, and Jose has wanted to work it in for a while. Somehow there just aren’t enough good opportunities to talk about the Soviet Union in KEYS about free agent pitching or the situation at shortstop. So here is Jose’s question: Is Tetris the greatest accomplishment of Soviet society? The other candidates would seem to be Sputnik, the defeat of Hitler and the Soviet National Anthem. Jose, has to go with Tetris. While Sputnik was an extraordinary scientific and technical accomplishment, it was quickly matched and improved on by others. Tetris has never been improved on. Welltris? Please. While the defeat of Hitler was a monumental task and a crucial event in the history of the world, the Soviets needed the British and Americans to do it. Tetris was a Soviet accomplishment alone. And the Soviet National Anthem? It’s a great anthem full of pomp and enthusiasm. (Note: What can Jose say? He likes socialist realist art despite being an ardent democrat.) However, even that stirring anthem could be terrible when sung by wrestler Nikolai Volkoff. Volkoff never managed to make Tetris unappealing.

So there you have it. In its 74 years of history, the Soviet Union’s greatest accomplishment was the computer game about little shapes made of four boxes each. Jose knows that it seems small, but it isn’t really. After all, what was America’s greatest accomplishment between 1917 and 1991? Probably putting a man on the moon right? While Jose has never heard Carl Everett say he doesn’t believe in Tetris, so at worst it’s a push for the Soviets.

I’m Jose Melendez, and that is my KEYS TO THE UKRAINIAN ELECTION.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see the KEYS going international.

Ryan said...

I strongly agree that red and blue states should switch colors to get with the program the rest of the world is on. Heck, even the old G.I. Joe cartoon show got it straight when they assigned colors for Joe and Cobra ray gun lasers. On the other hand, George Lucas seems to have screwed it up when assigning lightsaber colors to Skywalker and Vader, so clearly, it's very a touchy issue...