Leaders don't always represent the people

When you live in an international city like Shanghai, it is likely you are going to meet a lot different folk from different countries.

Because there is a mix of companies from all over the world doing business in China, Shanghai is often where they have a presence. It being located in China made it a bit unique compared to places which are a bit more Western. The only other city I have ever lived in that was as international was Washington D.C.

My years in Australia and Taiwan exposed me to a lot different people coming from all over the world, but Shanghai really stands out for its total international flavor which permeates the city.

While in Shanghai I hung out with a group of gentlemen who were from Denmark, Poland and Ukraine. All were a bit younger and were great to be around with their mostly optimistic world view. We went to night clubs, killer restaurants and cool bars just to hang out and have fun. Since I worked for a company which sold liquor to all sorts of venues, I was always keen to go with these guys because they gave me insights into drinking cultures I just didn’t know.

I would like to say my hanging out with them was all for market research, but I really enjoyed being around them because they were so damn European. It is hard to put in words, but there was a sense of wisdom I found they all had about the world and why freedom was not to taken for granted.

All three countries suffered in World War II. Poland and Ukraine were locked in the Soviet Union orbit for decades. All the guys from Eastern Europe shared a desire to move away from the old times and look forward to everyone getting along.

As the lone American in this group, sometimes joined by Chinese colleagues, I was privy to a lot of interesting conversations. I learned much about re-education and concentration camps as I sat on the edge of some of these conversations.

It is interesting to me how sometimes even the Chinese who might be with us said it was wrong for governments to have either type of camp. I remember thinking how free the Chinese were becoming with the ability to criticize their government.

That has changed, I am pretty sure.

Shanghai before President Xi came to power was a different place. I have recently wrote about this, so I’m not going to rehash my feelings of what I see happening in China, but having a strongman like Xi hasn’t helped the world in any way.

Well, maybe Russia.

I don’t remember any one of these guys blaming the German or Russian people for what happened to their countries in the past. It was not uncommon to be in nightclubs where there was a strong Russian crowd and these guys were never uncomfortable. Shanghai doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of Russian nightclubs as Beijing, but Russians were common enough to meet and I don’t really remember any altercations.

In fact, when I lived in Beijing, I worked with Russians and definitely had a lot of interactions professionally and also being out with them just for fun.

From my exposure, there are definite types.

There are the Russians who are global and want to engage the world. This was the type of Russian I was around the most. They knew there were things wrong with their country, but overall they felt Russia was a good place to live and the future would get brighter as the country came out of its years of isolation.

Then there is a rougher type of personality that knows there is a dark world out there and they do their best to navigate it. These are the people that run all sorts of activities which are not legal but exist all the same. My exposure to them were at clubs they ran. However my exposure to mafia bars in Taiwan steeled me for a lot of what I saw.

Were they bad people?

Well they were not saints, but I wouldn’t put them in the category of President Putin.

It floors me one man can really be so bad, not only for his country, but the world.

When I left the USA, I first lived in a place that came out of martial law five years prior. It was interesting to watch democracy and freedom grow. I still find Taiwan amazing and it is a shining example of how, when you get rid of autocracy, it can become a better place.

It truly is the people that make a country if given the chance. I think this is a lesson being learned by the world right now.

I am not surprised by how intense of the Ukrainian people are fighting. If the Ukrainian people I have met are any example of the country’s population, I don’t see a surrender ever happening.

The country might be overrun, but sadly I don’t see a place that can be occupied. This means a lot of people are going to die on both sides.

The devastation is already hard to fathom.

What is also hard to fathom is how one man can really think what he is doing is right. There is no redeeming thing to come out of Russia invading Ukraine. There seems to be only one man and his military that see any sense to what is happening.

It is easy for me to sit here in Wyoming, a pretty good distance from where all the battles are going on, and assess the problem (or problems) with little skin in the game other than memories of certain people.

But after watching Putin have his country invade a democratic country and being very aware of China’s Xi being almost obsessed with taking Taiwan, another democratic place, I am going to be very sensitive to any individual who has autocratic intentions in this country.

I can’t help it.

We are called the land of the free for a reason.

I can say I don’t like Cheney (either Dick or Liz), Biden, Trump, Obama, Pelosi, Romney or any other elected official and feel free to say so. Sure there are avid supporters of all who might have unkind things to say to me because of my opinion, but I am not going to get arrested.

That can’t be said currently in China or Russia.

As some elected American officials espouse praise for either regime (which thankfully there are few) that is my litmus test for which they need to be out of politics in this country.

I believe in freedom of speech, not just because I make my living as a reporter, but because Putin and Xi have proven there are bad men in the world who will stop at nothing to get power.

I pray this type of personality never gets a hold in the USA.

America is too important to the world as a beacon of freedom for that to happen.


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