Russia is Mordor, But the West is Sodom
Since the Ukraine war began, each of us has been reading and writing widely about different aspects of the conflict, trying to find the truth. There are, broadly, two radically opposed theories of the Russia/Ukraine war. The Mainstream media, the neoconservative outlets of the “respectable” Right, and most of our church leaders subscribe to Theory I. It runs as follows:
Russia Is Mordor
Tyranny seems to run in the Russian blood, going all the way back to the country’s long subjugation by Mongols. When the Muscovite tsars rose instead, centralized their power, and unified the country, they rejected a key distinction that existed in the West — the difference between sovereignty and ownership.
The Magna Carta in England, and similar charters elsewhere, made clear that the king was bound to respect his subjects’ private property and rights. But in Russia there was nothing comparable. In theory, the tsar owned every stick of furniture in the poorest serf’s small cottage.
Oh yes, and even as serfdom was dying out in the West, Russia was firming it up and extending it, tying huge swathes of the populace to the land they were forced to work. While Western middle classes were pushing for political rights and power, Russian tsars were organizing the country along the lines of one big army. Every post in the country’s vast civic bureaucracy was the equivalent of a military rank.
When Communism collapsed in Poland, Hungary, or other countries, citizens had some national memory of freedom, a strong private sector, and vigorous institutions independent of the State. Russians had no such heritage. So after the chaos of the 1990s, Putin arose to reestablish the kind of autocracy that Russians had always lived under, which they saw as (regrettably) the only alternative to anarchy.
Expansion was always part of Russian autocracy. The tsars had fought for centuries to grow their territory by thousands of miles — typically by conquest of neighboring countries. It was the Russian empire that cobbled together the vast crazy quilt of ethnicities that later formed the Soviet Union. When that totalitarian system collapsed, they naturally sought independence. And the Russians, by their nature, sought to subjugate them again. Targets included Georgia, Chechnya, and now Ukraine. But future victims might well include other regions the tsars once controlled, such as the Baltic States and Poland.
Russia is coming, and it’s Mordor. Ukrainians are lovable, poorly-armed hobbits, menaced by the Black Riders, orcs, and trolls. It’s for us in the West to form a Fellowship of the Ukraine, to aid their plucky, heroic resistance to the dark hordes of nationalism, autocracy, and aggression.
Now for a More Deplorable Perspective
If you wish to explore Theory I in greater depth, you’re in luck: It’s the narrative enshrined in virtually every mainstream publication, right and left. This backstory drives all news reporting, most commentaries, and the statements of Democrats and establishment Republicans. This version of events is the sea we swim in, the air we breathe, and might be instilled subliminally in the “on-hold” music you get when you call up the DMV.
Step out of the mainstream, though, and things are different. If you have unplugged from the kind of media that thought Jussie Smollett was a lynching victim, Kyle Rittenhouse was a white nationalist, the unvaccinated were public menaces and the 2020 election was honestly conducted … you encounter a different perspective.
The best single distillation of it appears in the powerful statement of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano about the war in Ukraine. If you want extensive details, dozens of news links, and a sharp theological (even apocalyptic) analysis of the conflict from that perspective, you couldn’t do better than to go read Vigano. Prepare to spend 30-40 minutes, and maybe have your mind blown. Here’s a sample:
There is great concern that the destinies of the peoples of the world is in the hands of an elite that is not accountable to anyone for its decisions, that does not recognize any authority above itself, and that in order to pursue its own interests does not hesitate to jeopardize security, the economy, and the very lives of billions of people, with the complicity of politicians in their service and the mainstream media. The falsification of facts, the grotesque adulterations of reality, and the partisanship with which the news is spread stand alongside the censorship of dissenting voices … .
Now for Theory II:
The West Is Sodom
The traditional institutions that made Western freedom possible have virtually all been corrupted at the core. Western elites have rejected Christianity, even theism, and embraced soulless materialism and hedonism. Instead of the ordered liberty which the Anglo-American tradition sought over the centuries, a secular Liberalism now rules. It sees freedom as beginning and pretty much ending in the bedroom. The State’s job is to fiercely defend our liberty to seek pleasure, especially sexual pleasure — but also consumption, leisure, mass entertainment, and other means of distracting ourselves from the inevitability of death, and spurring economic growth.
For secular Liberalism, nothing is worth dying for. Or living for, for that matter. The best-educated and wealthiest among us who dominate the culture have “seen through” the last illusions of meaning in the universe. They know that religion, patriotism, marital eros, parental concern and filial love are merely illusions. They’re shadows cast in minds alongside what’s actually “real,” which boils down to biology, chemistry, and physics.
To Western elites, the human race is an accidental by-product of chemicals interacting on an obscure, insignificant planet in an obscure corner of a dead, empty universe—one among trillions of other dead, empty universes. And by the way, you have no free will, and your thoughts, desires, hopes, and dreams are nothing more than the side-effect of electrical impulses inside the cells of your brain.
But racism is still wrong, okay? Whatever “wrong” means. Anyway, we’ve decided to punish it.
The Western elites who think this way wish to liquidate every institution, group, or nation that rejects the secular Liberal narrative. So far, Islam has proved too hard a nut to crack, so they’ve decided to step around it, and concentrate on wiping out every trace of resistance within the West. Churches must show their obedience by suspending services whenever Caesar demands it, and vouching for any vaccine, however many unborn babies it took to make it. Also, they need to get with the program of approving every form of sexual expression. If they must condemn something, let them stick to Racism, the one moral norm we’ve decided (for no real reason) to keep.
Russian resistance to NATO is a bone that sticks in the secular Western throat. It’s like the unvaxxed Canadian truckers, the pastors who wouldn’t close down, the Trump supporters who wouldn’t shut up about the election, the January 6 protestors who upset Nancy Pelosi. The West has decreed that Ukraine is next up for assimilation to the Borg, for same sex marriage and transgender clinics and cashless transactions and vaccine mandates and direct rule by the Deep State. For the Great Reset led by the World Economic Forum. For the Open Society quietly ruled behind the scenes by George Soros and his friends.
Can’t Both Sides Lose?
Which of these two grim theories is true? Here’s the tragic ending: Both of them are. The peoples of Ukraine and Russia are serving as cannon fodder in the war between Mordor and Sodom. The choice is as miserable as in the Nazi/Soviet conflict of 1941. Pray for the peoples of both lands, and for our children.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. Together, Jones and Zmirak wrote The Race to Save Our Century, and “God, Guns, and the Government.”