Part Three - Why the Tie?

Robert Rose in front of the U.S. Capital Building

PART THREE – WHY THE TIE?

Washington, DC, is a conservative place full of people with agendas. I had to dress the part or risk not being taken seriously. So, though I hadn’t worn a tie in decades when I arrived at DC’s Grand Central Station, I stopped by the “Tie Store” and picked up a too-expensive tie that I knew I’d likely only wear once. I chose a conservative blue that would go with almost any outfit.

On the first day of meetings, Razom had group training for advocates so that newbies like me could understand what to expect and outline our priorities.

Five minutes into the meeting, I saw the tip of my tie dipped into my coffee. It would now be a two-tone blue.

Tennessee delegation
The Tennessee delegation for Ukraine is preparing to meet with Rep. Tim Burchett's office

CITY RAT OR COUNTRY MOUSE?

Even though I live in New York City, I have farmland and am originally from Tennessee. I have listed it as a secondary location for my business and I pay taxes there as well.

So I decided to make the most of my time by spending time with the Tennessee delegation, as they had the most difficult ground and fewer people to cover it.

CONGRESSMAN TIM BURCHETT OF TENNESSEE: Our first meeting was with Congressman Tim Burchett’s office of the 2nd District of Tennessee. My team of four delegates (two Ukrainian-American scientists, a German-American scientist, and me, the dumb one) extensively practiced what we’d say before the meeting. I hate being over-prepared and encouraging my new brothers and sisters-in-arms not to sound too rehearsed. I need not have worried because Mr. Burchett didn’t even grace us with his presence.

However, his Senior Legislative Assistant, John Stout, did give us about ½ an hour. Although Congressman Burchett, like many of his MAGA-inspired associates, has not been very supportive of Ukraine, there have been glimmers of support, suggesting that he perhaps personally understands the incredible scope of the situation but doesn’t quite have the political will, backbone, or ethics to get there.

To help get him over the hump, I offered Mr. Burchett an all-expense paid trip to Ukraine that Raw Travel would film. This could be invaluable footage for his re-election campaign efforts.

As we’ve seen with Trump’s claim to be able to end the war within 24 hours (and who has, to my knowledge, never visited Ukraine, much less an active war zone), it’s easy to make bold, arrogant, but ultimately ignorant proclamations while thousands of miles away and swaddled in the safety and security that others paid the ultimate price for. I’m allowing Mr. Burchett to address this deficiency in his knowledge with a FREE, all-expense paid trip to Ukraine and filming thrown in for gratis, too.

We shall see if Mr. Burchett takes me up on it. If he does, I promise to be fair in my assessment, and he will have gained an admirer regardless of our political or policy differences.

CONGRESSMAN JERROLD NADLER OF NEW YORK: The next day, I switched back to the New York delegation to tag along with the appointment at Mr. Jerrold Nadler’s office, representing the 12th district of New York. Meeting with Congressman Nadler was much like preaching to the choir, as he’s a big supporter of Ukraine.

Congressman Nadler came in briefly to meet us and take a photograph but had to get back to the floor quickly as this was the day that Tom Emmer, the latest GOP candidate for Speaker of the House, was to get his vote, and Nadler was on the Democratic committee to choose the Speaker. I hope I got that right, but that’s the general idea.

Of course, it was all a moot point as Mr. Emmer, a moderate (still a few of those left, apparently), never was seriously considered as Trump, the great insurrectionist and Putin-admirer, spiked his candidacy.

We finished meeting with Andrew Heineman, Nadler’s Legislative Director, who offered some words of encouragement that U.S. assistance would continue regardless of who was elected speaker. I hope he is right because I have no faith that any MAGA politician is good for anything but sowing division. It’s clear that Russian trolls and bots are amplifying Russian propaganda on outlets such as X/Twitter, and some credulous Americans are lapping it up.

SENATOR MARSHA BLACKBURN OF TENNESSEE: After the Nadler meeting, I returned to the Tennessee delegation for a meeting with Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee with a team of Ukrainian constituents.

I have followed Miss Blackburn’s career for a bit, with mixed reviews. She’s full of fiery demagoguery on her X/Twitter feed and newsletters. She seems to have trouble telling right from wrong when the NRA, Big Pharma, or another lobbying group with lots of money and influence comes a calling.

And when it comes to Ukraine, she had voted against funding.

Still, the Ukrainian delegation seemed to want to believe she could be convinced to do the right thing. They were encouraged by the fact that she had supported a bill demanding the return of the approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia.

Yay…? I guess? We now live in a world where denouncing the war crime of kidnapping children is considered a bold political stance. It’s surreal. But I was not going to rain on these people’s parade. This was their moment to try to impact democracy in their adopted country. They still believed in it, and I, as a result, also believed.

Miss Blackburn and her hair swept in briefly like a Miss County Fair Pageant Winner to thank the judges. She seemed nonplussed by the fact that I, a non-Ukrainian from Tennessee, was in the meeting with about ten other Ukrainian-Americans. She looked at me as if I weren’t there, but I didn’t take it personally. They meet with dozens of constituents daily on a variety of topics.

Nevertheless, I did my best to explain that I’d witnessed firsthand how U.S. aid had saved both soldier and civilian lives in Ukraine, including very possibly my own when I was there. I tried to appeal to Miss Blackburn’s emotional side by speaking of the high number of amputees in Ukraine and the dead, displaced, wounded, and traumatized children.

Like Mr. Nadler, after a photo, Ms. Blackburn exited, but not before commenting on the following:

This so called “check on corruption” is common refrain from the GOP is, in my opinion, a well-rehearsed false flag. There has been investigation after investigation at the insistence of many, and thus far, there has been zero evidence of ANY large-scale corruption. Several checks and balances are already in place to ensure this continues, including the Inspector General Report, which you can read HERE.

We continued the meeting with her young Legislative Assistant, Mr. Brendan Scheimreif, who seemed to understand the issues well and was likable. I was to find that Mr. Scheimreif was a military veteran, which seemed a hopeful sign that at least he understood the stakes.

At one point, I had to come to Mr. Schmeireif’s rescue as one Kentucky advocate seemed on a mission to demonstrate that U.S. support was not only 1) inadequate and 2) completely unappreciated. She seemed to blame President Biden for former President Trump’s lack of Ukraine support. Huh?!

Her misplaced vigor was unhelpful.

She had pulled research the night before on the internet, citing articles by such non-credible news organizations as Newsweek and the New York Post (and these were her more mainstream sources).

I understand the emotion and personal context of the Ukrainian diaspora is different from mine. I tend to cut a lot of slack to anyone for this very reason (I never tell a hungry person what they should or should not eat, and I don’t tell a Ukrainian how they should feel; it’s simply not my place).

However, after she kept pulling the group off message for 20 minutes and browbeating Mr. Scheimreif about Lend-lease, something that is only applicable to the President, I tried to steer the meeting back to Senator Blackburn voting for the current bill that had been approved by the previous speaker, Kevin McCarthy, to continue support for Ukraine.

Mr. Scheimreif stated that Ms. Blackburn supports Ukraine but would like to separate Israel and Ukraine support to make things “simpler.”

Huh?

While it sounds encouraging that Senator Blackburn would like to support Ukraine, the reasoning for splitting it from the Israel aid package because it’s “simpler” didn’t resonate with me. It sounds a bit like another red herring of an excuse for not supporting Ukraine from the GOP. I hope I’m wrong.

Like Mr. Burchett, I offered Ms. Blackburn a free, all-expense paid trip (assuming that’s all above-board and legal) with the Raw Travel film crew to return to Ukraine. Again, we’ll see if anyone gets back to me.

SUMMARY:

For most of my life, I thought I was A-Political. I did not understand that simply living on this earth is a political act, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Inaction is a type of action, tacit approval of the status quo. NO ONE is unaffected by politics, NO ONE.

I still do not particularly like or enjoy organized politics. Who could, with its naked ambition for power and money? But I understand its necessity much better. Whether we choose to act or not, we are actively participating in how our world is run. Choose to do nothing; that is a vote for the status quo.

Yet, I cannot stand politicizing people’s misery, but I will not stand by and do nothing while people I love and admire are suffering.

Alas, after all the unjust wars the US has stoked or meddled in Central and South America, Asia, and the Middle East, resulting in so many innocent dead, suddenly the hawks are now peaceniks? It rings hollow. Something’s up. Something’s not right.

I’ve visited too many authoritarian-run tyrannical countries in my travels not to fight for freedom for every living soul, especially those so committed to keeping theirs as Ukrainians are.

Having tasted freedom in the past 30 years, Ukrainians are not keen to go back to Russia’s backward thugocracy of oppression and tyranny. Who could blame them? Once a mind has expanded, it never returns to its original shape. It cannot.

This is one reason I love travel and new experiences.

I even enjoyed this new experience in our political process in DC. I’d never advocated to politicians before. I have no idea if it was effective. But I would have kicked myself had I not taken advantage of the opportunity to try to help my pals in Ukraine remain free, suffer less, and become victorious.

I want US citizens to understand our unique place in the world. We are the wealthiest economy in the world mainly because of decisions made during and after World War II.

With rare exceptions, few of us have earned this relative period of peace and prosperity we and our loved ones enjoy. Great power begets great responsibility; if we abdicate that responsibility, we must be prepared to relinquish our peace and prosperity.

We are at an inflection point; the next few decades can be painful or hopeful. It is entirely up to us. If we make the right, common sense calls, we can ensure decades of peace and prosperity and go from a dystopian, miserable outlook to hope and optimism.

Like a good trip abroad to a new place, the advocacy in DC experience made me a better human. Indeed, I am now more knowledgeable about our political process and democratic ideals in general. I appreciate hard-working civil servants even more. They have my support.

And like any good trip, I met some fantastic people at the Ukraine Action Summit, whom I hope to remain in touch with.

So, this, my friends, is why I wore a tie for the first time in decades.

WANT TO HELP? IT’S FREE!

Please take 30 seconds to click the link HERE to tell your local congressperson or senator to continue to support Ukraine. It costs nothing (remember – we have the money allocated already) and is perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to help Ukraine and promote world peace for years to come.

Here are the resolutions we were/are advocating:

Thank you for reading. Slava Ukraini!

Ukraine Action Summit at Jerry Nadler's Office
Ukraine Action Summit at Jerry Nadler's Office
Ukraine Supporters Outside of Marsha Blackburn's Office
Ukraine Supporters Outside of Marsha Blackburn's Office
Ukraine Supporters with a Tennessee State Flag
Ukraine Supporters with a Tennessee State Flag
Robert Rose inside the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building
Robert Rose inside the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building
Tennessee Delegation of Ukrainian Supporters
Tennessee Delegation of Ukrainian Supporters Representing!
Robert Rose represents his hometown
Robert represents his hometown of Pulaski, Tennessee in supporting Ukraine.