Throw the Bums Out!

In current American society, perhaps there is no mantra more prevalent as “throw the bums out.” The 112th Congress achieved dubious notoriety of passing a record low number of bills, and having the lowest approval rating of any congressional session. Of course, as Jon Stewart wryly noted, “We can’t ‘throw the bums out’ if we keep reelecting the bums!” This sentiment highlights the fact that Americans seem to love their local congressional “bum.” It’s all the other congressional bums that are the problem. And, as Robert Draper et al note, redistricting is making it extraordinarily difficult to see new faces in congress anyways.

Maybe Ukraine can teach us how to throw the bums out. A few days ago, an angry crowd of protestors literally threw an important MP into a garbage bin on the historic day ratifying the association agreement with the European Union. The seven-year struggle to ratify this agreement unleashed pent-up frustration with just how tired Ukrainians are about the lack of reform. Even this hard-fought step could end being a Pyrrhic victory for Ukraine, given that Russia will not let go.

The trashed MP, Vitaly Zhuravsky, was no friend to democracy. His legacy includes passing legislation during the Maidan protests that stripped protestors of certain rights of assembly, and sponsoring a highly unpopular bill that redefined and criminalized libel effectually to the benefit of elites. He also was deeply embedded in the egregiously corrupt “Party of Regions,” which is responsible for weakening Ukraine’s independence from Russia and embezzling well over 100 billion US dollars since 2010.

If Americans had to suffer like most Ukrainians have, I wonder how we would treat one of our congressmen, presented with a similar circumstance. What struck me about this video is that protestors made very sure that Vitaly Zhuravsky knew he was garbage, but they did not hurt him. Their goal was to parade him as a symbol of corruption, but not to torture. The crowd’s reaction seemingly succeeded in being both logical in its aggression, but non-violent in its delivery. They turned Vitaly Zhuravsky into a clown instead of a victim.

I wonder how American police and laws would punish citizens for throwing a congressional version of Vitaly Zhuravsky into the garbage. My hunch is the penalty would be quite severe for throwing the bum out, which speaks sad volumes about where America has gone. Ironically, as government increasingly bulwarks itself from engaging with its people, one cannot tell the bums from angels. We become cynical even to the good that is being done.

As Ukrainians keep pushing to break structures of corruption, Vitaly Zhuravsky’s tour of duty in the garbage bin might have done more good for the country than perhaps can be imagined at this juncture.

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