Election Law Media

Vityazes at a Fork in the Road

Uncle Sam at a fork in the road.

About three months ago, we as a nation came to a fork in the road. Some leaders were starting down a dangerous path of hate, greed, and discrimination, and there was talk of fascism slithering into our constitutional republic, of Russian influence in our election and maybe even collusion by our elected officials. What we see now is even worse than we imagined then.

It was time to choose between doing what was right for the country or doing what one’s political party leaders had instructed. Choosing country could mean having to stand up to the party, but it would also likely mean long-term goodwill with constituents. Maybe even a positive note in the history books. Standing with the party meant support from colleagues and other members of the government but strained relations with voters. While history is written by the victors, even then the party path was looking like the wrong choice, an unsustainable set of old ideas. Some chose to try to forge ahead in between, to try to straddle the median (or just stand back at the fork making no choice at all). Their silence on the issues, their lack of spine, became evident almost immediately. Still others appeared to believe that, like in the Robert Frost poem, they might be able to start down one path and choose the other path another day.

I came across a common motif in Russian folk tales which seems particularly fitting. A vityaz (which is Russian for “knight”) comes to a fork in the road and sees a menhir with an inscription: “If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse. If you ride to the right, you will lose your head.”

Many of our representatives see themselves as knights, elected to slay our dragons and rule over the land, even as they help themselves to what is ours (I’m in Wisconsin – guess who I’m thinking of? – well, he’s one of many). It was apt in my imagination to picture some of these people as Russian knights in the tale even though many aren’t even brave enough to take calls or do town halls. In Soviet Russia dragon slays you.

Late yesterday, a special counsel was appointed to investigate these “knights,” the election, and recent developments in our government. There is a lot of support for this FBI investigation by Robert Mueller and for investigation in Congress.

Some of our knights are getting anxious. Who chose wisely? Who will be found to be a vityaz, and who will be found to be a “Statesman?” It’s not too late to change directions now, but we will all remember which path each chose when it mattered. History will remember, too, who chose what was easy over what was right.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


18 May 2017

Link: The word vityaz is Russian for a Russian noble horse-mounted knight. The plural of the word is vityazes.

Link: A Knight at the Crossroads, Vasnetsov Viktor Mikhailovich (1848 – 1926), 1882, Oil on canvas. There is some excellent historical information at the link along with a jpg image of the artwork.

Link to original Tweet from Representative Adam Schiff.

Link: Comic at the top of the page is by Marshall Ramsey, 12 May 2017

Link: “The Road Not Taken,” poem by Robert Frost, published 1916

Link: “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” – don’t like that I used “Statesman” to describe an American knight? Wah. I’m excited for this movie. Besides, what else would I call an American knight?


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