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Georgia on my mind

A man and his daughter during the Georgian independence day celebration
Georgian Independence Day, May 26, 2023

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something one of our friends told me after Corie and I left Georgia. After living in the country for two years, he said, Georgia will be a part of us for the rest of our lives.

It’s impossible to spend any time in the country and not fall in love with the diverse landscapes, the unique food, the best wine in the world and, most importantly, the people.

As you might have heard, demonstrators in Tbilisi have crowded the streets in front of the parliament building along with other major squares in the city protesting what has been described as “The Russian Law.” Smaller, but just as passionate protests have been taking place in other cities in the country as well.

I have avoided commenting on anything political in these newsletters during the past three years, preferring to focus on the wonder and excitement of experiencing the world. But knowing several of our friends are among the tens of thousands of people demonstrating across Georgia, I would be doing them a disservice by my silence.

While I was planning on taking you on a tour of Timișoara’s Unity Square this week, I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a detour in this newsletter. We’ll get back to Unity Square next week. I promise.

The impetus behind the protests is complex and would take too much time to adequately explain in a short newsletter. To boil it down to its most basic narrative, the ruling party in parliament, Georgia Dream, has passed a law that resembles a Russian law used to silence opposition. OC Media, an independent news agency in the Caucasus, has an informative overview on its website.

The overwhelming majority of Georgians are pro-West and wish to join the European Union, a goal that is a part of the country’s constitution. When Georgia’s candidacy was accepted, EU flags sprung up everywhere across the country.

Many Americans are surprised to hear there is a statue of Ronald Reagan in Tbilisi’s Rike Park, and a stretch of road in the city is named after George W. Bush.

Unfortunately, the law pushes the country further away from that goal and closer to Moscow. Many of the country’s opposition leaders have been attacked outside their homes and their families threatened. The country's president has vetoed the law, but the ruling party has the votes to override the veto and it's expected they will.

It’s a frightening time.

three women holding EU and Georgian flags
Georgian Independence Day, May 26, 2023

On May 26, Georgia will celebrate its independence day, an observance that celebrates shedding Russian rule in 1918 and again in 1991. I was so grateful I was able to experience Tbilisi’s celebration last year, and I know it’s going to take on a different tone this year as the country stands at a fork in the road: democracy or authoritarianism. Regrettably, Georgia isn’t the only country staring down this choice.

The authoritarians in this world would like to make everyone think there’s nothing we can do to stop their march. They gain power through scapegoating and fear. It’s a playbook that has been used again and again through the ages.

I believe we have the power to throw that playbook into history’s garbage bin. That’s what being fearless is all about, and Georgians have always been a fearless people.

If I have changed at all during our two years abroad, it has been an understanding of how connected we are in today’s world. Actions we take can and do effect people a half a globe away.

It’s become more clear to me that we belong to this wonderful humanity, individual people across the globe who might seem quite different from each other but really have much, much more in common than shortsighted leaders would try to have us believe.

Our friend's parting words were right. But there's more. Yes, Georgia will always be a part of us. But when one travels, we also become part of a larger world. 


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