Marti Lelko is an occasional commentary contributor to The Paper.

For over two years during the pandemic, protests over masks and vaccine mandates were constantly on social media, news outlets and shouted at demonstrations across the country. Mask wearing and vaccines were viewed as an affront to personal freedom. Some of these same people are now praising Putin as he invades Ukraine. Does he believe in personal freedom? No. He believes in squelching individuality and dissent. He loathes independence. His government decides what you read, watch, hear, do and, sometimes, if you can even live. 

You can’t on one hand say you admire Putin and justify his autocratic behavior, while on the other hand say you support personal freedom. Those are completely conflicting ideologies, mutually exclusive of each other. Those who hear Trump’s words glorifying Putin and are parroting him should take the time to educate themselves on the reality of Putin’s Russia. They need to understand how their lives would be changed under a dictatorship, with travel and religious freedoms restricted, limited access to food, state-run TV and the government regulating access to social media while feeding them propaganda. 

Oh, that’s right! Those praising Putin or asking “ Who cares about Ukraine?” are the ones watching Fox News and News Max. They embrace propaganda. It’s all they know. They’ve forfeited their free thought and bought into being told what to think and believe. Books that raise ideas and philosophies different from their own should be banned. Putin loves that! Trump certainly does. And as Putin claims his goal is to de-Nazify Ukraine, a lie with no basis in reality, Trump keeps banging the Stop the Steal drum: two power-hungry despots whose goals are not only to kill democracy across the globe but jeopardize thousands of human lives through the pandemic they mishandled and now a war they’ve manufactured. These men aren’t geniuses. They’re dangerous. And if you truly believe in personal freedoms, you need to wake up to the fact that these power mongers want tyranny. They leave no room for freedom.