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Port: The problem is Russia, not Russians

Righteous concerns can quickly be obscured by more unsavory motivations.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella after their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 11, 2017.
Sergei Chirikov / Reuters / Pool
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MINOT, N.D. — Tchaikovsky has been canceled . At least in some parts in the world.

It gets worse from there. In the Czech Republic, where residents are, understandably, viewing Putin's violence in Ukraine through the lens of the Soviet Union's horrific 1968 invasion of their country, social media campaigns have suggested that Russians "should be visibly marked, maybe with a red star."

A Prague university professor has declared that he won't teach Russian students .

Netflix has pulled a planned adaptation of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" and other Russian-themed projects.

The New York Times reports that Russian-owned restaurants in businesses are struggling with backlash.

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Even when their owners are vocally against Putin's war.

Even when their owners are Ukrainian.

This is too far. The global outpouring of support for Ukraine has been inspiring, but we are in danger of it turning into a form of xenophobia. Our hatred for what Vladimir Putin is doing to Ukraine, and to his own people, must be tempered with a love for all the beautiful things Russians have given us.

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The same is true with China.

A recent article by Grand Forks Herald reporter Sam Easter took a close look at the hyper-local debate over a corn milling plant to be built by a company, the Fufeng Group, which is based in China.

Many of the concerns about this plant are entirely justified, and I'm not just talking about things like smells and noise and traffic. Americans, from the White House down to the most local of government, are grappling with the commerce and investments we have with belligerent and oppressive nations like Russia and China.

That's a healthy debate to have.

Unfortunately, righteous concerns can quickly be obscured by more unsavory motivations. Easter's article describes acts of hate and intimidation that are utterly counterproductive.

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If your goal is to raise awareness of problems with a project like the Fufeng plant, trying to scare people, or acting like a jerk, is only going to distract from your argument.

The discussion about what the limits should be on our economic interactions with countries that put millions of people in forced labor camps , or who bomb schools as a tactic in an expansionist war, is difficult enough without racism muddying the waters.

The problem with Russia is Putin, that reheated Soviet relic, and his cronies. Not Russians.

The problem with China is its communist government, not the Chinese people.

Hollywood superstar and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently published a video opposing Putin's war in harsh terms, but he began it with a lengthy intro describing his love of the Russian people and Russian culture.

"The strength and the heart of the Russian people have always inspired me," he says. "That is why I hope that you will let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine."

We must follow Schwarzenegger's lead. We have a lot of very difficult debates in front of us.

Let's engage in them from a place of love, not hate.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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