I suppose that anyone who really knows me has been wondering why I have taken so long to write about the situation in Ukraine. Then again, those who know me well realize that I often ponder situations for a long time before finally uttering my points of view. I like to have a grasp of the exact nature of events and the history that has brought people to a particular climax in their lives. I need to be able to objectively switch to reporter’s mode when I write, eschewing all of the conflicting emotions that roil inside my mind. I like to provide a more calm and studied view of the situation rather than one driven by emotions. Once in awhile, as with the death of George Floyd two springs ago, I can’t seem to muster the objectivity that I need. So it is with what I witness happening in Ukraine.
In truth I have been unable to fully concentrate on anything that I do since threats of a Russian invasion of Ukraine became imminent. Even when I am teaching, my most enduring method of dealing successfully with sorrow, I find myself glancing down at my phone in anticipation of an announcement from that conflict. I, like much of the world, go through my days with anxiety and a heavy heart, feeling helpless to do anything that might actually help the people embroiled in a war that seemingly makes no sense to anyone but Putin.
Then again, that is the nature of wars. They are rarely grounded in concern for the ordinary people who suffer the most from the death and damage that follows. Wars generally sweep up common folk in the power hungry desires of despots who rationalize their thirst for power with platitudes and propaganda. Wars are perhaps the biggest sins of our human natures, responsible over the span of time for millions of unnecessary deaths and the destruction of societies.
I have studied my genealogy insofar as the limited records allow me to do so. I have learned that my very DNA is a mixture derived from western and eastern European ancestors. Half of them came from an area of the world now known as Slovakia, a small country whose western border glances on a border with Ukraine. Like Ukraine the land of my grandparents and their grandparents has been a pawn for other more powerful nations like Austria/Hungary, Germany, and Russia in the more modern eras. Somehow the people there have managed to save their language and their customs in spite of efforts to subsume them into the dominating ways of other nations. They have all too often been little more than faceless people living on land that some other government wanted to control. Thus is has too often been for the people of Ukraine, a land filled with resources that Russia and other countries have coveted for much of history.
I feel the heart of the Ukrainian people beating with courage, but also crying out in desperation as their beautiful country is being decimated piece by piece for no reason other than the false pride of Putin who has often made it clear that he longs for the former Soviet Union and a time when Russia dominated much of Eastern Europe and its people. While most of the western world has united in its determination to condemn Putin’s blatant land grab and punishment of the people of Ukraine, our economic sanctions designed to bankrupt Russia seems to be a puny response in the face of the horror he is inflicting on Ukraine. Nonetheless the prospect of an even more globally encompassing war is something to be avoided if at all possible.
The tension and reality of the moment is all too raw and real for all of us as we watch events unfold in real time. The need to do something, anything is so frustrating. It dampens our own feelings of safety and security that we have enjoyed for the many decades since World War II. It reminds us of the times when our parents and grandparents were engaged for years in devastating global conflicts that eventually ended with the use of a terrible nuclear weapon that we somehow wish had never been unleashed on the world.
Somehow all of our trivial complaints and concerns seem silly when viewed against the courageous stand for democracy that the Ukrainian people are demonstrating to the world. We quibble over who is the better American, the most patriotic, because it is easy to do so in our land of free speech. We complain about higher prices for goods and services that even our parents never dreamed of having. Our homes are big and spacious. Our dinner tables are filled with plenty. We have modern conveniences that were once the domain of only the wealthy. Our children have unprecedented educational opportunities. Our medical communities are world class.
Nonetheless, we greedily ignore those among us who struggle to achieve the dream that we call American. We all too often look away from poverty, homelessness, immigrants reaching our borders hoping for a life without want and danger. Our generosity is often brief and reserved for only certain kinds of people. We only seem able to sacrifice for a limited time even when it is for the common good. We worry about our personal liberties in trivial ways, seeming to think that bending a bit to work for the common good is an infraction on our personal liberties. We look across the ocean from the safety of our living rooms to cheer the people of Ukraine while silently wondering if we will ever again be able to join together to save our own democracy from the forces of power brokers who take joy in dividing us with anger and fear.
I do not know what will happen in the coming days. What I do know is that we must be willing to do our parts however small they may be to stand in unison with the people of Ukraine and those all over the world wanting to be free. If we have to pay more for gas to move our cars, so be it. If we must temper our appetites by omitting foods that become scarce, we should be happy to do so. Mostly it is time for us to be patient and understanding of one another. The urge to gerrymander political dynasties must end. Our singular goal should be to create equality for all, to consider the needs of people struggling to be free from poverty and ignorance. Democracy should be liberal in its honor of a multitude of ideas. Our government should not be comprised of hard core voting blocks, but of educated and interested citizenry intent upon spreading the wealth of freedom to as many people as possible. This is not communism, but just the opposite. Surely that must become more and more apparent as we watch the Ukrainian people teaching us once again how dangerous it is to fall under the rule of authoritarianism. We must be better than that and we can be again if we open our minds and our hearts.
God bless the people of Ukraine. We can help them, but we must have the same kind of resolve that they have demonstrated. We must unite and show Putin that the free people of the western world have the will to take as long as needed to destroy him from within, just as he has been attempting to do with us for decades. Our message should be that we know what he has tired to do, and we will not become victims of his deception again. We are free people who will take care of one another and work together just as we have in the past. We will support our brothers and sisters from all over the world in the human desire for liberty. We will work to save our planet from the scourge of evil that so sadly continues in spite of efforts to move beyond such ancient ways of doing things. My hope is that we will show Putin that he has not won, and that we will gladly defeat him together.