Wednesday, March 9, 2022

‘Why don’t we DO something?’

     “Why don’t we do something?” my relation said, in a tone of anguish over the telephone.
     Ukraine, of course. All news dwindles away in the face of war in Europe: missiles slamming into apartment buildings; desperate refugees picking their way across demolished bridges.
     We wanted to forget COVID; but not like this.
     You know a situation is really getting under people’s skin when your extended family starts calling to talk about it. Reaching out to me, I suppose, the same way you’d call a cousin who’s a plumber when you have a leaky faucet. I’m in the trade, this thinking-about-stuff business; maybe I can share the inside story.
     I tipped back in my chair, put my feet on my desk. This would take a while.
     “Well...” I began.
     It’s human nature to want to insulate yourself from horrors. To exile them safely to the past — hard enough to contemplate cities being bombed in 1944, never mind to think about cities being shelled last Thursday.
     We also like to segregate suffering, not only in time, but geographically, as far from ourselves as possible. The genocide in Myanmar furrowed some brows. But it was in the former Burma. Way off. Not so much video, and what photos was got, to be frank, were not of white folks. That part gets unsaid. But it’s true. Human beings have a proven track record of toughness when it comes to shrugging off the sufferings of anyone unlike themselves. Which is not that easy an option for our kind when forced to see a cute little blonde Ukrainian girl in a bomb shelter singing “Let it Go” from “Frozen” in a small, piping voice.
     “It’s extra upsetting because it’s people like us carrying cell phones,” is what I actually said. My relative agreed: We’re all basically displaced Eastern Europeans. This is too close to home.

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  1. Lots of food for thought (and discussion) in today's column: the segregation of suffering; the genocide in Myanmar; the photos of nonwhite folks; the shrugging off of suffering; the blonde girl singing "Let it Go;" the displaced Eastern Europeans, too close to home. But I'm inspired to go outside the frame and imagine the tell-all books that come out in the next few years (assuming that the world survives) about secret discussions of what to do if Putin uses nuclear force somewhere, somehow or brutally leaps over some other red line. No matter how improbable certain events might be, those in positions of power must talk about what-ifs. And in this case, they are likely to be extraordinarily revealing and deliciously scandalous. Let's hope we live to see the day.


  2. A lot of good insights hear, but also some questionable commentary. The notion that we would have done nothing to stop Hitler without Pearl Harbor ignores the battle of the Atlantic, with German U. Boats sinking ships sending military supplies to Britain, well before the Japanese incursion. Germany and Italy declared war on the U. S. a few days after Pearl Harbor. And military aid to Ukraine has included more than blankets. Upwards of $2.7 billion, more than to any other nation except Israel, beginning in 2014.


    1. Thanks. You took the words right out of my face, the old and wrinkled one that has studied the events of WWII for sixty years. Public opinion was turning away from isolation by the end of 1940, after the Battle of Britain and the nightly attacks on English cities and towns, especially in and around London. The world saw how "London can take it" and Americans began to realize that we might be next.

      Then came FDR's Lend-Lease in 1941, and military aid (ships and supplies) to the British, and American escorts accompanying convoys across the pond. Shots had already been exchanged with the German subs prior to Pearl Harbor. Hitler's declaration of war on America, on Dec. 11, sealed his fate. No way would Germany ever be able to win the battle of the production lines. Or defeat all those Ford trucks being sent to Russia.

      It was two years ago today that my wife and I came out of a movie theater, for the last time, and learned that the country was shutting down. A million deaths later, I feel like my parents and grandparents must have felt in 1939...when the Depression was going away and Poland was being overrun. From a Plague to a European war. It's a hard thing for me to watch, or to accept.

      My grandparents were Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian immigrants. I'm glad my they're not around to witness a new war in eastern Europe. I see the faces on the screen and I see theirs. Or I see the round face and the blonde hair of my kid sister's Ukrainian close friend, from back when we were all so young. Her father treated the Germans as liberators, and then fought on Hitler's side. He hated the Russians that much. Ukrainians are a lot like Texans. Vlad the Invader picked the wrong little dog to fight, because there's a lot of fight in that dog. Slava Ukraini! Heroiam slava!

  3. The pictures coming out of Ukraine (or really any war zone) keep reminding me of Tacitus: "Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant."

  4. Putin the Dwarf's problem is:
    1. He's maybe 5'3" & wears elevator shoes all the time & is insecure because of his shortness.
    2. He has surrounded himself with terrified yes men, who are too scared of his known murderous tendencies to tell him the truth.
    3. The truth being, that his military equipment is no match for the US & NATO weapons being supplied to the Ukrainians & his troops are a bunch of poorly trained conscripts that were lied to & told it was a training exercise.
    His military leadership is a joke, as the defense minister, Sergei Shoigu was a civil engineer, who did well in helping out during some major flooding several years ago & was promoted to a job he knows nothing about, but he gets a fancy uniform, with a bunch of phony medals & get to sit at the same table as Putin the Dwarf, albeit, 20 feet away, because the Dwarf is terrified of catching Covid, as he's on a lot of steroids for some sort of disease. Rumors are he has bowel cancer & the steroids explain the puffy face.
    4. His Chief of the General Staff is another political hack of a general, Valery Gerasimov, who when you look at his Wikipedia page has a lot of useless medals just for managing to stay in the Russian Army for decades.
    Sort of like the participation trophies they give every child in kindergarten for whatever they do.


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