I had a post ready to go, a lighthearted look at paying attention to what you’re doing and the right vs. my way of getting things done.
And then Russia invaded Ukraine.
Suddenly, the world was different. So too will this issue of the newsletter be.
Friends and Family
I have neither family nor friends in Ukraine.
But I have friends who do. My wife has more.
The son of someone my wife knows was killed in action defending Kyiv.
Another friend has family in Kyiv. They are old. Too high in the apartment building to climb down the stairs. They are waiting for the next rocket or shell to hit, perhaps the last thing they’ll ever experience, unable to leave. Or perhaps waiting to starve. Or run out of water.
Still, I am far away. Insulated.
Frustrated. Unable to do more than tweet, post, or send money. Feels like nothing against horror such as this.
One tiny thing I have done, though it seems pitiful, is to write the name of the capital city as Kyiv and to pronounce it as is in Ukrainian. Not Key-EV, the Russian transliteration, but KEE-V. Like a Ukrainian. As it should be. For, Kyiv was founded not long after Rome fell in the 5th Century CE. Moscow was, perhaps, a hut back then, not reaching named city size for another 600 years in 1147. It would take Saint Petersburg another half a millennium to get recognized in 1703. So the Ukrainian capital has the Russian capital beat by about half a millennium. The Russian composer Mussorgsky knew this quite well and in 1874 wrote, not of the gates of Moscow nor of Saint Petersburg, but of the Great Gate of Kyiv. That gate, one of the 11th Century Bogatyr Gates, was built a century before Moscow rose from the dirt into a village.
To further correct the amateur historian with his visions of grandeur, the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian languages started splitting apart in the 5th century CE.
Yet that “short, pale man. Who is cold to the point of being reptilian,” as Madeleine Albright described him, who mispronounces Kyiv, still manages to grab your attention. Thrusting his desperation to be recognized as a great man into the headlines. For more than wrestling bears and going shirtless without being laughed at to his face.
His attention-getting headlines warn of a grim future. They promise to reveal each new disaster in Ukraine, threatening nuclear weapons, delivering photos of attacks on apartments and videos of smoldering hospitals.
It’s hard not to look, to read, to watch. Then it gnaws at your mind long after you’ve stopped. Even if you know no one there personally.
The Need to do SOMETHING
It makes me want to act, to need to do something. Somehow. Tweeting and sharing news is immediate but weak, and the lift lasts a moment or three. Money gets sent. But that is merely a click, adding numbers leading to another click. Feels weak, but at least I’m acting. I’m not the good person who does nothing when the bad men act.
Still. A few clicks vs. hiding in a subway tunnel. Or trying to walk across a battleground with your family and those few things you’ve picked out of your life to carry along.
More frustration and anger. Impotent. Grinding.
We must do something for ourselves as well. Impotent anger festers.
And it comes at me even when I’m not reading or watching.
The news and rumors don’t stop stealing attention. Ideas still nag. Worm their way into conversations and thoughts. Worst of all, they keep you awake at night.
This gives birth to the insidious idea that if you can’t do anything and keep reading, the anger and frustration will explode, and you can’t let that happen, so…
It goes away.
And that cannot happen.
For if I, if we ignore what is going on, then there truly is no hope. We become the good men and women who do nothing.
Perhaps not exactly the right word—hope—but I look for good news. Unity. People helping. The repeated Ukrainian victories of resilience.
Headlines with “Shock and Awful” or articles with lines like “shock at the ineptness of the largest army in Europe and awe at the valiant defense mounted by the underdog Ukrainians.”
Ukrainian military victories as well. Yes. Exploded tanks and downed aircraft.
Yet, that means Russians have been killed. People. Some of whom have appeared early to be ignorant of what was going on. Dupes.
But they invaded. And are pulling the trigger, launching mortars, shelling cities. Lied to or not.
Still, these headlines and articles highlight death.
Makes it harder to cheer—as if you are rooting for war.
Even when the villain is so clear. And the heroes are so obvious.
Still, I do hope for Ukrainian victories, large and small.
And every time I wake my phone, a little part of me hopes I’ll see a headline that the architect of all this misery has been assassinated by one of his own. A plutocrat. Or general. Anyone really: “Putin dead.” Hell, I’d even take: “Coup in Russia.”
Yes. More death.
I can only hope that wishing to discover a villain has been killed does not narrow and degrade me.
A luxury of living in Brooklyn. Watching. Frustrated.
Department of Important Words
Слава Україні! Slava Ukraini!, “Glory to Ukraine”
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.” —John Stuart Mill
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” —uncertain
When they kick at your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun
—The Clash, the Guns of Brixton
Whether bad men or evil itself, we cannot do nothing. Cannot turn off our news. Cut ourselves off from pain we can’t directly assuage. We are the good men and women that must do something.
The Ukrainians have chosen to come with their hands on the trigger of their guns. We owe it to them to help as best we can. For as long as needed. Donate money. Pressure your politicians. Read. Stay informed. Don’t let the bad men hide in our ignorance, turn our inaction into victory.
From the Department of Doing More:
An excellent article on how to give to Ukraine is found here: How to responsibly donate to Ukrainian causes
From the Department of Urban Art:
LORD VLADEMORT VS HARRY ZELENSKY
And we know who wins in the end of the movie. Let us make it true in real life.