Most of the time, the posts on this blog avoid the political, and world events are seldom mentioned. Instead, the focus is on life in the hinterlands of central Maine. I’m a homebody who seldom travels more than twenty miles from my town. I dwell in the particular, on the edge of a small forest where the wind moves through the tops of the pines and a snake sometimes suns itself on my patio and a bear once smashed flat our bird feeder.
However even in central Maine—far from the center of things—world events can dominate. With Russia invading Ukraine, now is such a time. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught me is that there is no “there.” What happens across the globe ripples outward, touching all countries, no matter how far apart they are. Once upon a time, what happened in a Neanderthal village might have stayed in a Neanderthal village. But those days are gone, and the United States is now inextricably linked to the rest of the world, from Africa to China to Russia to Europe. And as the twentieth century has illustrated, especially to Europe.
What will happen next with Russia, Ukraine, and the world? Naturally, no one can know. But Clif observed that while Afghanistan felt like Vietnam, Ukraine feels more like Poland. I hope this impression springs more from a sense of unease than from any kind of foresight. A world war with an authoritarian leader who has nuclear weapons is terrible to contemplate.
Amidst the gloom, there is a glimmer of hope. In the New York Times, I read, “Thousands of protesters took to the streets and squares of Russian cities on Thursday to protest President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine…Many Russians, like people across the world, were shocked to wake up and learn that Mr. Putin had ordered a full-scale assault against a country often referred to as a ‘brotherly nation.’ At the protests, many people said they felt depressed and broken by the news of Russian military action.”
But this is just a glimmer. Unfortunately, as we have seen in our own country, tribalism and nationalism are always lurking, and authoritarian leaders know how to whip up a frenzy for conflict and war.
Frank Bruni, also in the New York Times, gives this sobering assessment of Putin and Ukraine: “Embarrassment, vanity, viciousness: History never moves on or gets past these forces, which drove invasions and conquests in centuries past and will drive invasions and conquests in years to come. There should be no great shock about Russia’s audacious attack on Ukraine — only profound sadness and painstaking thought about what to do and what’s to come.”
When I shared Bruni’s quotation on Facebook, I got some pushback from a friend who wrote “As long as most people say war and destruction are inevitable, just part of life, it will be.”
I sympathize with that sentiment. How nice it would be to say war and destruction are not inevitable, and then have no more war.
If only it were that easy.