When World Events Dominate

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.

71 thoughts on “When World Events Dominate”

  1. “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. ” That sums it up nicely in one statement. We can hope and work towards world peace, but the whole must equal the sum of the parts.

  2. I hear you Laurie. Even on this southern tip of Africa it is plain that our agricultural sector is going to be adversely affected by what is taking place in Ukraine – and that is for starters.

  3. It’s heartbreaking. I am beginning to think that the only way to make change is for regular people to make noise. I applaud those in Russia who are doing that, and those around the world doing the same. Including you.

  4. The world has been watching the build up of troops for weeks, hoping nothing would happen and that it was all bluster. But it wasn’t. My cousin in Poland (I have a lot of family there) tells me that people taking money out of the bank, storing food and expecting the worst. Putin will just do what he wants until someone takes him down. Interesting and frightening times.

  5. So much sadness and heartbreak in our world these days. As if COVID wasn’t bad enough, now we’ve got a tanking economy, overt aggression, and a gazillion other things to worry about. Probably a good time to fall on our knees and pray!

  6. Well put, Laurie. With the world already on its knees, this is one more thing we definitely don’t need. I’m praying this won’t escalate and cool heads will prevail.

  7. Well said, Laurie. Heartbreaking beyond words. Heartbreaking for Ukrainians, for all those Russians wondering how this could be happening, and for the whole world.

  8. Well written Laurie and so true… what affects one part of the world reflects all of us, and as has already been said, we have suffered a pandemic for two years … the world is weary.

  9. The sad thing is that people have run to extremist thinking due to fear and fear provokes rage and more hurt. I do hope it isn’t like Poland, but it is not a surprise that Putin did this. I feel like it has been on the agenda for around 8 years – given that resource rich Ukraine moves closer to aligning itself with the west. Increasingly, we hear one side of the news – the version from our perspective only. This is probably the case in Russia too. One sided media and news services that promotes a them versus us mentality.

    1. Unfortunately, no surprise. But still, what a horror when it happens. I must add that the media sources I read have done a good job of reporting, and they haven’t hesitated to point out where the United States went wrong with Russia and Putin.

  10. Reading and watching, I’m taken back to my 10th year, and the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. I still remember coming down for breakfast and seeing the photo of the tanks on the front page of the Des Moines Register. I’ve written about that experience, and need to go back and take another look at it.

    I was interested in germac’s mention of the pandemic. A podcaster I listen to mentioned yesterday or the day before exactly that; his point was that Putin’s been in a bunker for two years, and who knows what that’s done to his mind? Depression, paranoia, and tunnel vision have afflicted hundreds if not thousands of ordinary people, and whether we’re willing to acknowledge it or not, Putin is a person, too. Another friend has suggested that real resistance may reshape his beliefs and actions. We can only hope.

  11. Thank you Laurie, so well put. It is heartbreaking and we are all affected. My 14 year old Granddaughter told me that her friends were talking about how unlucky they are to be born in an age of rising climate change, a pandemic and now war. She said some of her friends are terrified and worried that their brothers and Dads will have to join the armed forces. I have long realised how fortunate I was to be born in 1952 in a country with democratice rule. I feel for the teenagers of the world.

    1. Many thanks! Yes, heartbreaking. So sorry to read about how terrified your granddaughter is. I certainly understand, but sigh, sigh, sigh. This should be a carefree time for her and her friends. Alas…

  12. I was recently introduced to the writing of Rebecca Solnit in which she acknowledges the terrible things that happen in the world but also the vision, humanity and kindness which push back against the megalomaniacs and misery. I am finding them very useful at present because they do not deny the reality of World power play but reasure me that it is not all there is and that I can make a difference in my own quiet way.

  13. Well said, Laurie. This is a sad and frightening situation. How could we have let this happen? We have been so concerned by our own little problems that we have forgotten how to read signs and portents. This has been brewing for some time. in Britain, we have become weak and flabby; over the years, Putin has thought so little of us that he has sent assassins into our country to murder and attempt to murder those people who spoke out against him and then sought refuge here.
    I hope that this doesn’t escalate out of control.

  14. Fifty years ago I – and most of the people I mixed with – believed implicitly that things were improving, that the world was becoming a better place. Historians call this the “whig view of history” and, sadly, it’s little more than wishful thinking, an understandable indulgence on the part of basically good but hopelessly naïve people. Don’t get me wrong, I believe most people are essentially good, but when bad people get into positions of power, God help the rest of us. Putin is just the latest in a long line of his type, and although in my heart I hope he’s the last my head tells me he won’t be. It’ s so very, very sad.

    1. The image I have is of good and evil wrestling in eternity. (I got this from the late great Canadian writer Robertson Davies.) We hope that, in the end, good will win. But it’s never a sure thing.

  15. A thoughtful post Laurie. It is so heartbreaking to think of the Ukrainian people and what they are dealing with. I just cannot imagine. And I have such sympathy for the Russian people who are against this. How helpless they must feel!

  16. Laurie, I imagine the truth is complex. There may always be dictators and others bent on restoring some imagined greatness. Echoes of WWll and the German attack on Russia abound. Here the echoes are the many US citizens who supported Hitler, seeing him as a figure to be emulated. Perhaps history is nothing more than the impact of echoes bouncing off the basin of time.

  17. A thoughtful post, Laurie. Every morning, I’ve been searching for the latest news in Ukraine. I have great respect for Zelensky, for staying instead of fleeing as so many leaders have done in recent years, and for leading in the face of grave danger. I am hoping against hope that their fight will beat the odds and they will get their country back. Poland, too, is heroic, the way it’s taking the people pouring into the country.

    1. Many thanks! Yes, Zelenskyy is an inspiring leader. Amazing to think that not long ago he was a comedian and actor. You never know, do you, who’s going to step when called and who’s going to wimp out.

  18. A thought-provoking post, Laurie. It’s disorienting to me that Russia would attack Ukraine. I don’t understand why. There was no provocation beyond medieval desire for conquest. It would be like the US deciding to invade Canada on Thursday. I pray for the Ukrainian people and hope that this comes quickly to an end. And perhaps we’ll see the end of Putin’s reign of power too.

    1. Many thanks! From what I have read, Putin broods upon the past glories of the Soviet Union, and wants the breakaway states to come back, with Ukraine being his prime target. For now. Sigh.

  19. Laurie-recent events have rendered me speechless. Your post moved me deeply and it comforted me to remember that sensible and compassionate people-like you-walk this earth. Go well and Godspeed, my friend.

  20. Your thoughtful words captured so many of feelings I’ve had watching these shocking world events. It’s heartbreaking to watch what the country and people are experiencing.

  21. Hi Laurie, I read this a few days ago and wanted to circle back. You’ve written beautifully about the tragic state of events. Even though we’re not supposed to “be surprised”, somehow I still am. I always hope common sense will prevail. It comes from a place of hope and not naivete, perhaps a small buffer for my heart-on-my-sleeve way in this weary world. I admire the people of Ukraine and the Russians that are speaking out at great personal risk. I feel helpless.

  22. A profound sadness, as you say, and terrifying to see where lies lead – an army lined up in the name of ‘peace’ to fire on a nuclear facility and the people who keep it running.

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