Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Well, here we are, five days removed from the rather fun curiosity of Tuesday, 2/22/2022 and our attention has unfortunately been diverted to a matter FAR less light-hearted. Europe is at war. A ruthless dictator has big plans. History, once again, seems to be hitting the “repeat” button…
I’m slightly embarrassed to admit my own shortcomings and/or memory losses in the field of world history. I’d be reluctant to compose an essay about when and why World War 1 started, or discuss the military brilliance that brought the second World War to its conclusion, or even name all the current members of NATO. In fact, it’s only due to a covid-isolation-inspired challenge to improve my own knowledge of geography that I can now point out Ukraine on a map. I don’t profess to be an expert about anything.
But that doesn’t mean an ability to see trends and recognize what’s going on should be summarily dismissed. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reintroduced historical truths that have been lying dormant for far too long. Peace is good and war is bad. I guess we can start there.
For all the tedium and slow progress inherent with working democracies around the world, we are once again shown why such a system of government greatly surpasses, on a very real human level, the medieval limitations of autocracies and dictatorships. Vladimir Putin, looking and acting more like Adolf Hitler every day, feels emboldened to invade and take over a neighboring country at will. There is no one in his inner circle able to persuade him to change course. History, like I said, seems to be hitting the “repeat” button. Kings have considered themselves impervious to the will of their peasants many times before. And we all surely remember reading about Germany’s invasion of Poland back in high school.
Ukraine’s democratically-elected President was formerly a comic. Most people believed him unready to lead on the world stage should calamitous circumstances of any kind happen to fall. But, man - he is captivating the world with a courage and fortitude no one could have seen coming. He is leading by example and we are all stunned to be watching.
And the fight and will of the Ukraine people has been - dare I say it - amazing and inspiring. We here are free to imagine a life living in their shoes, but there’s no way to be confident in our ability to react the same way. Could this unjustly attacked country eventually defy all odds and turn Russia away? Is it possible we may at this moment be watching David actually topple Goliath?
And the city of Kyiv itself - my God - how beautiful! They are showing pictures of resilient families using the underground transportation system as a bomb shelter, and one of the thoughts coming to this NYC-transplant is… their subways are so clean! Videos of people clearing broken glass in the streets can’t conceal how well-built and free-of-potholes those streets are. I truly hope this war ends soon and without the horrific damage so many expect; tourists from all over the world should be allowed to experience the beauty of a pristine city in Ukraine for years to come!
This is all playing out in real time and for all I know the end result will be beyond catastrophic and heartbreaking. But we have already seen incredibly hopeful and often surprising developments. Civilized nations, both NATO countries and others, have banded together in an amazingly unified way. Russian citizens, at their own peril, are protesting in the streets and their voices are being heard. The internet has at last displayed a positive potential in regards to international communications; nothing a rogue government tries to do in any corner of the world can be so easily hidden from the rest of mankind anymore.
Unlikely heroes have been emerging all over the place. Of course, Volodymyr Zelenksy is proving right now that democratically-elected entertainers can actually grow in stature under stressful times, unlike this country’s experience with our previous head of state. The brave Alexei Navalny has not let a Russian prison deter his efforts to speak his mind against an unjust war and corrupt government officials; could he someday rise as his country’s version of Nelson Mandela? And I continue to be greatly impressed by the women in Pussy Riot, especially their tireless and courageous lead singer Nadya Tolokonnikova. One doesn’t have to be born into power to speak the truth. Perhaps the arc of history really will bend towards justice.
The act of spreading lies without fear of repercussion nearly brought our country to its knees a little over one year ago. And now, the President of Russia is becoming unhinged in front of our eyes, rewriting history, talking about the Nazi presence in Ukraine while bringing nuclear options into the discussion. But the world is watching. We are not believing his lies. And even his own people are disgusted with his actions. Things may very well not go the way of his dreams.
World history is being written right now. I hope we’ll all someday be able to visit Ukraine and celebrate democracy itself. The vast majority of the world’s population stands firm and hopeful with Ukraine today.