As long as men have walked the face of this earth, wars have come and gone. None have been kind, just, or even acceptable, when you believe in peace, as I do.
But not all wars have the same global impact.
I see the unprovoked invasion of the democratic nation of Ukraine as the beginning of a war that may alter humanity forever, much like the two World Wars and 9/11 did. I say may, because this is a siege that, now in its third day, can progress and end in any number of ways.
While I’m not a historian, I think at best (and most simply), as with all wars, it will leave a permanent scar on those directly affected (family separations, injury to people and property, death, etc) and at worst on most of the rest of us, too. And yet with a strong, mostly united, global response, there is room to hope for a significant silver lining.
Right now, I sense that we are crossing a liminal space… that is, a space where the old (status quo) is irretrievably lost and the new is yet to be revealed.
Where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our world left behind while we are not yet sure of the new existence.Richard Rohr
This is a time of great uncertainty, and, as lives are being both ended and upended, a time of great anxiety and grief.
Yet in this liminal space, much is happening to give us hope.
There are encouraging signs that the wanton aggression shines a light on our better angels.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”Abraham Lincoln (First Inaugural Address)
Standing up to the risk of imprisonment and worse, countless thousands of brave Russians have taken to the streets to protest the invasion, to say “no” to the tyranny of their leaders. I’ve read reports that even some of the Russian soldiers dispatched to Ukraine have expressed dismay over being tricked by their government to participate.
In the poorest country in Europe, the Moldovan government, ordinary citizens, and many nonprofits have mobilized to welcome tens of thousands of Ukrainians with open arms, offering clothes, toys, room and board, and more. The same with other bordering and near countries.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”Fred Rogers
Social media everywhere is ablaze with pro-Ukraine sentiment. Most of it offers moral backing. Others offer financial or hands-on support. Some of it is critical of the slow response of NATO, EU, US and others, urging them to go beyond platitudes and give practical aid. But it’s starting to come, along with the debilitating financial sanctions on Russian leaders and oligarchs (and at a cost to global banking).
Most moving is the heroic actions of Ukrainians themselves in defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Not only have many ordinary citizens, men and women, joined their soldiers in taking up arms, but even the president has been seen in fighting gear. Talk about rising to the occasion!
All this taken together paints for me a picture of hope. Beyond the personal tragedies, of course. But in recent years the battle for support between autocracy and democracy has been tilting towards the former.
If it hasn’t been clear before, I state firmly (while acknowledging all these terms call for operational definitions) that I am a full believer in open societies, transparency, truth, democracy, rule of law, human rights, freedoms, and peaceful means of conflict resolution. In short, I’d like to see humanity get beyond the might is right and zero-sum mindsets.
Autocracies stand for lies, oppression, and abridgment of freedoms and human rights. It perplexes me that people who say they value freedom still support and vote for despotic leaders with large egos filled with hate and distrust, who think the use of force and violence to get what they want is an acceptable solution in today’s world. If only we could show them that there is no prince on a white horse coming to rescue them from their real and imagined fears.
The events in Ukraine may get worse before they get better. It’s far from over. It’s not clear what the tipping point will be, to where it will tip, or which way anything will tip.
But the kind and heroic actions of so many that we are witnessing while we cross this liminal space are in themselves significant and worthy of appreciation.
On a personal level, monitoring these important events has curtailed my concerns for myself. I’m feeling fortunate that my radiation therapy sessions ended last Monday. I’m hopeful that the worst effects of my anti-cancer treatment program are behind me. I’m still dealing with the physical aftermath of an itchy raw rash on my chest, but that feels minor and insignificant in the larger picture. In a way, I feel like I, too, am in a liminal space, but that’s a topic for another day.
Share your thoughts about what I’ve written or about these important world events: do they matter to you?
PS. If you want to support the cause, I am helping to raise funds for a UK charity operating the past decade in northern Moldova near the Ukraine border that has started to provide practical help to Ukrainian women and children seeking refuge. I have worked with MAD-Aid and its founder since 2016, so I vouch for their integrity 100%. You can donate on their Facebook fundraiser or directly with PayPal or credit card on their website. Any amount helps. Thank you!