I have had to rewrite this several times because my purpose was not to push my political leanings but they somehow leaked out anyway. In an effort to be more balanced I have attempted to compose my heightened feelings without my personal perceptions clogging or distracting from my ideas. These last two years have been very difficult. The isolation and the threat of disease has overshadowed our lives. And, just as things seem to be easing up, a war starts. Hard to find a half full glass around now. I have been in a constant state of unhappiness if not depression for over 2 years, exacerbated by the loneliness and isolation demanded by a virus that spreads through social contact.- the one thing that affords me enjoyment and purpose. But there are signs of change and hope. A new administration that seemed to know how to handle not only the pandemic but also how to raise the civility and respect in a country suffering horribly from rudeness and lack of proper social behavior. Yes, even I was feeling the weight lifting a little as restrictions eased and infection slowed. I noticed a few more drops of water were added to that glass unexpectedly. Things were looking up and hope was rising as the voracity of the disease was slowly ebbing.
And just as that ray of hope was entering our homes, the threat of war became more real as attacks on the Ukraine slowly began to tear apart the new found hope. It was difficult to watch the destruction being committed on the civilians of Russia’s neighbors and see my glass being filled anymore. Yet, I held onto glimmers and was waiting to see what our next moves would be. Our president was preparing for the State of the Union Address and I was anticipating it with less than exhilaration and more with same old same old blah blah blah platitudes and promises that usually don’t come to pass. The country is so divided that nothing is getting accomplished other than one side blaming the other. The President is being accused of being senile due to his stuttering which occasionally makes his words a little difficult to understand. I have known stutterers in my personal life and in my career and know that techniques they use to pronounce words sometimes elongates sounds or clips off words in an attempt to avoid the repetition associated with stuttering. Stuttering itself in no way suggests feebleness or academic deficiency. With all this running through my head, I sat down with a glass of wine and prepared to be less than awestruck. I was sort of half listening and sipping my wine when I sensed the need to listen more closely, impressed by the manner in which he presented his intended information. You could sense his integrity, and his empathy for a nation in pain. He was encouraging our nation to come together and addressed some of the issues that have separated us for the past 5 years. His language was encouraging, comforting and yes, even hopeful. He laid out what he wants to do for us average folk in America, things that everyone would benefit from. Democrats and even Republicans were standing and applauding. I hadn’t seen that recently, and for a few moments we were united in the common good for the United States. My eyes teared up and suddenly I saw my glass filling up a little more with my tear drops, slowly perhaps but surely! I was feeling good, I believed him, I trusted him, and I was reveling in the fact that the Republicans were not cat calling or booing but instead seemed to be in agreement with much of what he was proposing. I heard shouted ridiculing of President Biden as he talked about his son’s cancer, but that didn’t bother me much because of the source. That is sad and highly inappropriate. I realized about 40 minutes into his address that not one discouraging word of ridicule or self promotion was articulated and that in itself was so refreshing because President Biden realizes his job is to promote what is good for us and it is not about him. I smiled when he honored the little boy who was invited to attend the presentation and a few more drops were added to the glass.
For a fifty or so minute presentation I felt good about us! I felt we can work together and was thankful that he was the man in charge of dealing with the epidemic, a possible war and perhaps even pestilence as that seems to be the one thing missing in our experience so far. I felt good……I felt positive……..I was energized and hopeful and am attempting to hold on to that positivity for as long as I can.
And then my glass tipped over a little and some spillage occurred as the days passed and the war intensified. The images were horrifying. I watched bodies being thrown into unmarked graves just because the bodies had to be buried and families were separated all over the area. I am in awe of the Ukrainian people and their commitment to protecting their land. I am comforted by our reaction as well. The world will be suffering consequences but the consequences of higher costs can’t compare to the terror these families have faced and continue to face. Humanity has to return as a natural value of decent people. More and more I think the world is rising to the challenge and is refusing to be bullied by a rogue nation that just wants MORE of everything for itself. That alone adds drops to my glass! The faucet isn’t open yet but the degree of tragedy might just be enough to wake people up the dangers of dictatorships and bully authoritarians who want everything for themselves and their cronies and the rest of the people just don’t matter. Mr Putin, WE DO!
*Ya Ye Ukrayinskyy
Fifty-nine years ago – almost two generations past — John F. Kennedy gave a monumental speech. It was during the depths of the cold war, at a time when the Soviet Union controlled the German Democratic Republic and built a wall to around East Berlin to prevent an exodus to West Berlin. In essence, West Berlin was a free island in the midst of a communist ocean. Addressing this situation, Kennedy proclaimed to an audience of 120,000 West Berliners:
“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”
The wall stood for 28 years – almost a generation. It represented the prison mentality of a regime that detained its citizens, rather than winning their hearts and minds. In fact, the concrete and barbed wire barrier was officially named the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart” by the GDR: a wall to keep out the fascists.
In 28 years, it is estimated that only 5,000 people managed to escape East Berlin past the ‘death strip’ and over the concrete wall patrolled by the GDR. One of the folks who managed to escape East Germany is a close family friend. It took him two attempts. On the second try, he made his way to South America; then Canada; and finally to the US. A man of irrepressible humor, he’s had an interesting life – including the accomplishment of recreating the Columbus voyage to the Americas in his 38 ft. sailboat. He was recruited by the New York Cosmos soccer team, but decided to ply his craft building circular wooden staircases. You would be hard pressed to find a person who was more proud to be an American citizen. He is a ‘Berliner’ in the sense of the Kennedy speech.
It is of note that Vladimir Putin was in East Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall – fluent in German and assigned as a KGB agent. As things came apart in the GDR, Putin was credited as saving the files of the Soviet Cultural Center in Dresden, which included KGB files. It has also been suggested, but not proved, that he liaised with the terrorist group, The Red Army Faction, during his assignment.
One wonders how this early experience has affected his outlook and decision making. It certainly appears that the soviet siege paranoia hasn’t changed much in sixty years. The current Russian president seems willing to create a wall of rubble in Ukraine to act as another ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’.
Ukraine is one of the poorest nations in Europe, yet it has battled mightily to maintain its sovereignty in the face of overwhelming blunt force. Their bravery and steadfast loyalty is rightly celebrated. Perhaps we have not yet missed an opportunity to update the sentiment of ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ with ‘Ya Ye Ukrayinskyy’ – I Am a Ukrainian.
*With apologies for the phonic spelling!
I appreciate George’s offer of hope in his most recent post. His words convey the struggle he faces as he parses through the highs and lows of pandemic, war, extreme weather, disconnection and more. And yet, despite how overwhelming the daily bombardment of discouraging news is, finding hope in and between the stories, keeps us going.
Oxford Languages defines hope as, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” George goes beyond the wishing stage and helps us see, through his eyes, where we can see evidence of hope. He provides a path for us to steer through these tumultuous times by modeling a way through to address feelings of helplessness, sadness, and hopelessness.
Hope speaks to the future, to what is optimistically, yet to be. It doesn’t look back or flounder in the past. Yes, it draws on our earlier experiences and what we learned from them. But it then allows us to take that knowledge and wisdom and see what is in front of us from a broader perspective. It allows us to see how people and countries have recovered after horrific events and came back better and even stronger as a result of their struggles. I suspect we must look past the short term and hope the longer view will see the pendulum swing back toward more peace and calm and health and unity. In the interim, how we face the present will determine how prepared we’ll be to recognize the telltale signs of change for the better.
Today I donated to the children of Ukraine. Earlier this week I spoke with friends and family about various ways we could help and how we could maintain an awareness of the plight of those suffering the effects of war beyond the time spent watching and listening to the news. And while it doesn’t help those in need that I remind myself to be thankful for all that I have and often take for granted, it does prompt me to feel gratitude and give greater value to how I spend my time each day. I’m hopeful that more and more, people all over the world will make time to do what they can to make life more harmonic despite the challenges thrust upon us.
Sending warm hugs to all!