At 10:30 pm EST on Wednesday night tv programs were interrupted for a special report no one wanted to hear. War.
I’m sitting here, like millions of people, horrified. Watching a nightmare unfold on tv. Americans, Europeans, people all over the world, but especially Ukranians, who were being awakened at 5:30 am to the sound of bombing, too shocked, too frightened to speak.
I was watching NBC and at one point the reporters, I think it was Tom Llamas and Erin McLaughlin, just stopped and let us see the city of Kyiv, at night. We saw in the forefront a beautiful cathedral, a beautiful city lit up behind it. And we heard a moment of silence interrupted by explosions in the distance. The silence of the reporters was like a prayer for the lives of these people. And maybe for all of us. A last look at a beautiful city threatened by an enormous cloud of violence and malignancy.
And I thought, what will this city look like tomorrow? The reporters told us about bombs, missiles, and the threat of infantry. And all of this preceded by cyber-attacks, disinformation, all combining to interrupt the connection between the government and its people; the government and its military forces. To isolate in fear. Russian agents going through the streets looking for Ukrainian leaders or people of influence. To arrest? Murder?
This is now. But we’ve seen it coming, although almost all of us prayed in our own ways that it wouldn’t happen. Putin has been building up to this in Ukraine for months and years. And in the U. S. we’ve seen forces of autocracy, oppression, malignant greed, narcissism, ignorance attacking democracy and decency at the root. Attacking education. Attacking unions. Attacking a free press and the very concept that a news organization should aim at truth. Attacking authentic political speech and protests. Attacking diversity of thought. Gender, race, religious freedom. And many on the right, in the GOP are supporting Putin. Supporting Russia and war.
And cyber-attacks are happening here, in the US, too. Led by agents from Russia and other nations. Other autocrats. Not only in the 2016 election but since then.
Attacking democracy is not an abstract attack just on a political system. Democracy means everyone has a voice, which means everyone has rights and a bit of power, responsibility, and value. Just for being alive. Democracy is attacked so only certain people will have power, will have rights, will have value just for being human, alive. Attacking democracy is happening so one small group, less than 1% of the population, can steal the wealth of the many to give it to the few. Democracy is attacked so one group can turn other groups from fellow humans to items with value only for what they can contribute to the one small group in power.
What we’re seeing played out in front of us in Ukraine, the U. S. and elsewhere is the Shock Doctrine actualized. Behind recent threats to democracy, internet security, etc. is the threat of chaos. Loss. Shock. De-stabilizing society so even those not threatened by direct violence from Putin will feel threatened. We will feel threatened also by those who were on the streets of Charlottesville and elsewhere. Or from increasing gun violence, while that violence is indirectly protected by those who claim to only want to protect their right to own guns. (In 2020, according to the Pew Research Center, more people died from gun violence than any other prior year. The violence continues to increase today.) Many in the GOP and those who support them seem to want us so afraid, so on edge, we will accept the unacceptable. But we won’t.
I can relate to people, now, who want a gun to protect themselves, their family. Their rights. I want to protect myself, my family. My rights. But there are more important and proficient ways to arm ourselves. It is more important to make ourselves strong inwardly so what we do outwardly makes the situation better, not worse.
When we feel so strongly the horror being inflicted on others, and fear so strongly who might be next, it is our responsibility to make our hearts open and our minds as clear as we can. The situation is so traumatic that to let our minds digest information and think critically we need to be kind to ourselves. Empathic.
We need to be as literate about the media as possible. And question what we hear as we search for the truth amongst all the lies and distortions. Who is giving us this information? What is the source? What is the bias or perspective? Is it from someone expert in the field? Is it firsthand, second hand? Is it backed by a reputable agency or university source?
And how do we listen? Do we recognize the source as another human being, as fragile and tender as we are? And as we listen to reporters, pundits, neighbors, do we listen to ourselves? Do we hear the thoughts in our mind or hear sounds outside our room or home as part of the music of our life?
Do we feel the sensations in our body? Our breath? Can we feel ourselves as one of all the selves in this world? Can we feel ourselves in community with those in Ukraine? Can we take on minor burdens to help those facing the worst of burdens? Can we send *support to Ukraine in any way we can? Can we help those physically fighting autocracy by opposing autocracy here?
Only if we care will we listen. Only if we listen can we hear. When the world is threatened and our hearts are afraid, that is the most important time to pause and listen. That is a moment we can make a difference.
*To send support to Ukraine, one resource is Charity Navigator.
**This article was syndicated by The Good Men Project.