Notes on Ukraine

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How trite could “When it rains, it pours” possibly seem today? We watched a situation thousands of miles away develop slowly—troops and tanks amassing, denials of concern, threats of sanctions. Then the lies came, as they do. Most of us don’t even know why the “the” left Ukraine, must less the history of two nations worlds away not just in space and time but in culture and expectations. But you can Google as well as I, so today I won’t give any links other than to this one. In summary, it’s a poor country, it’s known for corruption in its politics, and its history millennia long and complex. It is not part of Russia.

My take today will be visceral, the feeling of what we call “the pit of the stomach”: that place of stress, fear, dread, your favorite word. Viscera are, literally, your insides.

On Sunday, the woman giving the opening prayer gave thanks for the day then immediately asked for peace in Ukraine, protection for the Ukrainians. It was a somber petition. The hymn before the blessing of the Sacrament was “Reverently and Meekly Now,” which includes the line “With thy brethren be at peace.” A universal desire. But this was the viscera-impacting part: The HVAC system, every time the fan mechanism turned off and on, sent out a small but recognizable BOOM. It made the next two hours a bit uncomfortable, emotionally. (The closing song was “Be Still, My Soul,” a personal favorite which nevertheless brings tears for that phrase “Sorrow forgot,” since they aren’t yet.

My theory is that we think of people as being like us. Yes, there are criminals and malefactors about, but except for typically we are around good people about whom we can say the worst as being lazy, rude, incompetent, sloppy, and so on. Some are deceitful jerks, but they are the exception.

This expectation can be deadly, leaving us vulnerable to the actions of others who prey on our willingness to accept people thinking they are “normal.” This is a kind of mirroring, the mimicking of the actions of others but turned on its head in a manipulative way. This explains the many discussions from political figures assuming that all those massed troops and tanks were just for show and not for action.

The second part of these feelings is the fact that an evil person can convince others to follow them. Most of us have to expend energy getting children to empty the dishwasher. Obviously, this loyalty cannot be explained in a few words. While stories are emerging of thousands of Russian soldiers refusing to fight, many thousands more have decided that such a decision would be more dangerous than any enemy.

The resistance the Ukrainian people have mounted, the heroic speeches of President Zelenskyy (the two “y”s are correct), the countries throughout the world standing up for peace—there are other topics that merit further work. Today, think of your own reactions but consider some preparation. Some extra food and water.

The government has a good website. An emergency plan can’t be done when an emergency arrives. Before it rains…

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