Alan Znedell, April 6, 2022
I just returned from a funeral. Two friends gone in the blink of an eye this winter, very special ones who were a large part of what saved my sanity during COVID and the lockdown. Both were smart, fit, caring, generous, the kind of people we all wish we had in our lives. They were also diverse, as reflects our entire community. One was a progressive, the other a Trumper, yet in our community, we put all that aside in favor of what’s most important.
Robert and Jim represented everything that was good in all of us, and we valued them greatly and mourn their loss. They remind us how quickly things can change, not always for the better. Both in their seventies, they were alive and vital, and then suddenly they weren’t. Brain cancer and pancreatic cancer will do that. Missing them, mourning their loss reminds us of the sanctity of human life.
Not everyone is as special as Jim and Robert were, but we react the same way when any member of our community passes. In the final decades of our lives, we are all acutely aware that every time one of our sparks is extinguished, we all shine a little dimmer. Life is so precious, but not everywhere.
We now see what happens when people who have no respect for human life are allowed to run wild and commit murder, rape, and mayhem. Considering how the loss of two men has affected everyone who knew them, it’s almost impossible to conceive of the terror and loss of life Russia is wreaking on Ukraine. How incredibly strong the Ukrainian people are to stand up to Putin’s ravaging hordes. I hung a Ukrainian flag from my window a few days ago. It looks really good there.
Trying to celebrate the lives of our missing friends and to help their families move past their loss, we also think about the thousands of innocent Ukrainians whose lives have been snuffed out and the millions who fled their homes and are separated from their family members fighting on the front lines. At first, we even mourned the conscripted soldiers in the Russian army who had no idea why they were ordered to kill their neighbors. Russia being as big as it is, many of those military units were from thousands of miles to the east. I wonder how many of those soldiers had even heard of Ukraine before they were ordered to invade and pillage it.
The world sees their barbarism, the way they appear to revel in murdering innocent civilians. Many talking heads want us to believe that that’s just the Russian way of warfare: invade sovereign neighbors with impunity, ignore all the internationally recognized rules of war, (which I always considered a farce, anyway,) and destroy and kill wantonly until the enemy either succumbs or no longer exists. At the same time, wage a propaganda war of lies and delusional paranoia about Europe and America plotting to destroy Russia.
Is it really the Russian mentality that’s at fault here? I think not. Most of my extended family traces its roots back to that part of the world. If Russians were fundamentally as evil as they are being made out to be, what would that say about all of us who carry the same genes as these murdering savages? This is not the Russian way of warfare; it is not in the Russian psyche to have no regard for human life. It is greedy, power-mad, paranoid leaders like Vladimir Putin who wage war this way.
Doesn’t this sound hauntingly familiar? Don’t Putin’s lack of concern for life, his complete disdain for truth, and his brutal approach to dealing with anyone he perceives as an adversary remind you of someone? Donald Trump never ordered the kind of murder and destruction Putin has, but he callously allowed the preventable deaths of more than a half million Americans from COVID, simply because he believed it was his best path to increasing his power and wealth.
President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are entirely correct in demanding a world-wide tribunal to investigate the war crimes and genocide being committed in Mr. Putin’s name, while our erstwhile president cannot make himself condemn the leveling of once beautiful cities and the piecemeal destruction of a nation of forty-four million people.
All of this becomes especially poignant when we consider the loss of our friends. Life is life, whether it’s someone dearest to us, an ignorant Russian conscriptee thrown into a fight he never wanted, or one of the thousands killed by a psychopathic leader. As moral human beings, the rest of us must do everything in our power to push back against wanton destruction and killing no matter what the risks. Allowing this kind of creeping evil to spread and infect others is no less dangerous than the threat of nuclear war.