By Mark Ziobro | Managing Editor
The news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine under Putin has taken the world by storm. It’s easy, I think, to categorize an event like this and liken it to Naziism. Is that too easy? But why mince words: what we have here is a bully—a bully who is all too used to getting whatever it is that he wants—who found something else he wanted and decided to take it.
And I’m sure that right now, there are innumerable policy analysts—from both the United States and the rest of the world—talking about responses to the Ukraine situation and those decision’s possible repercussions. And there’s nothing wrong with that; those discussions should be had, and we have already seen repercussions against Russia in terms of sanctions, restrictions, and, as President Joe Biden has declared, the US’s intention to turn Vladimir Putin into an “international pariah.”1
But what I think is the most salient view to take into account when it comes to the invasion of Ukraine—and what separates it from “wars” in the past like Bosnia and Somalia—is the outpouring of empathy from the rest of the world for the people of Ukraine, and the camaraderie that has swept social media by storm.
This might have to do with social media itself. While various platforms are, and can be, nefarious arenas with which to do little apart from post memes and get into political arguments with strangers, it seems that with the invasion of Ukraine something has shifted. There is an outpouring of support for Ukraine. And it’s not just the country of Ukraine, but the people of Ukraine, which is a narrative that has—in the past—been left to wayside.
What I mean by this is that oftentimes the people of a country are lost in the shuffle amidst the idea of what is happening ‘to’ a country. In the book “Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, he references the ‘passive’ ways countries are talked about in reference to war. ‘Bombing in Sarajevo’ has a different ring to it than ‘Sarajevo is being bombed by [blank].’ By keeping the narrative passive, it makes the event seem like a far-away, intangible thing that’s very much not real at all. And if it’s very much not real, it’s not something that enters our collective consciences.
With the invasion of Ukraine, however, this is not the case. It is very much being called an invasion. And as the refugee crisis in Ukraine escalates, and the attack of its cities intensifies, we are seeing more empathy and outcry than in conflicts before. One of my friends posted about her 13-year-old daughter being horrified after a school celebration, decrying how we can celebrate anything with what’s going on in Ukraine, and how we can help these people.
If children are saying stuff like this, it’s also time for adults to step up and pronounce the same kind of empathy and understanding. It is, in fact, a moral imperative.
As for the situation in Ukraine, politically there may be no easy answer. The dreamer in me wishes there were; wishes that a hero would swoop in and stop Putin dead in his tracks, smack down evil, and let us go back to normality. But reality is of course not that simple.
So while the sanctions roll in, and while Putin continues his assault of Ukraine, let’s continue with the empathy, continue with the understanding, and continue with the outrage. It is 2022 and Russia just invaded Ukraine. Say it loudly; and say just as loudly that this is not okay.
1Source from http://www.nytimes.com; title of article: “Sanctions and Consequences.”