A Midwestern American Man’s Take On Ukraine
I took my two twelve year olds canoeing, here in Minnesota last July. It brought back so many memories. Just being alone on a river and hearing no artificial noise was well worth the price of admission.
Then, as if to further and more certainly confirm that the event was anointed, there was a moment when a bald eagle flew overhead into view.
Can we talk about the bald eagle for a minute? Is there anything good that a bald eagle doesn’t represent? Is there anything good that a bald eagle doesn’t call to mind?
When I see a bald eagle, I might as well see Jesus. Remember that “I Can Only Imagine” Christian song? It even made the Kohl’s playlist? Remember? “I can only imagine/what hmm mm mmhm hmm?…what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus!? Or in awe of you be still!?” Imagine nevermore. After seeing a bald eagle, I can tell you what seeing Jesus actually feels like.
Awe, then happy, then awe, then somber, then awe, then special, then awe, then at peace, then awe, then blessed, then awe, then talkative, then awe, then warm, then awe, then good.
On a river in Minnesota we saw a bald eagle. It felt good.
Then, to our surprise, we saw a second large bird playfully follow and engage the bald eagle. The second bird had a speckled appearance. It did not have a white head.
When we arrived home, I googled this second bird. It turns out, as you may have guessed, that bald eagles don’t have the white (bald) head until they’re fully grown.
Did I mention that I saw a bald eagle on the river that day? I did.
Truly, when I saw that bald eagle, I saw America.
The bald eagle is America.
The young bald eagle, then, is Europe.
Ukraine is a bald eagle egg.
Should the USA help Ukraine? Sure. We want more bald eagles.
But the USA should not send its own men and women to fight Russia, anymore than the adult bald eagle can get back inside the egg.
It’d be disingenuous. It’d be unnatural.
Ukraine’s real competition, if it were actually a country (I still say, ‘Ukraine is not a country’), is us—not Russia.
How We Feelin’?
I like the conservative hawks who say we’re not fulfilling our mission as World Good Guy.
I do not like all the conflicting reports.
I feel embarrassed that I questioned Zelensky’s motives at the outset.
I hate it when otherwise honest people will bully their way through a conversation and say, “Whether or not it’s true, it’s helpful because it motivates” about things like the stupid Ghost of Kyiv or some Russian soldier body count.
Generally, we seem to be living in a time period where we have totally forgotten how to work with a liar. The way to do it is by his/their actions. Actions don’t lie.
I’m tired of hearing how “we” are trying to figure out what is in Putin’s mind.
I’m very tired of WWII comparisons. I’m not a child. I don’t need an analogy. And I’m pretty sure that there are tens, if not hundreds, of nuances to this invasion of Ukraine by Russia that make it fundamentally different than the invasion of Poland all those years ago.
I was worried about nuclear attack Sunday, but I’m not worried anymore. And that worries me.
I still believe, but haven’t taken the time to back it up with research, that Zelensky is nowhere close to George Washington. Or other great American generals. He has said some strong statements. But I’m not inspired to virtue by them. (And don’t tell me how rare GW is. That changes nothing about my point. My point is we’re only a few cities away from Zelensky’s speeches being pure propaganda.)
The thing I dislike most about LeBron James are the moments I can tell that he remembers he is on camera. His face changes. It’s uncomfortable to watch. I don’t recall Jordan ever letting on that he cared about the cameras. I think I’m talking about something related to focus. If you know what I’m referring to, then you know how I feel about the leaders of the West right now. They’re not behaving out of true belief. They’re believing that they’re participating in a “photo op”. Their vanity is on full display. “History will show we did the right thing,” their actions and speeches say. Give me a break. Walking out of a “zoom call” is not exactly a sit in. Or an assassination by mob.
I told a German friend who’d made some, imho, wild predictions about this week that I’d call him this Sunday if all his predictions were wrong. He said, “Feel free. I hope I am wrong.” I don’t think I will anymore.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a European watching this invasion.
I do know what it’s like to be an American watching this invasion. It feels like bombs and missiles really aren’t as powerful or lethal as movies would have us believe.
Enough about me. How about you? How we feelin’?
Step 2: Gather The Data
For review. Note the legend on the bottom left.
In short, the “red line” (which when crossed by Russians will trigger unmentionable alterations to our lives) is actually blue on this map.
Step 3 is “List all possible solutions.” I mention it so you know. But I’m still at Step 2.
What Did I Expect?
The media coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is appalling. It is inhumane, inconsiderate, and inept.
Inhumane because it contains no truth. I’m not in Ukraine, so how could I possibly know I’m being lied to? Because I’m an American and tradition holds that Russian leaders are incapable of telling the truth. But more than that, because President Zelensky’s comments betray the same tone and tenor as community activists and Greta Thunberg. By his comments, he seems to revel in this oddly fortunate opportunity to become an influencer.
Inconsiderate because if some of the numbers are correct, then the gravity of the situation needs be elevated dramatically. The US troop deaths in nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan sits under 2,000. The media is asking us to believe (because some politician heard some other politician say so) that 3,500 Russians have died in three days. And don’t get me started on this Ukrainian fighter pilot. I had heard 6, and then later I heard 8 kills in one day. An “ace (five kills)-in-a-day”, the claim. The last verified ace-in-a-day was in WWII. Truth matters. But then, the media coverage wouldn’t understand that idea, because they don’t believe in evil.
Inept because at their core, the media do not believe in evil. To them, it’s a catchy word—one of many. Fun to write. But they truly are watching without any sense of evil. A bomb explodes, they wonder how their expression looked on camera. “How was I? Fearful? Hopefully not cowardly? A balance of compelling and showing the true danger I am in, that’s what I want. Can we shoot it again?” And more than this, they look to others for what just happened. “They’re telling me that sound was…” But make no mistake, the media does not believe in evil. So the coverage is inept. It’s lackadaisical. Boring. The media seems to believe it is competing with fashion news, with San Francisco school board elections regarding a pandemic that ended two weeks ago at the Super Bowl.
What did I expect? They don’t believe in evil.
I went to bed a bit unnerved. I had in mind a post which I would title, “War—At Least That’s The Rumor.” This was because everything in the news about the “full scale invasion” was seemingly based on “I heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another…”
Then I woke up and checked the news and still was not liking the tone, tenor, and lack of first-hand accounts. So I changed my tune. My post was now going to be a comparison of headlines from WW1 and WW2 opening days. The point being to show the stark contrast between what’s happening today (I believe to be a veritable blip) compared to actual war.
But then I found video which purported to be, and evidently was, a plane zooming overhead and dropping ordinance that explodes in due course below.
As a pilot, and as a former Air Force pilot, I couldn’t help but wonder what that pilot was thinking. Was he a true believer, like I was for my country? Or was he praying to his maker, “Forgive me, for I have sinned,” as he launched the weapon, under gunpoint?
We know that the pilots of Iraqi Air Force were not exactly interested to fly the night of our invasion of Iraq. The popular legend is many, if not all, defected as quick as their jet could fly. And I heard one USAF F-15 pilot tell the story of his shoot-down, very anti-climatic, and also relate that other Iraqis were shot down over the airport before they could get their landing gear up.
For me, there will always be a distinction between someone pressing a button in a remote location to launch missiles, and a pilot actually dropping bombs, when ascertaining the seriousness of the war/conflict. The distinction being: the pilot is already mobile. He could elect to not drop the bombs and instead “defect”.
So I want to know what the pilots are thinking.
But mostly, I’m just feeling confused. I will never mean to cause fear—far from it. But at this moment, I think it’s safe to say that this confusion wasn’t present two days ago. And it only slightly built last night after my bravado-filled prediction that cooler heads would prevail proved terribly naïve. And I must admit that this feeling of confusion itself is probably a sign that things are worse, than better. Again, not to cause fear, just to tell the truth.
Mind made up.
I am gonna stick with my training. “Step 1- Recognize the Problem.”
Problem- “I am unable to get clarity on the implications of the attack of Ukraine by formal Russian forces. The lack of clarity is driven by ignorance of the situation. ‘What about the 14,000 lives lost previously in some local fighting? How is this different?’ for example.”
“Step 2- Gather All the Data.”
I need to time for this step. We in the peanut gallery all do.
While we wait, I’ll conclude by saying this: I need to stop worrying about “what it means if…” Right now decisiveness on the battlefield is needed. If Ukraine is vitally important to us, let’s go win. Starting, like, yesterday. If Ukraine is not vitally important, then shame on them for not joining NATO sooner. The world could stand to learn a lesson about “choosing sides”. USA all the way.
I’ve Completed My Investigation Into What The Heck Is Going On with Russia and Ukraine
I’ve completed my investigation into what the heck is going on with Russia and Ukraine.
But before we get to the results, I want to share what was fun about the investigation.
First, I learned or re-learned that I like history more than advice.
The first major reading I did was of a series of three essays and the first essay was history, whereas the third was advice for stability etc. History of the region? Exciting and interesting. Compelling too. I never have known much about Russia. And I had totally forgot, if I ever knew, that Ukraine is on the west side. Reading the history brought back memories of when I looked on a map for Moscow after reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. He had made the big point that Napoleon turned around when he got to Moscow. Boy was I disappointed to see how near Europe Moscow really is. Napoleon really did peter out.
Anyhow, similar thing this time. Ukraine was in a totally different spot than I had pictured. Knowing the geography actually helps the headlines make sense.
Secondly, I randomly had extra time to read with A- the other night and was feeling like one hour of Swiss Family Robinson would be a bit much, so we switched to the Book of Knowledge Children’s Encyclopedia thirty minutes in, specifically to Volume 1’s first sections on World History. There, in an early paragraph, we came across this sentence, “While the whole of Russian history shows the effort of a landlocked people to reach the shores of the seas, which were for thousands of years the only really convenient highways of trade and communication.”
What fun! Reading really does invigorate the soul. “…the effort of a landlocked people to reach the shores of the seas…”
So, now, here’s the result of my investigation: Russia wants to get to the Black Sea in a bigger way. On the other side, the West believes the people of Ukraine should get to rule themselves by virtue of their being human beings.
Regarding Russia’s desire, that Ukraine was or was not previously a part of Russia or the USSR or whatnot is besides the point. Put differently, to be faithful to reality we must acknowledge that Russia wants something tangible, something that all parties can agree is or is not real. Either Russia has ports in the Black Sea or not. Either Russia’s boundaries extend to the Black Sea in Ukraine’s place or not.
Also, we need to say Russia isn’t crazy for the wanting-the-Black-Sea bit. But Russia is maintaining an un-Western, and specifically un-American, belief when it brings force to Ukraine instead of a soapbox or a stump.
Conversely, the West, specifically America, isn’t wrong for choosing to oppose Russia’s action, but if America cannot get Russia to engage us on our terms, then everyone is literally talking past each other. And if this is the case, it truly is a fight.
For all I care, the country Russia can have access to the ports it wants. But if this desire is not the result of representative votes of its people, then we’re really not talking about Russia, but about some one leader—Putin.
Next, I want to know, “Is there some reason for the West instigating the Ukraine-join-NATO stuff right now?” I don’t know. But it surely is a move that I’m convinced that everyone who is read-in would have known would result in being interpreted as provoking Russia/Putin.
The question, then, is what do we, the collective West, believe? Is conventional war truly a thing of the past? Or will there be conventional war once again?
I think conventional war is a thing of the past. So my money is on the West easing up whatever pressure it has recently placed on the idea of NATO and Ukraine marrying. And this then would result in Russia/Putin backing down.
Lastly, President Biden has a speech impediment. Never, never give that man a line which sounds powerful only if delivered well.
I mean, I ask you, dear reader, “Who in the LORD’s name does Putin?”
Writing So Good You’ll Want To Quit
I’ve been reading Tolstoy’s shorter fiction and almost each story contains writing so good that I want to never make the attempt again. Here’s a few examples.
From The Death of Ivan Ilyich:
Ivan Ilych knows quite well and definitely that all this is nonsense and pure deception, but when the doctor, getting down on his knee, leans over him, putting his ear first higher then lower, and performs various gymnastic movements over him with a significant expression on his face, Ivan Ilych submits to it all as he used to submit to the speeches of the lawyers, though he knew very well that they were all lying and why they were lying.
From The Kreutzer Sonata:
“What is wrong with education?” said the lady, with a scarcely perceptible smile. “Surely it can’t be better to marry as they used to in the old days when the bride and bridegroom did not even see one another before the wedding,” she continued, answering not what her interlocutor had said but what she thought he would say, in the way many ladies have. “Without knowing whether they loved, or whether they could love, they married just anybody, and were wretched all their lives. And you think that was better?” she said, evidently addressing me and the lawyer chiefly and least of all the old man with whom she was talking.
From The Devil:
During coffee, as often happened, a peculiarly feminine kind of conversation went on which had no logical sequence but which evidently was connected in some way for it went on uninterruptedly.
Well done, Count.
As for myself, I had a coffee date with a young lady the other day, something I have not made an effort to do in years. As is often the case in situations like mine, I told myself that I was willing to re-enter the dating world for several clear and distinct reasons. Firstly, it is not good for the man to be alone. Secondly, the idea of sexual congress with a woman has not yet become altogether repulsive. Thirdly, and ever present, there is in me still some remnant of fire, quite incapable of scientific scrutiny, that wants to prove–or fail trying–that I might yet possess some quality desirable to a member of the fairer sex.
As for her, she was highly educated, well-spoken, and cultured. And beautiful. On these points there would be no dispute. Not wholly unlike the much publicized cases of celebrity progeny, however, her parents’ more modest wealth still seemed nearest the root of her inability to properly arrange cause and effect. On this point there may be dispute.