❝Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities, it went on a brutal offensive against our values, against our right to live freely in our own country, against our national dreams. Just like the same dreams you Americans have.❞ – @ZelenskyyUa pic.twitter.com/TeFXmylOy8
— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) March 16, 2022
The truth of living is evident in the act itself.
And the truth of what’s happening in our world at this present moment will shed light on the darkness made manifest, cast illumination on the acts of violence and destruction happening in cities and towns across Ukraine, and the voices of those losing their lives, human and non-human, are being heard in reverberations around the world.
We are all being terrorized—by an individual dictator gone mad and by the regime supporting him. He is not doing this alone. And he is calling in more each day to his cause, the latest being a Chechen strongman, a small neighboring country, Belarus, and even China.
Having lived under Putin for their young lives, Millennials and Gen Z Russians, prompted by the horrifying effects of watching the invasion of democratic Ukraine, are saying no to living a restricted life under a dictatorship. They are fleeing by the thousands into Turkey and neighboring countries. Having witnessed the 14,000 activists arrested on Russian streets, they are giving up everything they knew—lucrative careers and homes—for the chance of freedom and, hopefully, prosperity.
But mostly, to say no to living under a dictatorship. I can imagine they are feeling as threatened as those in Ukraine, but for different reasons.
Meanwhile, as the rest of the world watches Vladimir Putin wield his baton of evil, death, and destruction all over Ukraine, it seems he is saying to us all:
Watch me kill your grandmothers, your husbands, your wives, your children, your dogs. Watch and try to stop me. I will destroy your world with nuclear weapons if you do anything I consider to be a move to help Ukraine.
Those of us who grew up in the era of September 11th and its waves of fear, which still reverberate throughout our nation, understand all too well the energy of terrorism. It echoes throughout our culture, pervading our minds and dominating our thoughts. For months after the attacks, we could not sleep at night without medication, we wandered about our days wondering when the next attack might hit. We all know it ended with a manipulative war for oil, and we all watched as George W. Bush ordered the invasion of a country based on falsely claimed weapons of mass destruction.
Since then, our country has been riding a roller coaster of fear and inspiration, freedom and threats. As we went in and out of Iraq and in and out of Afghanistan, people watched with horror and concern as self-preservation ruled their days.
Terrorism, it seemed, had entered our lives in a way we hadn’t known before.
Now, we are inevitably being drawn into a new energy of terrorism.
On a humanitarian level, it’s excruciating to see the details of what’s happening in Ukraine while feeling like a larger war is starting to unfold. Daily, I cannot turn away from the concerns for the innocent civilians and beloved animals losing their lives. As I watch a PBS special on the life of Putin and listen to tales of the apartment bombings, I see manifestations of evil writ large repeated in his recent strike on the military training base 11 miles from the Polish border.
Who among us can sleep at night or go about our days with this level of violence, death, and evil manifesting for all to see? Truly, a satanic soul pierces through even the most peaceful of evenings.
I find it impossible to ignore what’s happening right now. While I struggle to not allow it to dominate my days, I feel it’s my human responsibility to know about what’s happening over there.
Do you feel the same?
If you’re like me, helplessness has become your gremlin in daily meditation, despair the kazoo on your shoulder as you walk through an otherwise peaceful day in the woods, and confusion as you wake each morning. It’s about as impossible to find focus in the throes of life-threatening events as it is to know exactly how to help.
The only thing in which I find a measure of comfort is knowing that we are living in a democracy. We are blessed that we were born under it—and now, we are seeing the authentic tyranny made manifest for those living without it.
Why bother reciting such a platitude at this time? Because I have younger friends who’ve dismissed the value of democracy, rendering a why bother to vote sentiment, or as with the 2016 election, relaying they were voting for Joe the Pizza Guy.
May I remind all of us that there were some who didn’t believe that Donald J. Trump, a self-proclaimed admirer of Vladimir Putin, could get elected?
I digress. I was speaking of democracy.
Democracy is a vital lifeline for all beings, human and non. It is a system not only protecting us as individual beings but supporting life in all its forms. Replete with laws for the threatened and the aggrieved, it gives us a place for restoration and judicial retribution. Inherent in it is the controversial social support for the vulnerable and the fragile, those struggling in our society and those just needing a break to make it through the next day. It is a protector of lands from the greedy, a sustainable form of living ensuring the welfare of all beings.
It is the system of government that I and millions of Americans have grown up with—and one we should be protecting now, at all costs, in whichever country it exists.
We need to protect democracy for the life-affirming form of governance it is. We need more than ever to say no to the division and the manipulation of information as the tool of war for which it is now being employed.
Democracy is a tool against terrorism. It is one of the reasons Putin invaded Ukraine. It is a form of governance created by the people, with the hearts and minds of all the people—not just the privileged few—at its core. We need democracy, and the defense of it, around the world and in Ukraine, especially, to reject the erosive tactics chipping away at democracies: extremism, conspiracy theories, manipulation of truth, violent insurrections, revocation or restrictions on voting rights, and limitations on free speech. Otherwise, we will allow our country to fall down the slippery slope into something far less representative of the collective will to enjoy life for the gift that it is.
We cannot afford to let our democracy slip away into fragmented tatters of what once-was.
As we watch from the safely ensconced lands in these United States the unfolding of events halfway around the world, we can remember the words of President Barack Obama reminding us:
Democracy is a verb.
We can regard it as an antidote to terrorism for the life-affirming, just, and moral system that it is. And we can defend it in our daily actions by speaking up for it when given the chance. We can vote when it comes time and encourage friends to do the same. We can speak up and act for Ukraine in whichever form we find suits our individuality and encourage others to do so as well.
The freedom for all life, humans and non, to enjoy our God-given right to life unfettered and joyfully, counts on democracy.
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