Perspectives on Ukraine (1 & 2): Feelings and History

It began a few weeks before Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. People who know me began asking me what I thought of the situation.

I studied that area of the world formally for some years, and I’ve watched with more than the typical American’s interest ever since. So it’s no surprise that virtually every day brought at least one e-mail message, text message, phone call, or face-to-face query from a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker. What will happen next? How bad will it get? What does Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin want, and how far will he go to get it? Has he lost his mind? What should the US and the rest of the world do — and not do — to stop him?

These queries have become less frequent as the war has proceeded. Inflation, abortion, and the mass slaughter of schoolchildren and teachers are more than mere distractions; they deserve our sober attention too. But most of the questions I’ve heard about Ukraine are still open. I still hear them often, and they still matter immensely.

Just in Case: Christmas vs. the Grinch

Dr. Anthony Fauci walked back his Grinch-like verbal ranging shot against Christmas last week, but the only thing we know about what he’ll say tomorrow is, there’s a good chance it won’t be what he said today. So I’m putting this out there, in case the need for it arises later, as the holiday draws near.

Old Doc Fauci, his Grinchhood engorging, cried, “No!
I decree, because COVID, it shall not be so!
I command you! No ribbons, no wrappings, no tags!
No dinners! No loved ones! No boxes! No bags!”

He dodged reason all day, till his dodger was sore,
While Americans thought thoughts all Grinches deplore.
“What if we-folk,” they mused, “have a right to be free?
What if Christmas … perhaps … doesn’t come from DC?”

I’ll go back to writing prose now. And early Christmas shopping.

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Photo credit: Andreas Avgousti on Unsplash.


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The Afghanistan Rescue and the American Spirit

Displayed on a shelf in my home office is a wool cap from Afghanistan, a pakul or kapul, depending on which regional language you choose. It’s flat on top, and the fabric is thick and coarse. It can be worn with the sides rolled up for warm weather or rolled down several inches for cold weather, of which Afghanistan has plenty. It was never intended to fit me, and it doesn’t. I keep it to honor a friend of mine and a friend of his.

It was a gift to me from a retired US Army Special Forces officer who deployed with a Utah National Guard unit to Afghanistan in the first half-decade of our 20-year presence there. It was a gift to him from the tribal leader – more governor than warlord – of a certain region in Afghanistan.

Independence Day, a Sunday

This year, the United States’ Independence Day falls on a Sunday, my Sabbath. (I realize it’s not everyone’s Sabbath.) The Sabbath has long seemed to me ideal for “the heav’n-rescued land” to “praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.” Those are Francis Scott Key’s words, penned in a time when it was not clear that a relatively new nation would survive the British Empire’s latest efforts to reclaim it.

Independence Day: A Day for Gratitude

I’ve been thinking – about this day – that gratitude is a gentle, humble virtue. It may seem too ordinary and small to stand against its rampaging, chest-thumping opposites. This is doubly so in a tumultuous time such as ours. By any other name we applaud and admire ingratitude and shower it with wealth. Its symbols and slogans adorn our lives, both physically and virtually. We call it by a host of trendy names which sound so modern, so enlightened, so revolutionary. I’ll leave it for you to think of names that might fit here.

I think I know the full list of ugly vices some would ascribe to me (if I ever caught their notice) for saying this in AD 2021, but I feel a deep and enduring gratitude to Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Wythe, and many others. This includes thousands whose names I never heard or read. This embraces both those who fought literal and political battles and those who loved, awaited, and sustained them from afar. I feel the same profound gratitude to God for all of these.

On the Passing of Rush Limbaugh

I first heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio when I was a graduate student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The radio station I usually played in my car bored me one afternoon, on my way to campus, so I found another. He happened to be on it. I’d never heard of him — and was “Rush” even a name?

I had a degree in Political Science by then. I’d worked on several political campaigns and interned at the US Senate. I had even been the token conservative on the op/ed page of an off-campus weekly newspaper. So I wasn’t new to politics and government. More to the point, I had devoured Ronald Reagan’s daily radio spots in the 1970s. Morning after morning the future president talked political sense, and he was, of course, charming and well spoken.

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea — But Usually Mine

By comparison, Rush was brazen, bombastic, and sometimes completely over the top. He held forth for hours at a time, not just minutes. He was also entertaining – outright funny – in a way I haven’t found in other talk radio personalities. I quickly appreciated that his overblown radio persona was a way of poking fun at Rush Limbaugh, a way of not taking life too seriously. This allowed me to enjoy it, rather than despise him for it.

Silver Linings and Points of Light

I share many Americans’ gloom in the present political moment. My conservative concerns are legion. But I see points of light in the night sky. I see silver linings to the dark clouds, suggesting the light still burns beyond them.

To be sure, I don’t always write cheerfully.

  • Four posts ago I wrote about not giving ourselves permission to hate people. Hatred is as dark as darkness gets.
  • Three posts ago I wrote about social media censorship and possible measures against it — for a future day when we may have a government which isn’t in bed with Big Tech.
  • Two posts ago I wrote about the rush to reimpeachment and its motives. My thoughts were not sweetness and light.
  • Last time I described a dark and detailed dream about freedom, truth, and their enemies’ raging lust for power. I’ll let you decide, when you read it, whether you think it was really just a dream.

In one or two of those sober posts, and in private conversations with several readers, in person and online, I promised happy thoughts to come — because there are some.

I have three potentially therapeutic things for you. (In some cases I may have to explain the cheering effect.) They are danger signs we don’t see yet, those happy thoughts I promised, and things to do.

Thank God It Was Just a Dream

You know those dreams we have occasionally (at least I do) that are so horrific, humiliating, or bizarre — and so detailed — that our first waking thought is, “Thank God it was just a dream”? And our second and third thoughts echo the first?

Thank God it was just a dream.

Some few may think my dream was idyllic, but I knew right away that for me it was a nightmare. Here was an early clue: I dreamt of a world where hatred was okay, even encouraged, as long as you hated the right people. (Or would that be the wrong people?) And hatred could justify practically anything.

It was a vivid, multifaceted dream.

Twitter Doesn’t Like Free Speech. They’re Not Alone.

Twitter’s leftist partisanship has grown more overt in recent months. Likewise YouTube and Google generally, and Facebook. Lately they’ve trumpeted it for all to hear, to the great delight of American leftists, whose commitment to free speech shrinks as their power grows.

(Note: Some leftists’ delight is not complete. They publicly blame the Big Tech leviathans for not suppressing even more political speech they dislike.)

I Don’t Need Twitter (Mostly)

I never followed President Trump on Twitter, and I don’t recall ever seeing one of his tweets in its natural habitat. I’ve only seen them in stories and columns about his tweets. But on Friday afternoon I read Twitter’s absurd justification for banning a President of the United States, and I went home and deleted four of my five Twitter accounts. At the time I didn’t realize I was part of a trend.

Something We All Can Do: Stop Hating

I wrote very recently of the 2020 election and its aftermath, and I didn’t plan to write today. I try to avoid politics on my Sabbath, in my reading, writing, and posting. Today I’m making an exception, as hatred rages through our public square a little more overtly than before — an exception for a thought which for some is religious, and for others is at least moral, not simply political, I hope.

One Nation, Not So Much

Whatever sources you choose to consume and believe, the news abounds with evidence that Americans are not a united people. Unity for its own sake is of limited wisdom and value, but unity based on true principles and righteous purposes is precious beyond rubies. Disunity is unstable, uncomfortable, and often dangerous, if cultivated.