20 October 2022

"We have no other options..."

Screenshots from Russian state TV talk show
60 Minutes. Sources: first three; fourth.

A widely-reposted excerpt from Russian channel Rossiya-1's news and talk show 60 Minutes testifies to the state media's tolerance of open support of genocide in Ukraine.

One of the guests on this show, Duma member Andrei Gurulyov, lists approvingly the expected results of the drone/missile/bombing campaign on Ukraine's infrastructure: People will be deprived of electricity, water, sewers, heat for the winter, banking services, jobs, food and places to store food; epidemics will threaten their health. Services that depend on Internet technology, such as transport, can be shut down simply by bombing the servers. All of this has, he said, one goal: to drive the population across the borders and out of Ukraine.

Program host Olga Skabeeva responded that she needed

... to take one second to make a ritual comment about the civilians: We're by no means gloating. We feel sorry for everyone, we love everyone, but we've been driven to this; we have no other options left. They want to destroy us, we're forced to react. Sadly, we're forced to react and we will react.

The very heart of the message is exposed: genocidal actions are justified because of the danger to Russia, a danger that never existed. The commentators' cruel logic made my blood freeze. There are always options! There is no trap except the traps Putin himself set. At his sole command, Russia could cease fire and begin its withdrawal this very evening.

During most of this TV commentary, scenes of destruction from Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, and footage of a drone striking a building in Kyiv, were cycled over and over in the background.

(Today's 60 Minutes program featured another ray of hope for Russia: If the Republican party wins control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming elections, U.S. support for Ukraine may be reduced, according to the featured clip from Fox News.)

These scenes of destruction and death—the ongoing consequences of a decision made by one man, Vladimir Putin, and initiated in a surprise attack on February 24 after months of denial—can begin to deaden our senses. As in so many other preventable disasters, compassion fatigue can set in. Is it starting to feel like this is the world we now live in? Do our horizons narrow in sheer self-protection? After all, organized human cruelty is on blatant display in Yemen, Haiti, Iran, and Palestine, just to start the list. How do we cope?

Here are a few ways I'm trying to cope—and I would love to hear from you!

  • I'm resisting the temptation to tune out. I'm staying in touch with Russian and Ukrainian sources of information, and with our own contacts there. I want to hear from sources close to the ground and not depend on mass media. I want to pray for specific people and specific situations as well as for everyone caught in the systems of evil, Russian and Ukrainian alike. And Americans, for that matter. Whatever happens, I don't want this season's festival of cruelty and objectification to become normalized.
  • I think I understand the impulse among many, inside and outside Ukraine, to isolate Russian people, but I cannot agree with it and won't cooperate with it. For one thing, the Russian anti-war movement exists and we ought to support it. I know personally, and receive daily evidence, that Vladimir Putin and the captive Russian mass media do not define Russia. I think everyone knows all this theoretically, but this isn't a season for theories to flourish.
  • The little community that gathers online each week, organized by Friends World Committee for Consultation's European and Middle East Section to pray for an end to the war, is a precious source of sanity for me. For information on this weekly opportunity to pray for Ukraine, see this page on the FWCC EMES site. Other online prayer opportunities are listed on this page of the Friends House Moscow Web site.
  • This blog has been a place where I can think out loud about things that have become intolerable. Thanks for your patience and support for all the times I've struggled to put words to my feelings and to my modest attempts at analysis. I'm sure others are experiencing similar struggles, inside and outside the country. Some of you are experiencing and risking much more than I am, but if I couldn't speak out this way, I think I'd explode.
  • And there are times I get angry and times I grieve. Do you? It's not wrong.

One scripture that I've always cherished has become even more important to me. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Rejoicing and thanksgiving may seem unlikely in the face of grief and pain, but I see it differently. Rejoicing every day in the love of my family and my church and my Creator, giving thanks for every day of life, is how I defy and deny the power of fear. Nobody can take those gifts away from me! At the same time, I consider that the main business of the rest of my life is to continue learning to pray without ceasing. I want prayer to become like breathing, both when I'm rejoicing and when I grieve.

I want to be honest: progress is slow. But being public about this goal is one way I try to stay accountable.

Related: Ukraine and the dilemmas of pacifism; the fog of war, part two.

Speaking of praying without ceasing ... one of my Russian friends sent me this link to an amazing and inspiring interview with a Russian monk at a downtown Moscow church that's very familiar to Judy and me. The interview is in Russian, but there are auto-generated subtitles in several languages. They're better than nothing. I may translate some passages of this interview here on this blog before too long. So far 1.7 million people have seen the interview, and there have been thousands of comments testifying to the hope that people have experienced as a result of watching the interview.

Georgia's white evangelicals (or many of them) embrace Herschel Walker. What might we conclude?

Greg Morgan on practicing hope. (If you haven't read Greg's blog before, I recommend this introductory post.)

Too much (Quaker) politeness? Martin Kelley interviews Johanna Jackson.

Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, and Albertina Walker, "Mary Don't You Weep." Thanks to Peggy Lear for the link.

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