I am. The last seven years have been extraordinarily numbing, a relentless march of spiritually draining events. I can’t remember a more difficult stretch of time in my life. Maybe during the Vietnam war? 1969 was a remarkably bad year. I was young and oblivious back then, I don’t remember thinking or feeling much about it.
For the last seven years I have been witness to the rise of populism and the dispiriting and painful march of Donald Trump to the White House. I have been witness to his even more painful and dispiriting administration. I have been witness to his efforts to steal the election, corrupt every branch of government and then conjure the January 6th riot. I have been witness to the manifest inability of our system of checks and balances to actually check and balance. I continue to witness the growing threat of authoritarianism in my country, even as we rally the world to assist the imperfect Ukrainian Democracy and decry Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian thug. And just now, a commentator on MSNBC raising the spectre of Putin spoiling for a direct confrontation with the United States and then what, nuclear war?
Apparently, nature loves to pile it on thick so lets add in the Pandemic. I have witnessed that human tragedy, lived in fear of my fellow human beings and suffered through the resulting social isolation.
As I watch the events unfold in Ukraine I have been finding it hard to generate much emotion about it.
As I pursue my artwork, I have been finding it hard to get very excited about anything I make.
I am exhausted by the times. I am exhausted by the relentless flow of dispiriting and/or threatening events both at home and abroad. I have little emotion left to expend towards anything.
Or so I thought.
And then, this morning, something remarkable happened. Tears filled my eyes as I read accounts of the incredible bravery of the Ukraines, and how the war was not going as smoothly as Russia had planed (and all our military planners and pundits had expected). As I read about how Ukrainian colors are being projected on buildings and displayed in cities around the world in solidarity; about how concerts everywhere are being opened with the Ukrainian National Anthem; about a Ukrainian boy resolutely playing the piano as the bombs fall; about Ukrainian wives, daughters, mothers, grandmothers making molotov cocktails; about 12 Ukrainian soldiers choosing death over subjugation by telling a Russian war ship to “go fuck yourself!” rather than surrender and live. Yes, tears filled my eyes.
It’s too much to hope that this will be a David and Goliath story. But, something seems to have been awakened. For myself, I realized I had begun to give up hope that authoritarianism’s relentless rise around the world was stoppable and that even in the United States we might not be able to turn it back. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine seemed destined to plunge the world into darkness that would outrun my time on the planet.
Yes, it is perhaps too much to hope that David can slay Goliath here, but the Ukrainians have given me hope even so. Their valor has brought tears to my eyes. Their example tells me yes, we can turn back tyranny. It starts by giving it a bloody nose.