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Bender: A meditation on Ukraine

"In everything, there is opportunity. Even here. Even now. Is this the moment when oligarchs and despots begin to crumble before democracy? When authoritarianism is finally put to rest, wooden stakes in the heartless? When we recognize there are enough resources for all? When we stop looking to the bowels of the earth for power and start looking to the sky?"

Tony Bender
Tony Bender
Contributed
We are part of The Trust Project.

Like many of my neighbors, I've watched the war in Ukraine unfold with the mention of places that until now were just echoes of family history, most prominently, Odessa and the Black Sea, the point of departure for many Germans from Russia.

Many left to escape conscription. One of my ancestors took flight after killing a Russian soldier who had attempted to ravage a village girl. He was a big man. “He filled the doorway,” the family history reads. And so it was that he rode with the Cossacks for a time, absorbing equestrian skills that remain imprinted on the family today.

Somewhere back in Ukraine, our blood is flowing in the veins of those we've never met and probably never will. And flowing on the ground.

Here we are — the world — once again warring on the razor's edge, the height ever increasing, the fall evermore fearsome. Nuclear sabers rattling, waiting for someone to make a mistake. Overmatched Ukrainians fighting, anyway. Heroes born of the impossible.

It's not a simple equation, this history we endure today, the entanglements and grievances of centuries past, but ultimately, aggression is aggression, and that cannot go unchallenged. Let that be the rule.

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We are a suicidal species, an odd lot, capable of so much beauty and maybe even enlightenment. Our music, our art, our quest to heal ourselves and others. And our ability to throw it all away.

It's the uncertainty, isn't it? That's what torments us. Where will it all lead? This brinksmanship. A million calculations. Who will miscalculate? But uncertainty is the human condition with only brief interludes, it seems, of peace.

So far.

We mourn, we meditate, we eventually come to believe that some good will come of it if only in chapters we may never read. Endurance mutates into optimism, breath into hope.

Leaders rise from unlikely places. We pray for them. Courage becomes endemic. We pray for more. Cooler heads prevail. We see the neutrals pick a side. We see NATO coming together. Unity. We see brave Russians in the streets, protesting this war. Solidarity. The world sends relief packages in cardboard boxes. Kevlar vests. Bandages. Food. Reminders that Ukraine is not forgotten. And, yes, reminders of just how dark it is right now.

These crises are never neatly tied up with a bow like Hallmark fiction. They end ragged, clumsy, and scarred. Ah, but there's always hope that things will be better, that somehow the sky will be clearer, the sun brighter.

In everything, there is opportunity. Even here. Even now. Is this the moment when oligarchs and despots begin to crumble before democracy? When authoritarianism is finally put to rest, wooden stakes in the heartless? When we recognize there are enough resources for all? When we stop looking to the bowels of the earth for power and start looking to the sky?

Patience. Perseverance. There are hard times ahead. Dark days. Gut punches to the soul. Accept but don't acquiesce. Look to the past. Have we not come forward? Have we not escaped calamity before? Are we not better than we were?

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We may be closer than we Imagine. It's easy if you try. If we all wished for peace it would manifest itself in an instant. Pray for Ukraine.

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Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication, nor Forum Communications ownership.

Related Topics: UKRAINE
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