Last Thursday morning, while the sun was beginning to set in Kyiv, after a day of relentless air strikes, missile strikes, naval strikes and ground combat, NPR put up an infographic on their social media entitled Here’s How You Might Be Affected by Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine.
The post listed four areas of concern:
1. Rising energy prices. “Russia is a major exporter of oil and natural gas, especially to Europe. Russia could choose to cut off or limit oil and gas exports. Pipelines could also be impacted by the armed conflict.”
2. Multiple other industries could suffer. Ukrainian economic output and industry will likely be significantly disrupted. It’s a major source of neon and fertilizer. U.S. officials have warned various sectors to brace for supply chain disruptions.
3. A massive refugee crisis. “1 Million to 5 Milion refugees could flee Ukraine as a result of the invasion. At the largest scale, a refugee crisis would not be contained to Europe — the U.S. would likely see refugees seeking asylum too.
4. Russia Responding to Sanctions. “Various federal agencies have warned of possible cyberattacks on targets like banks and power grid operators. Experts are also worried about Russian influence campaigns aimed at sowing U.S. discord.”
That’s the list. Energy prices, supply chain disruptions, an influx of refugees, and cyber and propaganda attacks.
When Putin, yimach shmo, spoke last Tuesday night, attempting to justify a war that is unjustifiable, I had tears in my eyes. When he pushed through Eastern Ukraine and began a full scale invasion, I was heartbroken. But when I read through that post from NPR on Thursday morning, I almost fell apart entirely.
Tellingly missing from the list of Here’s How You Might Be Affected by Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, were the following bullet points.
1. You are going to see dead children in the streets.
2. You are going to witness war crimes including targeted political assassinations and the singling out of ethnic, religious and social minorities
3. You are going to watch a country beg for help, and you will see the world issue … sanctions.
The past week has been a dark one. A frightening one. A tragically sad one. And it’s sad on multiple fronts, because in the East, a country is losing its sovereignty, its independence, and countless innocent lives. And in the West…
In the West we are losing the bare minimums of human compassion and empathy.
I am a rabbi. I’m not a politician. I don’t know how to force diplomacy or broker cease fires. But I do know after a week of headlines of “me me me” in our country, while the second largest country in Europe is being invaded like Poland in 1939 — and after a week of headlines in our own country of trans kids and their families are being hunted in Texas like animals — that what we are in desperate need of right now, in this moment, is not just a preparation for financial hardship but a moral reckoning of what it means to be a human being in this world.
We’re not just losing our minds, we’re losing our hearts. We’re losing our sense of responsibility for one another. We’re losing our Torah.
This is where I’m supposed to say that this isn’t who we are, but you know what? It is. This is who we’ve become. So scared and angry and mistrusting that we retreat into the tribal mentality of Everyone is out to get us and so we better be out to get them first. Culture wars and propaganda are turning us into walking talking points rather than walking neighbors, community members, citizens.
This is who we’ve become.
But it’s not who we need to remain.
Listen, I know that we’re exhausted. I know that we’re frustrated and sad and that we’ve put up with so much through COVID, through partisan fighting, through an economic and emotional rollercoaster. We have. And we’re allowed to say that. We’re allowed to say that we’re tired. We’re allowed to break and cry and scream and let all of that out. We should. That’s a healthy thing to do.
Nobody should have to be kept away from community, from family, from their grandchildren. Nobody, especially Midwesterners, should be told not to hug or kiss. Nobody should have to try to read facial expressions and smiles through KN95s. It’s not fair, and we’re allowed to be upset, and you know what? We’re allowed to hate this. We’re allowed to hate what we have to do right now.
But we cannot forget that our purpose in this world is based on the needs, the hopes and the dreams of others. Without a You, we can never truly be an I. Without a You, we can only see distortions and refractions, conspiracy and paranoia. We cannot survive without a sense of obligation and responsibility, not to those we pick and choose but to those who are in need. The weak, the poor, the suffering, the marginalized, the outcast, the lonely.
When we lift up those who are knocked down, it doesn’t just make us feel good, it is a somber reminder that in a blink of an eye, we too can be the one crying out for help, for support, for love, for a small act of kindness.
And the only way we can move through this life with meaning is if we have faith, not just in God, not just in our tradition, but in one another.
I think we’re in desperate need of a booster.
Not a Moderna or Pfizer booster — though some of us might be due, so check with your doctor. We’re in need of a humanity booster, all of us, myself included. I think we’re in need of a love booster.
So let me say something here that we don’t say enough.
I love you. I love who you are and what you bring to this world. I love that you are part of my community, whether it be a local or global one. I care about you and will continue to care about you no matter if we sometimes disagree, no matter if you get angry with me, with this world, with God, with yourself.
You matter. You are created in the image of the Divine. And that makes you holy. That makes your life sacred.
That makes all life sacred. Ukrainian life. Trans life. Human life.
So let’s fix the post together, okay?
Here’s how you might be affected by the craziness in the world around us:
1. You might get angry.
2. You might lose hope.
3. You might feel alone.
4. You aren’t. You aren’t.
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