Archive for March, 2022

Letter from the Vineyard 30 March 2022 Let us do some thinking…

March 30, 2022

War in Ukraine” by tkachukphoto is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Letter from the Vineyard

March 30th, 2022

Let us do some thinking…

Upon waking, several times since I last wrote, I have looked out, found fog lilting through the still barren branches of trees in my yard, eerie, echoing English mysteries, morning island magic, the stuff of dreams, encouraging one to imagine, to settle into comforting thoughts while sipping morning coffee. It has been luscious.

         This past Monday, the day dawned clear, sparkling though deeply chilly, a bright Vineyard winter morn as Persephone works her way from the underworld to the surface.  

It was an easy day, store closed, a morning Zoom with a young friend in Mexico City, bringing internet to those who have never had it, contemplating marriage and fatherhood, a role Isaac will fill well.  It caused me a smile when we closed down the Zoom, thinking him a father.

         Lunch followed at the home of a friend, making wraps, talking, catching up on all the little things in between then and now.  

         One of the things we discussed was we’d both taken a break from the news for the last couple of days.  

         It’s bleak out there.

         The Russians are pummeling the Ukrainians and are being pummeled back by the country they invaded, winning the Academy Award for most plucky nation since Britain in World War II, which still had an Empire behind it. 

         Russian troops are using open channels for communications [because their encrypted devices aren’t working] which then are being jammed by Ukrainians who break in once in a while to tell the Russians to go home before they become fertilizer.  

Russian logistics seem broken, their soldiers dying, some deserting, knowing they can never go home, all of which creates fear Putin will pull out “strategic” nuclear weapons to break the log jam.  

         American evangelicals are saying Ukrainian events are the beginnings of the end times, which have been foretold so many times in my lifetime, I have lost count.  Though this is as scary as the Cuban missile crisis when my father had to calm down a very scared little boy who thought the world was about to end.  

         Because I remember what it was to be a scared little boy, Edgartown Books is collecting money for a literacy foundation in Poland which is providing books in Ukrainian for the approximately one million Ukrainian refugee children there.  

In 1962, books were a comfort to me; this seemed a very bookstore kind of thing for us to do.  If you want to give, click here. Let them know, please, it was Edgartown Books sent you their way.

         A Federal judge has said Trump “more likely than not” committed crimes in his efforts to overturn the election even as Trump continues to thump his chest at rallies, while declaring Putin “smart.” 

Logs handed over to the House Committee show a more than seven-hour gap in his phone logs on January 6th. I accept that about as much as I did Rose Mary Woods and her 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes. 

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark…”

SCOTUS Judge Clarence Thomas’ wife encouraged Mark Meadows to fight to keep Trump in office, which has resulted in calls for him to recuse himself from anything to do with that day.

         Speaking of SCOTUS, the Senate hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson were an embarrassment for both parties, Republicans especially.  Josh Hawley, you have earned Big Daddy’s [“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”] award for mendacity.  

Lindsey Graham, when did you check your intelligence at the door?  

And Ted Cruz, fresh from having law enforcement called on him at a Montana airport [“Don’t you know who I am?”], has propelled Ibram X. Kendi’s book, “Anti-Racist Baby” back onto the bestseller’s list with his asking is a baby racist?

There are no kudos for the Democrats either, except, perhaps, Cory Booker, who acknowledged what a show it was.  And confirmations have been a show since Clarence Thomas.  Have we come full circle?

And, at the end of the day, it all circles back to Ukraine, where there is a real war with real human suffering, capturing our attention, reminding us of horror in a way nothing has, not Iraq, not Afghanistan, which should cause us to do some thinking.

See the photos:

War was not supposed to happen in Europe again like this…

Letter from the Vineyard March 1, 2022 Realizing what matters…

March 2, 2022

As I have been sitting here, contemplating the world, determined to begin writing a ‘letter’ though taking a while to find the way from thinking to putting fingers to the keyboard, dusk has become night.  In the background, Chopin plays on Alexa, a composer I find soothing, playing him much these days when the need for soothing is so high.

I’m home from a day of “book mongering,” as my godson Paul calls what I do, a day that was good, inventory time.

Last Wednesday night, I opened my laptop to start writing and didn’t; the world was pregnant with grim possibilities, realized the following morning when Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, justifying it with the most specious of reasons while warning the west if they defied him, he might rain nuclear hell on us.

Last night, I donated to Doctors Without Borders, a little more than I can really afford, because I know they are there, working to help.  Please do something, anything, to support Ukraine. It’s more important than a new sweater.

Out of this are coming stories, evoking memories of other moments of great bravery.  A Russian warship approached Snake Island, demanding its surrender.  The contingent of Ukrainian soldiers, a mere thirteen, responded, “Russian warship, go f**k yourself.”

Those words will resonate for a long, long time.

Zelensky, president of Ukraine, is a former comedian who played a president.  When offered evacuation by the US, he said, “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

These are stories that remind one of World War II, of England, when it was bleakest.

Germany, whose stance has been a bit wobbly, responded with a rush of military aid, upping the ante in the last few days, agreeing to increase its defense commitment to above what NATO requests, a first.

What is going on in Ukraine is a reminder that democracy is worth fighting for.  Ukraine is fighting for its right to be free from a man who is attempting to rebuild the Russian Empire, to wrest back what was once controlled by the USSR or by the Tsars.  He controls the news the way they did.  Nothing is said without his permission. 

Putin rules Russia with the iron fist of a Stalin or Alexander III.  And has their kind of ambitions for his country.  He seethes with resentment over the breakup of the USSR.  He sees Ukraine as Russia’s, which is a simplification of a long history of the country.  I suspect that’s the way he sees Poland, Latavia, Estonia, Lithuania.  He has warned Finland, a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire under the Tsars, not to think about joining NATO. 

Putin wants it all back.

We all thought we were beyond this but we’re not.

What also is frightening are people like Tucker Carlson, who, by the way, knows better but panders to the crowd, saying things like, well, what has Putin done to you?  He has been so outrageous one might wonder if he is on Putin’s dole.

Or how about former President Trump who calls Putin “smart” and “savvy,” encouraging his base to side with Putin in this conflict?  This is a sad, sad commentary, reflecting how far the Republican Party has strayed from its roots under the guidance of Trump.

There has always been a part of America which has yearned for dictatorial rule [reference the Madison Square Garden gathering in 1939 of the Bund, an American Nazi coalition].

Ukraine is reminding us, if we are willing to be reminded, of how important freedom is.  Ukraine is reminding the European Union it is fighting for their ideals.

As I send this, a forty-mile-long caravan of Russian military vehicles crawls toward Kyiv, while rocket attacks hit the city center. Kharkov is being shattered by Russian missiles.But the Ukrainians are fighting back with ferocity, shocking the Russians, driving Putin to distraction as his forces have failed to bulldoze over a country he thought would topple in a minute.

It hasn’t. 

Zelensky is the Churchill of the hour.

God’s speed, Ukraine.

I will do what I can to stand with you.