Tuesday, April 12, 2022

A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies

 I'm glad that pro-Ukraine sentiment is as nigh-universal as it is.  Sure, there are some right-wing Putin-apologist shitheads, but the message doesn't really seemed to have spread to the vast majority of people.  There's a bank around here that now says "Pray for Ukraine" on its electronic sign.  If you think a dang bank would ever put up a sign that they feared was going to cause any controversy whatsoever...well, I disagree.

So, yes, I'm glad of that.  And yet, it's hard for my mind not to drift back to the equally-unjustifiable Iraq War, and let me tell you: opposition to that was a lot less universal.  You sure as hell wouldn't have seen a bank endorsing it.  Even when the war started to get unpopular, that was just because there was a steady stream of dead American soldiers and seemingly the war was going nowhere.  It wasn't because of newfound sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis we killed and maimed.

(This is sort of a side issue to the point I'm trying to make, but I sometimes feel like, wait, so we've all just decided to ignore the fact that our President voted for that previous war?  How is that possible?  Doesn't that make this, on some level, feel super-awkward?  I mean, obviously I'm glad he's currently President and not T**** (even though I don't feel I have the understanding necessary to evaluate his handling of the current situation), but just the same, in a just world he and every other congressperson who voted for the AUMF should've been tried for war crimes.  Yes, I know, he regrets his vote, great, fantastic, but I certainly hope he weren't imagining that regrets constitute a get-out-of-war-crimes-tribunals-free card.  It's not that I don't believe in redemption, but at the very least, he should have bowed out of politics permanently.  Otherwise, no fucking deal.  Hundreds of thousand of people died, and even if the responsibility is dispersed through congress, everyone involved should have paid a heavy price.  One person alone couldn't have stopped the Holocaust; nonetheless, we do have this weird tendency to think that people who tried are just a li'l morally superior to soft supporters, don't we?  And no, obviously, Biden is not as bad as Putin; he has no apparent authoritarian tendencies, and he has never had his political enemies murdered.  And yes, I'm grateful that he rather than T**** is President at this time.  Or any time.  NEVERTHELESS.)

But anyway, the differences between Iraq and Ukraine: well, obviously, you can say, Putin's invasion was more obviously a traditional war of conquest.  Also, Saddam Hussein's regime was obviously super-bad, whereas the Ukrainian government seems reasonably democratic, especially compared to other former Soviet republics.  So these are differences, sure...but do they really amount to all that much?  Seriously?  

Look, you know it and I know it: the difference is down to a mixture of American exceptionalism and obvious racism: we care about the Ukrainians because they're European and mostly white; we don't care about the Iraqis because they're brown and they're poor and their religion is bad and their language is barbaric.  No, obviously, we don't articulate it like that, but it's what it fucking is.  I mean, think about it: you think about atrocities in the Ukraine war and photographs we've seen and you feel sheer horror.  You want to cry.  But when you picture some blown-up marketplace in Iraq, sobbing survivors, there's a part of you that's way more comfortable with just shrugging it off.  Sure, it's bad, but they're just different from us, and their lives are just sort of destined to be violent and short.  They aren't as significant as the Ukrainians.  Whattayagonnado?  There are these videos you see of journalists reporting on Ukraine saying stuff like, they're Europeans!  They're white!  This isn't suppose to happen!  And people rightly attack them for shitheadery.  But, really, yes, it' alarming that they lack the degree of metacognition to know that they shouldn't explicitly express these attitudes, but really, they're not saying anything that a hell of a lot of us aren't thinking.  Why deny it?

I struggle with this.  I do.  I know on just about every level I can know that it's an utterly wrong and toxic way of thinking, but these ideas are just so fucking entrenched that they're just almost impossible to completely eradicate.  I've never been in favor of our foreign entanglements, but I'm positive I haven't been as vehement as I should have in my opposition.  I'm sure there are more advanced thinkers than me who legitimately have scrubbed their brains entirely of racist sentiment and react the same to both then and now--and I salute you.  But I think we can agree that there are a whole shitload of people who are much worse than me in this regard, and they're the ones causing the problems.

Want to see another example of this dynamic in play?  Look at our blase attitude towards the regular atrocities visited on the Palestinians by Israel.  A whole shit-ton of Americans are super-in-favor of those.  And yes, Jewish nationalism is a factor in so many people's vociferous support, but I nonetheless assert that that support would be much weaker if the people the state was oppressing weren't people we've been trained to think of as inferior.

(And, of course, when I say "we," I'm obviously operating from a very Americentric position.  I'm sure a lot of people would be justifiably annoyed at me to read this: "yeah, dude.  We know.  Congrats on just figuring it out now.")

Given the terrifying forces at play, how Russia is ruled by an unstable maniac and how in the US the unstable maniacs are almost certainly going to take Congress, it's sort of hard not to be feeling a bit apocalyptic these days.  "Two Tribes" seems to have new relevance.  But if humanity <i>does</i> somehow get through this more or less intact, I would certainly hope that we would be sophisticated enough to realize that our sympathy for the Ukrainians should be unquestioningly transferred to all victims of wars.  I wouldn't think it likely, but I'd hope for it.


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