God created war so that Americans would learn geography,” said Mr. Twain, so now you sit in a New York apartment and try to reassemble your memory of Europe, where Germany and Poland are, and text with friends in Prague whose frightened little girls ask, “What is happening?” We don’t know. In one week, we’ve been transported back to 1940, and our Europe of chic vacations and intellectual ferment is now the cauldron of wars that our grandparents fled. My grandpa fled Glasgow, having five children and no wish to see the Great War up close, and my friend Bud Trillin’s people fled Ukraine for the reason Jews have been migrating for centuries. Chic had nothing to do with it, they were quite pleased to become Missourians.
Reality is a shock but it does make things more real. American military strategy goes out the window: how do you strategize against a schizoid dictator with an enormous nuclear arsenal and a compliant elite? Rationalism is only an observation. The stone-faced Putin has invaded an independent nation, firing rockets at a nuclear reactor, women and children in Kyiv weeping as they board a train for Poland, looking at husbands and fathers they may never see again, thanks to the small man at the end of the forty-foot table who says he is conducting an anti-Nazi mission, a naked lie as naked as the belief that COVID is a hoax or Trump won the election.
The hero of the moment is Volodymyr Zelensky, the Jewish comic who is now the guerrilla president of Ukraine, and as long as he keeps dancing and making video speeches to his people, Ukraine survives, and when a Russian kill squad finds him, Ukraine becomes a Soviet republic again.
Our country has no Zelensky, alas. Our clown was Trump, who now is exposed as a Putin stooge who tried to kill off NATO to fulfill Putin’s great wish and enable him to reassemble Stalin’s empire. I know a nice man who asks, “Why do you hate Trump?” and who blames it all on Obama and now Biden. There are a hundred million nice people like him. Trump sold a bill of goods to the heartland and I pity that convoy of a thousand truckers in Baltimore, furious at the government about vaccine requirements even as the plague recedes, a protest without a purpose, just pure anger on eighteen wheels.
Recommended for You
Putin sits in his palace, holding the power to destroy European civilization, and what did civilization ever do for him? Nothing, obviously. His man Trump recedes into his gilded cave, waiting for the next reel. He has a lot riding on the November election and it may not be helpful for Republicans to be seen supporting Putin while tanks roll through Ukrainian cities and rockets destroy apartment buildings and tiny children in ICUs are wrapped in blankets and moved to safety. This war is in our computers and phones and on TV, if we have eyes and care to look, and it is a reality that makes the Florida Orange and Chinless Mitch and Caribbean Ted Cruz disappear.
I pray for my fellow Democrats to put a damper on their righteous narcissism and rediscover some seriousness about freedom and love of country. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said she liked the part of Biden’s speech about Ukraine but I wish she’d come right out and confess that she loves this country. What’s so hard about that? Some dreadful political hacks go around with flag pins on their lapels but that’s no excuse for cynicism. It was abysmally stupid of her to pose for fashion pictures in Vanity Fair but I’ve forgiven her. Time for her to shape up now.
My generation was badly affected by the antiwar movement of the Sixties and the purity of the counterculture of dulcimers and organic granola and we got too good for our own good and lost touch with our people. I am just an old evangelical unable to say obscene words with authority, but I do believe Ukraine can beat the Russian Army. Trump and Putin are from another solar system. One is a madman in Moscow and the other is rearranging his hair. God preserve the heroic comedian. A great deal is riding on this. Joe and I are old men. Who will be our Zelensky?