This week I've been reading articles, listening to podcasts, and seeing images and videos of what is happening in Ukraine. In the papers, I've seen lots of words about the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians. The text, sounds, and images that show brave people standing up to a heavenly armed bully (i.e., Putin) have an effect on me.
One of the associations that comes to my mind when I witness the violence is a (good) scene from a (bad) film. The film is the first Captain America film.
In this scene, we a scrawny Steve Rogers, before receiving the super-soldier serum that will turn his body into something superhuman, has thrown his body over grenade in a training exercise. It turns out the grenade was a dud, which had been thrown into the group by Dr. Abraham Erskine as a test. Erskine wanted to see what people would do if there were actually in a scenario where a grenade was thrown into a group they were a part of. Everyone except Rogers --who was physically weaker than everyone else– took cover. Only Rogers tried to protect those around him by putting his body in harm's way.
After this, Erskine, the scientist who has invented the super-soldier serum, has this exchange with Rogers.
Erskine: Do you want to kill Nazis?
Rogers: I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies. I don't care where they're from.
The fiction Steve Rogers reminds me of the real Ukrainians.
Among all the words, sounds, and images that show the world the brave resistance of the Ukrainian people is something else: pictures of parents with their kids, and these images have literally made me cry.
I see the image of a parent holding a child. The child looks confused and scared.
I imagine my own family packing what we needed and could carry as we prepared to leave our homes and our lives behind because going would be less scary than staying. In the scene that plays out in my mind's eye, I see a scene where I tell my three-year-old son he could only bring one of his beloved stuffed animals with him and that he would need to leave the rest. My son asks me why. I don't know how to explain what is happening to him. That's usually when the tears come.
I see the images of these parents holding their kids, desperate to keep them as safe as they can. I see the kids clinging to their parents, wanting something known, consistent, and safe as close as they can to their tiny bodies.
I feel relief that my family is not living through this, I feel angry that any family is, and I feel guilty for not knowing what I could do to actually help.
I don't know why I wrote this. I'm sure part of it is an attempt to process the castrating effects of empathy.
Perhaps I have a fantasy that this insignificant act of solidarity through writing will have some effect.
I do know that violence is real, and I'm sitting here writing, trying to live with a desperate and impossible desire for a world as it could be.