The Crash of MH17 – What Century is This?

Well, what an awful week and this time the
offender is not America and the tragedies are not trivial, but on a much
grander scale – the scale of war. These events seem to highlight even more that
nations are not all living in the same century.

Russia and Ukraine are trying to fight a
19th century war in the 21st century. So we have on one
side this Russia with imperialistic motives; motives that most of us think of
as antique. Russia, as I understand it, needs a piece of Eastern Ukraine – an easement,
so to speak, so it can ship oil to Crimea for a direct route to Europe. Ukraine
became independent of Russia only recently when the Iron Curtain fell. Ukraine
doesn’t want to allow Russia to take over that portion of their nation. They
want to maintain their current borders. So Russia and Ukraine go to war. But
this is not the mid twentieth century when the last war was fought. The world
has moved on. We don’t want more wars starring any of the same participants as
the two previous European wars. Please.

So we have life as usual going on, or
attempting to, in a plane flying over that exact contested ground in Ukraine.
We have people high above Ukraine flying from a Dutch airport to a Southeast
Asian airport. They are flying for business reasons; they are going on
vacation, they have been away and are going home; they are a group of AIDS
researchers going to a conference in Australia. They are unsuspecting of the
activities below them on the ground. They don’t realize that other airlines are
avoiding this route, choosing to go around this battle. One minute they are
here, in life, with us, and the next minute they are falling to earth, fragile
and ruined, and they hopefully have no idea that they are no longer here, in
life, with us. And we are left, for the rest of our lives, with the memory of
this, another violent and totally unnecessary plane crash with no survivors.
We are all thinking that it was a mistake;
whoever did it. We want someone to admit his error and give a sincere apology
to the families of those killed. But since we have a leader involved who is
still stuck in the politics of the Cold War that can’t happen. We are all very
nervous about how we should behave. What does the 21st century do
when confronted with a devious and insecure mid 20th century man (a
man I thought to be much more modern than he is proving to be)? Well we don’t want to go
to war so let’s grieve and wait in the hopes that an apology is still possible.
Let’s entertain the wish that Ukraine would just offer Russia one of those 99
year leases which worked so well for China. Then Russia could transport its oil
and Ukraine would gain some income and Europe could use a century-old solution
to return to the business of the 21st century for good.
This week included another war – I said it
was an awful week – between Israel and Palestine with stories of children dying
(this is becoming a tough, tough world for children). I don’t even know what to
say about these two nationalities locked in such a sad dance of vengeance and
self-defense without an end to it in sight. Is there a 21st century
solution to this? We all want peace, but we are not going to get it, are we? I
don’t believe we are capable of a sustained peace, but I long for it.
Diplomacy, not war is the 21st century way. Please.

By Nancy Brisson

Our Sunny, Warm Yet Very Sad Week


Last week was a week that highlighted the paradoxes
we often experience in this oddball and wondrous life we live briefly on this
little planet of ours. In the Northeast we enjoyed some relief from the deep
freeze snow globe we have been locked into this winter by that polar vortex.
Not only did our temps get warmer, but the constant precipitation became
intermittent and we were treated to several sunny days when our lips did not
freeze together every time we left the house. So we couldn’t help but feel a
lightening of our spirits; a certain buoyant happiness that was unconscious and
irrepressible. We had to live through this glimpse of spring quickly because we
were assured that our return to the deep freeze was only one week away.


The paradox was that this was quite a sad week in
the news. Watching the nations of the world that are struggling to be free is
weird and hard.  We feel guilty that we
are merely watching these events. It helps when our government offers support,
or aid, or diplomacy. Still, when we see people putting their lives on the line
to remove the foot of a dictator from their necks and their lives, something in
our psyche tells us we should be somewhere in that fray. Perhaps this is a
primitive urge because it isn’t our fray, but watching the Ukrainian people
stand up to a powerful leader who wanted to take them places they did not want
to go, we couldn’t help but be sad for those who gave up their lives to give
other people power against a sanctioned bully. This situation has resolved
itself into tempered joy because it looks like something very rare has happened
and the people have won without having to go to full-out war. Their deposed
leader refuses to accept that he is deposed so there may be more strife ahead,
but for now we all hope for the best.


This past week we also saw that people had to go in
and rescue Syrian children and families from a war zone, where bombs and
bullets were still flying in order to help them get to refugee camps to restore
some normalcy in their everyday lives and to make sure they did not starve. Our
hawks and our military, who are used to being knights on white horses who ride
to the rescue of the downtrodden, (a decidedly idealistic view of what we do)
are having a very hard time staying on the sidelines and the little hawk within
each of us wonders if we are doing the right thing by staying out of Syria,
although we actually think we are.  The
sadness of Syria has been heavy on our hearts for a long time now but from the
gray deep freeze it seemed all of a piece with our general mood. Last week’s
sunshine, however, put us at odds with the stresses all around us in the world.


The third sad thing for me was the outcome of the
trial of Michael Dunn who shot Jordan Davis. Is this what America will be now,
people with guns picking off people (kids) who tick them off. Michael Dunn is
a stone-cold killer to me, protected by racial fear and the laws engendered by
it. Stand Your Ground is a terrible law which, if left on the books, should
only apply to situations where someone is obviously ready to take another
person’s life with obviously being the key word, and not just something that is
happening in your paranoid imagination. So we lose another good teen, a kid who
was perhaps being a bit provocative by continuing to play his music after
someone in the general area expressed his displeasure. That is just teenaged
stuff, the action of someone whose immaturity fights with his common sense,
something that might not have happened if he were not so young. I am shocked
that one young man shot by mistake was not enough. I am shocked that this same
senseless and tragic thing happened again and so soon. It doesn’t bode well for
the future, but it does suggest that this law is a bad law and should be
overturned. These two shootings, leading to the waste of two promising young
lives, could perhaps help us learn to stop living such separate lives. Many
white people no longer go into their inner city neighborhoods and many minority
people never leave their neighborhoods. There may be good cultural reasons for
this, but I don’t think so. I think this “separation by race and income” is
more likely to lead to misunderstanding and even mayhem than to healthy social


And the fourth sad news of last week came out of
North Korea in that horrific report by the UN about what goes on in North
Korean prison camps. Those graphic drawings by someone who was no artist, but
who had to get these inhumane details down on paper in a way that would
communicate across language barriers, were unbearably reminiscent of the
accounts of the treatment of Jews and other prisoners in Nazi concentration
camps. We have no idea how to interfere in this, but we may not be able to live
with ourselves if we don’t.

So despite our sunny mid-winter thaw, last week was,
all in all, a tough week for the world’s people; (we can’t forget Venezuela)
both the participants and, to a lesser degree the observers. Paradoxes exist
everywhere, but we poor humans are not always comfortable living with this
coexistence of opposites.
By Nancy Brisson
This is the view from the cheap seats.
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