Crying hearts shouldn’t direct policy.
If being a statesman was easy, we would have more of them. Most of us have enough trouble just being informed citizens. Part of the challenge is being able to separate humane emotions and caring feelings from wise policy.
If you are above a certain age, you might remember a riveting picture from 1968 showing a South Vietnamese officer executing, at point blank range, an unarmed victim. The picture became an icon of the anti-war movement and tremendously influenced the American populace. But the story wasn’t so simple. It turns out that the “innocent victim” had actually just murdered a South Vietnamese officer, his wife and six children. The photographer, Eddie Adams, regretted taking the shot, recognizing that a moment taken out of context does not tell a true story.
Pictures and videos sway emotions, whether they are true or not. Carefully disseminated tales have probably always affected responses to war, whether we are talking of Troy, the Spanish-American War, World War I or our current crisis.
Is it possible to cry for and provide money to help helpless pregnant women and children in Ukraine while also not jumping to the equation: Ukraine = automatically good and Russia = automatically bad? Was it okay to shudder at any form of abusive behavior by police while also denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement (even before it became evident that much of the movement was a self-serving vehicle for a few individuals to acquire wealth and power)? Victimhood alone is in itself no proof of virtue, and certainly not when the victims are selectively anointed by the media and politicians.
Last week, journalist Bari Weiss ran a number of articles written by various Ukrainians on her Substack page. One was composed by a Ukrainian member of parliament. Please note that this is not a random taxi driver or accountant; he is a legislator. In his piece, he lamented how worried he was about his parents. That is an understandable, human and noble sentiment. However, he went on to say,
“I want the Russian army dead, and their children, and their parents—their entire families. I know this sounds cruel, but they came here to kill mine.”
Is that also a noble sentiment? If he led an offensive into Russia and carried out his wishes, would our emotions now lurch to say: Ukraine = bad, Russia = good? Is it possible that different cultures have different acceptable levels of cruelty? Are many Americans incredibly naive when they assume that everyone in the world shares the same ideas and values?
War is not a schoolyard game. I too, cringe and even cry at the thought of women in Ukrainian cities giving birth as bombs erupt near them, at the fear of parents trying to keep their children safe and at the helplessness of the sick and aged. I can help with money and prayers. However, the fact that CNN or Fox News choose to highlight that specific new mother or ill individual while ignoring thousands of others both locally and around the world who don’t fit their purposes, should not lead any statesman to a reflexive reaction.
As someone who wants to be an informed citizen, I have many questions to which I have not received answers. These include questions about the Biden family’s connections to Ukraine, our military’s wokeness vs. readiness for battle, and our attitudes to Iran and China. The press and members of Congress of both parties have a long way to go and much to acknowledge before I trust their guidance. If this is true on local and national matters, how much more should it be on an issue that could lead to a world-wide conflagration?
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments on this Susan’s Musing article.
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