Troubled Times, Senseless Wars (Mature and Painful Subject Matter)
Seems like the heavens are staying out of these battles, so it is up to us humans to fight them...
Content warning: this post will bring up topics such as active warfare, death, and carceral transphobia. It will not be pretty. Please take care of yourselves, as this media environment takes a toll on all who witness our world’s events. There are crisis hotlines and warmlines available if necessary and/or helpful. Here is a link to some American resources: https://www.apa.org/topics/crisis-hotlines
Resources for international usage or for folks outside of the U.S exist too.
I am going to be honest in this piece, perhaps brutally so. I need to express the turmoil and pain in my heart, and the thoughts going through my head. If this post’s topics are too heavy for you or trigger mental health pains, please don’t read it. If the subject matter becomes too weighty for you as you read, please at least take a break from reading it, and perhaps cease reading it permanently.
Now with the requisite warnings out of the way, it is time to begin. With the context of a global pandemic still raging…
-Oppression of Trans Youth and their Allies-
Yesterday, 2/23/2022, I awoke to the horrifying news that the state of Texas attorney general and governor had declared that anyone supporting gender affirming medical care for trans youth in the state be classified as child abusers. He called upon practitioners and the general public to report parents. There was also talk of criminal penalties for those with a duty to report on child welfare (doctors, school officials, etc.) and didn’t report the situation to the state law enforcement. Within hours, a series of gofundme’s and other forms of monetary aide were being shared across parts of political twitter, and multiple aide organizations promised to assist trans youth and their parents with evacuating from the state of Texas and moving to one where their existence isn’t criminalized. Laws such as this come in the wake of other laws which ask Texas citizens to report women who receive abortions. There is also likely going to be bills passed similar to this trans hate bill, for example in Indiana. In part to distract from their governmental failures (ex. Texas governer Abbot telling power companies to charge Texans millions of dollars during the state infrastructure failures due to a freeze wave), Republican lawmakers and leaders are using trans youth as political scapegoats in order to throw red meat to their reactionary voter-base. They have blood on their hands for these acts of oppression, as they are directly pushing the criminalization of women and lgbt+ people. Republican leaders and their voters are part of the group directly responsible for acts of self harm by these marginalized populations, as well as the mental and physical suffering experienced by those impacted.
After this news, I was hoping for a better rest of the day. Oh how disappointed and horrified I was…
-The Invasion of Ukraine-
That evening (in U.S time), Russia began a direct land and air invasion of Ukraine, starting off with missile strikes on at least 70 Ukrainian positions. For the last 8 years, Putin has slowly been fueling Ukraine separatist militias and bombarding borders of Ukraine. This aggression is in many respects not a geopolitical surprise.
The invasion involved striking from the North (through Belarus), the East (through Russia and terrorist militia held territory), and the South (through Crimea). Russia followed the missiles up with a blitzkrieg, and have as of writing this conquered at least Chernobyl power plant, suburb pieces of Kiev (Ukraine’s capital), and a large chunk of Ukrainian land north of Crimea. So many details are horrific, and I will share only one such detail here, to explain the gravity of the situation. Skip this next line (the one in brackets) if you are faint of heart. [Russian ground troops are bringing mobile crematoriums behind their infantry and tank formations, purportedly to incinerate dead Russian soldiers to prevent the sending home of bodies. These could be used to dispose of war crime evidence as well.]
The fallout of this barbaric invasion is far from settling even at minimum. However, a few things are clear. First, this is likely the darkest moment for Europe since World War II. Second, diplomacy has failed, not because of diplomatic mistakes, but because of Putin’s unilateral bloodthirst. Third, Russia’s economy was already in danger of collapse, and the sanctions brought on by this invasion have caused the Russian stock market to fall over 40% in a single day. The price of the ruble has plummeted, and even more sanctions are incoming. Forth, there is no reason to expect internal pressure to change Putin’s mind. While it is beautiful to see the protests popping up across Russian cities, riot police are already on site to disperse some of them, and it is likely that none will last. Putin has explicitly criminalized protesting his invasion. Fifth, there is no obvious offramp to this situation. Putin has shown his hand, and even if he backs off now, it is unclear whether the Russian economy would ever recover. Thus, Putin has little to lose, and is incentivized to continue the invasion until his forces are defeated or run against NATO (a military alliance) country borders.
As for Putin’s motivations, they are somewhere between risky and unhinged. Putin has now made enemies of most of the country’s oligarchs, who are seeing their organization’s life savings, income, and productivity plummet. Russia is governed by Putin, but he is in many ways enabled by the oligarchy behind him. As long as these oligarchs can extract money from Russian economy and resources, they tend to be happy with Putin, because Putin protects them from competition and other profit threats. The result of Putin making some of them into enemies is as of now unknowable, however it raises questions as to how long the Russian military state can function, as well as questions about Putin’s longterm goals.
My suspicion is that Putin felt threatened, either from potential loss of public support, from military leadership unrest, or from threats internal to the oligarch class. This blitzkrieg attack on Ukraine is fundamentally built to end the war as fast as possible, by capturing Ukrainian cities (especially the capital) and forcing a surrender. Whatever the case may be, this invasion has isolated Russia in a way that cannot be positive for the Russian state. In politics, I always ask “Who benefits?”, and in this situation I find it hard to come up with a list. My best guess is that Putin is trying to isolate Russia, in order to force the Russian people to feel obligated to stand with him or collapse. I think there is a real chance of mass imprisonment of oligarchs and other government leaders, along with dissenting Russian celebrities and such. Putin is following pieces of the playbooks of Hitler and Stalin, updated for the nuclear era.
These crises have forced me into a reckoning with my own (limited) impact on the world. They have cut my soul, but not mortally wounded it. My current takeaway is that I need to apply myself in areas of international relations studies, so that I can do some small part of the work needed to create a more peaceful world. The last day has crystallized my vague feelings about a need to become an activist.
All I can reasonably hope for is that a minimum of innocent people end up traumatized, oppressed, imprisoned, or 6 feet under. If there are any higher powers willing to listen, I ask that they intervene for the sake of peaceful and liberatory lives, even though I suspect that at the least none are listening. Content warning for gut-wrenching details, within the brackets
[I have watched few videos on the war, and I don’t recommend others do so unless they truly want or need to. I saw a Ukrainian father cry has he said goodbye to his daughter, as he prepared to enter active duty in the Ukrainian military yesterday. I saw the aftermath of a border battle, with a burning Russian tank and a dead Russian soldier lying beside it. He looked to be about my age.]
As for my health and well being, I am trying to follow the steps I am about to outline.
As for the health and well being of all who read this, I have some advice.
1. Minimize news focus and doomscrolling.
2. Reach out to friends, lovers, family, and your social support systems in general.
3. Give yourselves grace, it is so hard to be productive and fully functioning when this much is happening in the world. Staying sane and healthy should be something that everyone can put above their work output.
I hope that everyone reading this is willing to stand up for acceptance, human rights, anti-authoritarianism, anti-nationalism, and inclusive resource distribution. Political apathy is a position that only the privileged can hold. Everyone else has skin in the game, and has to respond to that fact in some way or another. At the least, I hope we can all treat others and ourselves with compassion and empathy, recognizing the suffering of all. If we humans work together in search of mutual aid, I suspect that we have the power to create a brighter future for everyone. I hope that future arrives, I hope that with every fibre of my being. But hope on its own isn’t enough. I am going to take the actions that I can to build a line of flight away from the present atrocities of the world.
One last warning, burning oneself out is not effective at helping others. Lighting yourself on fire to try to keep others warm will result in relatively little systemic change, and you will turn to char in the process. Dying for a cause is easy, living for a cause is a different matter.
May the innocent who have passed away rest in peace, and may the living put an end to the hells we create for ourselves and our fellow people.
With Pain and Love, I sign off here.