If history should have taught us one thing it is… the brutal hollowness of wars. From known genocides, wars, human sacrifices, torture, slavery, and the treatment of racial minorities, women, and children — all stem from parts of human nature that militate violence. Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is no exception. It is a war of choice for all the vices thinkable by a megalomaniac.
Sadly, it seems, the world has lost its moral compass by standing idly by when there is exploitation and dominance by authoritarian alpha males, and their contention for ethnic, racial, national, or religious supremacy or pre-eminence. There is such a thirst for vengeance, a kind of immoral violence that inspires cruelty and creates an ideology of militant religions, nationalism, fascism, Nazism, communism all leading to large scale malevolent, brutal destruction of humanity.
We watch as madmen (Gengis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Maximillian Robespierre, Talaat Pasha, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Pol Pot, Idi Amin Dada, Hafiz al-Assad and his son Bashir, Kim Jong II, Recep Erdogan, Ilham Aliyev, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin…to name a few) with a penchant to rewrite history and swallow up their democratic neighbors persecute without an iota of compassion for lives lost.
Though I have not personally experienced the atrocities of a genocide and the World Wars, I have understood the pain and sorrow of the years through stories of survivors. I have been raised by victims of genocide who have spiraled through the chaos of its labyrinth, persecuted and exiled. They were once children who grew up with harsh realities of trauma and hardship that come with the responsibility of a culture trying to survive with the “baggage” of its history.
I have heard the stories, felt the pain, seen great marches, heard great speeches, have participated in movements where people were fighting for justice against all odds and changing the world in spite of itself. But nothing prepared me for the grotesque useless war in Ireland, or the brutality of war experienced in Lebanon where over 120,000 lives were lost. Nothing prepared me for the 44-day war invaded on the Armenian territory of Artsakh where human rights and civil liberties continue to be ignored with over 4,000 lives lost and others MIA. Realities of unmentionable experiences and horrific violence, loss of homes, separation from parents, being forced to flee, witnessing death and atrocities, and eventually harboring non-reconciliatory resentment, and the loss of innocence. No argument under the sun can justify the unspeakable cruelty of any war.
“War is a crime against Peace.”
If you need convincing of the hollowness of war, look no further than the poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian poet, soldier, and physician John McCrae. McCrae wrote the poem in 1915 as a memorial to those who died in a World War I battle fought in a region of Belgium known as the Ypres Salient.
In its simple complexity the poem demonstrates the horrific realities of engaging in war. It suggests that war is a shared responsibility that affects everyone. It is a responsibility we of the living owe to the dead. War is destructive. It is a crime against peace. Ultimately, we are called to “hold [the torch] high” which demands that we recognize our own complicity and responsibility in war.
If madmen are capable of the most appalling injustices only to seek their own self-absorbed grandiosity, then certainly, the rest of humanity with a conscience seeking peace, is capable of the most glorious battle against them. If blind prejudice can lead to untold hatred and murder, then solidarity of action and faith in justice could destroy it. Standing together for our shared human values against tyrants may be difficult, but it is nothing compared to the agony of a people at the hands of a brazen invader.