Many sources credit Union General William Tecumseh Sherman with the observation that “War is Hell,” though there have doubtless been thousands who have uttered similar words down through the ages. As we approach the end of the first week of Vladimir Putin’s war of naked aggression against the people of the Ukraine, Sherman’s phrase is especially poignant.
Spirited Reasoners wonder what it must be like for the average Ukrainian citizen these days. We’ve seen video footage of families huddled in subway cars and stations, hoping such places can serve as makeshift bunkers. We’ve seen lines of vehicles stopped in traffic jams as they head toward Ukraine’s western border. We’ve seen photos of military commanders attempting to transform civilians into soldiers, often without access to rudimentary weapons or ammunition. And we’ve seen footage of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, standing first among his courageous constituents.
But as the initial hours turn into days, the hellish questions are beginning to surface. What does a parent do with a screaming toddler down in a subway station after 72 hours have passed without access to basic necessities? How do people sleep as the sound of explosions grows ever closer? What happens to them if they don’t sleep? And, for that matter, what does a 19-year-old Russian soldier do if he manages to into the city and encounters such a scene? If he encounters civilian resistance, does he simply shoot the families and children?
War is indeed Hell because of its multitude of miseries. Soldiers throughout history have written and spoken about the terror they experience upon hearing the screams of those wounded and dying. Pets and farm animals wander aimlessly among the corpses, desperately searching for food, because their owners are no longer around to feed them. The simplest conveniences we take for granted—clean bathrooms and running water, kitchens and heaters—cease to operate when utility plants have been bombed. Thoughts of escaping via automobile or train become futile when roads and bridges are destroyed, service stations are closed, and highways are blocked with stranded vehicles.
Should the Russians “succeed” in this nasty business, they will be left to govern a proud people filled with anger and resentment.
Maybe Vladimir Putin doesn’t care. But Spirited Reasoners have been heartened by the manner in which common people all over the world have risen up, seemingly of one voice, to post photos of the Ukrainian flag and texts of President Selenskyy’s courageous speeches.
One simple suggestion for all Spirited Reasoners is one found in this morning’s social media. It can be paraphrased as follows: The pronunciation of Ukraine’s capital city—Kyiv—is pronounced “Keev” by Ukrainians. It is spelled “Kiev” and pronounced “Key-ev” by Russians. Perhaps we can begin to show at least a minimal level of solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters by learning to spell Kyiv as Kyiv while pronouncing it “Keev,” the way they prefer it. Maybe it won’t help them win the war, but it might just remind us here at home that when it comes to standing up to bullies, we’re all in this together.