History

Yet Another Mess to Clean Up

“It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would rather have stayed there in peace.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

What do we make of war? What do we make of people who don’t interpret it as the horrible failure of diplomacy that it is? As you get a bit older you recognize that most people are winging it, no matter what their title. A few people push harder to get their way than the rest of us. And a rare few rise to the top through burning singular focus and a bag of tricks. We see people we’d never want to associate with in real life rising to powerful positions in business and politics, and we’re left to deal with the consequences. History taught us this in the two World Wars, didn’t it? How quickly we forget when those who fought those wars pass on.

J.R.R. Tolkien fought in World War One and lived through World War Two. The Lord of the Rings is derived from his experience in war. It’s a book worth investing the time in, for it brings us into a world we can’t imagine living in for the weakness of character and selfish power grabs of those in leadership positions and the unrelenting misery for those who do the dirty work. The books should be required reading. Add it to your list of banned books to get through before the hordes of fascists begin burning the next pile.

The tragic events unfolding in Ukraine were highly predictable and likely avoidable. But it all started much sooner than 2022. In a way, there was a ticking time bomb released since Boris Yeltsin expanded the powers of the Russian Presidency, and handed over the reigns to Vladimir Putin in 1999. It surely accelerated the moment Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for the American Presidency, shifting the party of Ronald Reagan to whatever it’s become since then. If you want a close look at long view power grabbing, look no farther than Putin. Over 23 years he’s worked to eliminate or mitigate the checks and balances meant to curb the power of an autocrat, both domestically and abroad, and here we are.

I joked when Trump was elected that I hoped the world wouldn’t crumble in on itself with him at the helm. It wasn’t worse than I expected, but it’s on pace to be. The only way to fight an autocrat with a long view is to swing the view of the people against them. There’s darkness in the world that can only be eliminated by putting a spotlight on it. And just as we saw in every other tragic example in history, we are the ones who have to clean up the mess.

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