Abby Zimet: It Was Dark. It Was Loud. It Was Hard For Many.
Actors and dancers of the Opera Theater perform Snow Queen for children and their families, many without power or water amidst air raids, on New Year’s Day in Dnipro, Ukraine. Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images
Happy New Year. With America’s baleful clouds still hovering – see a daft GOP House agenda of China, laptop, forced pregnancy, “illegal aliens” – we hope to emulate the latest somber, moving, defiant vow of Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy to move past grief and loss to action. “Each of us is a fighter,” he said. “Each of us is a front.”
This week’s New Year’s message from President Zelenskyy to his beleaguered citizens was a heartfelt thank you for their steadfastness after a year that “began sharply, early, on Feb. 24, without prefaces or preludes,” as they “woke up into another life.” “It was dark. It was loud. It was hard for many, and scary for some,” he said. “311 days have passed. It can still be dark, loud and complicated for us, but we will definitely never be afraid again…We saw who was who, what friends and enemies are capable of, and most importantly what we are capable of.”
Yes, we know: There are many other wars, and many other losses; empathy, like so much else, is racist and classist, and the world has paid attention in part because Ukrainians are white and western and “just like us.” But that doesn’t lessen the suffering meted out in harrowing video alongside the speech: Villages razed, families weeping, hospitals flattened even when their roofs proclaim “Children.” Nor does it diminish the resistance by so many – carrying sandbags, throwing Molotovs, digging for wounded, blocking tanks with their bodies and, in this ostensible season of joy, singing carols and lighting trees in the subway, safe from air raids. “The important thing is we welcome the new year free and together,” Zelenskyy ended. “We are ready to fight – that’s why each of us is here.”
In America, where the dark and crazy remain strong – Kennedy’s “call a crackhead,” Schmidt’s “rape as opportunity,” Miller thanking SCOTUS for the “victory of white life,” DeSantis vowing “we will never surrender to the woke mob” as the unwoke mob cheers – Ukraine’s tenacity buoys us. We’ll especially need it given the looming, bonkers, spiteful priorities of an incoming GOP-controlled House intent on tossing red meat to their ugly base of bigots and fanatics while doing virtually nothing to address any real-world problems – hungry children, fatter fat cats, burning planet anyone? – never mind Steve Scalise’s high-minded claim to “get our country back on the right (sic) track” with “meaningful, ‘ready-to-go’ legislation (that) will improve the lives of all Americans.”
Given…everything, we choose to begin the year taking solace and inspiration from Zelensky, and from John Pavlovitz, who in 2021 confronted the grief and spiritual ache of sharing a country with MAGA ugliness and cruelty, with those whose “moral inversion” exposed an America afflicted, “all our bigotry and discord and hatred set upon our chests, hampering our breath.” As with all loss, Pavlovitz argues, we must “grieve but then move,” learn to walk again, even if with a limp, transform “this near-paralyzing sense of sadness into something redemptive,” using it as fuel “in the painful, laborious act of living in direct opposition to your grief.” Good and change come in small ways – kindness, connection, beauty, speaking “truth where truth is not welcome” – as defiant “pushback against all that feels wrong here.” It’s not much. We do what we can. Happy New Year.
Banksy portrayed Ukraine’s redemption in action with this gymnast and other images. Photo by Banksy
First published in Common Dreams. Licensed under Creative Commons.
ABBY ZIMEThas written Common Dream’s Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women’s, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues.