By MARSHA MERCER
The horrifying news from Ukraine has no end.
“Russian strike hits maternity hospital,” read the banner headline on page one of Thursday’s Washington Post.
“Conditions Worsen in Ukraine as War Enters 3rd Week,” was the dispiriting, early headline on The New York Times site. High-level talks between Russia and Ukraine failed again to agree on allowing civilians safe passage to escape the carnage, much less on a deal to end the fighting.
Meanwhile, more than 2.3 million people have somehow managed to flee the war-torn country, the U.N. reported Thursday.
In our nuanced age, few situations are black and white, but Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked, immoral, brutal assault on Ukraine has united most of the world against him.
President Joe Biden announced the United States will no longer buy Russian oil and gas, following stiff economic sanctions by the West against Russia and its oligarchs. Apple, McDonald’s and Starbucks, among others, have ceased sales in Russia.
All these actions are welcome but have not stopped Putin’s aggression.
What fresh hell is next? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is everyone’s candidate for Person of the Year, but the “no-fly” zone he desperately wants is apparently a non-starter. The West cannot risk escalating the conflict with an unpredictable foe armed with nuclear weapons.
And so we watch, united in unalloyed anger, as the suffering intensifies. Public buildings glow blue and yellow. Blue and yellow ribbons wave on tree branches. The Ukrainian flag flies. A hand lettered sign in a window in my neighborhood reads:
That sums him well. I would add monster and madman.
And yet our daily lives continue apace. Truckers drive around Washington’s Beltway to protest pandemic restrictions that are ending anyway.
Biden warned gas prices, which have been rising overnight, would rise still more with the cut-off of Russian oil.
The national average price of a gallon of gas was $4.318 Thursday, and the average cost for a gallon of regular in Virginia was $4.241, according to AAA. No one knows how high prices will go or how pain at the pump will affect tourism and other parts of the economy that were just starting to recover.
So far, most Americans – 63% -- are willing to pay more at the pump to support democracy in Ukraine, a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken March 7-8 reported.
One in four said they’d pay “as much as it takes,” 11% said they’d pay $2 more a gallon than currently, 32% would pay $1 to $2 more and 31% said they were willing to pay less than $1.
One wonders how long support will last, though, if the cost of nearly everything keeps soaring. Prices rose 7.9% over the past year, the highest level in four decades. The February inflation report released Thursday reflects prices before the war in Ukraine.
Many Republicans condemn the Russian invasion, and even Biden’s predecessor has stopped calling Putin “smart” and “savvy.” The Reuters/Ipsos survey also found 80% of Americans want political leaders to provide a unified front in support of Ukraine instead of attacking their rivals.
But political fighting has not taken a vacation. Congressional Republicans wrongly blame Democrats for high gas prices, claiming Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and other policies have hiked prices. Fact-checkers say those policies are not to blame.
The National Republican Congressional Committee lashed out at Democratic Reps. Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia for doing “nothing” about high gas prices. “Their war on American energy is to blame for the pain Virginians are feeling at the pump,” the NRCC tweeted.
What can individuals do now? We can try not to complain (too much) about the price of gas and remember who really is to blame.
We can donate to charities that are bravely helping Ukraine and Ukrainians who have fled their country. Beware, though, despicable scam artists who use names similar to reputable charities to trick donors.
We can prepare to welcome the Ukrainian refugees who want to settle here. And we can steel ourselves to conditions getting worse, and maybe a lot worse, in Ukraine.
Now is the time to take a stand. If Putin wins in Ukraine, where will his lust for former Soviet territories stop?
And we can learn from Russian author Leo Tolstoy, who wrote in “War and Peace,” the two most powerful warriors are patience and time. Let them be on our side.
© 2022 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.