December 6, 2022
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What an astounding contrast!

In the midst of the sights and sounds cascading from Ukraine, I think we’ve all been struck by a stark contrast.

Most of us in this world are not used to being bombarded daily with actual bombs, but we’ve become sadly accustomed to the carpet-bombing of common sense. Everything from gender to the multiplication tables is held to be incredibly fluid (“incredibly” literally means “unbelievably”). It’s as if, esteeming ourselves as gods of our own “personal truth” and universe, we only obey the law of gravity because we choose to do so. But we might suspend it for two hours on a Thursday in May. One wonders how many bruising falls our society has to take before we are cured of the latter conceit and error.

But what it’s taken to bring our mind-numbing and superficial waltz through the tulips to a pause is a slap-up-the-side-of-the-head encounter with reality bearing the name of a country: Ukraine.

I suppose it’s always been easy to find among politicians a significant percentage of light-weights, loud mouths, and stuffed shirts. It may be reverse chronological arrogance to think that the situation has been worse over the last ___ [write in your own number] of years, but it’s certainly not been better.

I don’t know why we insist on scraping the bottom of the barrel, but, forgive me, I guess I thought that if we insisted on it, we might accidentally poke a hole in the bottom. Who knows? Some slime and mold might ooze out. Maybe the top could be opened and a little light and air let in. Maybe.

My own opinion is that, since the world is markedly short of Reagans and Thatchers, and sadly bereft of Gerald Fords who would literally choose for the nation and against himself, well, I could at least personally resolve to try never to vote for anyone at any level incapable of saying three words: “I was wrong.”

I’d not write in “Donald Duck” to express my disdain, but I would write in the name of someone of wisdom, character, intelligence, and integrity (and probably too wise to run for office) who could easily fill three sentences with more real meaning than a long speech by [fill in politician’s name].

And then while I’m thinking such bleak bottom-of-the-barrel thoughts, something happens that I very much wish hadn’t: Ukraine.  

What’s happening there is horrible and heartbreaking, an attack and an invasion of senseless and cowardly brutality perpetrated by a very small man with a massive inferiority complex, a murderer quickly morphing into a war criminal.

I pray—I really do—that his heart could somehow be softened. I also pray—I really do—that, if not, the evil he is inflicting on others will soon fall back swiftly on his own head. (I find myself vacillating between Psalm 58 and Matthew 5:38-48, but I’m afraid I tend toward the former.)

But with the invasion comes the contrast between bloody cowardice and incredible courage. Between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. The latter has reminded us of what real courage, integrity, and self-sacrifice look like.

A malicious misleader sends 19-year-olds to invade a country not their own, to kill people they have no problem with, and to push his malignant agenda. He stays luxuriously holed up but surely paranoid lest he be poisoned. (I wonder why?) A real leader stands with his people and his troops, willing and even expecting to die, but he refuses to abandon his people or slither like his adversary. In the midst of poisonous lies, he speaks what is true, and truth is strong.

What a contrast. Cowardice inadvertently spotlights courage. Despots go pale as heroes stand up. And just maybe, some politicians become less likely to lick boots and more likely to grow backbones as they see one less afraid of death than they are of losing the next election.

I can’t help it. At this point, the English teacher in me almost reflexively sees a good essay-writing assignment: Compare and contrast. Give some thought to cowards and heroes. List some of history’s other contrasting examples. 

Then the preacher in me says, why stop down here on earth? Don’t get me wrong. I know that Satan is far worse than Putin. And I know that President Zelensky, though an amazingly courageous man, is a man, and that means mortal and flawed. One of the contrasts I’d personally mention, though, is that I doubt Zelensky, like most heroes, would have any trouble admitting his flaws; I can’t imagine Putin, like all bullies, ever admitting any at all.

Come to think of it, we might consider spending some time comparing and contrasting Satan and Christ, the devil and our King, and thinking seriously about what makes for real strength.

Curtis K. Shelburne

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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