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Last Sunday while I was pondering the worsening situation in Ukraine, I sought refuge in distraction.
Initially my distraction was a news story about a baby elephant who was abandoned by his herd and rescued by workers at an African wildlife preserve. They finally found him a companion who brought the pachyderm baby out of his depression — a German Shepard.
However, that enriching story didn’t last as a distraction. I needed intermediate reflections. Thus, I connected the African baby elephant story with my memory of my sister, who was very fond of elephants. She was a research scientist working with elephants around the world, most notably for us at the Portland Zoo. Before she died in 2007 at age 67, she had expanded the field of biochemistry with her elephant-related study of sex pheromones. I remember a cross-country flight with her when I was first working on my book concerning healing male/female conflict. She described her work, and I postulated my theory of sexual bargaining. She integrated my thinking with hers — we may be largely captive of our pheromones when we bargain for intimacy. She told me to get my book on the subject out immediately. It has taken decades — other work has interceded — but I am now close.
I will dedicate my chapter on mental health to our son who met an untimely death. I will dedicate the chapter on sexual bargaining to my sister — who also died too young.
Last Monday brought another “distraction.” After I served on the Central Kitsap School board in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was appointed by that board to chair a committee examining the district’s religious policies. Thus, not surprisingly, I have followed the Coach Joe Kennedy story, and now the U.S. Supreme Court opinion, with interest.
Our long-ago committee nearly unanimously structured the school religious policies to be broadly inclusive, rather than restrictive; to allow students as free expression as possible with the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause in mind.
I still agree with that view, and Justice Gorsuch’s words in the majority opinion, "Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic.”
As important as school prayer and other hot button issues such as guns and abortion are, I have British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s words to thank for bringing my reflections back to today, and what we have at stake in Ukraine.
For all that he seems to epitomize of worldwide juvenile behavior regarding fractured relationships, Boris Johnson has appeared to step up as the most courageous partner to President Zelensky of Ukraine. Unless we are totally distracted, we can see the weakening of the western world’s resolve, despite words out of the G-7. We can see a competing block likely forming between China, Russia and India. The picture of those three world leaders together should be a stark warning. Taiwan is in China’s crosshairs. Russia senses western weakness and lack of resolve. India, Iran, North Korea and a host of other nations are watching to see who blinks.
As reported by the BBC last Sunday, Johnson noted that the “Allies were ‘making the sacrifice’ over rising food and energy costs because ‘the price of freedom is worth paying.” The BBC noted that, “Mr. Johnson said leaders would be discussing how to keep the coalition of support together ‘at a time when realistically there is going to be fatigue among populations and politicians….The Prime Minister gave the example of Germany, which is taking emergency measures after Russia cut gas supplies, saying: ‘They’re making the effort, they’re making the sacrifice. That’s because they see the price of freedom is worth paying….The price of backing down, of allowing President Putin to hack off parts of Ukraine, to continue with his programme of conquest — the price will be far, far higher and everyone here understands that…"
While it’s understandable for the United States to get distracted by important domestic issues, we cannot lose our resolve. It’s fair to consider the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of the costs to us in both lives and money. But it’s important to remember the historical lessons from withdrawal from helping non-communist China after World War II, ultimately setting up our major international adversary of today; and the more recent precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, potentially setting up Iran as the major player and pariah in the region.
While the United States has done a lot for Ukraine, we should realize that we are still the world’s defender of freedom. We must resist the voices from both the right and left that characterize our modern equivalent of the 1930s “America First” movement — a movement dramatically disproven on December 7, 1941.
While we need to address our domestic challenges, we need to not be distracted from the bigger picture.
Contact Larry Little at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Larry Little: Trying not to be driven to distraction