PATRICK MCVAY

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The Holy Hand Grenade

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If I had been cryogenically frozen in the mid-1980s and thawed just this past week, not only would I have missed the Spice Girls phenomenon, but I might have been amazed to discover that we humans hadn't yet killed each other off, along with most other life forms, via our stockpiles of intercontinental ballistic missiles and their cargo of nuclear warheads. However, I might have concluded, upon picking up a newspaper (a broadsheet so much thinner and narrower than I recall!), that The Soviet Union is alive and well: they still invent cockamamie reasons for invading a neighbor, such as to conduct a "peacekeeping mission"; facts are impossible to come by since the media are controlled by the state; and no one can leave the country.

Yes, I know, people can leave, but no one will take them in these days, except Belarus, and who wants to go there? That's the price you pay for raining shells onto your closest neighbor and creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe in 80 years. I visited a Berlin museum in the early 1980s and saw the lengths to which East Germans had gone to sneak out. They were installing secret panels in cars to hide human cargo and flying hot air balloons over the Berlin Wall while we Central New Yorkers were able to drive north and answer a few questions to get into Canada. This wasn't so long ago; lots of East Europeans alive today recall how much fun it was to live under Soviet rule, with the Kremlin calling the shots. Which is to say, no fun at all.

So, is it any wonder that Ukranian moms are taking up arms against invading Russian soldiers? The choices are either awful or much worse: fight and go through the hell of war; or submit and have a puppet beholden to Moscow installed as your new master. When war is clearly the better option, you know things are bad.

I fear dark days ahead, but my admiration for Ukraine – a country I knew precious little about until recently – is enormous. The resistance has inspired the western world to band together against Vlad, inflicting pain on his economy and people, and frankly a lot of other people as well. Putin is calling this "an economic war" against him. Call it whatever you want, but don't expect the civilized world to ignore your brutal treatment of a peaceful country.

I have a fantasy that a rogue Russian Minister will sprinkle some of that soviet-era poison dust into a bowl of Putin's borscht so that he turns green and even German doctors can't save him. But given that he puts 20 feet between himself and his closest allies and probably employs a battery of food tasters, that would be a little difficult to achieve without him noticing. 

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