I’m sitting in my newspaper class right now, skimming my students as they migrate through their activities. Some are editing. Some are writing. One is working on a podcast. But the general atmosphere is relaxation. Humor. A student is playing country music in the background.
And I’m panicking.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has swept me back 33 years to when I was sixteen years-old and living in Washington D.C. area. I used to have nightmares about nuclear holocausts. I was scared all the time that some random politician would press the “red button” and everything I knew was over. That we would be obliterated in mushroom clouds and radiation.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the end of the Soviet era, that uncertain paranoia eased. A new fear smashed open with 9/11. And maybe that’s why I’m sitting in my classroom right now, frightened. I know it’s not the same. That this is not comparable to passenger jets being used as guided missiles as they explode into civilian and military targets.
But it’s that helplessness. This sitting here in my classroom, feeling like I’m sixteen when I’m approaching fifty. I’m in two completely different states of existence and yet they are parallel, juxtaposed one on top of another. I want to “stop the presses.” Discontinue the articles profiling a new clothing store that’s opened up downtown. Or an article about a philanthropic teacher who is running over a hundred miles to raise money for our students. I want us to write about people who have been training with wooden weapons in the forest for an invasion everyone has known was going to happen but prayed that it wouldn’t.
I prayed for the people of Ukraine. I pray for them now. And, in a terrible way, I feel like my prayers are fruitless. Like they are doing nothing. Which really bothers me as a woman of faith. I believe in God. But I don’t understand this. And I feel like a horrible Christian who is questioning.
I am sitting in a room in which we uphold the very freedoms the people of Russia do not enjoy. My students exemplify the qualities and traditions of the Freedom of Press. The Freedom of Speech. They exist within these…I want to say privileges because they have no understanding of how very threatened their Freedoms are.
I want to protect them. I want to teach them. Educate them. I want them to remain enshrouded in their opalescent cocoons. And I want to pull them out, remove the blindfolds. And help them see.
Most of all, I just want to stop feeling afraid.