Putin, fearful and weak, means to do harm to democracy, but he too has to wake up and learn that evil never has the last word.
Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger call on Russians of good will to resist this criminal war, opened my eyes to another facet of my own misconception of who and what was to blame in my own family’s post World War I & II internalized hostility.
My fathers brother-in-law was so blinded by Hitler’s propaganda that in front of our whole family, kids and all, he pulled his revolver and would have shot down his wife’s brother had she not thrown herself in front of them. My grandmother on my father’s side, at heart a royalist to the end, always preferred her oldest son because he was a faithful patriot, a Nazi officer, a believer in autocracy to the end. Meanwhile, my grandmother on my mother’s side despised what Hitler and Nazis stood for, to the point of siding with the allied forces, including the Russians, occupying my home town.
To this day, I am uncertain what motivated my father to simply go underground. Perhaps he was fed up with the hypocrisy of Hitlers war? Perhaps he simply dreamed of a small place on neutral ground, real Lebensraum, breathing space? Perhaps, like some of the young Russian soldiers in Ukraine today, he no longer understood or believed monstrous, patriotic lies?
Still, to the end, our family never found the peace they fought for. My father’s mother never got along with my mother’s mother, and the brothers and brother-in-laws never again saw eye-to-eye politically.
Falling in love with an American, and worse yet an aspiring Democratic politician, turned out to be a temporary safe haven. Becoming an American was providence showing me a way beyond the old rebellions and revolutions, into Neuland. An escape beyond old empires and kingdoms toward new kin-doms. Still unresolved hatreds of the past are raging and continuing to poison the possibility of envisioning a beloved community.
Now, in my eighties, the best I can do is continuing to learn how to open my heart to the past and gratefully accept the lessons of the present. Grateful to my mother’s mother for teaching me to forgive enemies, my mother for opening my mind to new worlds, my father for refusing to obey wrong orders, my father’s mother for teaching me to value gold and appreciate the beauty and grandeur of past cultures.
Finally, a special word of thanks to my Italian stepmother for protecting my child’s soul and teaching me that all healing depends on empathy and learning by heart.
So, as I look at Cleveland’s skyline reflecting in the great Erie sea I trust that providence knows what She is doing. May young men like our mayor and old men like our president continue to envision healthy communities, and may we together dream to meet all peoples needs. Then with God’s help we will overcome what is ours to overcome.