March 5, 2024


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DYSON COLUMN: How would we fare in the face of war? | Columns

I think most of us would be willing to pay more at the pump if we thought the extra money would somehow make it into the hands of the Ukrainian people who have fled their homes or had their neighborhoods destroyed during the Russian invasion.

Instead, I fear it will just end up with those who already have deep pockets: gas company executives. I don’t doubt that the war in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions against Russian products are impacting the global market and the prices we pay for gas in the Fredericksburg area.

But as we’ve seen before, all it takes is one fire, explosion or gnat falling into a vat of oil anywhere in the world for gas prices to climb. The mere hint of a shortage causes a spike.

On the subject of explosions, how awful is it to watch a war being waged in real time?

A tank drives down the street and fires at a car, killing the inhabitants, and we see it that night on the news.

Women and children are trying to flee the war-torn country when mortars explode and they’re killed, and someone has documented the action with a news camera or smartphone.

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Children say a tearful goodbye to their fathers, who watch a train pull out of the station, worrying that might be the last time they’ll ever see each other—and we share the gut-wrenching moment.

It’s horrific and unsettling, to say the least. Given what I do for a living, you’d think I’d be in favor of anything that provides instant access of news events, but it makes me feel queasy. I want to turn away, but like someone driving by an auto accident, can’t help but look.

As I watch reporters covering protesters in Moscow, where anyone who says anything against the government could be arrested, I wonder how long foreigners will be allowed to film before they’re rounded up as well.

I see newscasters on the streets in flak jackets and helmets and wonder how much protection that little armor will provide if there’s an airstrike nearby.

I worry that those making the news—as in the Russian invaders—would like nothing more than to take out a few of those reporting on it.

All I can say is God bless those who live in and report from a war zone.

Repeatedly, news agencies have said the refugee crisis is the worst since World War II and my mind keeps going back to stories I’ve heard about that era and the way people pitched in to do whatever was needed. Americans have shown amazing resiliency over almost 2½ centuries, but I worry that we’ve gotten so comfortable—OK, spoiled—that I can’t imagine how we’d react if faced with the conditions seen in Ukraine.

Of course, many would say it would never get to that point because of our superior military. But if the president did order all men ages 18 to 60 to stay and fight, as the Ukrainian leader did, how many would take up arms? How many more would organize a protest or file lawsuits saying it violated their rights to be ordered to defend their country?

If the decree happened here, the action would impact my son, son-in-law and oldest grandson, come June, as well as a number of nephews and all their friends. I can’t even begin to imagine it.

I’d like to think that I’d join the fight as well, even though I’m past the mandated age. There’s a great quote from Porthos, one of the Three Musketeers, in the movie, “The Man in the Iron Mask,” when he’s asked to take up arms in his older age.

He says he’d rather “die covered in blood than an old man, lying in my own” body fluids. But who knows how any of us would react when put in that situation?

Likewise, what if food, leather, tin and other items needed for the war effort had to be rationed as they were during in the 1930s and beyond? What kind of fits would people pitch about that? It’s really hard to picture Americans abiding by the limitations of their ration books.

If the worst happened and we lost everything, including the ability to buy groceries, would we know how to feed ourselves? My companion, Lou, doesn’t hunt anymore, but he says he’s kept his shotguns and ammo in the event of such a disaster. If we have to, he says, we can eat some of the squirrels that congregate in our backyard.

Of course, they gather there because we feed them and I always hope he’s joking when he says such a thing. But after the devastation we’re seeing on the nightly news, I have to wonder.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

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