I Challenge You…

I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.

~Shakespeare

This #Youcannotmakethisshitup moment is brought to you by this guy:

Who is this guy you might ask? He is Igor Plotnitsky, the “president” of the Ukrainian separatists “Luhansk People’s Republic.” And he recently did something pretty interesting.

He challenged Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to a duel. Yep, you heard me right. A duel.

As an American when I think of a duel, I automatically think of the Old West. Two cowboys, who are fighting over a woman, or who spilled beer on the other one, line up, then turn their backs to one another and take an allotted number of paces and on the count of three they turn around, shoot and see who dies. There are even specialized pistols for the event, called dueling pistols.

But duels actually go back way further than that. Dueling came to Europe during the late medieval period and was prevalent mainly among the higher classes. It was a call to honor for many aristocratic men. It was also widely believed that God would make sure the winner was the man in the right. (Note: see my recent post on crazy shit that happens in the Christian religion and add this thought to the list). Dueling was widely practiced in England, France, Germany, Ireland, Russia and other European nations. Many of these countries even recorded the rules of conduct during a duel in books. Oftentimes, these rules included a provision wherein the challenged party could choose the venue and/or the choice of weapon.

So is the case here. Igor Plotnitsky has told his rival, Petro Poroshenko, that Petro may pick the venue and the weapon to be used (I’m personally hoping he goes for the bow and arrow). And he’s issued a rather interesting statement regarding the whole thing:

If you want to spill the blood of your and our soldiers, their wives, mothers, old people, and children, then prove that you are prepared to spill your blood too – and take my challenge.

Very interesting. While this is most likely simple propaganda (I would like to hope that the man leading the separatists is smart enough to know that the president of Ukraine was not going to fight in a duel to the death or at the very least I hope that Putin would have advised him of this), it isn’t something we haven’t all thought about before. How many times during the conflicts in the Middle East have we heard politicians and regular people bemoaning the loss of life? How many times have you heard people shout at politicians that they should send their sons and daughters to war, or better yet, go themselves, before they commit us to another battle? How many times have we thought that maybe this would be an equitable solution to our wars? One dies to save the masses.

Of course it’s not so easy as all that because, unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that God makes the right man in a duel a victor. Probably because God doesn’t condone killing. You know, Thou Shalt Not Kill and all that. Or, if you’re an atheist, because God doesn’t exist, whichever floats your boat.

If we resolved things by dueling, then we would all probably be just one giant Russia by now, because – have you seen Putin naked? Of course you have, the whole world has. Scratch that, we might not all be taken over by Russia because the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott might give Putin a run for his money.

Seriously, if they did do a duel, do you think they would air it on live TV? Because Ukraine is really hurting for money from what I understand, and I think the Pay Per View subscriptions would skyrocket over this one. Maybe Poroshenko could choose an arena like in the Hunger Games even? But the best question is – why am I not an artist because I would so be cashing in on the comics for this right now.

Just imagine, you have Plotnitsky kicking Poroshenko into a pit and screaming, “THIS IS RUSSIA!” while Putin claps merrily on a throne behind him. Oh the possibilities.

 

 

Dear Russia, Get Out of Ukraine

My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent

~ Tommy Douglas

November 17, 2014

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper “greeted” Russian President Vladimir Putin at the recent G20 he said the following words that made me want to give him a big ol’ bear hug:

I guess I’ll shake your hand but I’ll only have one thing to say to you – get out of Ukraine

Mr. Harper, I take my hat off to you.

Here in the U.S., I think we mostly think of Canada as our peaceful, northerly neighbors. They’re like our brother from another mother. We like to joke about them, and their love of hockey, eh? We think of the country mostly as an ice and snow-riddled northern wilderness full of jolly, happy-go-lucky pacifists who stay out of most everything. Up until 2009, U.S. citizens didn’t even need a passport to visit. In the Northeast U.S., where I live, most people don’t even consider Canada another country and if you ask someone if they’ve traveled to a foreign country and he/she says Canada the joke will be, “But that doesn’t count!”

We don’t think of Canada as a military power or a country that is all that involved in international politics or warmongering, which might be why we like them so much. We’re tired of war, and Canada doesn’t seem to have it. They’re like the Switzerland of North America. We think of their police as handsomely dressed forest rangers riding horses, and who are endearingly called the “Mounties” and we have a tendency to ask Canadians if they actually have real crime. Side note: They do, but much, much less than here in the U.S. Oddly though, they’re more afraid of crime (perhaps because they’re not as used to it).

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These dudes are what most Americans think of Canadian police. (c) Kit Houghton/PA Source: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/nov/08/mounties-murdoch-sun-tv-news

So when I read this morning about what Mr. Harper had to say to Mr. Putin, I nearly squealed in joy. Not because I like the thought of another nation becoming involved in war, but because it was so unexpected and also was exactly what most westerners would love to say to the Russian President ourselves.

Mr. Putin, you’re not fooling anyone, you’ve obviously done something terribly, terribly wrong. So like you tucked tail and fled the G20, so too tuck tail and get the hell out of Ukraine.

And if you want, take your separatists with you. If they feel that they’re more Russian than Ukrainian, take them back to your own soil and protect them there. We’ll see how Russian they are then. Ukraine is a sovereign nation, which you have invaded. Turn around and go home now, because you’ve done something I didn’t even think possible – you pissed off Canada.

 

Only Touched by War

August 28, 2014

In my 26 years of life, my country has been at war for all but three of them. During those three years I was an infant, eight and nine. Far too young to appreciate what peace means.

It’s an interesting thing for a child, to always be touched by war but to never truly experience it. In me, it created a nervousness and a deep sense of burden and personal responsibility. In others of my generation, it seems to have desensitized, even hardened their humanity. War is such a part of our daily reality that most of us don’t even notice it anymore. But I can’t help but feel everything is cultivated around it. Some things are made to shield us from it, others to push us toward it. But it’s there, always, lurking in the background of our existence.

I find it in unexpected places. Not long ago, I was photographing a hockey game for a friend of mine. Above the rink hung the flags of the nations who had had competitors skate there. The red maple leaf of Canada hung beside the solid striped nations of Europe which sat next to the brightly colored flags of South America. All dangled proudly over the ice. All but one, that is. One lone flag hung down, barely held up by its top right-hand corner. As skaters and pucks whizzed by, and the sounds of cracking sticks accompanied by the drumming of players slamming against walls thrummed in my ears, I stared at the limp flag. The moment froze like the icy air I pulled into my lungs.

The flag had just two colors, a dazzling cerulean blue and an almost orange-yellow, neatly stacked upon one another. A flag fit for a bluebird, but there it languished with broken wings.

A mother of one of the players who sat beside me asked me what was wrong. I pointed to the flag and said, “That flag is coming down.”

She followed my finger with her eyes and nodded, “I wonder what flag that is?”

My gaze never left the precarious sight, and I could hear the hollowness in my own voice as I answered, “It’s the Ukrainian flag.”

“How do you know that?” She sounded bemused, almost surprised at the speed of my response. Perhaps it was the Jeopardy or the University education, she may have been thinking. What an interesting and odd girl I must have seemed to her, staring at a flag like I’d seen a ghost when I was supposed to be shooting a hockey game.

But who in my generation doesn’t know what the Ukrainian flag looks like? True, it might be buried beneath the pictures of Kanye and Kim and the latest Justin Bieber scandal, but it’s there. War is always touching us. I might not have known what the Ukrainian flag looked like this time last year, but I do now. It’s burned there, an artifact of the present.

I felt the cool plastic of my lens drop to my knees. The weight of it all was so much. The strap of my Canon dug into my neck and pulled my shoulders down, so I had to strain to keep looking at the flag. Would it fall? Why hadn’t someone noticed and hung it back up?

Images of a country I’d never been to, a region I’d never experienced, bounced through my mind. The images were faded and broken, moving too quickly for me to catch just one but those two colors were oddly sharp and vibrant. It was as if I’d zoomed in on the flag, and everything else in the background had disappeared. Throngs of people, ordinary people just like me, who I’d never meet, who lived everyday lives not entirely different from mine and yet foreign, lined the streets of a city I’d likely never visit and above them they waved that flag. Snow and riot gear and blood.

“I’ve seen it on TV,” I told her.

All the while, goosebumps crept up my arms, but I knew it wasn’t the ice of the rink that was causing them. Another war was coming. Another war is always coming.

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Photo (c) Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images