Putin’s Sword is Our Sword by Brayton Shanley

Putin’s Sword is Our Sword by Brayton Shanley Russian President Vladimir Putin is behaving like an unhinged dictator hell bent on occupying and decimating Ukraine.  He apparently needs to satisfy his vanity and his lust for power in re-establishing a Soviet Empire. Is this why the Russian people love him so and give him such a wide birth of power?  Meanwhile, his deluded yet determined invasion of Ukraine holds the entire world in rapt attention.  We are captive onlookers as he amasses 150,000 troops on the Ukraine border and then, “went in.”  His reason?  “To keep the peace.”  He was compelled to invade Ukraine “to prevent a genocide,” stopping, in his words, the “Nazification of Ukraine” and of its president Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, with no evidence of any genocidal threat.   One wonders why Putin uses the name Nazi, given that Ukraine’s President is Jewish, and the mother tongue of Ukrainians is Russian.  To drag up the notion of “Nazification” could be a result of the collective Russian trauma in suffering the loss of 16 million people in the German invasion in June of 1941. The massacre of Russian people is a major doorway into seeing, starkly, Putin’s humanity and realize the role of compassion to understand his generational trauma and paranoia. With deep compassion we attempt to understand his suffering, while at the same time, we condemn his murderous war, and join the world community in resisting the madness of what he has wrought. Effectively, Putin will gain nothing by this invasion.  He has no allies in his cause.  Is he simply an unstable leader who has “lost it?” Is he dragging a country into his deluded fantasy while the Russian leaders and military follow blindly?  Is he waging a cruel and insane war as a protection against his imagined enemies?  Why are war and mass always killing the answer for the Putin’s of this world? Yet the European countries, Russia and the United States were all born in the bloodletting of war.  For hundreds of years, we Western countries have consistently settled our differences with the sword.  Ukrainians, likewise, with no real chance to stop the Russian Army or to defeat them militarily, are willing to fight to the death the vastly superior Russian forces.  What does Ukraine stand to gain?  Fight to the death and be given back a country laid waste by the most modern weapons of war?  To fight violence with counter-violence only empowers war. Since the Revolutionary War, the United States has used war and invasion to its advantage.  We are quite good at war, spending 800 billion dollars per year to make certain our victories.  War is our “go to” addiction when serious conflict threatens us.  We will not send troops to fight the Russians because such a deployment could lead to a nuclear exchange, but we will make sure to send our weapons and troops to NATO countries which surround Russia and the Ukraine as our firewall to a threatened Europe.   War always settles the score yet begets the next war.  How will counter violence bring a violence prone Putin to his knees?  And why is it almost always men who resort to war, killing the “enemy” and the enemy’s children, wives, and mothers?  Historically, it is men who are “called out” to protect family and “fatherland”.  Why are we so willing to resort to these horrific massacres with no real winners? Glenn Gray, a US intelligence official during WWII, writes in his classic book, Warriors, of his four years in combat.  “Many men both hate and love combat.  They know why they hate it. …but why do they ‘love it’?  War is a spectacle. … When we are under the spell of this powerful mood, its deepest satisfaction, we see the fate of our adversaries exposed to our power; we enjoy feelings of superiority.” The Russian Christian pacifist, Leo Tolstoy writes; “Government is violence.”  Historically, men have been conscripted to fight their government’s wars.  It is a particular male attraction and obligation.  If men throughout the world’s cultures continue this “obligation” to fight and to kill as a human race, we will never move beyond this primitive horror, and, our mass killing will likely lead, not to peace, but to human extinction.   Sick with trauma and paranoia as Putin appears, if he is threatened with violence, especially by the West, could he be tempted to push the nuclear button?  His cruel and vicious threats to those who resist with violence suggest that nuclear weapons are part of the toolbox, for this dangerous and deluded man. Considering the demoralized and degraded state of men in power throughout our war-torn world, it is past time for us to loosen our grip on political, economic, and military power and to yield to the wisdom of women.  Women need to demand their voice.  The true balance of the feminine pacifies and saves us from the overly masculinized, testosterone-driven violence of governments.  Men must follow the lead of women, yielding to the feminine principle contained within all men.  Following the lead of our anima will give us men a way out of our habitual knee- jerk trust in violence as protection. Let’s take a New Testament page from the male prophet, Jesus, who also possesses the balance of a strong feminine impulse and love for women: “Do not take revenge on those who wrong you.  Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them who despitefully use you.  So that you may be called children of your God who is in heaven.”  (Matt. 6). Another exemplary male and Hindu disciple of nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi put it succinctly: “We either progress toward nonviolence or rush to doom.”  Should we defeat Putin using the violent tactics of Putin, we as a human race will continue to rush to our doom.  Are Christians, indeed, are all people of faith, finally ready to resist war, choosing life, preferring to die rather than to kill? Brayton Shanley is a co-founder of Agape, a lay, residential Catholic community, rooted in gospel nonviolence, interfaith worship, and practice, open to all, as we aspire to greater gender, racial, and ethnic inclusivity.