We All “Kraine” for Ukraine

Gray_space available_2012-07-30

2014-03-04 – I kraine, you kraine, we all kraine for Ukraine.

“Kraine?” You ask. “What is the meaning of ‘kraine’?”

Well, I want to think that “kraine” is a mashup of “cryin’“ and “prayin’.” It’s how we react to a tragedy that we feel powerless over. We shed tears and if we are religious at all, we say, “I’m prayin’ for you.”

But don’t take that for gospel. It could simply refer to the fact that, when we see a tragic event, we crane our necks to see more. Take your pick. It could be one or the other or both or neither.

I kraine, you kraine, we all kraine for Ukraine.

Most of us knew little about Ukraine before a few days or a few weeks ago. I dare say that this is probably true of most of the pundits that we now turn to for news on the growing conflict. My knowledge is pretty slim. I do know that my grandmother was born in Ukraine sometime around the turn of the twentieth century in a town called Chernobyl, which is not far from the capital of Kiev. You may remember Chernobyl was the site of a nuclear reactor accident. My grandmother came to America before World War I and was gone before her hometown made that dreadful news.

So that’s what I know. That, and the fact that territories between Russia and Poland have been shuffled around since before my grandmother was born. Folks in that part of the world have a hard time getting along.

I kraine, you kraine, we all kraine for Ukraine.

Ukrainians and Russians are distinct nationalities, which is to say: they know the difference. Outsiders like you and me might have a hard time telling them apart. I say this, not to demean or diminish whatever differences or grievances they have. These are real. The two sides are not equivalent. There is a right side. But I’m talking about the tragic closeness of the peoples.

I have read varying accounts saying that the differences between Ukrainian and Russian are similar to the differences between Americans and Brits or Spanish and Italian. My grasp of these languages (other than the variants of English) is close to nil (or zero, as we would say in America), but I can say one thing: America and Britain are not at war. Neither are Italy and Spain.

How many times in our lifetimes have we witnessed war or other atrocities between peoples who, to outsiders seem uncomfortably similar?

In my life I krained for the North and South Vietnamese, I krained for the Serbs and Croats, I krained for the Hutus and Tutsis. I krained for the Sunnis and Shias and Wahabis. (I was too young to kraine for North and South Korea, but I kraine for them now.) Those and many others.

And now I kraine, you kraine, we all kraine for Ukraine—and Russia.

We’ve never had this in the United States, not since the Civil War. No one can say we don’t have differences. And we certainly take sides on many issues and over our multiple identities. They are heated, almost intolerable, even violent. And, to each of us, our side is right and the other side is wrong. And sometimes, we are right about that. But we stop short of the brink. Why is that? How is it that we don’t go down that path of brother against brother?

Are we immune? Or is it just a matter of time?

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