Feeling Guilty

The other day my wife said something very profound. It went something like, “ I feel so guilty sitting here in comfort and watching the plight of the Ukrainians, and then, when I’m able to put it out of my mind for a minute or so, I feel guilty about that.” Wow! That’s like being both Catholic and Jewish on steroids!

But she’s accurately described how I feel, and how you probably do as well. It seems that just as we start coming out of the horrible, all-pervading level of stress that was COVID, it’s now been replaced by an almost more horrible, all-pervading stress–more horrible in that it’s not Nature that we’re fighting, but the personification of the Devil in the form of Vladimir Putin and his horde of demons.

On the very first day of the invasion I was scheduled to participate in a Zoom meeting to begin the production of some radio spots for a client of mine. These play in the Philly metro market and are always very edgy and humorous. I began the Zoom with the admonition that it wasn’t appropriate to be doing anything funny at that time, nor should we even be advertising.

One of the other participants, all of whom were young, flipped my concern aside by saying, “The rest of the world is just getting on with things.” Calmly enraged, I said, “Well, I disagree,” and left the Zoom. While we have resumed working on other projects, I haven’t heard anything further about those spots.

But, and this adds to my guilt, I, too, have been getting on with things. Bit by bit we’ve all likely become inured to the images on the two-dimensional screen and gotten back to living our lives as normally as we can. I guess that person in the Zoom was right, but perhaps just a bit premature.

Still, normal isn’t any more normal now than it was during COVID. I can’t sit down for a meal, take a shower, or crawl into a warm bed at night without thinking about those images, and the utter senselessness of war in general and of this war in particular. And it’s frustrating not to be able to do anything about it.

Last evening I watched an interview with one of the many American private citizens, mostly former military, who have traveled to the region to assist the brave Ukrainians in their fight. It was reminiscent of the Lafayette Escadrille, or Chennault’s Flying Tigers, both of which preceded our country’s entry into war.

In previous writing, I’ve advocated for greater involvement by the US in this current struggle. While I understand the reticence to escalate to WW III, I feel guilty about offering that suggestion while not being willing, myself, to join those young American volunteers. Unfortunately, my only viable recourse is one that’s also causing me some guilt.

Having come into a modest financial windfall recently, my immediate reaction was to tell my wife, the charity hound, to find out where we could divert that sum to legitimate Ukrainian relief. Shortly after that I thought, “Well, we probably ought to keep a percentage of it that to cover the taxes that will apply.” That was enough to start the guilt-wheel spinning. When I realized that we could donate the full amount of the windfall and pay no taxes at all by using some of our IRA required minimum distributions, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that my machinations had tainted the whole spirit of sharing in any real pain.

This is being written partly as therapy, and partly because I assume that anyone reading this is also feeling guilty. Maybe I’m wrong in that, and maybe I’m just wallowing in my own guilt. But the polling about accepting the sacrifice of higher gas prices seems to support that notion. and hopefully this may help you sort through your own guilt. Still, something tells me that if there is no quick resolution to this crisis that stops the shooting and bombing, the guilt may become overwhelming for all of us.

©2022, David B Bucher

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