Sunflowers for Ukraine

In the 90s “the world is going to Hell in a handbasket” was kind of the saying of the day. Every day there was some new trauma I didn’t understand as a child, that I do understand now. The basket has broken down…we’re in Hell…or some of us are.

I still won’t go so far as to say that I am proud to be Canadian, because I think Canada has a lot of work to do, but I will say that I am super lucky, and I fucking know it.

In Kyiv yesterday a woman handed a Russian soldier a pocket full of sunflower seeds and told him to put them in his pocket so when he died – not if – his body would release the seeds and sunflowers would grow in his place. Today, Ukrainian soldiers – females – were wearing sunflowers in their hair.

In Yemen, Palestine, across the globe people are at war, and here I am in Canada, free as a bird to write about it, to say what I want with little to no consequence because I am Canadian and we have the power of free speech in this country.

It would be disingenuine to say that I know anyone in Ukraine, but the constant barrage of news blasts has had an effect on me. I remember now, or maybe I realize more keenly, as an adult, the effects of war in ways I didn’t as a child.

I am lucky. I don’t have to explain to my children what this means. I don’t have to race to get my family out of a country that has no planes because the airports have been shot down. I don’t have to worry about my friends and family curled in a corner of a train tunnel trying to ignore the blasts, and yet still I can’t help but worry because I have friends in those situations.

I have friends all over the world. In Russia, and friends who have family in Ukraine, and so I worry for the ones they love. I worry for my followers and fans who are in Ukraine, and abroad, wondering if the ones they love are safe. In short, I am empathetic, but I’m not entirely sure what I can do to help.

Yesterday the world watched in horror, as an armed tank ran over a man INSIDE of a car…thankfully the gentleman was safe, but it just talks about how senseless this all is. They didn’t have to do that, he posed absolutely zero threat, but in war, soldiers do awful things. It happens. We know it happens, we just don’t talk about it until we’re forced to.

Last night Vladimir Zelenski stood in the heart of Kyiv and told the world that neither he nor his advisors were going anywhere. Today Google refused to let anyone in Russia earn a dime from their streaming, their funding is being cut off at every angle, and people across the globe are suffering, but the battles that are small today can turn huge tomorrow. Putin has only just gotten started, and while he may seem insane, nothing I’ve learned about this man screams rash, or insane.

The world is indeed in a state of perpetual Hell, and the only thing I know how to do is offer hope. All I know how to do is to remind you that the people of Ukraine, the people of Yemen, of Palestine, are not giving up on their future. They are still fighting, they are remaining strong against all odds.

Just moments ago it was reported that all train tracks between Russia and Ukraine have been blown up, broken apart, and it will be many years before those tracks are prepared.

The hope that they might be one day be repaired, that there may one day be peace across Europe and the world, is what I hold onto. Peace for the people of this planet has never come easy, it’s something that we have always had to fight for. That we have always had to shed blood to achieve, I hope that won’t always be the case. It’s all I have.

Yesterday there was a woman in Ukraine who was being interviewed, she’s making her way to Canada, to Vancouver to be specific, to be with her sister and her family. Welcome neighbor, can’t wait till you get here…the day after the battle started, a woman on Snake Island told a man to tell the Russian warship to go fuck themselves. These are strong, powerful people, and like all those who have had to fight to survive before them, they aren’t going anywhere just because Putin is a nazi.

He likes to tell people he’s not, but he’s a known racist. He doesn’t like or care about making Russia safe for Black folk, disabled folk, or LGBQ2S+ folk, and has in fact gone out of his way to make life in Russia very difficult for the people who live there. Regardless of age, race, creed, orientation, or size, your life is on the line the moment you are born in Russia, and everyone around the world knows it.

They used to have “finishing schools,” in Russia, and the rumor was that these finishing schools were really designed to teach people to be spies and soldiers. They’ve made hundreds of movies about this and even Wikipedia has reference pages to these places.

Putin has always been about power, and nothing more, and those of us on the ground who are safe, who have platforms that we use to educate others need to be more critical about the information that we put out into the world.

For weeks friends have been asking me what can be done as if I understand geopolitical situations like this, I don’t, but I’m starting to.

I’m starting to understand that there is a give and take a scenario with peace and war, and really no one wins. Even if the Ukrainian people get Putin to back off this time, he’ll only come back harder the next.

The people of Ukraine have allies and options, but they can only access both those things if they can get out of the country. Men ages 19-60 have been told they are not allowed to leave Ukraine, if they can walk and talk they can fight.

And still, I have hope. Because a woman stood up to a soldier and offered him sunflower seeds so he wouldn’t be forgotten when he died.

Because hundreds marched through Russia to tell Putin what they think of his war, and to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine,

Because another woman told a Russian warship and everyone on it to go fuck themselves via a messenger, because the women of Ukraine, Palestine, and Yemen have refused to give up, so shall I.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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