Where is everybody? I remember a day when we danced and sang for peace and love. We chanted and raised a ruckus telling Nixon’s government they had to stop pouring napalm on innocent villages in Viet Nam. Where are we now? Don’t we care anymore? Or were those rallies where we used to sing and protest just another reason for kids to get high or get laid? I was serious back then. You said you were as well. So where are you now? People are being massacred and begging us for help. Where are we now?
As I saw pictures of the people being butchered in Mariupol I was reminded of a Bob Dylan song. “How many deaths will it take till we know that too many people have died?” We must have found that number somewhere blowin’ in the wind as the US and our European allies finally started sending some aid. Not troops on the ground. Ukraine never asked for that. But now some in the west are sending them things like spare parts to fix their air force. And it looks like the United States is sending them the heavy arms they have been asking us for months. How many people would not have died if we had given them what they needed to keep the Russians from destroying their cities and slaughtering their people?
And who finally brought this to the world’s attention? None of the leaders in western Europe really stepped up. At the United Nations, there was mostly finger-wagging. And in the White House, at first only a timid response. Only one man saw that this was truly the battle for freedom over tyranny in this new, global world. Good versus evil. That would be Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine. He was on TV every night saying Ukrainians would do the fighting if we would just give them the resources to do it. I always believed that the United States held the light of freedom, but it appears President Zelensky is the one shining it to the world right now.
As I watched men and women, farmers and waitresses put down their tools of work and pick up the tools of war to fight the Russians, I’m reminded that 250 years ago these same kinds of people left their homes and jobs to fight the British so we could gain our independence. Now the people of Ukraine want their sweet homeland to also be a “land of the free and a home of the brave.” “Free” may be tough right now, but “brave” has already been proven. If only the leaders of the free world had been as brave with their politics, they would have given the help Ukraine asked for when this thing started. Instead, we are proving to China and the rest of the authoritarian strong men that we don’t always stand up for our friends. At least not in time.
I had begun my career as a singer/songwriter and, with my musical partner Michael Brewer, success graced us. We had hit records and performed twice at Carnegie Hall. We have always been against stupid wars. We wrote and recorded songs and spoke out about those horrors every time we were on stage. At that point, I was blessed with a very large megaphone. I could shout my opinion about that war and people could hear me.
After the “Gold Rush” of hit records and tours, I became a television producer and started doing music videos for some of the songs we had written and recorded. I had been using video clips from a subscription service because I couldn’t get all of the footage I needed. There is a photographer and his beautiful model whose work I used in two of my projects. I wanted to find a way to send them copies of the videos. It took a while but I finally found them. Yikes! They were in Ukraine. But both had sites on Instagram.
Being new to Instagram I started poking around. I saw their friends and got some insight into the lives of the people who followed them. I had spent months with the imagery of the model taken by the photographer and somehow I felt I knew them. I didn’t really. Unknown virtual friends so to speak. We all have them if we are on social media. But these artist friends were giving me exactly what I needed to go along with our love songs. Incredible beauty.
Then came the horror. Their Instagram imagery went from friends riding on a ferris wheel or photographer’s photos of their models to cries for help and pictures of the devastation that, days ago, had been their beautiful lives. And memes asking the same thing. HELP US.
This is typical of the kinds of messages. A meme from Ukrainian photographer Vladislav Radchenko shows the passion of the people about what is happening to them. Fortunately, I have “Translate” on my iPad, my iPhone, and my Mac, or I would be lost.
Most of the messages were cries for help. And here is where my frustration kicked me in the head. Where once I had a large megaphone to use on stage or in recordings, those days have passed. Now I’m just a simple writer and video guy with a blog, “One Toke Tom.” But that megaphone is much smaller than the one I had back when we would be on the bill with Bruce Springsteen or Elton John.
The president of Ukraine has been begging us for months to give his army the things they need to fend off this drunken hoard that kills old women and young kids. It looks like we are finally doing it. I can’t help but wonder why we had to wait for thousands of civilians to be killed and their cities left in ruin before we did anything. And give the oppressors of the world a chance to see how weak we can be when politics kicks in. To quote one of our own songs “and I cried ‘My God what have we done? We’ve got our freedom on the run.’”
Over the years I have done my best to keep politics out of my “One Toke Tom” site and promise to continue doing so. I like writing lighthearted, personal stories. But I keep getting messages and responses from people in Ukraine asking me to do something, and this is all I know to do. “Tell your friends about us and ask them to pressure your government to help.” So that is what I am doing. Aren’t we supposed to be the beacon of freedom for this world?” Right now that title belongs to Volodymyr Zelensky as he warns us that the rest of the free world is at risk if we don’t stop this massacre now. And with election season here in the US at hand, I would like to see President Zelensky come here and save us from ourselves after he defeats the Russians.
I’m sorry my friends and regular readers for this uncharacteristic rant but I’m pissed. I mean really pissed. Let’s do what we can to help the strong and beautiful people of Ukraine. Learn what is really happening there. Spread the word. Donate to humanitarian organizations. Let your legislators know how you feel and VOTE!! I hope you’ll join me.
ONE LAST PIECE OF NEWS…THE GOOD KIND. In case you wonder, Demetry, the photographer, let me know that he is safe in Sri Lanka and Model Mary is with them.