A Conversation Story

George was again shaking his head back and forth in disagreement listening to Julie. They were at the wedding of Mary and Tom. George was married to Tom’s mother’ sister and Julie was Tom’s father’s sister, thus they were related by marriage. George and Julie had been together at many family occasions when, like now, after dinner when the drinks had been generously flowing, they got into discussions where they were rarely in agreement, and on occasion became quite heated. In spite of these disagreements they really liked each other. Perhaps it was their different temperaments, professions, ethnicities, religions, or childhoods that could explain their different world views, or more likely where they.obtained their information.

Julie was saying that she felt sick that a certain Ms. Smith had been charged with her brother of premeditated first degree murder of Mrs. Smith’s husband. George responded, “Smith and her brother made an unprovoked attack. The brother was waiting for him to return home with a gun. Come on Julie, how can you defend these two?”

Julie, quite calmly in this instance, replied “Actually George, I don’t disagree with you that she is guilty from the cursory account you know about. But I have studied the background information on the case based on a long article at IJKnews.com. The Smiths had been married for eight years. Very soon into the marriage the husband began dictating to Mrs. Smith from the major to the minutiae of her life. When she resisted he became violent. She sought help through counseling, social services, and the police. But he persisted in acts of violence and threats of more. In particular, he threatened her life if she dared divorce him. In this process she asked for the help of her brother. The occasions when he intervened the husband became violent with him. I should add that Mrs. Smith weighs 110 lbs, while the husband is 220 lbs. On the fateful day Mrs. Smith was determined to finally leave her husband. She asked her brother to help her get her things together and defend her if the husband appeared. He brought the gun not to kill the husband but to keep him from stopping his sister from leaving. He never expected to fire it. Unfortunately, the husband could not be reasoned with. He became physically violent and in the resulting tussle the gun fired and he was killed. I am for total gun control, and this may be a crime, but it was far from unprovoked nor premeditated murder.”

George said, “I now see your point about Mrs. Smith. The short article I read at LMNnews.com didn’t include any of the background you have described. If this is all true I would agree with you.” They each took a swig of their beers.

George started a new tack in the conversation, “The history of the Smiths and our different understanding of the events based on the background information we learned from our different sources brings to mind a fundamental problem about many issues. For example, you made an offhand comment about the Evil Putin earlier. What is your take on the war in Ukraine?”

Julie responded, “I think this one is simple, Putin, Russia, made an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine to reinstate the Soviet Empire. This is a crime by international and moral law. All of the resulting pain and suffering makes Putin evil in my opinion.”

Now George, quite calmly in this instance, replied “Actually Julie, I don’t disagree with you that Putin is guilty from the cursory account you know about. But I have studied the background information on the case based on a long article at LMNnews.com and other sources. This story goes way back, centuries in the past. However, I will just go back eight years. There was a regime change in Ukraine largely orchestrated by the US when the elected government had agreed to an economic deal with Russia. The first act of the new government was to begin a legal ethnic cleansing of Russian speaking people beginning with the banning of the language. Large parts of Ukraine had been Russian, the people had Russian relatives, and were economically linked to Russia. The Ukraine Orthodox Church is under the Moscow Patriarchate. Even President Zelensky’s native language is Russian. There was a particularly horrible incident in Odessa when dozens of ethnic Russians were burned to death or shot as they fled the burning building in a fire set by a mob. The most highly Russian regions, Crimea and the Donbas in the east, broke away from Ukraine. These areas had over 90% Russian speakers. A referendum to join the Russian Federation passed overwhelmingly in Crimea. In Donbas a war of secession began. The government forces were surrounded and likely to be defeated with heavy losses when Germany and France pleaded with Putin to help them stop the war. There was a ceasefire and eventually a treaty, the Minsk Agreements, was signed between these countries and the separatists to give much autonomy but for the Donbas to remain in Ukraine. There were specific steps for the Ukraine government to take. Over the years none of these steps were implemented. The German and French governments did nothing to pressure them to abide by the  treaty either. And during this whole period the Ukraine army regularly shelled the Donbas killing thousands of civilians. All of the Western actors, Merkle, Holland, and Poroshenko, have stated that they never had any intentions of honoring the agreements but were only playing for time to rearm Ukraine. In 2021 there was a rising crescendo to admit Ukraine into NATO. Russia proposed a security framework for Eastern Europe that was summarily rejected by the West. In February of 2022 the shelling of Donbas increased dramatically and the Ukraine army was massed on the contact line. At that point the Donbas governments requested help and Putin ordered the Special Military Operation, the invasion of Ukraine. I am almost a pacifist, I think war is almost never justified, but this was far from an unprovoked invasion of conquest.”

Julie said, “I now see your point about Putin. The articles I read at IJKnews.com never include any of the background you have described. If this is all true I would agree with you that we can’t say the invasion was unprovoked.” They each took a swig of their beers.

Julie then said, “This makes me sad. I get the point that perhaps I need to look beyond my sources of information. But in the end, can we know that anything is true? Does truth even exist?”

George replied, “I know what you mean. We should always be cognizant that the information broadcast to us has more the intention to manipulate than to inform. We have argued a lot over the years, usually because we have different understandings of the facts, but we tend to agree on fundamental precepts. These are truths that we should explore with each other. We can also feel certain about some facts. Mr. Smith is dead. There are a lot of dead people, broken people, and destroyed cities in Ukraine. But also, Ukraine is next to Russia not Germany, NATO has moved 2000 km toward Russia.” They each took a swig of their beers.

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