March Madness

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I was supposed to have a new comic done by now. What happened? Just the usual distractions—jewel heist, marathon relay, alpaca farm. I have a busy schedule.  

It’s March, and St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. I’ve got my party beads, leprechaun hat, and Riverdance shoes ready to go. I might even watch all twenty Leprechaun movies to further ring in the festivities. There are actually eight of them, if you can believe it. I looked it up.

None are particularly good, and as the saying goes, there’s no gold at the end of this rainbow. But that doesn’t negate my love for Warwick Davis, who played the evil Leprechaun in six of the eight films. He also starred in Willow, a childhood favorite. The man’s a treasure.

With the way things are going nowadays, I’m happy enough just to enjoy a cold brew from the seclusion of my bomb shelter. Are we really going to relive another nuclear war panic? As much as I cherish the 1980s, we seem to be treading familiar ground.

In 1983, ABC aired a deeply impactful television movie called The Day After, which portrayed the aftermath of a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Such a scenario was on everyone’s mind throughout the cold war. With the fall of Soviet communism in 1991, all of those tension were supposedly behind us. Or so we thought. Does anything ever really change?

Brother, can you spare a gallon?

The gas hike of ’22 is as infuriating as it is needless. That is, if we’re allowed to take issue with bad policies that result in a higher cost of living. Whatever the reasons we’re supposed to believe, the price of oil has been steadily rising for the past year, and with increasing monetary inflation, we’re in for some concerning times ahead.

Obligatory gas price pic

Cost increases don’t affect everyone in the same way. Wealthy celebrities can afford to be dismissive along with high-ranking government officials earning a six-figure, taxpayer-funded salary. Those living comfortably for themselves can also ride the tide of economic uncertainty with relative ease. Others can be outright indifferent.

Working class people with families don’t have the same luxuries, nor do retirees, those on fixed incomes, or anyone living paycheck to paycheck. It seems that the “living wage” politicians were so concerned about isn’t much of an issue anymore, at least where energy costs are concerned.

Oil drives our economy, whether we see it or not. We’ve heard the government response to high gas prices, and I’m well aware of the politics behind it. Russia’s excursion into the Ukraine has undoubtedly destabilized the eastern region and created much chaos. But that’s just one part of the dwindling economic puzzle.

I’ve never understood why it’s perfectly fine (as government policy) to get oil from everywhere else but our own country. Is it not the same planet having its resources plundered? Are we trading with a federation of galaxies? No, it’s usually the same bad actors: Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia, and, God forbid, Iran. Most of our imported oil comes from Canada anyway, and I’m fine with that. Let’s at least keep it local.

Goin’ Green

The environmentalists finally got me into a corner, for the agony of filling up my tank became too much to bear. I affixed wind sails to my 2011 Ford Ranger and let nature take its course. Before I knew it, I was flying, soaring above the clouds. I soon realized that I had flown straight past my job.

“How do I stop this crazy thing?” I cried out, channeling George Jetson. The wind speed dropped, sending my truck into free fall. I piloted a safe but intense landing through the lobby of a strip club.

After the lawsuit, we reached a settlement, where I had to dance three nights a week, unpaid. This was even stranger considering it was a “gentlemen’s club,” and I was the only male dancer on staff. At least they let me keep the tips.

Red Heat

Last month, Russia invaded Ukraine on a scale and magnitude not seen in any European country since WWII. This unprovoked and aggressive act of war mirrored previous actions by Russia when they annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, shortly followed by the war in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

The contentious relationship between the two countries began soon after Ukraine declared their independence, following the Soviet collapse. The previous Ukrainian government was overthrown in 2013 (with help from the U.S.) to establish new leadership under Volodymr Zelenskyy and partnership with NATO. All of this is relatively new.

There is little doubt that the Russian government sees Ukraine (or at least parts of the country) as theirs. After all, ethnic Russians make up a majority of many of the territories currently under dispute. Vladimir Putin, the “herpes of the East,” never seems to go away. He’s controlled Russia, in one form or the other, since 1999 with the help of corrupt oligarchs and former-KGB thugs.

The Russian people essentially live under an autocracy not too far removed from the Soviet empire that vanquished millions of their own people under communism. Ukraine and Russia are both steeped in corruption and poverty from decades of instability. The Ukrainians now find themselves in the middle of a full-scale invasion, with airstrikes on civilian structures amid a fleeing population.

It seems most of us are unified in supporting Ukraine and their flight for survival. That’s a good thing, but it also makes me suspicious. There has been a litany of misinformation from the start, but it’s quite clear Russia is committing war crimes.

Attempts to capture two of Ukraine’s largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, have led to the mass suffering, death, and displacement of millions. No amount of sanctions have hindered Putin’s dominance in the region thus far. Many believe his conquest will ultimately fail, but at what cost?

Closing Thoughts

Naturally, we stand with Ukraine independence. As a child, my generation’s own fears of a Russian invasion were exemplified in the classic 1984 film Red Dawn. But reality is often more horrifying than the movies.

We also shouldn’t vilify Russian people as a whole. If history has taught us anything, it’s that emotionally charged attacks on entire groups never end well. I’ve witnessed an increasingly fervent anti-Russia sentiment out there as concerning as any of history’s most notorious scapegoating campaigns. We need to get a grip.

My greater concern is toward a push for all-out war, which would lead to cataclysmic proportions. I believe our foreign adversaries feel embolden by what they perceive as weak leadership throughout the globe. For countries like Russia, this is a matter of opportunity.

Moving forward, our steps should be measured, prudent, and in the best interest of our own national interests. And hopefully, we won’t move on to something else and forget about Ukraine altogether. Our country, unfortunately, has a track record of that.

I’m eternally grateful for the freedoms we have, freedoms that have been fought for and hopefully preserved for generations. My perspective has never changed, regardless of who’s running the country. This piece wasn’t supposed to be so long, but I can’t help myself. I’ll get to that comic next time!

Circa 2000s with the only flag I fully revere

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