The dream, for a Black man living in the U.S. southeast, was a strange one to have during Thanksgiving week in 1991. Within it, I was standing in front of a large map of Europe. On the map, what was then called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) stood out prominently, as if the printed surface had been embossed. Images of its fabled neighboring nations–– Poland, Turkey, Germany, France, Sweden, and others––remained colorful but flat.
Then, as I stared, thin lines of flame started spreading throughout the map. They grew larger and a loud rumbling like thunder growled from inside it as large burning chunks tore away like fiery boulders exploding out of a volcano.
Although the dream-explosion forced my eyes open, I could still see chunks of burning earth exploding out of the map. My hand automatically reached for the pen and notebook on the nightstand and I wrote down everything I could remember about what I had seen. Typing up such intriguing night-time visions and sharing them with a small dream study group was a favorite interest at the time (as acknowledged in Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah). So later, type and share I did.
Group members came up with different interpretations of what it might mean. Maybe it was about me wanting to go back to Europe, now that I was out of the Air Force, and write a novel there. Or: might it have something to do with the WWII memorials to Russians and Germans I had seen while attending a military editors’ conference in Berlin, Germany, some years earlier (when the infamous Berlin Wall was still standing)? Or maybe, just maybe, it was something as simple as my subconscious suggesting I study more deeply great Russian authors like Leo Tolstoy, Anna Akhmatova, Maxim Gorky, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
An Unexpected Development
About a month later, on Christmas Day, then President George H. W. Bush (1924-2018) delivered a televised statement which gave my dream yet another potential meaning. He announced the end of the USSR and the birth of a cluster of newly-independent nations. The senior President Bush informed the world:
“…This is a day of great hope for all Americans. Our enemies have become our partners, committed to building democratic and civil societies. They ask for our support, and we will give it to them. We will do it because as Americans we can do no less.”
Following the departure of Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, and a dozen more from the USSR, combined with the resignation of Nobel Peace Prize winner and Russian President (1990-1991) Mikhail S. Gorbachev, an era of frozen diplomatic relations began thawing. It had taken decades for the Soviet Bloc and the U.S. to reach a point where Bush could make such an extraordinarily hopeful proclamation in 1991.
Weathering Putrid Storms
History is rarely short on various antagonistic events unkind to notions of lasting world peace. That being the case, a quick glance at any comprehensive timeline of manmade catastrophes around the world reveal more than a few have occurred since the USSR’s depressing suffocating empire dissolved. The event which prompted me to take a more active nonviolent role addressing matters of war and peace on a global scale was 9/11 and its hysteria-inducing aftermath. Within the span of half a century, humanity had gone from punctuating the language of diplomacy with hydrogen bombs to concluding them by crashing passenger aircraft into the World Trade Centers.
The collective international trauma resulting from 9/11 lead me to establish the online Creative Thinkers International community in 2007 and keep it afloat for almost a decade. Members from countries on nearly every continent shared their stories, videos, photography, music, artwork, poetry, and lives to demonstrate the advantages of harmonious coexistence.
For those of us in my corner of the world, the prolonged angst of: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, COVID-19, revelations of the extent of systemic racism in the U.S., and the strange drama that was January 6, seemed the worst history might dump on us en masse. We may have weathered those putrid storms less gracefully than preferred but weather them we did with sufficient measures of dignity and hope remaining intact. Then along came February 24, 2022.
Sanity Be Damned
From the beginning of Russia’s bare-fanged attacks upon Ukraine this time around, the sheer monstrous brutality of assaults stirred quaking terror in some even as they ignited excited awe in others. In a world where entering realms of virtual warfare is a daily pastime for many, a lot of people likely had problems believing they were not immersed in an AI-generated dystopian landscape. How, millions have wondered, could they/we possibly be watching, in this 21st century, authentic-rather-than-artificial human beings bombing a nation of people out of their homes, occupations, bodies, and countries.
Most incredibly, so far as anyone has yet been able to tell, all that death and obliteration came raining down solely because one man could not relinquish fantasies of rebuilding a past he considered too irresistibly glorious. Unlike those who have no choice except to make peace with various losses or changes in our lives, here was someone with the wealth, political power, and military might to indulge his megalomania at will. The lives of pregnant women, elderly men, and school children be damned. Sanity: be damned.
NEXT: Why Genocide in Ukraine Matters to A Black Poet in America (pt. 2 of 2)
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.