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Ukraine, Memory, Janis Joplin

Dear Friends,

Last weekend, a hospital and a mental health facility in liberated Kherson had to be evacuated due to Russian shelling. According to the World Health Organization, Russia has damaged or destroyed more than 700 health centers across Ukraine since the war began last February. The day before Thanksgiving, on November 23, Russia launched 67 missiles, killing 10 people and injuring 34. Two of the missiles struck a maternity hospital in the town of Vilniansk in Zaporizhzhia, killing a boy named Kyrylo Kamyanskyi. Kyrylo’s mother Maria, who survived the attack, had given birth to her son two days before.

Ukraine needs more air defense. The missiles on November 23 were launched from ships and aircraft over the Black and Caspian seas. And while Ukraine was able to destroy 51 cruise missiles and 5 Lancet kamikaze drones that day, the assault nevertheless damaged Ukrainian energy infrastructure, a focus for Russian forces now that winter has set in. Russian barbarism leaves Ukrainian civilians in subfreezing temperatures without heat, light, and water.

Ukraine needs more sophisticated weaponry if it’s to win the war. Two days before Thanksgiving, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators sent a letter urging reconsideration of the administration’s decision not to give Ukraine advanced drones. In the November 22 letter (Opens in a new window) to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, 16 Senators called for the provision of MQ-1C armed drones to Ukraine. With these drones, the Ukrainians would be able to attack Russian warships in the Black Sea, protecting lives in Ukraine and alleviating pressures on global food prices and the Ukrainian economy.

Alex Goncharenko joins us next week to discuss the security and humanitarian situation in Ukraine. He’s an MP representing the Black Sea port city Odesa, where resilience, tenacity — and humor even — persist as the order of the day. In Odesa, frying eggs in a pan set elegantly above a cluster of small candles is becoming a specialty. Women take hairdryers to the supermarket to dry their hair at electrical outlets among the shopping carts.

Meanwhile, read (Opens in a new window) Eric Edelman and David Kramer on why this is no time to negotiate with the Putin regime. Read (Opens in a new window) Michael Mandelbaum on the depth of Russia’s problems. Take time for Charles Fairbanks’ essay (Opens in a new window) on the growing challenge from Russia’s most violent and extreme right.

For one ray of hope, read the new RFE/RL publication (Opens in a new window), “Saying No to War: 40 Stories of Russians Who Oppose the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.” Thanks to Rim Gilfanov for sharing this with me. It’s a moving collection from across Russia that includes contributions from a salesman, a teacher, a lawyer, an LGBT activist, a software developer, a businessman, and a children’s party organizer. It’s hard to kill hope.

We continue to follow the remarkable protest movement in Iran. It was hard to miss the cloddish performance and diversionary tactics of Iranian state-controlled journalists at the World Cup press conference (Opens in a new window) on the eve of the U.S.-Iran match. We have material on Iran in the works. We’ll be weighing in on China, too. A month after Xi Jinping granted himself new powers that position him to remain in power for life, anger — sparked by the disastrous results of his “zero Covid” approach — has spilled into the streets creating unrest not seen in China in decades. Read our friend Jianli Yang in Monday’s Washington Post warning (Opens in a new window) against another Tiananmen massacre.

Additional Articles

There’s meanwhile much to commend in our pages. Contributing editor Dalibor Rohac (Opens in a new window) and Thibault Muzergues (Opens in a new window) debate the future of the European Union (both have new books out on the EU). Paul DeRosa looks back and reviews (Opens in a new window) a book by Roger Lowenstein, a story of how a banker funded the Civil War and helped to reshape America’s financial system. Wilson Shirley reviews (Opens in a new window) Troy Senik’s new book on Grover Cleveland and is taken by how character helped the 22nd and 24th President of the United States rise in politics and lead the country. Contributing editor Mathilde Fasting writes (Opens in a new window) about a new biography by Carole Angier of novelist and poet W. G. Sebald, whose work dealt often with memory and loss, personal and collective.

Music and Remembrance

Michael Gerson’s passing saddened us. The Washington Post columnist and former White House speechwriter died of cancer on November 17. Read Pete Wehner’s wonderful tribute (Opens in a new window) in The Atlantic. Douglas McGrath’s death stunned us. The actor, screenwriter, and director died suddenly of a heart attack on November 3 in New York City. America became a poorer place last month. You can watch our Zoom discussion with Douglas and film historian David Thomson here (Opens in a new window).

I’m listening to Requiem (Opens in a new window) by Branford Marsalis, brother of Wynton. I’m also listening to Janis Joplin. On December 1, 1968, Joplin made her final appearance with Big Brother & the Holding Company in San Francisco. I’ve come across a lovely 2013 interview (Opens in a new window) with her siblings, Laura and Michael, on how they remember their sister. I like this passage from writer and organizer of the material Lorraine Treanor:

Michael remembers their father sitting and listening to Kol Nidre. He was sitting, doing nothing but listening to the music and weeping. ‘We learned that type of appreciation of what music can do for you, to touch you in such a personal way,’ Michael says. Laura remembers their mother listening to ‘Gershwin Summertime.’… Janis spent her time at home painting, listening to rock n’ roll. But none of them took music lightly: when the family listened to music, that’s what the family did. It wasn’t a background distraction or a mood-setter the way lighting might be. It was front and center, the main act.

I’ve also been listening to Maya Beiser. The New Yorker — raised in Israel by her French mother and Argentine father — says she always wants to play like Janis Joplin sings (Opens in a new window). Beiser is a soulful cellist. Try this (Opens in a new window).



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