America has a listening problem

We saw it with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba, 9/11. In America, tragedy is a trend until it’s seen with our own eyes. During the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, that’s never been more apparent.
After Ukraine’s exit of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country split in two: the “pro-Russian” Eastern Ukraine and the vehemently “anti-Russian” Western Ukraine. With the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, Ukraine became an area of overlapping spheres of influence of the EU and the Russian Federation. This schism culminated in 2014 when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in what would later become known as the Crimean Crisis.
Now, as Russia begins to invade Ukraine in the name of the separatists, the American people react in the only way we know how: selfishly. As news clips show Ukrainian children coughing on ash from a bomb, Twitter floods with jokes about World War III. People complain about living through another historical event, or fears of a draft that is far from happening, or caricaturize the two nations to easily digestible political cartoons.
I understand this instinct. Empathy is a balancing act between understanding and selflessness, which it seems we struggle with. It’s not because every individual citizen is some sociopathic monster. Our lack of understanding is deep rooted in American nationalism, isolationism, and a rapid cycling news cycle. How could anybody expect to understand the complexities of foreign conflict in the age of “fake news?”
It’s clear America has a listening problem. It started when we manifested our destiny, continued with our big stick, and gets more complex each day in the age of social media. As a country, we seem to care until a threat is no longer trending, and then move on.
As young people in this country, we must continue to seek out independent information about this conflict. So when this news inevitably leaves our phone screens, we must keep our compassion.