The service animals do it: tell the truth, break the heart. The muscular shepherds, huskies, the various mutts in black and tan slung over their shoulders, the indignation in the dog’s eyes when the trusted protectors become the trusted protectors. The cats look out of coats and bags.
The hat photo of the little boys who lost and found their cat on the Polish border said it all. Here was hope, mercy, victory, love. And here, too, were all of us for whom our pets are family.
In the safe havens of Berlin, Dublin and Rome, people are asking themselves: “What if?”. Ever since mothers in Kyiv turned into weary defenders and Volodymyr Zelenskyy became the star of the free world, the conversation about the beasts sprang from the deep sentiment observed in the people, no sentimentality on screen, the battle between the two raged in a supposed public life, a public discourse.
The mood is serious, intrinsic; we invest in it, so it comes at a price.
In contrast, sentimentality, for all its “feelings,” is frivolous, extrinsic, and allows us brief but exciting excursions into actual sentimentality that we mistakenly, and therefore unfairly, claim as our own. The sentimental circus is a traveling act; he moves to his next side, leaving only family and loved ones to the grief, trauma and feelings.
With Ukraine, false flag operations become geopolitical, the hashtag of a dead woman’s name becomes #SlavaUkraini #Zelensky, the Ukrainian national anthem becomes a catchy tune. Two months after the start of the war, less hectic to check the shelling situation near Irpin overnight.
Ukrainians know this. Just as they know that every time they sing the national anthem against syncopated gunfire, they drive back Russian “Z” tanks with flags and fists, from the deep and life-threatening feeling of love, of freedom, of the fatherland , who do independence , not the sentimentality of five seconds of fame going viral from their phones.
The same sentimentality is erupting in the media – an interviewer urges Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins on the need for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone “because if Ukraine falls. Russia will be on the NATO border”. With a straight face, he declared that Russia was already: his property. With steel and without compromise, Karins championed a country’s deep sense of subjugation – people paying with their lives for freedom; the rise of autocracy in Russia; the consequences of the NATO action; he and his neighbors support their own territories and defenses from the Baltic to the Black Sea; the naivety that Vladimir Putin is fading away and that fear of him must follow the same path.
I have a family member living in Latvia. He says the mood is stable, determined, stoic, because for Latvians the invasion of Ukraine has always been the “when”, not the “if”, and they are already ready and able to defend themselves.
As sentiment makes and changes history, sentimentality amuses and sells.
Two weeks ago, Ireland’s minor disappointment at not being able to present the shamrock at the White House was elevated to an almost national tragedy in language of dismay, devastation and broken dreams, followed by a “race against time” to follow the Taoiseach Brussels, a phrase more appropriate for President Zelenskyy escaping recent FSB assassins. I’m sure the Taoiseach himself put up with all this.
He’s a man in his 60s, the leader of a country, not as he’s often portrayed, a kid chosen by the local Make-a-Wish fund.
As a veteran politician he would know beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach (power will have another day) and there will be more great days for him with President Joe Biden.
But in a world where little things fascinate, unease becomes fear, and as Neil Postman puts it, public conversation becomes a form of “baby talk,” something as mundane as missing an event can easily find itself up there like that something of a public moment — even as families melt snow with lighters for drinking water and children die of thirst under relentless gunfire.
How? For while deep sentiment can differentiate, weigh, clarify, appreciate with its coherence and continuity, sentimentality is entirely superficial and suffices to this day – it casts shapes, pulls heartstrings, elicits muddy “feelings”, its main aim being to to chat.
In Ukraine, the mood is stronger than switchblade kamikaze drones, Kalibr cruise missiles and thermobaric weapons. If phosphorus rains down on his cities now, he will not rule over his people in the future.
Because this feeling lives in the Verdi sung in front of the opera house in Odessa, a Bach cello suite, played in the ruins of Kharkiv, a hit from Frozen sung in an icy air raid shelter.
It lives in the apartments or basements where older survivors of the Soviet regime make their peace, their stand. “Slava Ukraini,” they say to their pets. Shocked they tell the truth, break the heart.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/a-sad-truth-of-this-war-is-the-blurred-lines-between-real-sentiment-and-saccharine-sentimentality-41505399.html A sad truth of this war is the blurred lines between genuine sentimentality and sugar-sweet sentimentality