As the Russian invasion of Ukraine advances, civilian casualties continue to rise, though the total remains uncertain. Citizens of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, are direct witnesses to the rumble of bombs in the distance while running to shelter in subway stations.
As the war rages on, students like myself continue our daily routine relatively unaffected. I wake up, check my phone, view the destruction and despair all over social media side by side with jokes about an impending “World War.” They range from people joking about fighting a hypothetical war to surviving a pandemic and then facing “World War III.”
Not only is putting energy into these memes a waste of time, but it’s extremely disrespectful to those who are actually facing the conflict every day. Our focus needs to be on understanding and facing this dangerous situation, not joking about a war millions of Ukrainians are experiencing firsthand.
As a young adult in America, I — like many of my peers — have a skewed perception of war. The United States has been in conflict with other countries for much of my upbringing, with memories of various stages of the war on terror filling much of the last two decades.
But no conflict during my lifetime has come close to endangering my life on American soil. I’ve certainly never had to worry about my home being destroyed by a hostile nation, yet this is exactly what Ukrainian citizens are experiencing all across their country as they watch their neighborhoods turn into battlefields.
Therefore, it’s in poor taste to joke about ourselves being affected in ways that millions of Ukrainians already are. They are the ones experiencing the horrors of war while we watch from thousands of miles away.
The stability of Eastern Europe — and the world for that matter — is being tested. With all of the other stressors in our lives, the possibility of major global conflict is harrowing and anxiety inducing.
But we have to keep focused on what is currently happening and what we can do to make a difference. You can donate money to organizations helping the humanitarian effort in Ukraine, such as Airlink and Doctors Without Borders and, most importantly, stay informed as the conflict unfolds.
As we watch this strife play out over television, news outlets and social media, we must keep in mind the real life ramifications of what we are seeing. Your friends getting drafted is not a joke we should make while all Ukrainian men ages 18 to 60 have been called to fight against Russian invaders.
Our generation’s attempt-at-humor TikTok does little to impact the outcome of a global crisis. We must change our focus to solidarity and providing aid to a nation in distress.
Chris Sciortino (he/him) is a junior studying theater and public relations. He is involved with the Queer Student Union and College Democrats at IU.