Ukrainian father says goodbye to his children as they flee the country by train. Photo Courtesy of Fotoreserg/
Ukrainian father says goodbye to his children as they flee the country by train. Photo Courtesy of Fotoreserg/

War in Europe: TikTok’s Funny, but Think Before You Laugh

April 6, 2022

We’ve all seen those TikToks. There is the one with the guy smiling about his successful life, but suddenly the happiness is disrupted by a letter. How bad could it be? Oof, it turns out he has been drafted for World War III. Or maybe you’ve seen the one where a young woman immediately starts cleaning or cooking at the mention of World War III.

When I saw them first back in late January, I chuckled at these videos. There was something ironic and far-fetched about them that made me laugh.

However, all laughter went silent when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded and threatened Ukraine. I started to worry. What will this look like for us? Will the United States get involved? But Ukraine isn’t one of our NATO allies, so maybe not.

Two weeks later, my mother called me. Panicked, she told me my brother’s U.S. army unit was being deployed to Poland, but wasn’t sure if my brother would be going. My thoughts spiraled: Will my brother be sent to war? What about his wife and kids? Suddenly, a distant war had become my family’s close-up reality.

The TikToks about the draft didn’t seem appropriate anymore, not just because I feared for my brother, but because I realized what was at stake. If U.S. troops were being deployed, it meant things could escalate easily. It meant we should prepare ourselves for the worst.

When these TikToks first started, Putin had just announced his “special operation” in Ukraine. Now three weeks into the conflict, “humorous” TikToks are plain out ignorant. How can I laugh at a joke when I had just watched a video where a Russian tank ran over a civilian car in Ukraine? Or watched maternity hospitals being bombed or the many people lying dead on the ground in the video Presidents Zelenskyy’s presented to the U.S. Congress calling on them to close the sky. How could anyone? It’s just not funny and people should realize that.

When the war started, a friend texted our group chat: “I thought we were done with war.” I felt the same way – I thought we were done with war, at least World Wars. But the truth is, we’ve never been done with war. There have been many wars since the last world war ended in 1945. Until recently, the United States was at war in Afghanistan for more than two decades. It’s just that there hasn’t been a major war in Europe since the 1990s in what used to be Yugoslavia.

Some people question why the war in Ukraine is getting so much attention when other countries at war don’t. Some say it’s an example of racism or ethno-centrism by white leaders. Others emphasize that Ukraine is a developed country, which makes it different from other contemporary wars.

This may have some truth in it. As a society, we may pay more attention to the war in Ukraine. The life of citizens in Ukraine looks more like ours- going to school or work, grabbing a quick coffee, enjoying a weekend movie or concert.

It makes us wonder, “If war can break out in Ukraine, a developed country, then war can also break out here. We aren’t so different.”

Some people assume that because we live in a developed country, wars that occur in areas like the Middle East are “irrelevant” to us. But, the war in Ukraine should be a wake-up call: “War can happen in any country.”

I hope this wake-up call brings about a change in people’s attitudes, that it reminds us that all wars are heartbreaking and deserve our attention. I hope it prompts us all to educate ourselves on the global community and to feel compassion and outrage over terrible conflicts, even if they are happening far away. And I hope, at least, it makes people think twice about re-sharing those unfunny TikToks, memes and other forms of media.


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