Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Some events should never be forgotten, and they are precisely the ones that we wish to forget. If we wish to pass to the next generation the knowledge necessary to sustain anything like a civil society, we must be certain to place within their cultural memory the great failures and horrors of which mankind is capable, and teach them that these are not the exceptions but the rule. We hear about the 6 million Jews killed by Hitler. When you add up all the human beings slaughtered in conflicts or by totalitarian states in the "modern"20th century, the number is closer to 110 million. You want to see the face of natural man? Go see "Hotel Rwanda", or "Schindler's List", or "Saving Private Ryan", or "Dirty Pretty Things".

Some members of our Kairos group went to see the movie Hotel Rwanda last night. This is a movie that we should support by paying to see it or rent it or buy it. It is a tale that needed to be told in the way we Westerner's hear, on the screen. It is dreadful to watch, not because there is any explicit or gory violence, but because of the hate and fear and threat of death that is in every setting, that pervaded the entire land of Rwanda for a time. There is also a deep shame that came upon me as an American, as a white Westerner whose country refused to get involved, with full knowledge that civilians were being systematically dragged from their homes and hacked to death with machetes and scythes in their own front yards, with children especially targetted so as to wipe out the next generation of Tutsis. We did nothing. The UN did nothing. We pulled out, evacuating white tourists and pointedly leaving the Tutsis to their deaths. The UN soldiers left behind were not even allowed to fire their weapons.

I am not a pacifist if being a pacifist means that we should not be willing to take up arms and defend the innocent when such a calamity comes. I would gladly go, and would gladly send my sons to fight and die in an effort to stop such evil. I hear people say, "We can't be the policemen for the world" and I ask, why not? It seems to me that this is the only type of conflict we should get involved in. Not for increase of our own territory, and not for our "own national interests" (I am so sick of this selfish concept) but for justice simply. These elements of a just war--justice and retribution for injustice--have completely fallen out of our vocabulary. We now only fight for our own interests, directly or indirectly. As long as we thought there were WMD's in Iraq that might come our way, it was OK to fight there. The fact that a despot was slaughtering and torturing thousands of his own people was insufficient reason to get involved, since that, like the Rwandan genocide, was an "internal affair of a sovereign country." How cold.

So the black Africans died, but no Americans, and the slaughter burned itself out, leaving only one million dead. And, I am afraid, if it happened tomorrow, we would likely do the same thing. Easier to wring one's hands afterwards and lament someone else's calamity than to put oneself or one's loved ones in harm's way.

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