From everyone who has been given much,
much will be demanded;
and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.
-- Luke 12:48 (NIV)
I hope that you've all had a good week and that my friends in the US had a very happy Thanksgiving. I had an amazingly wonderful, but tiring, holiday weekend. I guess I'm finally getting better at appreciating life's every day miracles.
I had planned to take one of those luxuriously long Congressional hiatuses. However, I was so moved by the following article and videos that I had to share them. I hope that they will encourage and inspire you.
The following op-ed piece and collection of Youtube videos are powerful reminders of why we vote, we sign petitions, we write letters, we boycott, we protest and we blog. They remind me to be ever grateful and ever vigilant.
Ghosts of Rwanda
KIGALI, Rwanda -- We are used to seeing aged Holocaust survivors with faded photographs, telling their stories to remind the young and forgetful. So it is shocking to meet a 31-year-old genocide survivor with memories so fresh they bleed.
I talked to Freddy Mutanguha in a field of white crosses, near a half-finished monument to perhaps 800,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide. "My mom," he recalled, "gave money to be killed by a bullet, because she saw the machetes and knew what they would do to her. But the bullet was too expensive."
Some things about the lead-up to the Rwandan genocide are familiar. Victims were dehumanized for years as "inyenzi" -- cockroaches -- just as the Jews of Europe were labeled vermin. Tutsi children were forced to stand up in primary-school classes to be humiliated and abused -- just as Jewish children were once treated. And children were eventually a special target of the murderers, to prevent them from growing up to perpetuate the threat -- one of the excuses the Nazis employed.
And these patterns should be familiar, because at least some of the hatred in this part of Africa has European roots. In traditional African culture, the division between Hutu and Tutsi was social and economic; intermarriage was common, and mobility between classes was possible. Then German and Belgian colonial rulers in Rwanda and other places declared this a racial divide -- measuring the skulls of Hutus and Tutsis to prove their racial theories and issuing racial ID cards.
But there are differences between the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. Over time, Germany developed an impersonal machinery of death, with trains and timetables and gas chambers. In Rwanda, the violence was more intimate. Neighbors who had shared meals suddenly became informers and executioners -- adopted children turned upon their families. At one church I visited, soldiers had taken children by the legs and smashed their heads against the wall.
The rest of us can draw lessons of courage. A man I met who ran an orphanage saved the lives of nearly 400 children by bluffing the militias and bribing them with food. And those 400 lives mattered, even when 10,000 in the neighborhood around them were lost -- both for the lives themselves and for the affirmation of human dignity that such rescues always symbolize.
We should also draw lessons of shame. Signs of stress and pleas for help were largely ignored in 1994. The world has a poor track record of preventing mass murder, though we have gotten good at the apologies that follow.
Because, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".
We remembered this once in America, we protested, we boycotted and we voted. We actually listened to what the politicians were saying instead of what the political pundits told us they were saying. The media didn't decide when campaigns began and when they ended. For one fleeting moment we were given a glimpse of what we wanted in a leader and he reminded us of who we could be as a people.
As author Naomi Wolf has reminded us there is a blueprint for ending democracy and bringing about the rise of fascism in any nation. Each time that we see a Hitler or Mussolini, a Bosnia or a Rwanda, a Viet Nam or an Iraq, we say "never again". And yet "again" has come time and time again. And so many people believe that this can never change.
We didn't always think this way. Let's remember again.
Yes, Bobby was like a rock star, Bobby was related to a former President, and Bobby had great hair but none of this mattered more than what Bobby did and what he said.
Remember and remain vigilant.