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The Unspoken Word
What would it take to declare a genocide a genocide?
I have so much to do today, as every day. So many small worries: to cast a film, live my dream, rewrite my novel, rewrite a TV show. My husband has hurt his knee badly and is not walking; I need to get him to a good doctor. And then, of course, there is the global economic crisis.
All of these things beckon my attention, but there is none that makes me feel so impotent, so sad, so fiercely angry at the injustices on earth as the news - or absence of news, I should say - of Darfur today.
On Monday, March 9th, there was an article on page 6 of the New York Times about the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire in Turkey between 1915 and 1916. It actually went on longer than was noted in the article, and many more than the 1 million Armenians cited died; more like 2 million were slaughtered. It was the first recorded genocide of the last century, but it would not be the last. Still, it goes unnamed as genocide by the world.
The article was about the lack of press and lack of recognition of the Armenian genocide, even though the genocide had been brought to light by a recent publication. Sadly, the article had no shock value for me, for I have been observing our history repeat itself over and over in both the last century and in the current one.
Aside from not publicizing past genocides, we continue the unceasing pattern of disregard for naming and, therefore, acting against genocides while they happen. The Holocaust. Cambodia. Rwanda. Bosnia. And for the past five years, Darfur. After all, there are issues of autonomy, foreign allies, and, since 1948, when the genocide convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly, there has been the legal issue of responsibility for intervention when a genocide is named. So, instead of placing ourselves in that awkward position of going against allies in the UN (in the case of Darfur it is China) or having to send our own troops, we simply do not name it and relinquish ourselves from responsibility.
I was brought up in a Jewish area outside of Philadelphia, and I was taught the mantra “never again.” Maybe that is why I feel so responsible. I know better. A couple years ago, I believed that if people knew about the genocide in Darfur they would do something. I believed that if people learned of the millions of survivors stranded in Darfur with few or no resources and those who have escaped to Chad, that people would understand that there are millions of vulnerable people at the mercy of the African peacekeeping troops and private Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and there is much more we can do. I believed that, little by little, we could educate the public and raise money to help the survivors in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps. I wrote and directed a play about Darfur and genocide (The G-Word) that was produced off Broadway for this reason. I believed that as we spread the word it would be impossible for people not to act. History is a shame, but we forgive ourselves because it is past. How do we forgive ourselves of the present, as women and children are raped and men and boys massacred?
I do understand that our country is suffering a deep recession, that many people are out of work, the banks failing, lenders stealing taxpayers’ money, and our government is upping the ante in wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our military is depleted, and we don’t have enough troops as it is. You might say, what can we do?
I ask you, what would it take to protect a few IDP camps?
What would it take to declare a genocide a genocide? Name it what it is. Get the UN to call it what it is so that we as world citizens are obliged to do something.
You know, when Hitler rose to power in Germany, the Germans were worried about the economy.
What were you worried about when the genocide in Rwanda was happening? Bosnia? Do you remember it now, or do you remember, just, that we did nothing?