Saturday, July 30, 2005

Genocide, Famine, & Pandemic

We steeled ourselves last night, Bush, and watched Hotel Rwanda. The DVD has been sitting on the shelf by our TV set for several weeks now, and we have not been able to bring ourselves to actually watch it. Until last night. It was not easy or pleasant viewing. But I have to say that it was extraordinarily well done. The acting was terrific, as was the script, and they managed to convey the horror of the genocide without too much explicit detail. But quite enough. The power of unleashed human hatred was all too evident--its barbarity, as well as the full extent of its senselessness. With no visual evidence of differences between Hutu and Tutsi, the slaughter lacked even the semblance of rationality. Nearly one million human beings killed--most of them hand-hacked to death with machetes imported from China at the cost of ten cents apiece.

It's hard to get the mind around, Bush. Harder still to comprehend that the rest of the world, including wealthy nations such as ours, stood by and watched in the full knowledge that it was happening. It would not have been hard to intervene. Unlike Iraq, the perpetrators could have offered little opposition, and the job could have been done with little loss of life--and hundreds of thousands spared. But the West did nothing, except wring its hands. As the UN officer played by Nick Nolte in the movie told the African protagonist--a man who saved 1,200 lives, through bribery, persuasion, threat, and sheer, bull-headed persistence: "You're not even a nigger, Paul. You're African. Nobody cares." And I must fault your predecessor, Bush, for this lapse in moral judgment. It seems like a potent irony that your team nailed him for a private little blow job, when the neglect of Rwanda's call for help was the exponentially greater sin. And yet... well, it was not just this single man in the White House, but our entire political system that let them down so badly.

And the beat, as they say, goes on. I'm happy to read that some international help has begun to reach the starving people of Niger--too late for many, but at least a token acknowledgement of global responsibility. I understand that the neighboring countries stand in as great a need, and I trust that the aid to Niger will be made available also to that country's neighbors. I hear less about Darfur these days, but I'm unsure whether that's because the genocide there has now been stemmed, or whether the media have simply moved on to more spectacular events, like the London bombings. As for the bigger picture, the spread of AIDS and other preventable diseases, not only in Africa but throughout the world; and the threat of a pandemic spread of avian flu... Well, we're not in great shape, Bush, to say the least of it. And we still choose to bury our collective heads in the sand. Unbelievable!

So have a good weekend, Bush. Do you still sleep well?

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