The nature of genocide, racial and personal accountability

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The nature of genocide, racial and personal accountability

Post by admin » Thu Jan 27, 2005 9:34 am

This article was posted by Jafrikayiti in the political section. However, I think that it provokes some deep spiritual questions as well. That's why I take the very unusual step to reprint it a second time on this forum.

Article Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2005
http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,141 ... 80,00.html Learn from courage of "Hotel"
By Pius Kamau
Denver Post Columnist

I declined several invitations to see "Hotel Rwanda," a movie starring Denver actor Don Cheadle. This greatly puzzled my American friends who know of my advocacy of African issues. My reluctance was rooted in a much deeper psychological place: fear and trepidation of being reminded of black violence - Africans killing Africans before a white audience.

Photographs of the 1
994 genocide in Rwanda - with rivers full of bloated bodies, children's and women's, a gallery of corpses rotting in the tropical sun along Lake Tanganyika's shores - are unforgettable. To my American neighbors, this was another chapter of black on black cruelty, murder. For me, it was personal. I couldn't fathom how a million of "my people" could hack each other up.

The cruelties we've visited upon each other sometimes make me think we're the most bloodthirsty people. A recent example: The child soldiers in Sierra Leone and Liberia who are recruited by "blood diamond" merchants to chop off limbs, ears and noses to intimidate the locals.

We sold African-Americans' forefathers into slavery; the tribal animosity that existed four centuries ago persists today. Across the Atlantic, the mixture of religion, color lines and heritage made for a terrible concoction in Haiti. To this day, Haitians have yet to find peace.

On America's shores, blacks have exploited each other mercilessly.
The recent Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Known World" by Edward Jones portrays an amazing black role reversal: Before the Civil War, free blacks in the South owned slaves.

Far too often, killings in Africa are incited by white powers. Belgian colonialists elevated the taller, lighter Tutsis, degrading the shorter, darker Hutus. Africans were not wise enough to see through the screen of colonial confusion.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm aware of other bloodshed; the 20th century is littered as well with millions of white and Asian corpses. Joseph Stalin murdered more than 20 million of his people; Pol Pot killed 3 million; and, in Nanking, the Japanese killed 400,000 Chinese. I simply expected Africans to be better, more merciful. That they're not bothers me to no end.

I finally relented and went to see "Hotel Rwanda," in which Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of the Hotel Des Milles Collines in Kigali. Rusesabagina, a Hutu, saved more than 1,200 Tutsis from certain deat
h.

The movie is about Rusesabagina's courage and heroism, on par with that of the French, Italian and Dutch families who sheltered and saved many Jews from Hitler's gas chambers. The genocide, obviously, was at the center of the film. My fear once again was inflamed.

The movie "Schindler's List" chronicles the courage of Oscar Schindler, a Catholic who saved 1,500 Jews in his factories during World War II. Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Budapest, saved more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews, supplying many with "the Shutzpass," a document that resembled a Swedish passport. The Russian victors captured Wallenberg in 1945; he was never heard from again.

Most of us have simple, common and at times selfish dispositions; we passively watch as children and the weak are attacked and sometimes killed by bullies or callous authorities. We shouldn't. Neither should we tolerate tyranny and injustice to flourish.

Not many of us can do what men like Rusesabagina were called upon to d
o. But we can learn from them. They teach us that our heroism must be in small measures. As St. Francis of Assisi said, we can alleviate pain, sow love, pardon injury, conquer despair with hope and always remember that it's in pardoning that we're pardoned. And, as 12-year-old South African AIDS victim Nkosi Johnson said: "Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are."

Pius Kamau of Aurora is a thoracic and general surgeon. He was born and raised in Kenya and immigrated to the U.S. in 1971. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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