(part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Dare You To Look Away)
The images of children starving to death haunt my mind every moment of every day anymore. A fire burns deep in the pit of my stomach as I think of just how damned easy it would be to save these children. A hatred replaces the love that once grew from what I thought was humanity. Tears wait in the wings as the callousness replaces the passion it toppled from the forefront of my mind.
Is this what it means to be awake? Just conscious enough to watch the suffering of others? Eyes open barely wide enough to watch as death claims ground while life retreats?
In recent months I have wondered what it would take to force the hand of the West. I asked myself over and over just why the UN or US have not bothered to take action to stop this senseless slaughter. The answers that come from such inquisitions aren't helpful however. The places these answers lead aren't comforting.
Yet here I am.
As the stories and facts continue to pour in I couldn't help but look back upon my own ancestors' long walk through hell to get me here. Upon the faces of the Rohingya I see the ghosts of my own people. And no matter how many times I tried to shut that part out... as much as I tried to stay objective... I don't think I can any longer.
In recent post I have explored the similarities between the plight of the Rohingya and the tragedies my own family suffered. To make it more comfortable for me I stuck with the Germanic Jews and the Poles. In all reality however I know that the plight of the Rohingya ties more directly into the reality of my own ancestors and their suffering at the hands of Croat fascist.
But that is the one parallel I am not comfortable with.
On April 10th of 1941 the Ustase claimed power of Croatia. They had sided with Hitler and sold their souls for a chance to kill off those they claimed were "undesirables". For this sin the 40,000 Jews of Croatia would pay dearly. This was the start of the Holocaust in Croatia.
My ancestors had fled the Spanish and for some reason had decided to start a new life in Croatia generations before. They were never well off, the Spaniards had taken everything they had. Life within a Catholic stronghold was only slightly better than life at the hands of the Spanish.
The man I am named after had been lucky enough to be born in America. His grandfather had left with what he could carry less two decades before the outbreak of World War Two. Yet even in this break of luck his family was still stuck in Croatia. Family, ever important, kept in contact through the mail. That was until shortly after that day in April.
Cousins who had wrote of to America had changed their tone in those final communications. Life was fleeing Croatia as the black legions took power. This is all I know of Croatia. I know their names and that they were from Split. Other than that I have no way of knowing where they went or what happened to them.
In Burma this same tragedy plays out over 70 years later. Rohingya within Burma have family in villages just a short distance away that they are legally banned from contacting. Those who have family living across the border in Bangladesh are even worse off. Those left alive after the pogroms during the summer and in October can't figure out if they even have family to find after this is all over. Life is fleeing them now as the Burmese cloak the Arakan in darkness.
The Croatian Ustase robbed me of my heritage in ways words can't express. The sins they perpetrated don't go away just because time has passed them by. The scars remain even thought the victims do not.
For the Rohingya the wounds are still open and bleeding. Their hands are left out as they pray and plead for help. Yet the world looks away. The West closes it's eyes as best they can while they cover their ears and hum a lullaby for the damned.
Burma is committing the same sins that the Jews of Europe suffered, that the Tutsi of Rwanda suffered, that the Cambodians suffered, that the Bosnians suffered, that the Armenians suffered, that the Sudanese are suffering... And yet after the Germans were vanquished we stood up and realized just how bloody awful the mess they left really was. It was then that we promised the world "Never Again".
So why are we failing now?
I know there are some people who will read this post and think that I am being selfish by making the comparisons I have in this post and in previous post. I know that for many it is hard to make the connection between the genocide of the Jews and those currently plaguing us today. And I know that this post may not be well received. But I'll be honest, I needed to voice this for my own reasons. I needed to admit the pain that watching images and reading these stories brings up within me.
We all have our reasons to 'scream'. We all have a part of us that needs to let out a violent, blood curdling scream when we are hurting in ways that words alone can't express. And when done in a way that can help those in need it can break down the barriers we construct to trap those emotions. It can drive home the reason for which we scream.
So once again, and definitely not the last time, I want to ask those of you reading this to scream for the Rohingya. They need your voice. They need your help. They need you to fight.