(part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Herero Victims During German's Genocidal Campaign in Namibia 1904-1907)
Genocide is a heartless act that knows no bounds. When it begins it is often hard to define and often hidden from view. But once it is underway, once the dead start to pileup, genocide is almost impossible to mistake. We know it because we have all at one time participated in it in one role or the other. We have seen it. We have felt it. We are the reason it still exist.
Without the cooperation of good and decent people genocide has no ability to rack-up the horrific numbers it achieved in the 20th century. Without complacency of the virtuous portion of the population it is powerless. And yet in the last century it has killed more people than the number of those who died in combat in both world wars. A feat that would be unimaginable had it not been for the lack of resistance to it from the civilized world.
The deads' voices still linger to this day. Their faces peer back at us from faded images and grainy video reels. Like ghost, they wait to be acknowledged. They wait for justice to be served. And yet to this day we as a world community seem unwilling to give them the peace they so desperately desire.
The pain of the holocaust still shows up from time to time. The Armenians' agony still rips its way through modern flesh as the heart of a people breaks every April. The sorrow of the Herero still lingers in modern Namibian society as the people of a forgotten genocide still try to cope with what was done to them. All of these murders were committed by men and women who are all gone or near dead today. And yet the wounds still remain open.
(Jewish Boys In Ghetto During The Holocaust)
These wounds refuse to heal for a reason. They will never nor can never be closed till the world learns to deal with genocide when it is happening and as it is happening. It would be a crime against our tragic past to forget the sorrows our ancestors lived through only to have to witness those same events over and over again.
Today there are more genocides occurring at one time than we have ever seen in modern history. From ethnic cleansing, deportations, to campaigns of total extermination... genocide is on the rise. And it will only continue to spread as long as the morality within our societies remains numb to its presence around us.
In Syria we have watched for over two years as a minority sect of Islam has sought to subjugate the majority through political tyranny and genocidal military action. Even as the world community rallied around the consensus that Assad needed to step down from power we ignored the massacres he had committed in the name his faith and lust for power. It was a step too far for us to recognize the intentions of the beast. The UN and its supporters seemed to believe it was the right of a regime to kill its own people as long as the blood stayed within its borders.
Sudan continues to grind down it's undesirables through a ruthless and never ending genocide. Starvation, massacres on grand scales, and aerial bombardment are all hallmarks of the Sudanese government in Darfur. And despite the dire situation in which Darfur civilians are forced to live the West remains silent. Taking only small steps to "persuade" the Sudan toward a "desirable" outcome, the UN refuses to bare its teeth with the homicidal leaders in Sudan's government.
Somalia, a regular offender of human rights and perpetual state sponsor of genocide, has continued to operate outside the realms of international law. Its government uses tribal hatred to help control a population it can not bring under its boot. Groups who find themselves on the wrong side of even a minor issue are up for grabs. And yet the living memory of "Black Hawk Down" keeps outsiders on the fence when it comes to dealing with ethnic cleansing and the genocidal tendencies of the Somalian warlords.
Christian communities throughout the Arab world affected by the "Arab Spring" continue to feel the pain of being a religious minority in countries turning toward fundamentalist Islam. In Libya the world ignored the hints of ethnic cleansing of Coptic Christians and black Africans as Gaddafi fell from power. In the typical rush to be first to back a popular movement, the Western world failed to insure the safety of minority groups across Libya as Islamist leaning rebels took control. This was repeated in Egypt and Syria as the Arab Spring fever spread unchecked. And as one government collapsed the power vacuum it created proved detrimental to Coptic Christians and other minority religions. Yet the UN and West all together failed to recognize the potential for genocide and continued to blindly support a "democratic" movement that has failed to produce a representative government since it first began.
Then there is Bahrain. While the Arab Spring seemed more profitable for the West in other countries it never panned out in Bahrain. Instead the continued oppression and bloodshed remains under a cloak of darkness as the world tries desperately to ignore the tragedy all together. And yet it was in Bahrain where we first heard the genocidal government refer to its people as "cockroaches". This phrase should have send chills up the backs of those who remember Rwanda. But nothing ever happened. Instead the West closed its eyes to the suffering of the oppressed and turned their attention to Egypt... the payday of the Arab Spring. In doing this they have let the politicide of the Bahrain go unchecked and unabated.
(Roma Being Deported By Nazi SS, World War Two)
Burma. A country that just recently opened up to the outside world... or at least cracked the door a little. It was a fleeting moment in time when we all thought that Myanmar was actually moving toward democracy. That brief moment where Aung San Suu Kyi was first paraded as the symbol of hope and freedom for a religiously and militarily oppressed country. Where the hell did that go?
During the summer of 2012 the old junta reared its head in the Arakan as the Nasaka and military helped perpetrate genocide against the Rohingya people. In response to religious propaganda and political pressure from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party the pogroms began. Whipped into a frenzy with the excuse of a single crime, the Rakhine majority descended upon the Rohingya minority. And every since the story has remained the same. A radical group of monks or politicians spreads hate filled propaganda and soon after the Buddhist majority is up in arms and ready to kill. Yet the UN and Western world seems to be unable or unwilling to recognize the simple progression genocide takes (both in Burma and everywhere else it takes root).
The pogroms of the Rohingya people illustrate the very reason the wounds of past genocides never seem ready to heal. The very reason for their existence in the first place is still with us. The very act that put these wounds in place has not yet been removed from us. So for what reason should they heal?
It is in the shared history of our cultures that we are able to relate to those still suffering this affliction. Once, no matter how long ago, we too where put through these same flames. The faces of our past now look back at us, if not from faded images, but rather from living flesh and blood. So how is it that we still find it possible to look away?
If we do not deal with genocide here, today, we will deal with it again in the very near future. It does not go away simply because we detest it so. Instead it seems rather persistent in showing its ugly face throughout the pages of history. As if it too seeks some form of rationalization... an end.
When the victims of the circus in Rome were dragged out before Caesar their faces portrayed the imagined words of Shakespeare. In their eyes said what their lips could not, "Behold us Caesar, those who are about to die."
Today the Western world is our Caesar. We hold the power to save lives or damn them. Our wealth, our power... all of this puts us in a place of responsibility. And yet as the innocent victims of genocide are paraded before us we seem unwilling to spare them this fate. Even in situations where their plight could be diminished or ended, we do nothing as they perish.
Their voices are crying out. Their screams just need help to be heard. And in this world where genocide is treated like the ancients' circus, they look to us for help.