In a country where we can often here heartfelt complaints regarding the interruption of television broadcasts and truly crushing problems such as whether or not we can make that light before it turns yellow, it seems difficult to believe that there are those in the world who must fight for their lives each and every day. Instead of worrying about things such as which cleaning product really gets tiles shinier, the suffering people of Darfur and other areas of the world must wonder if they will ever open their eyes again after closing them to sleep at night. Genocide is truly one of the most horrific and pressing problems facing our world today. It is spread throughout the world, and there is no simple or easy answer as to how to fix the problem. In keeping with the theme of “The World in Focus”, a recent presentation at Elizabethtown College by Harvard Fellow Samantha Powers outlined the nightmarish problem of genocide and how it has come to affect our entire world.
Although many know about the genocide in places such as Darfur and Rwanda, it is amazing how very little is being done on a global scale to help those who need it most. Throughout her speech, Powers outlined the problem of genocide and what exactly it means to the world. Repeatedly making mention to her own experiences in Rwanda as a journalist, and the true Hell of genocide for those who must deal with it on a daily basis. Powers also discussed in great detail how most of the civilized world has done traditionally little to combat the problem, allowing it to run rampant and unchecked. It seems ridiculous that America is willing to spend billions of dollars every week in order to “liberate” and “safeguard” the people of Iraq, but cannot lift a finger to aide those whose entire population is being brutally slaughtered in ways that would cause most people to feel sick. Of course, this must make one wonder if the true goal of the United States in invading Iraq really was the safety of the people. After all, if safety is a primary goal of our current administration, they have done a remarkably horrible job creating it. With conditions in Iraq nearing the worst that they have ever been, and having aroused the anger of militant groups around the world, it seems that nearly everyone is in more danger now than they ever would have been if we had not tried to bring safety to the Middle East.
Powers relates to her audience a number of stories as to how those countries with the power to help those in need have not done so. This is as equally true with the Bush administration as it is with the Clinton administration, however. It is important to remember that President Clinton did very little to help the horrific situations in Rwanda during his time as president. Such matters also lead us to wonder as to the effectiveness of the United Nations, and whether the union is able to retain any real power in our world today. After all, UN doctrines were rampantly ignored by the United States when it was ordered that the country should not go to war with Iraq, and despite its many efforts, the United Nations has not been able to raise enough support for action on the behalf of those who are suffering from Genocide.
Millions of innocent people have been killed in Darfur, perhaps the most recent example of genocide in the current war. It should be obvious that this is not some passing phase, we cannot turn our backs to the screams of children who will never know their parents, to those who have been left homeless, to those who have had to leave absolutely everything behind in an attempt to save their own lives. Throughout her lecture, Powers also makes the very important point that this is a problem, which needs to be addressed. It is far more urgent and pressing than whether or not another country may or may not have oil reserves that can be plundered for personal gain. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case in our current world.
As we see increasing interest being taking by the conflict in the Middle East and the developing nuclear arms race in Asia, we see that the cries of those who are being murdered through genocide are being silenced. One must wonder if the problem of genocide will ever truly be addressed before it is too late to do anything.
We are reminded of the famous poem that signaled the terror that gripped Nazi Germany before World War II:
“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”