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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Righteous Indignation

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

When I lived in Belfast seven years ago, I became aquainted with the writing of the BBC correspondent Fergal Keane. Keane had travelled in Rwanda after the genocide there in 1994, and he wrote about it movingly and disturbingly.

Having been exposed to the reality of that situation, I was quite reluctant to see the film Hotel Rwanda. I finally saw it a couple of weeks ago, and seeing it prompted my interest in what other reporting had been done on the genocide and the failure of the U.S. and the U.N. to do anything about it. I found a Frontline documentary called The Ghosts of Rwanda. It's a two-and-a-half hour long piece detailing what happened, how the western world was made aware that it was going to happen, and how the most powerful nation in the world stood by and watched it happen.

Well, all of this interest has directed my attention to the situation taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan, a situation that Colin Powell described in congressional testimony as "genocide." American actor Don Cheadle has also become a spokesman for the Darfur crises, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of Hotel Rwanda (there's a bit at the front of the Hotel DVD where Cheadle calls people to act by learning more about what is going on). Also, Frontline:World has produced a documentary about Darfur, called, The Quick And The Terrible.

And now there is the "Be A Witness" campaign, a group of activists trying to raise the level of public awareness about the situation (in which government-backed militias are burning villages, raping women, and killing civilians). Specifically, the campaign is attacking mainstream American media for its' lack of reporting on Darfur (compared to its' obsessive reporting on, say, Tom Cruise). Go to the site. Watch the ad. Send the email.

I'm not one of those bleeding-heart activist types. I'm far too cynical for that. But the fact is that at the close of the 20th century the western world stood by wringing its' beauracratic hands while nearly one million people were shot, strangled, and hacked to death by government-backed citizen militias in Rwanda. Most Americans knew nothing about it, because most media outlets provided very little coverage of it. And here we are again. While the superpowers of the world are watching, genocide is again taking place. Yet the average American or European (myself included) knows next to nothing about it.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:24 PM

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