I wrote the following two passages thinking about the people involved in the genocide in Darfur. My imagination took hold of what each individual must go through for mass murder to happen. I do not understand each person well enough because I have not found enough literature and non-fiction about them. I am limited to my thoughts and what conclusions they lead me to.
A Janjaweed soldier, anxious to tell his Islamic brothers about his daily triumph, walks back to his camp. His rifle, hanging over his shoulder, stings when it touches his skin from the barrel being discharged five times today. A boy, three girls and a mother felt the bullets shatter through their skulls before the curtain came down on their lives. The soldier took an oath on the Koran, and he fulfilled it today.
A Sudanese farmer sees his hut. He went to visit his brother to see if he could scrounge up some water for his plants. He breathes a sigh of relief once he is 10 feet away from his home because he thought he may not make it. Many don’t anymore. The Janjaweed militia prevents many who share his dark skin from reaching their families ever again. He walks into his hut to see the crimson pools surrounding his son, daughters and beloved wife.
A student at the University of Colorado walks back from his international relations class, iPod blaring tunes into his ears, and he thinks about what he will eat for supper. He can’t decide on whether it will be pot roast or pizza. To order or not to order, that is the question.
The three characters above are fictional, but closely mirror reality. All three live on the same planet, yet all three live in different worlds. The problem causing the hostility of the soldier, the tragedy of the farmer and the apathy of the student is a lack of understanding. The point of this editorial is to show what a student can do about the genocide in Darfur. He or she can write about it. The power of words can never be underestimated.
Words can move people to tears, make them laugh or make them understand. As a writer, my pen is my greatest weapon, or tool, depending on what I wish to do. If I want to destroy someone, then I use a poison-tipped pen to criticize him or her. I will expose problems and recommend solutions if I wish to build.
My professors encourage me to protest government action or inaction. They see the problems of the world, and become frustrated that students don’t protest politicians to do something about it. They hearken back to their days in the sixties to provide examples of what I should do. They walked the streets and declared an end to the war in Vietnam, and assert that my generation should do the same as theirs.
I am no Abbie Hoffman. I do not wish to surround the pentagon with other students and make it float to petition my government. This form of dissent is entertaining, but it has little effect on government and even less effect on the conscience of the human race.
One of the lasting memories of the Holocaust came from Anne Frank. The little girl wrote in her memoir something that holds true to this day:
I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.
Her words explain the motivation of the Janjaweed. Their scapegoats are African farmers, Americans and everyone else who does not believe in the same things as they do. Their intolerance of others connects them with the Nazi regime of Germany. Frank believed that common men are as equally responsible for what occurs in the world as presidents, prime ministers and CEOs. Despite the negative view Frank expressed in this passage, she had faith that things could be different. She knew the duality of man, the bad side being shaped by what she saw, and the good side coming from her imagination. The following passage from her diary illustrates this:
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
Ideals are not foolish. They grow from a noble belief that tomorrow can be better than today. But we must read and write about every character in a play before we figure out the play itself. The same holds true for the world and the people in it.
The symbolic protests of a student will do little to change the malevolent nature of another man. Yet, hope remains that change can come. Anyone, including students, should travel to Darfur and write about either the Janjaweed or the African farmer. It is only through our understanding of one another that genocide, let alone any other form of human-committed atrocity, can stop.
Contact Campus Press Editor Cody McDevitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.