Saturday, December 3, 2011

Today was amazing- we visited gorillas and the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in Kigali. I want to write my thoughts on the Memorial before I forget. [p] I've been reading Paul Rusesabagina's autobiography as well and I'm in the middle of reading about his experiences hiding over a thousand people in the Hotel Milles Collines in Kigali during the Interahamwe bloodbath. He had been in Brussels with his wife and two-year-old son on a vacation a mere week before the genocide's official and intense beginning when the president's plane was shot from the sky. Through a truly amazing set of events, Paul and his family stayed safely- although not comfortably- in the hotel with their refugees. [p] Paul notes several times how he wished he had stayed in Brussels a little longer, and not come back when the trouble started. I read that last night. Today as I walked from exhibit to exhibit, I thought about Paul and what he went through to save those lives, and his periodic regrets of having returned to Rwanda. And the other thought that kept popping through my head was from Music and the Spoken Word this past summer- "a ship in a harbor is safe, but that's not what a ship is made for." [p] Paul Rusesabagina and so many other brave people like him were ships on the ocean during the genocide. They risked their own lives to protect the lives of others. Paul wished that he was safely in Belgium- in his harbor, as it were, but it's hard not to believe that this particular ship's voyage was perhaps one that Paul was assigned before he came. [p] Like Paul, we all long for our safe harbor on some level. It's different for each of us, but each of us deserves to reflect on what that harbor is that's keeping us off the high seas- or perhaps a better approach is to identify the high seas when they arrive and sail into them without looking back at the harbor. [p] The other mail idea I took from the memorial was a theme I saw throughout the building. There were allusions to "how could we let this happen?" and "we must prevent this from ever happening again." And there was one very powerful plaque that related something like this: "The Nazis did not exterminate six thousand Jews and the Hutus did not kill a million Tutsis. They killed one, then another, then another, a million times." [p] As Paul writes in his book, there was no magical switch on April 6th, 1994 that caused the Hutus to suddenly hate and turn on their Tutsi neighbors and friends. It built up slowly, over years of propaganda and decades of racial division encouraged by foreign powers. It was done one toxic idea at a time, as people played on wrongs, real and imagined, , that the Tutsis had inflicted on them as the ruling class. [p] And then I pondered how those small grudges and divisions built and built until they created a genocide. [p] Last year, I had a powerful conversation with someone about a close friend of mine who I'd been having some trouble feeling close to. As we spoke, this man asked me what I had done to create the distance between us. I reflected and confessed that all I could think about were the thinks she had done to me. [p]I was gently reprimanded as the man stopped me and said, "no, no, that's not how you go about healing a relationship. Can you see that really the conflict between you and your friend is no different than the conflicts that we are at war over? They all start with a misunderstanding that goes deeper and deeper until a relationship si broken, or a war begins." [p] So, as I read the plaque that stated that until we truly learn from the past, "never again" will stay "again and again," I concluded that the way to prevent a genocide is at the very roots of a society. If we can set aside our pride for humility and allow love to swallow up our differences, if we can have the courage to be honest with each other and live the mantra that we are all on the same team- if my friend loses, I also lose in some way- then we need never fear another genocide. However, if all we are relying on are the band-aids of law enforcement, armies, and the UN, then who's to say it won't happen again? [p] So, for myself, I choose to take a stand against genocide and other atrocities by living my principle. I chose to take a stand by eliminating prejudice from my life, and living so there are no strangers in my life. I choose to love, and to feed that love so there is no room for hate. If I do this, if we do this, how many lives can we change? [p] perhaps you'd like to reflect on yourself and make your own personal resolution to stand with me.


Danielle said...

Your reflections are so thoughtful (as they always are). I was appalled when I read a book about the Rwandan genocide, which I hadn't really even known about (Left to Tell). It's true that the best way to change the world is to change ourselves in the way we wish it were changed.

Daddy Parks said...

I love this post, Maria. It reminds me of the book "The Anatomy of Peace", which expresses the same principles you have here. War is always nurtured first in the heart of individuals. Lasting peace can only be achieved through the same means.

Best wishes during your time there!