comments

•April 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here are the comments I have made on the blogs of this class. Let me just say that I have really enjoyed reading the thoughts you all have had!

Comment #1
Comment #2
Comment #3
Comment #4
Comment #5
comment #6
Comment #7
Comment #8
Comment #9

Advertisements

•April 14, 2009 • 2 Comments

With the medical aid and relief being cut of from Darfur, many people are beginning to feel the effects of it. Of those people, the majority are women and children.  In an article titled “Take Two of These…”  Dave Young shows us that people are now going back to the traditional medicines of the old days and relying on those when they most likely are myths or potions that don’t acutally work.

Hit particularly hard by the expulsions are clinics specializing in the treatment of women and children—as in most conflicts, women and children in Darfur have borne the lion’s share of suffering, degradation, and death.  Accounting for upwards of 70% of the IDP population, women and children are now further endangered by the forced removal of professional medical service providers.  With dwindling resources comes dwindling options—some of the options left to civilians in Darfur seem incomprehensible to anyone who has set foot in a modern medical care facility.

Mastoura Hussein, a 22-year-old woman living in Abu Shouk, was receiving treatment for an inflammation of the uterus—her treatment was being provided by doctors at a specialized woman’s health clinic.  That treatment was abruptly ended when the organization operating the clinic was expelled from Darfur.  So, Mastoura now stands for hours outside of a general medical clinic operated by the Egyptian military—a clinic that may not have the required medications or expertise to treat her condition.  Should the Egyptian clinic be unable to treat her condition, Mastoura’s options may dwindle to the point that she is forced to seek help from a traditional healer.

Although many traditional healers have a variety of magical cures for everyday health woes, traditional medicine is a far cry from the modern medical care associated with a complicated affliction such as inflammation of the uterus.  One healer near Abu Shouk suggested Mastoura use a remedy of holy water, charcoal, and glue poured over a board inscribed with verses from the Quran for relief. In Darfur today, Mastoura is running out of options. (Young)

Sudan’s president says that the gaps will be filled. Whether or not it is by modern medicine is another story.

It makes me think of what people went through during the Holocaust and in the concentration camps. They had nothing. They had no food. They had no medical care.  What can we do to help these people? We need to get aid to the people of  Darfur somehow. These people need to live.

References:

“Take Two of These…” By, Dave Young
http://blogfordarfur.org/2009/04/09/take-two-of-these/

Does history repeat itself?

•April 14, 2009 • 2 Comments

As I was browsing my google reader, I came across an article written by a high school student in the Holocaust Memorial Observance Essay 2009 Contest. It reminded me of a post that would be done for this class as it brings together the Holocaust and the genocides that is happening in Darfur.

The similarites between Darfur and the Holocaust are too similar. Genocide is definded as the “deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” What Adolf Hitler did to the Jews in Germany and the surrounding countries is exactly what Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir is doing to the people of Darfur.

What can we take from the Holocaust and apply to the situation in Darfur? What can we do to stop the genocides in Darfur and stop any future genocides?

The first and most crucial step in preventing genocide around the world is making its consequences and treachery known. Part of this, unfortunately, is learning through past events, such as the deadly concentration camps of the Holocaust and remembering the suffering incurred. The concentration camps, such as Dachau and Auschwitz, of the Holocaust, are probably one of the most horrid memories of the well-known genocide. “Dachau can and will be a lesson!.” To be silent about the horrors and grieves of the camps would be a mistake; we need to take into account the sorrow the camps brought upon its victims and use them to assure the world that attempts to exterminate, such as the Holocaust, will never be present again.

Publicity is also certainly a large part of preventing genocides today. One of the major reasons as to why the Holocaust was not ended more quickly was because of the blanket of secrecy shadowing the entire situation, as is the situation in Darfur. The seriousness of the genocide occurring in Darfur right now has not been widely publicized until recently. This lack of knowledge is part of the problem. If no one knows what is going on in places such as Darfur or past places like Rwanda, how is anyone supposed to stop it? In one month alone in the year 2005, news companies, such as NBC and CNN, ran fifty times as many stories on Michael Jackson as they did about the genocide in Darfur. To me, as should be to anyone, this is not right. One person, not even one nation can battle genocide alone. Making crimes against humanity, like Darfur, internationally known could have a significant impact on how we fight against genocide. (Bateman)

Reading that Michael Jackson was publicized more than what is going on in the world, and the mass amounts of people who are dying sickened me. Who cares about Michael Jackson? Who cares about whether or not he has had any plastic surgery on his nose. Who cares if his skin is turning whiter? There are thousands of people are dying in the area of Darfur and more people know about Michael Jackson. How are we supposed get any help or relief over to those suffereing people when we aren’t being told what is happening to them?

People like Art Spiegelman and Elie Weisel are what we need. They told their stories (or their fathers story in the case of Spiegelman.) We need more survivors of Darfur to speak out. We need to hear their stories.

As I type this I am watching PBS and there is a documentary on called “Surviving Auschvitz” and I think it is an absolutely perfect thing to have on the background.  The documentary shows two women who go back to Auschvitz and told their story. It is obviously difficult for them but it is something that needs to be done. The story needs to get out there so we can learn and we can help.

References:

Holocaust Essay: One Voice, One Fight.
http://www.greeleytribune.com/article/20090413/NEWS/904129870/1002/NONE&parentprofile=1001

The things we carry.

•April 13, 2009 • 3 Comments

Being in this class has really caused me to look and think about war and what does to people in a whole new light. I have always known that war existed. I have always just thought about war in the sense that it just existed. I never gave a second thought to the people who have fought in these wars. I never gave a thought to the innocent civilians who were caught up amid the fire. After reading the book “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, I looked at things in a whole new light. These people that fought brought so many horrible memories and stories home with them when they were done fighting. Everyone copes with the trauma in a different way. Some need to talk to someone. Others write. Others, unfortunately, do not find a way to cope and will eventually do something drastic, such as killing them self, or drinking a lot, or doing drugs.

Soldiers had to carry a lot of things with them. They had to carry their weapons, food, medical supplies, and so on. Different people carried different things, along with the necessary items.

The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. (O’Brien 2)

O’Brien goes on to say that some men carried extra rations, while others carried extra hygiene items, and others carried drugs with them. They carried things to pass the time.

They carried USO stationary and pencils and pens. They carried Sterno, safety pins, trip flares, signal flares, spools of wire, razor blades, chewing tobacco, liberated joss sticks and statuettes of the smiling Buddha, candles, fingernail clippers, and much more. They carried chess sets, basketballs, Vietnamese-English dictionaries, insignia of rank, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts, plastic cards imprinted with the Code of Conduct. (14)

They also carried things they didn’t want to carry.

They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. (14)

They carried things that were on the inside.

They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Greif, terror, love, longing—these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. (21)

That last part of that sentence really struck me. The things they carried on the inside of them weighed them down too. They won’t be able to forget this for the rest of their lives. Tim O’Brien wrote to cope.

I am 43 and I am writer now.

That line is mentioned throughout the book, multiple times. He writes. He writes war stories to cope.

In one of his chapters, he mentions a soldier who fought with him, who eventually ends up killing himself. O’Brien wrote a chapter about him, someone who needs a person to talk to, and couldn’t find anyone. That chapter hit me really hard. My heart dropped when I read that he had committed suicide.

When I was reading this book, I was thinking about the people of Darfur. I wonder what and how they could be coping. How are the survivors of this horrible genocide coping? What are they carrying with them?

In an article titled “Sudan: The Passion of the Present: Darfur survivors speak out” a Darfur survivor spoke of things that are engrained and burned into his memory forever.

The keynote speaker, Daoud Hari, fled his village in 2003, after months of bombing by the Sudanese government. His brother was killed in the conflict. He risked his life to relay the reality of Darfur to reporters from The New York Times and [the] BBC, and was imprisoned while translating for The Chicago Tribune.

“The U.S. is the country who has the power to protect the people of Darfur,” Hari said. “But nothing has been done.”

Hari gave chilling accounts of rape, kidnapping, and beheadings. Another speaker noted that he recently returned to his home village to find no one there.

How would you cope? Would you be able to? Would you be able to live every day, remembering the horrible and crude things you have seen?

References:

The Things They Carried
By, Tim O’Brien

“Sudan: The Passion of the Present: Darfur survivors speak out”
http://platform.blogs.com/passionofthepresent/2007/10/darfur-survivor.html

Hope for the people of Darfur

•March 24, 2009 • 2 Comments

A lot has been happening in the world of Darfur. As I have been reading articles as of late, that has been dealing with Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, charging him with crimes against humanity in Darfur. As I read these articles, I think back to what happened in Europe during the 1940’s, in World War Two. Those were also crimes against humanity. Both issues deal with the mass killings of people who did nothing wrong. Mass killings of people who just wanted to live.

In an article in the Boston Globe titled Justice for Darfur:

The International Criminal Court affirmed its reason for being when it issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with crimes against humanity in Darfur. The charges include murder, rape, torture, the forcible transfer and extermination of targeted groups, and the pillaging of their property. These are war crimes that too often escaped punishment in the past – acts perpetrated by a merciless criminal endowed with political power.

Humane as the intentions behind these reservations may be, they are outweighed by the need for justice.

Bashir has gotten away with mass murder in Darfur for more than six years, in large part because he and his cronies have had nothing to fear from any legal authority. In that time, their soldiers and their proxy militias known as Janjaweed killed between 300,000 and 450,000 members of the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes. While the rest of the world looked on, expressing futile outrage, Bashir’s Arab regime drove 2.7 million black African villagers of Darfur into desolate refugee camps where they depend on international relief agencies for their survival.

The way that Bashir is getting away with mass murder makes me think of Adolf Hitler and what he did to the Jews in Europe during World War Two. According to the Wikipedia article on the Holocaust:

The Holocaust is the term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, as part of a program of deliberate extermination planned and executed by Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. Other groups were also persecuted and killed, including ethnic Poles, the Romani, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, the disabled, homosexual men and political and religious opponents. Most scholars, however, define the Holocaust as genocide of European Jewry alone, or what the Nazis called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” The total number of victims of Nazi genocidal policies, including Poles, Romani, Soviet POW, and the handicapped is generally agreed to be between 9 and 11 million.

I am hopeful that an end will come to the people of Darfur, just as liberation came to the people of Europe. According to Wiesel in Night:

Three days after the liberation of Buchenwald, I became very ill: some form of poisoning. I was transferred to a hospital and spent two weeks between life and death.

One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto.

From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me.

The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me. (Wiesel, 115).

It took a long time for Wiesel to recover. But he did. He survived. Other people have also survived. A few people, such as Wiesel have even told their story. I have faith in the people who are working for justice in Darfur. Their time will come. There will be survivors. I can only hope that some will be strong enough to tell their stories as well.

References:

Justice for Darfur from the Boston Globe
http://www.savedarfur.org/newsroom/clips/justice_for_darfur_op_ed1/

Warning as humanitarian crisis deepens in Darfur
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/24/darfur-aid-crisis

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Holocaust
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust

The cost of innocent lives

•March 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

When I took this class, I was particularly looking forward to the books and class sessions on World War Two. That has always been a fascinating part of history and one that has always been interesting to me. As morbid as this may sound, I have always enjoyed learning about the holocaust. It angers me that there are some people who don’t believe that the holocaust actually happened.

I really enjoyed reading Maus and Night. Both show a very different outlook on the same gruesome topic. Night by Elie Wiesel is a first hand experience from a survivor. Maus is a story told by the survivor’s son. Each book comes to the same conclusion, however. Each tells the tale of how many lives were taken, how so many people were tortured, kept alive by the mere thought of perhaps surviving, only to be starved to death, or trampled to death in a fight over a small portion of bread.

In Wiesel’s book he talks about how a little bit of hope was offered to them, in spite of the horrible conditions:

“Comrades, you are now in the concentration camp Auschwitz. Ahead of you lies a long road paved with suffering. Don’t lose hope. You have already eluded the worst danger” the selection. Therefore, muster your strength and keep your faith. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life, a thousand times faith. By driving out despair, you will move away from death. Hell does not last forever… And now, here is a prayer, or rather a piece of advice: let there be camaraderie among you. We are all brothers and share the same face. The same smoke hovers over all our heads. Help each other. That is the only way to survive. And now, enough said, you are tired. Listen: you are in Block 17; I am responsible for keeping order here. Anyone with a complaint may come see me. That is all. Go to sleep. Two people to a bunk. Good night.”

Those were the first human words. (Wiesel, 41).

Those were the first human words. That sentence stuck out to me. What was going through his mind?

There were many times when Wiesel, his father, and the many other prisoners did not know when they would get food next:

I was hungry and thirsty. I must have been very dirty and disheveled, to judge by what the others looked like. The bread we had brought from Buna had been devoured long since. And who knew when we would be given another ration? (Wiesel, 95).

When I think of mass killing and mass destruction today, my mind turns to Darfur and the horrific killings that are going on there. Killing does not always mean bullets. I found a very interesting article about the Sudanese government and how they are keeping food and care away from the people of Darfur, just to have a bargaining chip with the international community.

Dave Young writes about this in his article titled …even at close range, bullets can miss…

Omer Ismail, a Sudanese national and co-founder of the Sudan Democratic Forum and the Darfur Peace and Development Organization, spoke those words during a press conference today in the Capitol building. The event, organized by the Save Darfur Coalition, brought together US Representatives, religious and community leaders, and activists—all coming together to denounce the atrocities in Darfur and to renew the call for action. The press conference was organized in response to the recent decision by the Sudanese government to expel NGOs responsible for supplying life-sustaining necessities to millions of civilians in Darfur. As Mr. Ismail suggests, bullets are not the only means employed by the Sudanese government for killing people; the Bashir regime has learned from past experience that starvation and disease can be highly effective killers.

The decision to cut the lifeline for millions of civilians in Darfur is essentially a no-loss gamble for Bashir at this time; he is now holding millions of lives hostage—lives which mean nothing to him aside from their usefulness as a bargaining chip with the international community. It will have no effect on the conscience of Mr. Bashir if every man, woman, and child in Darfur suffers and dies from starvation and disease due to the loss of international assistance. The lives—and deaths—of these people only matter to Bashir insofar as he can use them as leverage against the international community. Unfortunately, this is a tactic that has been successful for Bashir in the past—he believes that eventually, if he causes enough suffering, if the atrocities are heinous enough then the resolve of the international leaders will crack.

Bashir has seen the resolve crack before; he has used every means at his disposal to debase, devalue, and destroy the people of Darfur. Employing militiamen as death squads, using rape as a weapon, disrupting food and water supplies, preventing access to medical care—even going so far as to paint military aircraft in UN colors to bomb civilians who thought they were receiving aid—and yet he enjoys impunity. All of the rhetoric directed against him has been empty—and he knows it.

This breaks my heart, especially the part where it says that the government has gone so far as to pain military aircraft in UN colors to bomb civilians who thought they were receiving aid. The government is killing innocent people just to try and get what he wants. It reminds me of Hitler. While he wasn’t doing it to necessarily get something, he was doing it for himself, “purifying” a race. How can people kill innocent people for their own benefit? Doesn’t their conscience get to them?

Reference:

“Night” by Elie Wiesle

“…even at close range, bullets can miss…” by Dave Young
http://blogfordarfur.org/2009/03/19/%E2%80%9C%E2%80%A6-even-at-close-range-bullets-can-miss%E2%80%A6%E2%80%9D/

The lost art of letter writing.

•March 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

In a day and age where we live, where technology is so advanced, it is no wonder that letter writing has become a lost art. People today would rather send an email or a text to someone because it will be delivered almost immediately. They can get an immediate response as well. People are also turning to the internet for bill paying, making it less needed for a postal service and letter writing.

While I was listening to music the other day, I came across a song that really touched me. It is called “Last Letter Home” and it is by the Dropkick Murphy’s. After listening to the lyrics and having them touch me like they did, I decided to do a little research. The Wikipedia article on the song says the following:

Last Letter Home” is a Dropkick Murphys song from the album The Warrior’s Code that was inspired by the death of Marine Sgt. Andrew Farrar who was killed in Iraq on January 28, 2005. The song was written with the letters sent between Farrar and his family.

Farrar’s final letter home included a request that the song “Fields of Athenry” from the album Blackout be played at his funeral.

The band recorded a stripped down version of the song and presented it to Farrar’s family. A copy of the CD was placed in Farrar’s casket with him. The band’s bagpiper Scruffy Wallace also played the song as Farrar’s coffin was carried into the church.

It touched me so much that this song was written for someone who actually fought, served, and died for our country in Iraq and that the song contains actual letters between Farrar and his family. It also breaks my heart that someone had to go through this, even though I know it is a part of life.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

Hello there my dearest love
Today I write to you about our sons
The boys start school today
They're the spitting image of you in every way
 
Hey son it's Dad
I hope this letter finds you well out of harm's way
We saw the news today it frightened your Mom
Now all she does is pray
 
[Chorus:]
If I lead will you follow?
Will you follow if I lead?
 
Hey Melissa it's me don't be afraid
I'm in good hands I'm gonna be home soon
It's time to watch the children grow up
I wanna be more than a voice on the phone
 
Thanks Ma I got your package today
I love "The Fields Of Athenry"
I swear I want 'em to play that song on the pipes
At my funeral when I die
 
[Chorus]
 
I stand alone in the distance
And the foreground slowly moves
 
[Chorus]
 
"We regret to inform you that on January 28th Sgt. Andrew 
Farrar died while serving his country in the Al-Anbar province
of Iraq words cannot convey our sorrow"
 
[Chorus]
 
When there's nothing on the horizon
You've got nothing left to prove
 
If I lead will you follow?

No matter what the time period is, it was always a certain amount of time waiting for a letter from someone. Vera Brittan mentions that a lot in her book “Testament of Youth.” In her book she mentions:

“By November 8th no answer had come from him – not even a comment on what seemed to be the tremendous event of my transfer from Buxton into a real military hospital.” (pg. 215)

That isn’t the only time she waited for a letter. Knowing that her love, her friend, and her brother were all off fighting, the wait must have been torturous.

I give all of these people props. Waiting for the letters, no doubt, put so much unnecessary stress on their lives. They were waiting and clinging to every word that they heard from their loved ones when they were so far away.

References:

Song Lyrics:
http://artists.letssingit.com/dropkick-murphys-lyrics-last-letter-home-1jrhcqv

Last Letter Home:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Letter_Home

Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth