[A story I wrote sophomore year for the McLean Highlander. Unfortunately, it remains relevant since the time of publication.]
Never Again? Hardly
Deep inside, we all like to think of history as being “in the past.” The tragedies we read about in history books, while horrifying, have no relation to the present day. Or so we think.
Weeks ago, the sophomore class had the opportunity to hear from a survivor of the Holocaust. His speech, jarring enough, reiterated the inconceivable pain and suffering that millions underwent. What truly affected me, though, was his response to a simple question:
Was the outside world aware of what had gone on during that time?
His answer, sad as it was: no. Nobody believed the stories during the war. Nobody took action.
The speech finished shortly after those words, and many others. Out of all the things the speaker said, that one answer stuck into my mind and refused to leave completely, and for a simple reason. I knew well enough that that response was not “in the past,” inapplicable to anything transpiring today, or in the future.
For as I write this, and as you read this, we continue to fail to take action and believe the stories of yet another genocide: the conflict in Sudan.
200,000 people have been murdered, with an additional 2.5 million displaced. (The latter number, alone, is larger than the population of 16 U.S. states.) The numbers, alone, seem hard to comprehend. To put the immensity of this situation in context, The death toll of the genocide is larger than the U.S. death tolls of Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, 9/11, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, all combined. And yet, it is rare to see any media coverage at all when it comes to this atrocity, much less political action.
Largely inspired by the speaker who visited the sophomore class weeks ago, I attended a small-scale rally in Washington. Yards away from the White House grounds, the thousand or so that attended chanted loud enough that, as one speaker put it, the President himself could hear us.
That, however, is not enough. I did not chant, that day, so that George Bush could be informed of the situation. Granted, he knows very well that villages are being set aflame, that rapists are abundant, that children are being massacred. I chanted so that the pedestrians who walked near us would be curious enough to stop and learn themselves. For any action to be taken against the genocide, the American people must pressure our president to do so.
Those of you who are voting in the 2008 elections can help ensure that the Sudan atrocities become a central point in debates and platforms. Teachers can create lesson plans that shed light on the Genocide. Clubs and classes can donate money to support the Peace Corps and Red Cross. Such measures are not difficult to do; the only thing hindering them is the shared ignorance present throughout this country.
The Holocaust speaker attended McLean for two reasons: to reflect on the past and warn about the future. We can do nothing about the events that happened fifty years ago, but we can certainly avoid making the same mistakes as our grandparents. Don’t be the one who looks back on the Sudan genocide in history books of the future and say “I never knew.” 6 million people died as a result of that mentality. Be one who bands together with others and stops this madness. Indeed, it is the only sane path for history to take.