12 November 2007

Cambodia

Today is a Cambodia filled day. This morning I had the great privilege to speak to Kent McConnell's History of Modern Genocide class about Cambodia and my experiences there. I always love being able to talk about my travels, but especially Cambodia, a place that affected me so profoundly. Everyone that you meet there has been affected somehow by the genocide most have lost their family and/or friends. People are still losing limbs too since land mines still litter the country. Ever since my trip there my focus has turned to genocide - prevention, raising awareness, recognition, aid, etc. I would have started this site earlier, in fact, it was just my terrible ineptitude with technology that was holding me back.

Also, today Ieng Sary, the foreign minister during Pol Pot's regime was arrested today and will be taken to the UN-backed war crimes tribunal. He is now well into his eighties, and I suppose some would argue that there isn't a point to putting him on trial at this point. I, however, think that there is always a point. It sets a precedent (I seem to talk about that a lot) for future genocidal perpetrators and war criminals. Being old does not excuse you from your crimes.

On a similar note, some of you may be familiar with Simon Wiesenthal, a man who survived the Nazi concentration camps and devoted the rest of his life to hunting down the genocidal Nazi war criminals. He has written many excellent books that are well worth a read. This summer I had the opportunity to see a new documentary about his life and work, I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal. The title is in reference to his pledge to never stop bringing perpetrators of the genocide to justice in remembrance of those who perished. He stopped neither when he was old, nor when they were. It is extremely well done and beautifully narrated by Nicole Kidman, I highly recommend it.

Below are some pictures that I took while in Cambodia and shared with the class today. As always, I'd love to hear your opinions and comments.

Small cells that were erected in the former high school that became the prison S-21.


A map of Cambodia made from the skulls and bones of some of the victims of S-21. Shortly after this was taken, it was dismantled.

The Killing Fields at Chhouen Ek.

Skulls from the victims of the genocide.

A survivor of the Cambodian genocide.



10 November 2007

Dude, my parent's are gonna be so pissed...

You many have noticed that I've posted some important sites (to the left) that you all will find interesting. One site, Darfur Scores, has given grades to every state senator and representative based upon their support (or lack thereof) of legislation pertaining to Darfur. You can go through and look at how representatives from your state are doing. What I have done in addition to this, is calculated what each state's GPA would be. Below I have posted those states which would have made Dean's List (at Wake Forest - 3.0) and those who scored under a 2.0 (a D average). I've also listed the scores of states that a lot of you, faithful readers, are from (if they are not already listed). If any of you would like the complete listing of GPAs and the number of democrats, republicans, or independents, please just let me know. Take a look, see how your state stacks up and check out the website to get more details about each specific legislator. Then, and here's the most important part: write to your legislator. If they're doing a good job, tell them so, and encourage them to continue with their support. If they aren't doing such a good job, let them know of your disappointment, remind them of your place as a voter, and your intolerance of their indifference to genocide.


Dean’s List


Countdown to Dropout


Connecticut

4.14

South Carolina

1.96

Massachusetts

4.12

Louisiana

1.78

Maine

3.998

Utah

1.60

New Jersey

3.87

North Dakota

1.67

Rhode Island

3.83

Wyoming

1.67

Minnesota

3.27

Oklahoma

1.57

New York

3.26

Idaho

1.50

Oregon

3.19

Mississippi

1.50

California

3.10

West Virginia

1.40

New Hampshire

3.08

Kentucky

1.38

Maryland

3.07

Montana

1.33

Pennsylvania

3.02

Alaska

1.00

North Carolina 2.75
Michigan 2.51
Overall U.S. mean 2.47
Ohio 2.35
Tennessee 2.03

At some point I might go through and find an average for each party, though simply guessing upon calculating each state I would suspect that the Democrats average will be higher than the Republicans, but I'll wait to say for sure until I actually have the data to back that up. Though, this shouldn't be a partisan issue, so to focus upon parties could possibly undermine the whole cause. I'm an registered independent anyways...



Why, Jimmy? Why??

I'm very disappointed. I have a very skeptical view of politicians and am usually surprised when they live up to minimal expectations, but I somehow had a different view of President Jimmy Carter; clearly not for his political achievements, but for his extensive work with Habitat for Humanity (an organization which I think very highly of and have worked extensively with, even participating in one of the annual Jimmy Carter Projects) and The Carter Center, whose motto is "Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope." Yet, the other day while listening to NPR (anyone who's taken a drive in the Mini knows that the radio is perpetually tuned to 88.5 WFDD) President Carter was being interviewed about his work in Sudan. I was shocked when he stated that he did not believe that what was happening in Darfur was genocide. I had to sit in my car and listen to the rest of the interview to really make sure that this was indeed the humanitarian Carter talking.


I searched in vain for the interview, but this article by Reuters that gives the facts in a condensed form. The former president is quoted as saying:

"There is a legal definition of genocide and Darfur does not meet that legal standard. The atrocities were horrible but I don't think it qualifies to be called genocide."


Clearly, President Carter needs to take Kent McConnell's Modern Genocide class or do a little research on his own to understand the complex issue of genocide definitions. He is basing his declaration solely off of the UN definition which is simultaneously too broad and too specific. Many genocidal events are not considered such under this definition and a more comprehensive definition is necessary. I will probably write a post later in which I will get into the nitty-gritty of the definition debacle later. The point is that when Jimmy Carter, known for his humanitarian-efforts, publicly declares that the events in Darfur are not genocide, it pushes the already beleaguered effort back a huge Goliath-sized step, especially in the layman's perception of the events. For if President Carter says it's not genocide, then it's not...right?




09 November 2007

In the news

Sudan:
Darfur Town Razed
The Sudanese-government controlled town Haskanita is destroyed - burned and looted.


U.N. Objects to Expulsion of Aid Official From Darfur

A brief article about the expulsion of Wael Al-Haj Ibrahim from South Darfur and the controversy of whether to include foreign troops in the primarily African composed peace force.



Kosovo
:
Serbian Leader on Trial
Vojislav Seselj, Serbian leader, is conducting his own defense as his trial at the Hague for war crimes started on 7 November. He is accused of having "engaged in poisonous propaganda that incited fear and hatred and that his fiery speeches in many towns and at the front lines spurred Servs to kill, torture, and rape in ther effor to drive away Croats and Muslims." The headache that was Slobodan Milosevic is described as being "low key by comparison". Mr. Seselj is still a major leader within the major opposition party in Serbia



08 November 2007

For those of you in Winston-Salem...

Tomorrow (Friday 9 Nov.) a Sudanese Lost Boy, Gabriel Chol, will speak at Wake Forest University. I highly encourage you all to attend if you can. I'm sure that it will be informative, but perhaps more importantly, we will be able to hear his story and experiences. There are many genocide survivors who claim that they we, as outsiders, can never understand what experiencing genocide is about. This doesn't mean that we should try to comprehend as well as we possibly can, and that means listening to the stories of the victims.

Friday 9 November
Pugh Auditorium
5:00 p.m.

I hope to see you all there.


07 November 2007

New York Times and genocide

As some of you who know me are aware of, I'm an avid reader of the New York Times. I get it every morning on the way to Latin, and carry it around the rest of the day attempting to finish the crossword and reading threw the news section. The end result is a newsprint covered hands and my brain a little more aware of what's happening in the world. On Columbus Day (8 October, the-holiday-that-should-never-be) I read this article* that sent me into a raging fury. Okay, that's a lie, but it did irk me to no end. For those of you without the time or patience to read the whole thing, I summarize thusly: It is a 2-page article (fairly long for the NYT) featured on the front page above the fold that talks about Spanish geneticist Dr. Jose A. Lorente's quest to discover the true nationality of C. Columbus. There have been theories that he was a Genoan (the most popular), a Catalan, a secret Jew, or even a bastard Portuguese royal. Dr. Lorente is now gathering DNA evidence from all the males with a last name etymologically related to "Columbus" (i.e. Colom, Colombo, etc.) from these potential Columbus-homelands. What made me so angry was the fact that in this entire article there was one fleeting sentence that referenced his true legacy: "On the other hand, an association with Colombo DNA would cement Italy’s national pride in a man who remains a hero to many, complaints from American Indians he slaughtered, Africans he enslaved and Vikings who got there first notwithstanding."

I won't criticize Dr. Lorente's work, because Lord knows there has been plenty of research that is fairly pointless, and his genetic mystery is somewhat interesting. My annoyance comes from the fact that the NYT had ever opportunity to publish an article questioning the legitimacy of a national holiday celebrating a man who 'slaughtered American Indians and enslaved Africans', or perhaps one detailing a scholar's research about Columbus's bloody history. Instead the heroification continues.

The article is far too reminiscent of the the NYT's reporting of the Holocaust during World War II. For an excellent and well-researched history of their coverage check out Buried by the Times by Laurel Leff. Consistently, before and during the war, the NYT (seen as the standard from which the rest of American journalism went by) published the majority of their stories concerning the extermination of the Jews in Europe to the back pages of the news, even on days when the front-page lacked important news about the war, and as a result most of America was unaware, or at least not fully, of the catastrophic events happening to an entire race of people.

I suppose the moral of this story is that even a paper like the Times must be treated with the same discernment as every other media outlet. I continue to read the NYT because I have the habit that forces me to stay current on the news. That, and Will Shortz is a crossword genius.

*For those potential future readers, the article will probably not be viewable (unless you want to pay) after a certain time period. If you are interested in reading the article in its entirety, please leave a comment with your email address and I will send you a copy as I have saved it as a Word document on my hard drive.



05 November 2007

In 1492...

So, I always hated the childish "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and I was inspired by my excitement for creating this blog to revise it. It's no Keats or Byron, but that's on purpose. Below is my new rendition, I hope that you all enjoy.

1492

In fourteen-ninety-two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
and had America in his view,
soon to be Europe's morbid zoo.
He called out to the crew,
this is a trip they never would rue,
there is gold here, he thought he knew.
He came ashore, and put down his shoe,
and saw a few natives, one, maybe two,
and the greed in his heart simply grew.
Quickly he had them all lined in a queue,
Screaming and ordering them what to do,
Forcing them into a Christian pew,
telling them it was the only faith that's true.
He sent ahead sailors, sick with the flu,
and no matter how far back the natives drew,
they only got sicker and sicker too.
Crammed into mines to look for gold that was new,
Columbus created a filthy, diseased, human stew.
When the Nina and the Pinta withdrew,
there were no natives left, hardly a few.
Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
in fourteen-ninety-two.