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What's Darfur?

In 1997, a French movie called La Haine (Hate) about the lives of three young men in a Parisian housing project was released. It begins with a dramatic sequence of a Molotov cocktail falling slowly toward the earth while a creepy French voice-over tells an old joke. “A man is falling from a fifty story building” the voice says, “and after each floor he passes he says to himself ‘so far, so good… so far, so good.’” The point being that it's not the fall that matters, but how you land. It’s where my tagline comes from, so there, now you know.

Right, then—show of hands: Who here knows what’s happening in Darfur, Sudan? I’m pretty sure someone wrote a guest column a couple weeks ago entitled something like “Act on Sudan.” I didn’t read it. I think there was also some kind of rally—I saw a sign for it when I was e-printing—but I didn’t go. Know why? Because, honestly, I didn’t care. But now I guess it’s got me thinking about why.

Some “facts:” A lot of folks in Sudan are about to starve to death. Other folks from Sudan are the cause. There’s a militia called the Janjaweed, employed by the country’s leadership, that concurrently forces people from their homes, burns their villages, and then ‘maintains order’ at their refugee camps. At least that’s what I got from about a half-hour of Google research. Clearly, I’m not too well-informed.

Darfur might be on The Nightly News, well, nightly, but I don’t know since I don’t watch the news. There might people on campus right now organizing teach-ins and panel discussions, and yet I haven’t seen ’em. Besides, who goes to teach-ins or panel discussions anyway? I’ve got better things to do like study the history of the Civil Rights Movement or play free cell. But seriously, we’ve all got papers due or friends to see, parties to go to and other stuff to do while taking advantage of all of Duke’s wonderful opportunities for college life. Who has time to care about folks a million miles away? Besides, I think there have only been about 50,000 of them killed so far.

I’m not too concerned with the numbers, though. I'll leave it for someone else to worry about. I’m here to give my opinion, and that I will do now: I think the world should just forget about feigning interest in preventing genocide unless we intend to do something about it.

First of all, nothing ever happens until it’s too late. After the U.N. and the U.S. finally agree that the situation can be classified as “genocide,” (which in the case of Darfur may have happened already), the process is underway and people have been killed. It’s ludicrous how our leaders spend their time defining a situation while it’s still preventable and then decide to act only when it’s a full-blown problem. Genocide or not, genocide or not… hmm… well, so far, so good… so far, so good.

If, as human beings, we actually cared that a group of us, whether they’re of a different race, religion or ethnic group or not, was getting slaughtered en masse, we would do something about it. After saying “never again” in the Holocaust’s wake, we’ve managed to prove ourselves wrong again and again. Was there ever popular support to put a stop to the Nazi extermination of the disabled, the Roma (or Gypsies), the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholics and the Jews? Probably not, unless it came from those groups themselves. We, being the allied nations, put an end to the Holocaust because we had a war to win, not in the interest of the targeted groups.

So now it’s here. The body count rises and we stand idly by. Perhaps instead of admitting we don’t care about genocide we could launch a pre-emptive war against it. It makes as much sense, if not more, than the action in which we are currently involved. But that won’t happen. Our news will continue to stream past names of more far off people and places subject to human extermination. And like La Haine, we’re not worried about the fall.

So far, so good, right?


Aaron Kirschenfeld is a Trinity sophomore


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