The power of film...the horrors of life

Hotel Rwanda. I watched this movie on Saturday night. It is monday and I still get chills. I went to the website to link this blog to the page and my eyes swelled with tears, while my heart filled with something different. Guilt. Was that the point of the movie? Is that why I think that everyone in this country should see this movie? No. I don't necessarily want people to feel guilty. But to understand and aknowledge what went on, and to be able to remove this tragedy from isolation in ones mind. So many people don't even know what happened, they don't know the story. So many people can't even point out where Rwanda is on a map. What does that say about us as a people. That we are so arrogant? That the world revolves around us, because we have the money and the power and the control. But being a leader isn't just about making the rules, it is about protecting the weak, it is about nurturing the young, facilitating peace between nations....

I don't want to get into a tirade about foreign policy excpet to say that we failed as a nation. Not once, not twice but countless times we have failed. This story is about a time when we failed, and for most of you reading failed too.

I watched this movie and I felt sick to my stomach, not because I didn't do anything about it, but because I didn't even have the audacity to know. What a slap in the face. Now sure, I was twelve when the tensions in Rwanda started to mount, 14 when the mass genocide occured. I certainly wasn't going to lead the US Military into a war between two feuding "clans". But I didn't know what was going on, I couldn't have been bothered. It was ten years ago and it is proof that nothing has changed. 100 years ago, 500 years ago 2000 years ago...we were fighting, we were killing those who were different. Different skin color, different religions, different sexual orientation. When does it end? When do we evolve as a people enough to comprehend that genocide is never the answer. That these problems don't go away by killing or bloodshed, that only makes the wound grow deeper.

As the only black person in a theater that seated less than 40 people, I found myself even more angered, and at the same time even more blessed. I have always considered myself lucky. Lucky to have been born in America, lucky to have lived the middle class life, and attend my uppermiddle class schools. Lucky to have gone to college. Lucky to have been born in a time and a place where I would not be discriminated on based upon my sex, or my race. I have been showered upon with blessings, and eventhough I have seen darkness, lived darkness, I am lucky because it could have been much worse.

A friend of mine is Somali. Working with immigrants and refugees is an eye opening experience. People judge foreigner's so quickly. "Why don't you learn to speak the language?" "Bet he's working under the table?" "Just get some mexican to do it." I hear it all the time. People see someone walking around with a scarf on their head or a marking on their face and suddenly they are evil, different, bad. I have seen people be blantantly rude to the African Refugees because they feel like they are taking away our jobs. They are the reason I can't find a job. How stupid is that? I apologize. It is a rational fear, but a falshood if examined closely.

I guess as an african american this movie hits me hard for two reasons. One, it could have been me. I could just as easily, just as randomly been born to two middleclass, wealthy or poor parents in Rwanda. The scary thing is that, and people don't realize this--but Africa is not just a forrest and a desert. People aren't living out of huts, and tents, walking around in leaves with dried blood markings on their face. There are real cities, that look just like the cities you would find anywhere else. And these people were leading normal lives.

The second reason was because, and they bring this up in the film, everyone turned their back on that Country. Everyone turns their back to that Continent. There is a really powerful line, and I won't get it right but it goes something like "The U.S. isn't going to send troops to intervene. They think you are dirt, you're worse than dirt. You're not even a nigger. You're an African." That line hit me and not because of the use of the dreaded "N" word. It's just true. We look at africa and think big deal, another third world drama, when are they going to get their act together? We have the audacity to think that we had something to do with makeing the US great? As if we sat down and wrote the constition on our 16th birthday, right after we got our first car and lost our virginity in the back of a buick? We are arrogant, we are cocky, and we walk around most of the time with our heads stuck so far up our asses that we get high from the fumes.

I'm not saying we should intervene in everyone's problems. I am not saying that I wouldn't have gotten on that bus and fled the crumbling city if the UN came and carted all the "foreign guests" away. I am just trying to take a moment out of my shallow life and my insignificant problems to formally apologize for this Nation. To admit that we as a country are flawed. That we continue to make mistakes, and hopefully one day we will learn from them.

I find peace in knowing that in 1992 as tensions were mounting between the Hutu and the Tutsis the Staff and Docents of the Columbus Zoo formed a non-profit organization specifically as a response to the crisis in Rwanda. As a result we have a first hand experience with this genocide. There is a man who had both of his arms cut off, because he refused to kill a bus full of Tutsis, and when you talk to him he is grateful. He considers himself blessed. We have worked for years now to help a 90 year old woman run and orphanage for Rwandan Children who lost their parents and family during the genocide...and eventhough I have only recently become aware and involved in this group, it restores a shred of my faith in the ability of humanity to do the right thing. Being a leader isn't about getting the most people to follow you. It's about being able to survive against the tide. To do what others can't or won't do because you believe that it is right. Never doubt a small group of committed citizens can change the world--indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Those words are said so much, so freaquently nowadays, but they ring true. Not everyone will lead. But it only takes one person, to stnad up.

I hope that you will see this movie, not because it will be pleasant but because if these people could live through this for years, don't you think you can manage to spare two hours of your time. You didn't fight for them, at least acknowledge them.